Well girls, here it is Tuesday evening, May 18, and Sandi is far behind in her Blog, so she has asked Paul to do an update for you.
Sandi's last blog took you to our departure from Bennie and Sharon Jones' home in Los Lunas, south of Albuquerque. It took us just a few hours to haul this heavy trailer down to Las Cruces, only 45 min. North of El Paso, and we spent the night there before crossing the Mexican border Sunday morning.
We met Brother Jesus Esparza and his wife Elena at El Paso, at an intersection, and they led us to the border crossing at Santa Theresa, 30 min down the road, so that we would not have to haul our trailer thru Juarez Mexico. They felt we would be a target going thru town. So we followed them, and we arrived at a nice quiet border crossing about 9:30 am.
(Brother and Sister Esparza are the couple about our age who lived in Delicias and have a house outside of town at Lazaro Cardenas, but they had to move back to El Paso. We met them in January at the English District Convention at Monterrey, Mx. They left town right after the convention, so they had given us the keys to their house, still furnished, and said we could stay there while we checked out Delicias, and we did so. We sure appreciated their hospitality, and now they are again helping us to cross the border, and giving us their house again to use until our own house in Delicias is ready. It looks like another two weeks, by the way, as the builder still has lots to do, tiling, cabinets, inside doors, etc. But I will tell you more about the house shortly.).
At the border crossing: We learned that there are several departments to deal with crossing into Mexico, unlike the Canadians and US folks who are on top of everything. One wicket sold us our 6 month permits to be tourists, another sold us a 6 month permit for our Explorer and trailer, then a third dept looked at my list of contents of my trailer. It was all itemized carefully, and Brother Esparza had it translated for me, but forgot to bring along the translation! He didn`t seem too worried, so I didn`t worry either. He helped me each step of the way as my spokesman and translator, and it seemed to make such a difference. The guys at this third department were so easy-going, he looked at my English-only list of contents, decided to charge me $128 US duty, and that was that! No search, no questions, and no one cared about our dog Trooper either.
Then we drove thru a green-light red-light lane, and got a green light. Perhaps a red light would have resulted in a big search, I don`t know. But we drove on. Some soldiers were there with their big guns, and sandbagged positions too, but we drove on. Down the road a few miles we met a checkpoint of the military again, they pulled us over, we had to get out, and one guy searched under the seats, in the glovebox, in the back while petting Trooper, and then he wanted to see inside the trailer. Whoa! I indicated to him, as I unlocked the padlock, that it was full to the top, and he just had a look, rummaged a little bit as I guess they are supposed to look for weapons being smuggled, and that was that! Meanwhile, We now had a different brother with us, as Esparzas left us at the border, and Miguel Garcia met us and took over as our guide and translator. We sure were cared for well this day! Anyway, while the soldiers were searching the truck and trailer briefly, and us standing around, Miguel chats with one soldier, tells him who we are, gives him the magazines I had on the dash, one English and one Spanish, as the soldier said he had a buddy who reads English. So we left with waves from all the soldiers, and drove on.
If this soldier-talk is upsetting to you, remember we are in a war zone now, the war is between the government of Mexico and the Drug Cartels. If Americans and Canadians stopped using drugs, Mexico would not have this war going on, so no one should look down on Mexico. Mexico has the courage to declare war on the Cartels, and the Cartels are fighting with guns imported from the US. So its an international problem, and frankly only Jehovah`s government, His Kingdom, can solve this mess. People in Vancouver, in Surrey, in White Rock are not safe, its just a lot more open down here. But there go Jehovah`s people preaching about the Kingdom, walking among all these crazy violent people, and until Jehovah`s organization tells us to back off, we will continue to go out among them and do our job. We can`t hide from this crazy world, we keep going until our Governing Body tells us to change what we do. And so far they are saying to exercise caution, but proceed with vigor.
Before we go down the road, may I take you back to the border again. As you can see, we now have been transferred from the care of the Esparzas to the care of Miguel Garcia from Delicias. Miguel gave a public talk at one of the 4 English congregations in Juarez on Saturday evening, stayed over night, and planned to ride back to Delicias with us. (He had taken a bus up to Juarez so he could ride with us to go home). So when Miguel meets us at the border, a nice English-speaking Mexican family of 5 came to the border too, to meet us and to wish us well. So we had a big gaggle of brothers and sisters around us as we dealt with all the border authorities. They must have surely wondered about us. What a beautiful worldwide brotherhood we have as Witnesses, the only organization in the world like this. We are so blessed. Remember Malachi 3:10, which says if we test Jehovah out by obeying his directions even tho we are full of fear and apprehension, He will pour out a blessing on us even now, and much more in the future. Sandi and I were in awe this day, as we felt we were taken by the hand thru a foreign language bureaucracy, led thru rather intimidating military checks that again would have had a communication problem if we had been alone, and then sent off by a nice family of Witnesses we had never met before this day, as they came to the border to meet us. We are so blessed.
