Great news! After 3 years of hard work the student residence is completed! This beautiful building serves as home for Indigenous Mexican boys and girls who are completing High School in Oaxaca and preparing for admission to University in Mexico City. The building is located on a beautiful tract of land 9 miles from the center of Oaxaca City. Saul is already planning for a second residence on this site. This represents the only chance for a college education and a productive life that these poor Indian boys and girls from the Sierra Madre mountains will ever have. And most importantly their Christian Transformation can take place in this structured but loving environment.

“A longer weekend to see, to feel
compassion, and to use your hands
to further build the kingdom of God”

Saul is organizing short “Vision Trips” for those who have an interest in helping Armonia but have never been to Mexico to visit the centers. These trips are very intense, short trips which enable visitors to see first hand the work that Armonia does with the poor. An individual who wishes to donate financially to Armonia but does not have the time or desire to participate in person in Mexico may understand in a deep way what the needs and goals of Armonia are. And potential volunteers who wish to work at Armonia may gain a more thorough understanding of the opportunities and how their skills and interests may be put to best use. On many occasions persons ask “What can I do?” and have reluctance to volunteer until this question is answered. A Vision Trip is designed to provide that answer.

If you have an interest in taking a vision trip in the future please contact me at janelee1@mac.com. A typical trip schedule follows:
IMG00740</a
Friday
Arrive in Mexico City
Reception with light food at
Casablanca residence
Saturday
Bible Study
Breakfast with AIMS (Armonia Indigenous Mexican Students
Visit Violetas
Visit Hornos
Visit Presidentes CUTC
Visit Jalalpa CUTC
Visit with family
Dinner at Café Tacuba
Return to Casablanca
Sunday
Bible Study
Breakfast
Visit with family
Christian gathering at Santa
Cruz CUTC
Travel to Oaxaca
Visit Tule and Oaxaca City
Dinner at Casa Naranja
Visit with AIMS students
Monday
Breakfast and prayer
Visit the school
Visit Pyramids
Lunch at Santa Marta
Visit students’ residence
Shopping with AIMS students
Closing reflection with Saul and
light dinner
Tuesday
Rise early and depart for airport
*CUTC= Christian Urban Transformation Center
P1010234

Suddenly a scream comes from the barred entrance of the Armonia Transformation Center in Jalalpa. Doctor! Help! Come! We rush up the stairs and out the door. We follow a man running down the street, turn right and enter a little two floor house. Up the stairs there is a small room. A hammock is there, torn on one end but fixed to the wall on the other. On the floor lies a small, motionless boy. He has no pulse. He is not breathing. He is warm. We chant ABC – “airway, breathing, circulation” as we ready ourselves. We commence two person CPR, two old retired doctors working at the Armonia center a short block away. And we continue. No pulse, no respiration after thirty minutes or more. Pupils fixed. This beautiful boy is dead.

His father bursts into the room. He picks up the little boy by his arms, raises him up and down using a method of artificial respiration we used 40 years ago. We go downstairs. Finally after an hour a police car arrives, then later an ambulance. We don’t need an ambulance. We don’t need the police. We would have needed a defibrillator, and EMS personnel, but not an hour later. There is no 911 in Mexico for the poor. For them, the nearest hospital is three hours away on a good day through the traffic.

That night we return to console the family. They, of course, are grief stricken. They say this had to be an accident with the hammock. But one relative tells us that the little boy’s uncle killed himself several months ago. A patchy story. They must cling to the accident theory. But we know. How to help this family? How to unravel the relationship between the boy and his uncle? Should we try? How did they know to come to the Armonia Transformation center just around the corner for help? How did they know there were doctors there? Could we involve the family in counseling at the center?

And what of the total lack of response by the authorities? The lack of emergency care in one of the largest cities in the world, Mexico City?
And how about us? How would he fare in downtown Detroit, or L.A. amongst our urban poor?

