by Jefferson David Tant
“South of the Border” is a delightful song that I remember from my boyhood, telling us of our neighbors “down Mexico way.” The tune came to mind as I was reading the reports of brethren Robert Turner and V. N. Collins in Plain Talk some time ago. They told of a trip into the interior of Mexico to see the work of the Lord in progress there.
Brother Collins reminded us of how little the people there had in comparison to our land of plenty.
“One home had two rooms: one they used to cook and eat in; the other for bedroom — and they had five children. Instead of building more room for themselves, they built a church building on the remainder of their small lot.” The experience of these brethren reminded me of my visits to Mexico some years ago to be with the brethren and to observe the work. They left deep impressions on my wife and myself.
So many times we think of our neighbors in Mexico as being lazy, unkempt, and unclean. There may be some grain of truth in some such impressions (and some Americans are the same), but I do not think this is always because they necessarily may have chosen that life. I have known many that are very hard-working and diligent in their labors. Let me give you a picture of life in Mexico that may enlighten you.
We first went to San Luis, Sonora, with Charles House serving as guide and interpreter. As I recall, we went to the home of David and Eve Arellano. The town offered not a blade of grass. The streets were wide beds of sand, and one had to drive with care lest the car got bogged down. There was no running water in the part of town we were in. A truck made periodic trips selling water. The citizens bought water to store in every conceivable container if the truck did not run out of water before getting through its route.
Some of the water is set aside for drinking. The rest is used in this order—washing dishes, bathing, washing clothes. Now that is the same water they used and reused for these three chores. They neither had, nor could they afford, more water. Therefore, it was a simple matter of utmost expediency for “diaper-sized” babies to go without diapers.
Work is scarce, and David had a job as a bricklayer in California (making about one-tenth the salary of his American counterpart.) He sent his small wages home to support his wife and children, which they spent on fantastically high-priced food. Many eat only twice a day. After arising, they delay breakfast as long as the stomach allows, then eat. Then an evening meal of the same fare—beans. But David gave up his job to come home the day we were there, as the only other local man in the church had moved. David felt the Lord needed him there to work in the kingdom. He had been saving a dollar here and there to buy bricks for the meetinghouse he was building next door.
There was no heat in his home (and it gets cold in the desert during the winter nights). The people simply wear what clothes they have (all of them) to keep warm. After arising in the morning, they sometimes go outside to get warm.
Poor? Yes, but so rich in love for the Lord and his church. Rich in love for one another. Rich in hospitality. Rich in humility. Their joy in our interest in them, and in our presence in their neatly swept adobe home was most evident, and the feeling of love that flowed in spite of our halting attempts at conversation in their home.
Poor? Perhaps, but maybe richer in the things that count than so many of us over-fed and self-indulgent American Christians may be."