One of the most rewarding works of the Oblate’s mission in Tijuana is their work with special needs children. The Oblates provide the children in the La Morita area of Tijuana a safe place to flourish and grow.
Our travel team visited with children who were unable to communicate with words to their families when they came into the program. Now, with assistance from the Oblate program, they have learned to talk with their parents. What a profound effect this must have on these families! Many of the children are bullied or picked on at school, so the Oblates program provides a much better environment for the children play and learn.
One of the most touching moments of our visit to the mission was visiting with the children and their families. We had the opportunity to let the parents describe some of the challenges of raising their special needs children, the difficulties their children have on a day-to-day basis dealing with other children and how the Oblates program has made such a positive difference in their lives.
While at the Oblates mission, our group had the privilege of visiting their Senior Center. It is one of the most important services the Oblates provide. For seniors a connection with family is very important here. Without it many elderly people can live in abject poverty.
Our group met with many people that live in the area and utilize the senior center on a regular basis. Some people shared with us that their homes have serious leaks or even no roof at all! So when the rains come, home life can be difficult.
Seniors in these situations have minimal income or resources. One lady, in her 90’s, shared her story with us. She still works to make ends meet!
The government can provide elderly citizens financial assistance of up to about $30 per week. However that is barely enough to scrape by on a day-to-day basis.
The Senior Center provides elderly people with spiritual & emotional support, fellowship and meals in a caring environment for people that might otherwise be overlooked by society.
Gang violence and drugs are an ongoing issue with the youth of Tijuana and continue to devastate lives in the city. One way the Oblates have responded to this difficult situation is through developing youth programs for the young people in the local parish.
The San Eugenio Parish youth group in Tijuana met with our travel team and shared their life experiences and their challenges of growing up in Tijuana.
One young 23 year old man named Giovanni shared his story with us. When he was 12 years old he joined a gang. He watched as several of his friends were brutally killed from gang violence or died from drug use. After 10 of his friends died, he decided to turn his life around. Two years ago his life changed when he attended one of the youth group’s weekend retreats. The retreat totally transformed his life. Two years ago he joined the youth ministry and is now very active in it’s work. He also plans to enter the seminary and become a priest. He told us, “Thanks for your help, I have hope”.
On our first day in Tijuana the group visited many places where we witnessed firsthand how the Oblates serve the poor families of Tijuana and the La Morita area within the city.
For those able to find jobs, weekly pay may run as high as $40 to $70 for a nearly 50 hour (or higher) work week.
As part of the Oblates mission in Tijuana, food is routinely distributed to needy families in the parish. The team gathered food and supplies together to deliver in person to people in need in the local neighborhoods.
Traversing the gutted dirt roads and rough terrain is not a simple task. Driving though the inner part of town our van “drug bottom” because the roads are in such horrible shape in some places. We were shocked at the amount of rock, debris and rubble in the roads. The Oblates deal with this problem EVERY DAY.
Our group of 12 split up into 2 groups and visited families throughout the nearby community, delivering food such and rice and other basics to families in need. Not one heart among us remained untouched by their situations and stories.
Well it looks like I got to drive a van down in one van with Fr. Jesse driving a second van. The 12 of us all arrived in tact mid-morning on Wednesday. Everyone was excited to begin our visit and tour the Oblates mission!
We are gathering together tonight in San Diego, CA. The city of Tijuana is just a few minutes south of our motel just across the Mexican border. The Oblates mission in La Morita (part of Tijuana) is less than an hour away. Our team of twelve will visit the Oblate missions tomorrow on Wednesday and Thursday (October 19th and 20th).
Coming up on October 19th and October 20th, my friend Claudia Garcia (who is also a Gift Adviser for the Missionary Oblates) & I will be visiting our La Morita mission in Tijuana, Mexico with some friends and supporters of the Oblates.
While there we will witness the work of the Oblates and visit with the people they serve. During this time and for a while afterward we will be sharing photos and videos of our experiences on our blog.
You can check occasionally for new information as we get ready for an exciting trip . If you have questions you can also call the Office of Charitable and Planned Giving at 1-800-233-6264. Please continue to remember the Missionary Oblates and those we serve in your prayers.
On Sunday July 17th we visited the Shangombo outstation in Lyasa, Zambia. This is the first blog page that will have a number of videos that I shot thru out our visit. If you don’t see videos yet, come back in a few hours.
As remote as Shangombo is, even more remote is this is small community that has an unoccupied school near to the church. At this time, the area is dealing with a water shortage, which translates into a lack of food.
There is no longer a teacher there because the children would pay the teacher with food. Now that there is a food shortage, they have no teacher for education.
Fr. Pius and Fr. Jim Chambers held mass and confession for the people. Afterward everyone gathered together to sing and dance. They provided our travel team their best food for a meal as thank you for visited as well.
Today I played frisbee and soccer with the kids of Shangombo in Zambia. It was fun watching them chase my poor throws! Now I have to admit I introduced them to frisbee, and they caught on very fast. We played some soccer as well. The kids tend to stay out all day, at least on Saturday.
Many children and groups meet on the church grounds for prayer or just for play. Today the team met with parish groups outside on the grounds. We met the choir group and we had a sort of Q&A with singing too!
I also sat in on a youth meeting with Fr. Pius. The parish youth here have many aspirations to help others in their local community in Shangombo. Since they have never been outside this very isolated village they wanted me to share with them what it is like to live in America. They asked me about the food we eat. They asked how children behave and what their interests are. They asked about how I traveled here. They asked about the environment we live in. It was difficult to explain these things to them because America is so huge and expansive compared to their community. However we had a wonderful conversation.
Also Fr. Jim’s travel team and church workers painted the second coat of paint on the church toilets today and now they match the church building colors. They are getting much closer to finishing the job!
Shangombo is a small village in far west Zambia on the border of Angola and inhabited marshland. There are a few small stores, some government buildings, huts and houses sprinkled around town. It gets electricity from small 14 kilo volt diesel powered generator that reaches out five miles in all directions. Hundreds of people from the area come to the Oblate church and use the grounds for assorted meetings, church related and otherwise. So of course, toilet facilities became an important factor for people that have walked from many miles around.
Originally the church used hut toilets, however that was a temporary solution. The grass huts have to continually be moved because they fall apart from usage and the weathering. Eventually the Oblates decided the best solution for this situation was to build a permanent structure with a proper underground drainage system for better sanitation. And now we are very near completion of this vitally important project.
Fr. Richard and the traveling team with Fr. Jim Chambers all pitched in to paint the new toilets for the church. The today they needed to put an undercoat on the building, then then in the day apply a final tan coat with black paint along the bottom border. The colors will match the church building.
As you can see, a lot of paint was splattered around during painting the toilets.