Caruthersville, MO Jan 5-12, 2016

Our FIRST Trip to Xpujil

 by Vickie Crysler

Our Missouri team consisted of 8 men (Ted Streete, Rogers Van Ausdall Jr, Rogers Van Ausdall III, Jamie Young, Anthony Hartsfield, Bill (Peanut) Reno, Ricky Lyle, and Greg Crysler- my wonderful husband) plus one woman.  I am that woman!  We headed out of Caruthersville, Missouri around 3 am on the morning of our departure in order to catch our 6 am flight out of Memphis.  We joined Andy Combs at the airport and after a slight delay due to deicing and a plane change at Houston, we arrived at Cancun around 12:25 p.m.  There we met Todd Luke and our 6 hour road adventure began.  I was then the soul woman (with too much luggage) among ten men in one van!  Thank goodness there was a fabulous group of people back home praying for me!  We did stop for lunch, a restroom break, and one money-conversion stop.  (The exchange rate was about 17-1.) At the restroom break I learned that you must pay five pesos in order to use a gas station’s restroom facilities and that it is sometimes difficult to unlock the door.  (I was stuck inside for a few minutes!) We also had one more chance to stretch our legs before we got to our new home in Xpujil.

 We arrived in Xpujil (Todd’s town) around 8:30 that evening and began unpacking.  There was not a closet or dresser for clothing, but there were places to hang things, so I was glad that I’d taken hangers from home. The facility Todd has for mission teams consists of colorful concrete rooms with windows that can open to let in a breeze.   Each room has two twin beds with sheets and pillows, a large hammock, a table, a sink, a ceiling fan, a hand mirror, and a bathroom with a shower.  There is also an electric fan that is useful to drown out the roosters (that for some reason, like to crow all night).  The first night was a little cold.  I was glad I’d brought a sleeping bag.  However, all the other nights were rather warm and the fan was much appreciated.   I shared a room with my husband, but some of the rooms had three occupants. I was told the “man snoring “ became a competition!

I have to admit that I was a little nervous before we left, wondering about the food, but the meals turned out to be one of my favorite things.  We were so fortunate that Todd’s wife, Maria was there to cook for us.  She is an amazing cook and everything she prepared, was thoroughly enjoyed.  Todd and our team came together three times a day in Maria’s kitchen, sitting at one large table, not only sharing delicious food, but also sharing devotionals, stories, ideas, and for some of us, hot sauce!   For dessert (as if the wonderful, fresh fruit was not enough), we frequented a little general store next door that had snacks (as well as Wi-Fi).  I ate ice-cream there every evening (sometimes twice).  Needless to say, none of us were ever hungry!

The town that we worked in was called Victoria.  It was about 45 minutes from Xpujil.  It is a farming community, but nothing like the farming town we are from in Missouri.  We didn’t see tractors or any of the farming equipment we are accustomed to seeing back home.  The only tools and equipment I noticed were machetes and wheelbarrows.  The farmers don’t drive big trucks.  As a matter of fact, I only noticed a couple of trucks in the entire town, and didn’t see any cars.  We did see several horses.  Many of them just wondered around freely, as did the dogs, chickens, ducks, and turkeys. Occasionally we’d see a rider on a horse.  There were also pigs, sheep, goats, and even parrots!  I think every family in the village had animals of some sort.

Our team worked on six different cisterns from Tuesday through Saturday.  We completed three, which was our goal.  The work was pretty tough.  The men on our team really impressed me.  They carried heavy buckets of rock and sand, lifted and poured cement, and at one site, shoveled through rock-hard soil, all in 90 degree heat and high humidity!  I could barely drag a bucket of sand or rocks, let alone carry it.  So my job was to shovel the rocks and sand into the buckets.  As for me, the best part came during the “down time” between bucket fillings.  I would interact with the kids at that time.  Children were always around, and they were absolutely precious.  I don’t speak any Spanish, but Andy told us that smiles and a hugs are universal.  That is so true.  We shared a lot of both, but I also discovered that crayons are a good way to communicate, as well.  I actually learned a few Spanish words by drawing pictures.  The kids would say the Spanish word for the picture I’d draw.  Then I, in turn, would tell them the English word.  I’m not much of an artist, so they may think “cat” is a bunny or perhaps a monster.  Anyway, it was a fun and special learning and bonding experience.   Something we all noticed is the children, like all the people we met in Victoria, are so happy and appear so content.   The people seemed to appreciate us being there and were very hospitable and generous.  On our last day of work, an elderly lady offered me some ancient Mayan spearheads as a gift.   Todd (who thankfully speaks Spanish) explained to her that it would be illegal for us to take them back on the plane.  Her sincere, loving gesture will stay in my heart forever.

Victor Guzman, who we called “the Main Man”, has diligently worked with Todd for many years, even though he is also a full-time farmer.   He is very good at the work he does on the cisterns.  As head foreman, he began our work week with a welcome and a very loving, heartfelt prayer, and also ended the week with another sincere prayer of thanksgiving.  As Todd translated the words, it brought tears to my eyes.  I think we were all touched by Victor and his sincerity, as well as his humble being.

On Sunday, we traveled to Castilla Brito to attend Victor’s church.   It was a Presbyterian church, and the service was very similar to what we were accustomed to, with the exception that everything was in Spanish and Chol!  I didn’t understand the words, but I felt that I still got the message.  Afterwards, Andy took me to purchase a hammock from one of the local women.  It’s a beauty.  Hopefully, I’ll take time for some siestas in it.

The construction of the cisterns in Mexico is a very worthwhile undertaking. There is truly a need for the cisterns in that area.  A lot of rain falls during the rainy season.  They just need a way to conveniently collect and store the water so it will last throughout the dry season.   Todd and his team have developed a way of building cisterns that more than do that job, and along the way they also build friendships, and create opportunities to spread God’s love.  I can’t say enough about Todd!  He is an amazing and committed individual and is truly Heaven sent.

We were told that we would be blessed even more so than the people we went to help.  That is very true.  However, it’s the kind of thing that you must experience yourself to really understand.  Our team agreed that we could truly feel the presence of the Holy Spirit all week as we worked and worshipped there.  The physical labor is strenuous, but there is something that anyone who goes can contribute.

 I have had several people ask if at any time on the trip I felt I was in danger.  I certainly did not.  Of course, I usually had ten men with me!  Seriously, we all felt perfectly safe walking around Xpujil, even at night and the people we came into contact with, especially in the villages, were all so friendly.  Todd had everything organized and well-planned, plus he and Andy were almost always around to help with any communication issues, so our trip went along very smoothly.

  I was blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful experience and I hope I will be able to do it again.  I can’t wait!

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