Mexico, Samaria, and Some Honest Self-Reflection

September 17, 2011

Read an excerpt from the Bible study lesson on the Samaritan woman at the well.

Sisters in Ensenada

My Mexican and American sisters.

This summer once again I found myself halfway up a mountainside overlooking the beautiful Bahía Todos Santos—the Bayof All Saints—enjoying a view many Americans would pay a premium for. 

I wasn’t staying at a seaside resort, however. I was working on a dry, dusty, trash-strewn rural neighborhood situated outside Ensenada in Mexico’s Baja California. The hillside is covered with homes but not the kind most Americans could live in. Many of them are pieced together from scrap wood and tarpaper, with nothing but a thin sheet of fabric for a door. Next to these heartbreaking hovels, the 12 x 16-foot dwellings our mission teams built seem luxurious—even though they still lacked insulation and plumbing. 

I met some beautiful ladies there this year—women who quickly felt like sisters despite the cultural and economic distances between us. Guadalupe and her six-year-old daughter Yomara got to live in the house my construction team built*. Mere yards away from the new house lived Lupe’s sister Alma with her family. Lupe’s sister-in-law Francesca and her family lived somewhere nearby. Thirteen-year-old Nancee lived in the neighborhood as well. She remembered me from last summer when we built another house on the same hillside (which thrilled me to no end!). 

Lupe, Alma, and Francesca were generous, hardworking women who welcomed us with friendly smiles, who prepared a hot lunch for us every day even though they weren’t required to, who clearly loved their own children and each other’s, and who laughed with me at my painful attempts to communicate in broken Spanish. It was so precious when these women sat alongside their children without the least hint of embarrassment coloring pictures during our afternoon Bible school. They accepted every single sticker we offered them and carefully placed each one on their handiwork. 

I fell in love with these women in four short days. There are so many lessons to learn in an experience like this—lessons about wealth, poverty, materialism and contentment, about priorities, about family and community, about resilience and joy and generosity. I don’t think I could ever have learned the same lessons anywhere in this country.

Here are some tough questions I had to face up to while I was on that trip, however: 

Why has it never been worth my time to learn Spanish to communicate with Hispanic people living in my own community?
If I had encountered Lupe and Alma on the streets of Charlottesville, would I have found them so endearing?
If those same children were in my daughters’ grade school, would I have loved them or complained about how the ESL kids were holding everyone else back? 

Yes, I know that early first-century Jews would never have gone to Samaria on a mission trip. But is there something about my attitude toward Mexicans in the U.S. that resembles their attitude toward Samaritans?

What tough questions is God bringing to mind about your attitudes toward Mexicans in America — legal or not?

*Our project was coordinated by Yugo’s Ensenada Outreach Center. See

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