Last Saturday our family of four headed south of the border for Outside the Bowl’s first-ever family day trip. Our adventure started bright and early when we met up with 14 other families, loaded up on a comfortable coach bus, and began the 100 mile journey. Although we didn’t all know each other, we all had two things in common: we love Outside the Bowl and wanted to spend a day learning more about this ministry and sharing the experience with our kids. The drive went by surprisingly fast and we were crossing the border before we knew it. Getting to know the people seated near us, watching some short videos about Outside the Bowl and playing some silly games helped pass the time.
Our first stop was the Tijuana kitchen. We divided up in three smaller groups and toured the grounds. Outside of the kitchen we learned about how OTB uses shipping containers to not only ship all the materials needed to build the kitchen, but how those containers also become the actual building.
Once inside the kitchen, we were able to meet some of the staff and see first-hand how it’s possible for them to produce over 2,000 meals every day. Large steam jacketed pots, preparation areas, an over-sized pantry, refrigerator and freezer all allow for a great deal of efficiency. The tour was hands-on and questions were welcomed.
The kids loved standing inside the refrigerator and freezer especially since it was about 100 degrees outside. Then we learned how food is transferred to buckets, loaded up on trucks and then distributed to over 41 ministry partners daily.
With the conclusion of the tour, it was time for us to get back on the bus and meet up with one of Outside the Bowl’s ministry partners. His name is Pastor Alberto and he has been serving the people of Valle las Palmas for three years. Valle las Palmas is a community of people living in dire poverty. They find salvageable items for resale in the city dump and live without running water or electricity on a daily basis. For three years, Pastor Alberto has been serving meals and bringing the Gospel message of hope to these people.
Prior to arriving at Valle las Palmas, the bus took a short detour through the dump to see where many of the people of Valle las Palmas lived before relocating. It was a startling picture of extreme poverty and a reminder that many people living just south of our border don’t have their basic needs met. This time on the bus also allowed us the opportunity to get to know Pastor Alberto as he rode with us and told us about the people he serves. He is a kind man who has a huge heart to share the hope of Jesus.
We arrived at Valle las Palmas and it was time for everyone to get to work. Some helped Pastor Alberto set up the shade canopy, some unloaded the soup we would be serving from the kitchen, some set up chairs, and some prepared the piñatas.
Everyone worked together to get the job done. What amazed me most was how all of our kids jumped right in. Armed with soccer balls and great big containers of bubbles, they went out and immediately engaged with the local children. They did their best to communicate with a hand-shake or a “Como se llama” but where language barriers remained, they found that a good ole game of soccer crossed the communication gap just fine.
Then it was time for Pastor Alberto to share a short Bible message. He had such a sweet way of engaging the children who had come to listen and eat. After the message it was time to have lunch together. We enjoyed the delicious posole, a traditional Mexican soup with chicken and hominy. Fresh lime, cabbage, and onion accompanied the flavorful dish. Once lunch was over, it was time for fun with pinatas.
Before we knew it, it was time to load back up on the bus and head home. It was a quick trip but one with meaningful impact for our whole family. It meant a lot to me and my husband to see the Tijuana kitchen first-hand and work alongside a ministry partner for a day. And for our kids, it meant a lot too. We appreciated the opportunity to spend a whole Saturday with like-minded people, serving others. It was a day to set-aside our own comforts and think about the needs of others. This is exactly the type of thing I’d like to spend more time doing with my family and I appreciate the opportunity with Outside the Bowl. As we were waiting in line at the border to cross back into the US, my 12 year old son said to me, “Mom, I really liked coming down and doing this today. I think we should do it again.” I couldn’t agree more.
Written by Dianne Sivulka