Sunday

This morning, Sunday, March 19, 2022, the team packed, loaded, and left the Manos Juntas Complex just after 8 am. Our hosts Fernando and Consuelo (and their little daughter) accompanied the team to find barbacoa and tortillas to share with the children for breakfast. We were told this is a typical breakfast on Sunday mornings in this Mexican region, but the children do not eat it often due to resources, so it was our treat to pick up breakfast for them today.

Upon arriving at the children’s home, Casa de Esperanza, there were warm greetings all around. The children worshipped with enthusiasm, then Pastor Joseph captivated the children as he entertained them while preaching and teaching about the Father’s heart ❤️ and used the passage about the Prodigal Son. Following the touching message, team members were asked to be in the front and the children were invited to come forward to receive the Father’s love, blessings, and a hug through the team. The girls were encouraged to go to the girls and women on the team and the boys were encouraged to go to the men on the team. The children loved all the hugs and even some responded with tears.

Pastora Riqisha then presented the prayer shawls made by the UMC woman of Fairhaven and that prayers have been said for each person receiving the shawl to receive blessings, peace, healing, and love from our Heavenly Father’s heart. They were encouraged to wrap themselves in the shawl and in the steadfast love of God anytime they feel sad or lonely. The boys and the girls were allowed to pick the shawl of their choice, and they did so selectively with enjoyment. The staff was also invited to take their choice of a prayer shawl and we closed worship praying over all the children and the staff of the home, God’s love and blessings for their lives, and our prayers and love for them. Extra shawls were left for the staff members not present today and for new children that may arrive in the upcoming months.

Then everyone was ready to eat barbacoa tacos! We enjoyed one last meal with the children and then they sent us off with one last song and choreography presentation. It was hard to say goodbye. Our mission in Manos Juntas comes to an end this weekend, but we plan to return soon.

-Sue Callaway

Saturday

Our agenda today is to spend the day at The Ranch, a Christian retreat center developed in the city of Reynosa, MX. We will meet the children from the orphanage there, where we will have a Tree Planting Ceremony and several indoor and outdoor activities. After a full day yesterday, we were able to sleep in and start breakfast at 9 am. Our staff cooks make us homemade Mexican cuisine daily, and it is delicious. It’s 10 am and off we leave to go buy approximately 10 fruit trees (mango, pomegranate, papaya, lemon, apples, pear, oranges, guava, and fig) and seeds for all types of vegetables. We are scheduled to arrive at the Ranch at 11 am where we’ll spend our day. We arrived at our destination, sitting on acres on land, with dormitories, a chapel, a cafeteria, and a playground for the children. The weather is perfect for this outing today. The Ranch is a beautiful oasis away from the city and the children are looking forward to a fun day and change of scenery. The children arrived and we are greeted with lots of hugs, then they are quick to take us by the hand asking us to come to play with them on the playground. The smiles and laughter are contagious and we all were having a great time playing with 21 children, ranging from ages 2-to 15 years old. Our surprise guest has arrived, a Christian Clown to entertain the children. We all make our way into the cafeteria where the show begins. The clown was hilarious and had everyone in the building laughing and on the edges of their seats for the whole show. The clown handed out money as prizes and even gifted the Children's orphanage the bunny he “magically” pulled out of his hat. We all ate lunch and then gathered in the center of the property for a Tree Planting Ceremony. The children have been learning about Spring and the changes that happen with Spring. The Children's director, Jessica, shared a small lesson about how God gives us new seasons and in those new seasons, new life and beauty have an opportunity to spring forward. Also, she spoke on how God wants to plant us to make us strong and resilient. Pastor Joseph prayed the blessing over the ceremony and we all broke up into groups of 3-4 to plant a tree on the grounds. After a few hours of planting, we were all ready for more playtime and an afternoon snack. Fernando, our host, made homemade tortillas filled with refried black beans and cheese with a refreshing drink. We continued to play board games, blow bubbles, jump rope, ride bikes, and spend time on the playground getting to know the children. Today as we spend time with the children, we learn of their stories and how they come from some variation of crisis/trauma. To see them smile, laugh, share and seek attention, is the most fulfilling experience. While there are still emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual needs to be met, these children are blessed to be in such a wholesome environment where they receive a lot of love and care. Our hearts are full today. It’s close to dinner time, so we are all packing up for the day and heading back to our respective homes. Dinner awaits us at Manos Juntas and we share our day and experiences with one another. We all feel deep burden and contentment for our time here at Manos Juntas and the Casa de Esperanza. We are hoping to return again before year-end.

