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Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

The Christian lifestyle in Mazatlan

Friday, June 15, 2012

It was a dirty concrete slab. Its cinderblock walls were about six feet high, a tin roof offering our only protection, but within minutes it was transformed into a children's church thanks to some eager pre-teens and a few helpful parents.

As one 12-year-old girl grabbed a broom from the back of our truck and began sweeping the floor, other youngsters began teasing with Jorge, our driver and event organizer, enticing him to bop them on the head with his inflated plastic mallet, causing them to squeal with delight.

Pounding and conversation came from one side of the "church" walls. Standing on my tip-toes, I watched as two teenage boys perimetered a blue lidless toilet by hammering tree limbs into the ground. Their older sister stood next to them, measuring the posts against her height.

No doubt some sort of walls would be constructed to provide privacy for their family. And I worry about my granite countertop, I thought to myself.

We were in one of the impoverished colonias in Mazatlan, and for the next several minutes I strolled along the dusty, rocky streets attempting to use my limited Spanish to speak to the women and children who, disregarding the sultry, humid, late afternoon temperatures, were occupied with their daily chores.

Crude washing machines, protected under torn tarps, labored to crank away, their drain pipes emptying into the street where I walked. Mothers, young and old, retrieved their wet items to hand scrub, wring and hang them on lines that criss-crossed their miniature front yards.

Several young, laughing teens sat outside on blocks, while one of their siblings scooped dirty water from a sizable pit on the edge of their property creating snake-like ravines in the street where she tossed it. Other teenagers played soccer -- some barefoot -- never complaining about their narrow, rocky "field" (once again, the street), competing to keep their ball out of those gullets of water creeping their way.

I felt out of place, a pale Gringo whose gawks, no doubt, gave me away. Yet no one seemed to mind. Everyone -- and I mean "every" one -- I met smiled at me. Some added nods; others greeted me with "Hola, Senora."

I stopped at one gate where warehouse pallets prevented a toddler from wandering away. Her mother, busy with laundry, paused as I attempted to question the secret of how people in Mazatlan got their clothes so white.

She was eager to show me the product they used and explain how it was applied. At least I think that's what she said. It's funny. When someone smiles sincerely and speaks kindly, the intent of the words seems to pale in comparison.

Back at the church, the plastic chairs were removed from the truck and lined in perfect rows, an exact number on each side with one stationed over the rebar dangerously protruding from one section of the concrete. No one seemed to be in a hurry, yet everyone worked to set up the necessities for this program: a folding table, a tape recorder, speakers, a microphone, an extension cord, Jorge's guitar resting inside a case duct-taped together and two deflated rubber balls.

Even when a split was found in the extension cord and its grounding wire had to be removed, no one appeared concerned about the delay. It just gave the children more time to toss the balls around.

Within an hour and a half, we were ready to start. Children -- young and old -- sang along and danced to the Christian music. They took my hand, inviting me to join in. Two mothers spoke to them about Jesus (about the only word I recognized). We sang and danced some more, and then it was time to pack up our truck and head back to town.

Jorge thanked me for coming along, but I told him that even though I understood very little of what was said, I "understood" what mattered ... and it had nothing to do with my granite countertops.

Patty LaRoche
Patty LaRoche: Face to Face