There was another checkpoint about 40 miles into Mexico, it was actually called Customs, and the guy just checked the permit and sticker we now had on the windshield of the Explorer. That was it, and we headed into the 5 hour trip to Delicias. It took us more than 5 hours, stopping for two meals, letting Trooper have a walk or two along the way, and the trailer is very heavy. When we got to a tollbooth with about 50 miles to go, I paid the toll, then pulled over toward a rest area and bathrooms, and found I had a flat tire on the trailer. Oh man, this was not easy to change, as the trailer was overheavy, and the problem was a jack that could not do the job. But this happened in a good spot, and Sandi could get out of the sun with Trooper while Miguel found a guy with a bigger jack, and we got the tire changed.
We made it into our temporary home, in Lazaro Cardenas, near dusk, and the neighbours were waiting for us as we pulled in to the fenced yard of the little duplex. Remember Esparzas had lent us their place, and the neighbours were Witnesses too, and we had met them back in January, so it was another reunion, and they had the AC running in the house for us, and Miguel got a ride on to Delicias with someone else, and we were home for the night, safely, after a long and tiring day.
Monday, May 17
Well, Monday morning we were eager to see the new house, and get oriented, so we dropped the trailer in the fenced backyard of the house in Cardenas and headed for Delicias, 30 min down the road. Within 5 minutes we met the usual roadblock checkpoint of the Federales, the Federal Police, heavily armed with machine guns and ready for anything. It can be intimidating for sure for us Canadians, but I find the most intimidating is the language issues. I know how to deal with authorities respectfully, but I can`t do it when I can`t speak their language. I`ve got to get this language thing fixed within the next year, I feel like such a baby. Anyway, the roadblock. A large officer, one of the leaders I think, stopped us, and asked where we were going, where we were from, and I told him in mixed English and Spanish that we were staying in the home of Jesus Esparza in Cardenas, and going to see our new house in Delicias. I showed him the printed address of the new house I carried with me. He shoved out his right hand, palm up, and I asked, Passport, no, oh maybe he wants cash, no, he wanted to shake my hand! We laughed, we shook, he asked if I was a Pastor in our Church and pointed to the Watchtower I keep on the dash, I said I was an elder, a minister, and he nodded. He asked if I like Tequila, he told us to buy the white Tequila, not the yellow Tequila, and add lime, and salt, etc. Can you believe this, a heavily armed man stopping us on the road telling us in broken English how to mix a Tequila drink, and then apologizing for his poor English. This place has a way of picking you up just when you start to get stressed and or discouraged. That made our morning.
Then we arrived at the house. A little disappointing, as there is still much work to be done, and it will take a couple of weeks I am sure. But, there were positives too, as the house has electric garage doors, remote controlled from the car, just like Canada, and the washer, dryer, and Air Conditioner are being installed, we just need to buy the fridge and stove, and of course another bedroom set, another couch, and other stuff that we had planned on buying. The floor in the huge garage is tiled too, and very nice. Sandi and the builder, Pedro, were discussing the colours for the house interior, and I took Trooper for a nice grassy walk in his new park, right across the street. The park has a central monument or something, with paths all over, and it covers a city block or more. There are about 10 Witness families very close around the park, and there`s also a doctor and a lawyer who are neighbours, according to Pedro the builder. Pedro`s parents live down the street, he lives a couple of doors away, and many others who he says will get together to welcome us after we are finally moved in in a couple of weeks. So a nice feeling of community right on the street, and we went to Pedro`s house for refreshments before we left. Miguel Garcia our friend and translator was with us through this whole day, as he had taken the day off work as an electrician to spend the time helping us. We did a couple of errands and headed back to Cardenas outside of town.
To our surprise there was a carload of girls in their 20s who had heard we had arrived and who could not wait to come see Sandi, so they had driven out to Cardenas to see us and were waiting when we arrived at the little dusty place.