-Riqisha F. Rios

Friday

We awoke after a quiet night to an 8 am Mexican breakfast of scrambled eggs, beans, yogurt, mango, and cantaloupe, with fruit juice or coffee. At breakfast, we presented our host couple, and the two cooks the mini-prayer shawls given by Fairhaven, and Pastor Riqisha translated the inserts into Spanish and explained the significance of the mini-prayer shawls while speaking a blessing over our host and cooks. We loaded the van with fresh vegetables (carrots, jicama, tomatoes, potatoes, pineapples) to deliver to Casa de Esperanza (the Children's orphanage of Manos Juntas). Our 20 minutes drive to Casa Esperanza was filled with fields in the floodplains of the Rio Grand. Fields of wheat that had mostly not sprouted, although there was some green showing. Upon arrival to Casa de Esperanza, we unloaded luggage filled with donations from Chapelwood communities, containing peanut butter and jelly, a variety of clothes, prayer shawls, cleaning supplies, face masks, and bath towels. The staff expressed deep gratitude for our visit and the much-needed donations. Jessica, a slight young woman who directs the children's home, invited us on a tour. We met the children, ages 2-5 years old, tossing beanbags and proudly counting in Spanish for us. From there we went upstairs to the large dorms filled with bunk beds- the girls in a totally pink room, the boys in a sky blue one. The staff sleep in the rooms, since some of the kids, are still getting over traumas and may need reassurance after waking mid-night. We next toured their game room/ library/playroom where each child can select a plastic crate of toys, which are labeled with their names. On to the laundry, and lastly, a semi-constructed area which will house additional dorms, which awaits a sponsor and construction team to be completed. Before working on our paint project, first, we enjoyed a beef mole dish with mashed potatoes and rice with Rev. Archie-a local pastor, Fernando & Consuelo-our host couple, Jessica-the director, and our HTX team. Encouraging words and ideas for evangelism projects were shared over our mealtime. Pastor Joseph and Riqisha ministered and prayed over Jessica-the director, and it’s was a refreshing time of ministry. We split up into three teams and painted the visitor's restroom off the reception, the infirmary, and the laundry room. The rooms were previously painted a dark color and with limited lighting, a fresh coat of white paint allowed for each of these rooms to feel brighter and conserve lighting. We finished the night with tamales for dinner at Manos Juntas and then a stroll in white lighted, Plaza Benito Juarez (City Hall Park) for the evening.

Thursday

Today is Thursday, March 17, 2022, and we have started our journey to Manos Juntas in Rio Bravo, Mexico for our Missions Trip. We first gathered at 6 am in Chapelwood with Serving Ministries and a few of the prayer partners to pray and send the team off to Mexico. We arrived at the Mexican border around 1 pm and were met by Manos Juntas staff for amazing lunch at Arturo’s, a Mexican restaurant with an American ambiance. After lunch, we spent time shopping at the local outdoor market where they sold local craftsmanship, snacks, candies, foods, souvenirs, accessories, and an assortment of personal services. After shopping, we headed to the Manos Juntas headquarters and dormitories where we will be housed for the remainder of our trip. Upon arrival, we were welcomed by the directors and staff of Manos Juntas. A delicious dinner awaited us, prepared by the staff chefs and we made ourselves at home. Late evening, Pastor Joseph was craving street tacos, so the team and some of the staff all jumped in the church bus and went out for fellowship and street tacos. Our day ended around 9 pm, everyone was tired, but satisfied, and anticipating the rest of the trip.

-Amaiah S. Rios

About the Team

Charles Jackson 

My name is Charlie Jackson. I am a retired college lecturer and mechanical engineer who spent 11 years in Accra, Ghana, West Africa. My wife and I joined the Upper Room Heights worship community not much after COVID-19 put worship in a virtual format. I am participating in the Chapelwood cluster's first foreign mission trip since COVID to Manos Juntos, just across the border with Mexico at Nuevo Progreso, Tamaulipas. Even though I have lived in Houston these last four and a half years, I've never visited the Rio Grande Valley, although much of what I eat is grown there. I am eager to see how the Manos Juntos ministries have made it through these COVID days. I'm also excited to hear that there are some other teams visiting from Oklahoma at the same time, who I expect has been supporting MJ as we, but not so deterred by the strong emotions about "illegal migrants" in the Texas zeitgeist. I'm also excited to get to know the Rios family and Sylvia Hernandez of the Fair Haven community, who are all way more bilingual than I am.

Sylvia E Hernandez 

I am a grandmother of 17 grandchildren whom I love to be with! I am excited about helping kids that need love on this mission!

I am Suzi Callaway and I became involved with Manos Juntas Mexico about 20 years ago before it was actually called MJ. I “fell into it” via a Louisiana Methodist pastor and his wife who needed a translator to assist with the medical and construction teams that they took down 2x per year for about 18 years.   My first exposure to Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley was as a child when my family went to be missionaries in Mexico.  We lived, worked, and served in the same cities as Manos Juntas has served for many years.   I tell my Dad, now 83 years old, you can get the girl out of Mexico, but you cannot get Mexico out of the girl.  So when I was invited to join that Louisiana Volunteer in Mission team to go to the same area of Mexico to serve, I was quite excited to participate and I joined them for 8 different medical teams.  Here in Houston, I work full-time as a bilingual speech-language pathologist (commonly known as a speech therapist). I am a part of Iglesia Generaciónes. I like to speak Spanish every day of my life. 

-Sue Callaway

PHOTOS/VIDEOS FROM MISSION