2006 Mexico Mission Diary
The pre-trip scuttlebutt was that we would put a roof on a parsonage this trip. The mission is involved with building a church and its parsonage in the desert. A Hazelwood crew worked on this project during last year's trip, laying block, applying stucco, and even filling the baptistery with water. Unfortunately, when we arrived the parsonage wasn't ready for its roof. Instead, we were all given jobs to do around the mission.
Since my last trip, a giant carwash had been built. A carwash? I was puzzled — why would the mission need a carwash? It turns out that many retired Christians roam the country in their RVs doing missionary work. Vida Nueva Ministries was hoping to attract those nomad missionaries, but needed facilities. The carwash, conveniently RV-sized, was step one. It was substantially complete when we arrived, though it still needed lights installed. George and Gary were assigned. Gary is an electrical engineer who plays with serious electricity every day at the power company, but everybody hears "electrical engineer" as "electrician" on these trips, and so he gets all the wiring jobs. He takes it in stride. Gary and George struggled a bit to assemble the lights since they came without instructions. Then they ran electrical lines up to the roof. As you can see at left, no ladders reached high enough to reach the ceiling, so they pulled in the bus and climbed on top of it. At left, Gary and George have taken a light from Tammy and Doug, who hoisted it up to them.
Next, the Gary and George attached it to the roof, they realized that they needed even more height to reach the roof, as the photo at right shows. Solution: They hauled some cinderblocks up there and stand on those to reach the roof. As Gary tottered on a cinder block, he remarked on the tall safety standards to which they adhered on this job. Somebody else remarked that everything's done a bit differently in Mexico!
After the car wash was wired, several people gathered to wash the bus, I suppose since it was already in there. I arrived about the time they were trying to get the bugs off the windshield. Our trip down generated the largest slaughter of insects I've ever seen on a road trip. They scrubbed and scrubbed and when they were done that bus was redder than I'd ever seen it, and the glass was clear. Then they backed in the truck and trailer and washed them too. At left is Dawn washing and George directing.
Step two involved making a place for the RVs to park. Electric and plumbing was already installed in a space just beyond the carwash, but a concrete pad needed to be poured. Several people sweated heavily in the direct sun turning sand into concrete using a little concrete mixer. The temperature was fairly moderate at maybe 85 or 90 degrees, and of course it was never humid, but still, that's hot work in that hot sun. Somehow I managed not to get any pictures of that crew working; perhaps I stayed back because I was subconsciously afraid of getting sucked in! They were greatly relieved when they ran out of sand and got to do something else. Dawn said it took two days to wash all the sand out of her hair.
A room of mysterious purpose had been built on one end of the carwash, but it needed a roof. As you can see from the carwash pictures, the roof is a steel frame with corrugated metal over it. So Rob and Ed Wilkes got to work measuring, cutting, placing, and welding steel beams. I was surprised to see the Wilkes brothers both up there welding, looking like old hands at it! It turns out that Rob learned to weld in high school, but has only used it from time to time since. Ed picked up the skill after he landed his first job. His boss asked him in the interview if he knew how to weld, and he said yes, because he wanted the job. Then he went home and got a crash course from a family member so he would be able to do the job on day one!
At right, Ed makes the sparks fly. I didn't get a good picture of his helmet, which has blue flames painted up each side. It's really quite funny.
In this photo, Rob is at left, helmet up, looking like he's inspecting something. He said that they spent more time setting up scaffolding than they did welding on this job. I asked him if he was able to get a good bead and he winced slightly, hesitated, and said, "Uh, it was good enough." I guess it's been a long time since high school!
Ed was innovative in using a tractor with this shovel attachment as his platform. I never asked how he got up there and maneuvered it into the right position. Maybe Rob drove the tractor into position with Ed already standing in the shovel. Mmmboy, them's good safety standards.
Over in the garage, Doug worked on most of the vehicles on the compound. There are a lot of cars and trucks lying around there! Doug has been a mechanic for more than 30 years, and so he tends to draw mechanic assignments on these trips. He says he doesn't mind it a bit, although he laments that he doesn't have all of the equipment he's used to at home, which makes jobs take a lot more time.
It seemed like Doug put brakes on every vehicle on the compound. People donate vehicles to the mission, and they sit around waiting for a good use. A donated minivan (at right) was earmarked to go to Vida Nueva Ministries' facility in Tepic, but it was running roughly. Doug spent some time under the hood and finally pulled out a spark plug. had me smell it, and asked if it smelled like gas or oil. I said I smelled both. He said that's what he smelled too, and that was a really bad sign. He finally declared the associated cylinder dead. That's a pretty major repair, and the van would not be up for the long drive to Tepic without it. So it was decided that the van would just stay in Piedras Negras for light duty.