Tuesday, May 18
Today is Tuesday, and we both felt a little out of sorts as we got up, feeling overwhelmed and a little frustrated that we can`t even unpack our clothes that are in the trailer, until the new house is ready. We are just killing time in a way. I have two parts on the meeting program Thursday night, and I don`t even have a suit or sportsjacket, they are packed in the trailer somewhere. So I will be giving my Bible Highlights talk and the Service Meeting part in a shirt and tie, and pants too I guess, and mogasins instead of dress shoes, but that`s OK with this little congregation that has been waiting a long few months for the new couple to arrive. Our arrival has legitimized the cong., they say, as some didn`t take it seriously until now that a Canadian English couple has arrived permanently. One brother we met at the new house contruction site said his wife speaks good English and they had thought about going into the English cong., but now that we arrived, they were going to talk about it again.
So back to this morning, we drove into Delicias again, the 30 minute drive, and met the Federal Police roadblock again, the machinegun brigade, and I thought that we would have to go thru the whole interrogation again with a different officer, but I guess the big guy yesterday had told the others about the Canadians in town, as we slowed down, a different guy looked at the plates and at us, smiled broadly and waved us on, and the guy from yesterday was busy across the road checking a truck, he spots us, and waves vigorously, with a big smile. So that picked us up a little, as really the communication issues are what bother me the most. That, and the problem we have caring for Trooper while in this little town of Cardenas.
I am not sugarcoating this blog, and am telling it like it is. It is a rough place, dangerous in some ways, and the Police guy told us to use extreme caution. So we can`t walk Trooper after dark, I take him out for a walk before dusk, all the loose dogs everywhere come after us barking and growling, its like walking a gauntlet, but Trooper handles it calmly, and I just keep sauntering down the middle of the road until we get past the crazy packs of dogs, They come within 4 to 6 feet sometimes, and they have not attacked, and the last thing we want is for Trooper to get bit by one of these dogs and get infected. I am prepared to kick any of them that get too close, but so far a sharp word or two, and a threatening move by me, and they shy away. But I have to walk him, Monday we took him in the Explorer all day, and looked for grassy places for him, and it was hard to find. So today we left him in the airconditioned house after walking him around Cardenas, but it will be so much better for him when we are in the new house and he has the park. (I tried taking him in the Explorer and looking for vacant lots for him to explore, but they are full of sharp things, even little burrs that hurt his feet, and he is such a spoiled city slicker dog that he needs nice grass to walk on. I can`t wait to get into the new house with the park across the street.)
We looked at furniture stores, shopped at Sorianas, a competitor of Walmart which is here too, and then we returned to Cardenas, had a rest, its 36 degrees celcius, and then walked Trooper again, had a meal with the neighours, spoke broken English and Spanish around the table, learned the little 10 yr old boy is getting baptized this coming weekend, and we had a nice day overall.
Actually, we now have an arrangement with the sister next door in our little temporary duplex home in Cardenas, she makes us one nice meal each day, sometimes we will eat with them, sometimes she will bring it over to us, but its just whatever they are having that day, and we are able to help them financially so that its not a burden for them. They are very poor, but tried to refuse any payment for the meals. Of course, we insisted, and its a fine arrangement for all of us. It takes the pressure off Sandi, as this house was empty and we didn't want to stock the place with all the things it takes to prepare full meals. We make ourselves a little breakfast, we usually are out at lunchtime, and then come home to the neighbours nice meal for us. We even get in a siesta nap from 4 til 5:30 maybe, so life is not too tough.
Conclusion for today:
We know there will be problems, maybe some serious ones, but life is like that anywhere. We are out of our comfort zone, for sure, but we pray every day that we can survive this huge change for us and show others back home that it is possible to make a big change like this and still live to talk about it.
Sandi will no doubt write again soon, but we don`t have an internet connection in Cardenas, so we wrote this in a document and will try to cut and paste it into the blog tomorrow morning when we go to a brother`s house in Delicias. (He has wireless internet, so we can connect there with our laptop.) If this method works, Sandi will keep up her comments for a while, until we are settled and life becomes routine. By then you`ll be tired of reading this anyway.
We don`t have our house phone and high-speed internet installed yet of course, but our Mexican cell phone is, from Canada, 011-52-1-639-109-6389. Our email will continue as before, firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com.
No one should worry about us, we are just fine. Jehovah and his people are taking care of us, and we are never alone, not even for a minute. Jehovah is here, we can feel it.
Dan and Katina, if you are reading this, we love you dearly. Maritza and Santiago, we love you and think about you every day. Bill and Carol, we`ll see you late in June. Miriam, Trooper misses you, and we do too. Dale, come down and see us when you can. Randy and Frances, we hope you keep in touch too.
Good night to our wonderful family, Mom and Dale and her family, Paula and Brad, Savannah and Bronson, and to Scott who has been so generous and supportive. Hi to Kayla, and to all our dear beloved brothers and sisters in the faith. We love you all and think about you constantly.
Written by Paul