I came home from college for winter break a few days before Christmas, but thankfully, it wasn’t the only homecoming I got to have this winter. For the first time since Memorial Day weekend of the year 2010, I was able to go back to my other home. I had the privilege of being part of a group that went back to renovate the buildings of the Proyecto Abrigo compound in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, in preparation for the organization’s reopening for mission groups.
I spend much of my life feeling slightly displaced: when I’m with friends, I wish I was alone, and when I’m alone, I wish I was with friends. When I go out one night, I wish I’d stayed in, and when I stay in, I wish I’d gone out. When I’m in Juárez, working with Proyecto Abrigo, it is one of the only times in my life where I always feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, with exactly who I’m supposed to be with, doing exactly what I’m supposed to do. That’s probably why I always feel like I’m coming home when we drive through the gate into the compound.
This is the first time I’ve gone down to Proyecto Abrigo with a group composed entirely of people I don’t know. But just as in my past trips, bonds formed quickly. It’s very easy to get comfortable with people when you’re engaging in a shared passion. We were all so excited to be going back after such a long hiatus. Everyone had their own stories to tell of things they had experienced in past trips. The team members who had never gone before were excited to create their own stories.
I would love for everyone to feel the same excitement I feel when I get to Juárez. For that to happen, churches and individuals must work past their fear and learn to trust José Luis Portillo and the others who have devoted their lives to Proyecto Abrigo, more than they trust the American media. Trust those who have remained, and watched, in Juárez throughout the past rough years.
There is a cross on the side of the road that you pass by on the walk from the compound to the small store up the street. It was put there after someone was killed in a shoot-out at that spot. No one is denying the danger Juárez has had to live through. However, I completely trust that if José Luis says that it is safe to go back, then it is safe to go back. He didn’t hesitate to stop visits when he deemed it unsafe.
After a few years without groups visiting, the Proyecto Abrigo mission needs help. In the times of particular financial need, they’ve had to sell all their vans for scrap. They need new vehicles to transport groups to and from airports and worksites. They need money to improve the compound, pay the maestros and other employees, and continue the amazing work they’ve done with their clinic. But right now, they especially need enthusiastic people who want to revitalize Proyecto Abrigo with missionary work, their prayers, their presence, their gifts, and their service.
Juárez is a fascinating place to be, and Proyecto Abrigo is a beautiful, comfortable home waiting with open arms. Welcome back.
-Rosie Curts, Greenland Hills UMC