November SOWER Project - Way of the Cross Ministries
SOWERS (Servants On Wheels Ever Ready) is a ministry by couples of RV owners providing physical needs to various ministries in the United States and Canada.
We worked our first SOWER Project at ALERT Academy in Big Sandy, Texas in March 2006 after working in Mexico at an orphanage in Oaxaca in the winter of 2005/2006. Then we headed back to Canada for the summer, returning in the fall and working our second SOWER project at Victory Camp in Alvin, Texas in November. Between the November and December projects we had our trailer worked on near Katy, Texas. The repair lasted about two hours on the road and we arranged to come back between Christmas and New Year and carried on to our third SOWER project at Way of the Cross Ministries in Harlingen, Texas.
We worked further up the Rio Grande Valley in Alton, Texas in January and came back to Way of the Cross for February. We have been back many times since and have also worked with Way of the Cross in Mexico and Nicaragua a number of times.
There is always something to do here, and not usually enough money to do it in a traditional manner which provides lots of opportunity for creativity and a few opportunities to do something again when the temporary fix of a few years back has proved its temporary nature.
This winter we are booked into SOWER projects at WOTC (Way of the Cross) for November, January and December.
November has been busy. After the window and air conditioning mentioned in last month’s update I carried on with drywall repairs on a few ceiling. Juanita started with helping Martha, the ministry nurse sorting things and helping get things ready for the Big Feed.
The Big Feed is an event WOTC holds every year between Christmas and New Year. They have been doing this since the early 1990’s. The original inspiration was to share some of the blessings we tend to take for granted with those much more in need. It is held in an open field in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Usually it is held in a location for three years. The first year about five thousand people show up and by the third year in the same field about ten thousand attend. There are games and prizes for the kids. Gift bags are handed out and chicken dinners are served to all who attend. This is all free to the attendees. There is a stage with music and free raffles of bicycles, sewing machines and a grand prize of some sort. There has been a car, a camper and a small house as the main prize. The biggest prize of all is that every half hour all activities pause and the gospel is preached at each booth and from the main stage. People have ample opportunity to hear a life changing message.
The first years we were at WOTC there were close to two hundred Americans that would show up to help with the event. With some of the problems in Mexico numbers dropped off dramatically. This gave the local churches in Matamoros an opportunity to step up to the plate and man booths with their congregants. As the situation has improved in Mexico the number of American volunteers has been growing again. WOTC expects 80 to show up this year.
The condition of the training center has fallen behind since there were fewer volunteers and WOTC has been focussed on events in Nicaragua and their new Gateway base camp over the border. With so many people coming to the Big Feed the focus has moved to getting the training center back into an acceptable level of accommodation.
Juanita and I are the only SOWER couple scheduled for November and December. Another SOWER couple showed up early in the November project, but they are what is known as SOA’s (SOWERS on assignment). SOA’s have different work hours and work directly with the ministry. When we are the only couple assigned to a monthly project we tend to operate the same as SOA’s, but if there is a large group of SOWERS the daily schedule becomes quite structured and runs on a different set of tracks than a SOA. We worked one project where there were ten SOWER couples doing typical things that SOWERS do and one SOA that washed dishes in the cafeteria when there were meals scheduled there. No meals. No dishes. Lots of meals. Lots of dishes. When the dishes were done for the day so was he. Worked just fine.
The first thing the SOA did was fix some washers and dryers. That was nice. No trip to the laundromat on our days off.
A lot of time I worked together with the husband of the SOA couple. We worked running power and water to the new ice machine. We shared some plumbing repairs. He repaired a bunch of bicycles for the Big Feed give-aways. I was repairing the kitchen floors while he did the bicycles. He ripped out some windows and I replaced them. The dry wall repairs went a bit too slowly with the slow rate that mud dries in this humid climate. More people than me got thrown at the problem along with rapid setting drywall compound. I got to translate instructions to the plasterer who didn’t speak English.
Juanita helped me a lot with the floor repairs. When she wasn't helping me she was helping Martha get things ready for the Big Feed.
One day some farm machinery started operating in the field across from the WOTC Training Center. They were harvesting sugar cane. It seemed to me that the sugar cane wasn’t as big as other cane we’d seen harvested and they hadn’t burned the field in advance of harvest like they often do.
It turned out the harvesters were harvesting cane for planting another sugar cane field. The harvesting machines normally chop the cane into four inch lengths. These had every second cutter removed and were blowing the eight inch pieces into the open boxes of the trucks travelling beside them.
The trucks took the pieces to another field a few miles away where the pieces went into furrows. People walked along and straightened the pieces before the furrows were covered with dirt. The pieces sprout, grow into plants and become the next field of sugar cane.
Cooley's Classic Cars
One day off I went to check out a classic car museum in Harlingen. A retired Chevvy dealer has about a dozen fully restored GM products and one Jeep. He turned on the lights and gave me the full history of each one. I had an enjoyable hour. I think he did, too.
The “See The USA in Your Chevrolet” wall sign pictures the dealer and his bride as the two people in the 1957 convertible.
There was a Thanksgiving potluck in the WOTC chapel. A good feed was had by all.
We had planned on bringing a casserole of survival lasagna. It comes in a large can with three pouches. It is claimed that the contents will last decades if you don’t open the can. It is also claimed that the contents of an unopened pouch will last a couple of years after the can is opened. We tried a pouch. It was enough to fill a small crock pot. We had a family rule that one was not allowed to call food gross so I will just say it had all the charm of dollar store spaghetti-o’s.
We opted to bring a pecan pie from Sam’s Club to the potluck.
We took care of the leftovers from the opened pouch of survival lasagna as a team effort. We each ate our portions as side dishes for several days without complaining. Team work at its finest! We have a couple of years to figure out what to do with the other two pouches. Hopefully things never get so bad that it tastes good.
The Scoop Ice Cream Parlor
We usually go out to lunch with the SOA couple after church on Sunday.
One Sunday after an unusually light lunch we dropped by a Harlingen landmark (the “old Hygeia place”), an ice cream parlor mentioned by a couple of former locals who visited it the day they were in town. It was okay, but I would guess nostalgia for their youth was a bigger driver than any intrinsic quality or value of the menu items. I can understand valuing a connection to one’s youth, but it didn’t move any of us to pledge to return.
Meanwhile Back Home
Life carries on in our absence. Our daughter, Rebekah sent us pictures of some of their family's activities. There was the Kids with Cancer Christmas party at Galaxyland, graduation from skating for Ezekial, Ansel and Eliana, Amedea's first birthday pictures and a Christmas play that Ezekial was in.