Student Residence under Construction

Student Residence under Construction

When I visited Oaxaca, Mexico, in February 2009 the student residence was well underway. Under Saul’s leadership many volunteer groups from the U.S. and the U.K had worked over two summers in the construction. The indigenous Indian high school students living in the temporary residences in Oaxaca City worked every weekend and in most of their spare time on this exciting project. This residence lies on land purchased by Armonia with contributions from individuals, churches, and Armonia U.S. Inc in the U.S. and Armonia U.K in the United Kingdom. The land lies in a valley with mountains in the background. Water for the residence comes from springs in the mountains above. There is ample land for more than one student residence as the high school education program grows. In addition land is being set aside to grow various crops to enhance food production and to teach new agricultural technics to students who may wish to return to their native villages with new productive ideas

IMG_0255When the first indigenous Indian students came to Oaxaca seeking a High School Education under the care and direction of Armonia Ministries, it was necessary to find a High School that would accept them. All of the Indian students had low grade point averages (GPA) and many did not speak Spanish very well since they had used their native dialects in their mountain villages, some Chinanteca, some Zapoteca. Also they were relatively darked skinned. All of these served as limitations, and as a result all the High Schools in Oaxaca city refused entrance to them. Saul Cruz and Armonia found this High School several miles outside Oaxaca City and they were enrolled. Now some three years later, High Schools in Oaxaca have opened their doors to these students. And they have refused to change schools! They are happy and accepted where they are. I had the pleasure of meeting the Principal in April as well as several teachers. It is a happy, productive school and I think they made a good decision.

He demonstrates insulated construction material

He demonstrates insulated construction material

Saul Cruz Ramos is the director of Armonia Ministries in Mexico. Here he is demonstrating insulated siding to be used in the new student residence in Oaxaca, Mexico. This provides strength and insulation against heat and cold. This student residence is scheduled for completion in the fall, hopefully in time for the school term to begin. Armonia has purchased land several miles outside of the city of Oaxaca. In the meantime the students, about 40 in number, are living in a rented residence in Oaxaca. In the last several years, nine students have been admitted to Universities in Mexico City having completed High School while living in student residences supported by and closely supervised by Armonia. For me this is the most exciting program that Armonia has undertaken because it provides a pathway for indigenous Indian children from the mountains of Mexico to become educated and have a chance for a productive life. Without this education they have no hope of progress.

Let me tell you a series of personal stories about the people who work at Armonia and are served by Armonia. Many of you will have personal stories to add. Let’s tell of the struggles and successes and incredible adventures of all of us as we work together to empower the poor and disadvantaged in the world!

IMG_0285High in the Sierra Madre mountains of southeastern Mexico little Joaquin, age 13, walks and runs six miles over mountain trails. Wildcats and mountain lions make this terrain their home. He reaches the bus for Yalalag and rides another 8 miles. He has heard there are opportunities for a high school education there. None is provided in his village.

“I left my village to get an education. My father said “you cannot stay here, you must go on. There is nothing for you in the village. You must go on to school. I believed my father and vowed never to return as a peasant to my village.”

Joachin, now 25, is an honor student at the four year University in Oaxaca. When he finishes he will be a professional engineer. He was picked up and nurtured by Armonia, a Christian Transformation organization, who fed him, sheltered him, and supported him through a high school education in Yalalag after he made his way there at age 13 and later in Oaxaca. And they taught him to speak Spanish. Even though a Mexican,he spoke his Indian dialect and broken Spanish, impossible to understand in a Mexican University.

Huicholes Sewer e
We turn from the choked, frenetic highway into the dusty dirt road and leave the incessant traffic of Mexico City. Several cows glance indifferently as we push by. A small short Mexican boy with thin little legs waves shyly as we pass. We pass up a shallow hill with blue-gray distant mountains behind, beyond a few stores, farmacia, taller de mechanico (garage), a sleepy dirty little community, and turn left. We come to a stop. The road ceases to exist and instead we see a long uneven rough cleared area, impossible to drive. Down the middle snakes a wet, winding, smelly trench. Little snakes of water trickle from each cardboard shack lining the narrow creek-trench. Smelly creek. Sewer? Could it be?

Did I say Cardboard? Yes, shacks made of cardboard soaked in Creosote. A little waterproof but not fire repellent. Shortly after Huicholes (that’s the name of the settlement) was settled there was a fire and three people died in one little shack. And during that first winter at Huicholes, every newborn died.

This is the face of poverty in the third world. This is the face of poverty in Mexico. The little town is called Huicholes and it came to be in the night, suddenly and without warning. This is also the place where Armonia Ministries intervened. Let me tell you how Huicholes came to be, and how Armonia Ministries, a Christian Transformation Center in Mexico transformed the lives of those in Huicholes

Paso a PasoThe steps you see on the mural represent the feet of Jesus walking through the city (Mexico City) The colors of the building blend in harmony symbolic of the word “Armonia” which means “harmony” in Spanish and is the closest word to the Jewish “Shalom” When I picked the Blog title “Paso a Paso” I was not consciously thinking of this mural, but there it is!