(TRUTH: I have never actually the show MacGuyver. In fact, I had to google his name to make sure I was spelling it right. There is something intriguing to me about someone who can whip things out of their behind and save the world. Somedays, I feel like MacGyver (although without the annoying accent). Circumstances in the following blog may or may not be something that the actual MacGyver would do. (He totally would)).
Yes, I’m going to talk about everything I saw on my recent trip to Mexico City to visit The Well of Life, an organization that deals with human trafficking at all levels (intervention, advocacy, rescuing, and rehabilitation), but we need to start at the beginning.
This is the first time that I ever have traveled and not checked a suitcase. We were going to be gone for five days, which might as well have been a month, but, at the encouragement of my teammates, I squeezed everything into a tiny carry-on suitcase. Not helping my anxiety about this decision was my son’s request for “the largest sombrero you can find”. How am I supposed to get a giant sombrero home when I have this tiny suitcase? Roll it down the aisle and apologize profusely to my neighbors in the hopes that they won’t punch me or fold my sombrero? I had to put that worry in God’s hands.
When we got to the airport at 7:30am, everyone got checked in okay and we headed to the security line. I grabbed some of those blue security booties on the way because I almost never wear socks and who wants to walk through that area without some level of protection?
I’m not going to lie- airport security kind of freaks me out. Not because I think that they’re going to find anything, but I always feel rushed and frazzled. I also never go through the body scanners so they have to pull me off to the side and wait for a woman to come and rub her hands all over my body. All in all, it is not my favorite thing.
When it was my time to put my things on the security belt, I acted as if someone was standing behind me with a gun to my head with a countdown clock (LIKE MACGYVER). My brain went into mega-freak-out mode because of a few issues.
ISSUE #1: The handle of my tiny suitcase (that was already causing me so much anxiety) got stuck up. As in, full and upright position. As in, no matter how many times I pushed the button or banged on it, the handle would not recess into the suitcase. It was like the stubborn child I had left sleeping in his bed at home, but in a suitcase form. I looked at my friend Kara with wide, panicked eyes and she calmly told me to just put it on the belt and we could deal with it later.
ISSUE #2: I could not find the stupid bag of toiletries I had so thoughtfully tucked away somewhere so they would be easy to find when I went through security. My first thought was that, in my haste to be cautious, I had left them out of my luggage entirely. That annoyed me so, I kept searching my backpack frantically, showed the entire world my underwear while digging in my suitcase, and stopping just short of emptying the entire thing on the floor and running away screaming. After a few tense minutes of searching, I remembered I had stashed it in the outside pocket.
Once I found my toiletries, I threw everything in one of the gray plastic bins and sent it through the scanner. When that was done, I told them that I was opting out of the body scanner and they called some women over to “assist” me.
I’m an old pro at being the weirdo who doesn’t want to go through the body scanners at airports so the whole notion of someone running their hands all over my body doesn’t bother me anymore. However, it was at this point that I realized that I was barefoot and I had sent the security booties through the scanner instead of wearing them on my feet. The women who were “assisting” me had a good laugh at that one.
When I was finished, I shoved the booties in the outside pocket of my backpack (remember them, reader) and took my gimpy suitcase out of security as fast as I could.
Once we got to our gate, I started to freak out again about the handle of my suitcase being stuck open. Not checking luggage is supposed to make life easier, not more stressful. They were going to make me check my bag at the gate! It won’t fit in one of those overhead bins. It would get lost and then I would have NOTHING. What a nightmare! The world is over!
Please, imagine me draped over my suitcase in despair in Terminal D of DFW airport.
Then, my buddy Daniel suggested that we open the suitcase and see if we could get it to go down from the inside. I was skeptical, but lo and behold, it worked! We got the handle to recess down into the suitcase.
Now, please picture me rejoicing and skipping around Terminal D of DFW airport.
At that point, I had basically a box with two wheels and no handle to pull it with. When I walked onto the plane, I was hunched over, pulling my suitcase along by the very short cloth handle on top, but I was okay.
It was going to be alright.
When we landed in Mexico, I knew that it was going to get annoying really quickly to have to pull my suitcase like Quasimodo through customs and immigration. So, I used my MacGyver! brain and tied my A&M fleece sweatshirt around the short handle. BOOM! MACGYVER! Instant suitcase handle. Sure, it shifts around and stretches and is a little floppy so you have to kick your suitcase every now and then and yes, that sweatshirt belongs to my husband and I wasn’t sure if I was stretching it beyond its limits, but, when in Mexico, right?
In the immigration process, no one mentioned the weird gringa who was pulling her cheap suitcase by a sweatshirt, so I felt like I was the toots.
Now, I will go ahead and skip to Sunday morning. The people we were staying with took us to their church. The service is held in the auditorium of a Japanese/Mexican private school. The music was so loud that I felt my clothes vibrating. I wasn’t sure if I felt the Spirit or my impending death, but I survived, so I guess it was the Spirit. Afterwards, Kara and I ran to the bathroom because we were told that lunch would be at a quesadilla stand on the street.
We got two stalls right next to each other and did our business. However, when it came time for the toilet paper part, we realized that these bathrooms did not, in fact, have toilet paper. There wasn’t even a toilet paper delivery system. It was literally just a tiny room with a toilet it in it. You’re tricky, Mexico! What a mean joke to play on poor, unsuspecting white girls.
We started to just give up but then, the heavens opened and a light from above shone on the unused airport security booties that I had stuffed in the outside pocket of my backpack three days ago. MACGYVER!
The booties were a perfect substitute for a few reasons: 1) They were clean. 2) They were disposable and you have to throw your toilet paper in a trashcan anyway in Mexico. 3) There were two of them- one for me and one for Kara.
So, I handed her one under the stall and we giggled about the janitor finding two blue airport booties in the trashcans at the end of the day.
We had some other MACGYVER! moments on the trip- like using wire, scrap wood, and cinder blocks to secure something on a safehouse construction project or me doing a handstand to get back through an extremely tall, skinny window instead of risking my ability to have children in the future by balancing precariously on a sharp window frame. But, it’s not surprising to me that my MACGYVER! brain was active in Mexico because Mexico is essentially a nation of MACGYVERS! People on the street get food trucks and sell quesadillas or churros; at the stop lights, men and women rub your car down for a few pesos. Many of the buildings look like they have been cobbled together from things they found in my shed. It’s quite ingenious, actually. There is just something about making do with what you have. Making it work.
El Pozo de Vida (The Well of Life) has MACGYVERED! solutions to fighting human trafficking.
We visited their hair salon in La Merced, which is an infamous red light district that is known all over Mexico. The salon functions as an outreach center, offering women who work the streets a place to rest and to learn about Jesus. If and when they’re ready, that is also where they get info about the transition home that allows women a place to stay while they transition to different job sectors. We sat around a table in the back room at the salon, eating pizza with prostitutes, listening to their stories, hearing them talk about their kids, and joking with the staff at the salon who have built relationships with them. In an area where these women are viewed as commodities, El Pozo thought outside the box and MACGYVERED! a space where they can find peace and dignity, even just for a moment.
El Pozo also rescues young girls who have been trafficked (either sex trafficking or labor trafficking) and brings them to a safehouse, where they get schooling, food, counseling, and safety. Some girls come in voluntarily; when we were there, there were two related girls who were younger than 15 that had actually been resuced because they approached one of the women in La Merced to get advice on how to “work the streets”. Some are brought in by the District Attorney’s office. Some girls are relieved to be there, some have escaped the shelter and went back to the streets. It is a hard work- working with traumatized children, but the staff at El Pozo have MACGYVERED! a place where these girls can find some level of healing. In the midst of lots of suffering and trauma, the laughter that we heard and observed while we were there is a testament to the work that God is doing at the safehouse and in the outreach center.
As far as other parts of fighting human trafficking, El Pozo is still developing some things. The police in Mexico are often having their pockets lined by the pimps, so they’re not always reliable. El Pozo has built good relationships within the District Attorney’s office. Last year, about 30 gentlemen’s clubs (that often utilize underage girls) were shut down. El Pozo is working on advocating to get laws and processes changed to protect these vulnerable populations.
Truthfully, I traveled to Mexico with my guns blazing, ready to fix whatever problems they have and be “useful”. God totally shut me down. The theme of the trip for me was, “Shut up and watch Me work, you nut job”. Pro tip: When the Creator of the universe tells you to shut up and be still, you should.
So, I did.
And it was wonderful.
God has MACGYVERED a seemingly random group of people (documentary filmmaker, social worker from CA, woman from Spain who has experienced alot of what these women have experienced, Mexican nationals) to work towards returning the Earth to what God originally intended. The odds are stacked against them, but I saw the proof of redemption in the light in the eyes of the women and girls who are a part of El Pozo’s work. There are things that have happened, people that have joined the project, that have no logical explanation other than the fact that God wants them there. In a metropolitan area with 21 million people, there are very few coincidences. God knows what He’s doing. He doesn’t need long term plans or strategic planning or logic to move. All He needs is the Spirit and people that are willing to be faithful. And He can do fantastic things with those few tools. He’s the ultimate MACGYVER!
That is what I saw in Mexico and it has changed me.
*****Ask your questions in the comments below! If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find out for you!
Many thanks to those that hosted us- He Who Laughs Like SpongeBob, She Who Only Says Wise Words, She Who Has Eaten Eyeball, and He Who Sits at the Dining Table in His Underwear. Special shout-out to those that drove us around and acted as tour guides and answered a million questions- He Who Makes His Own Jeans, She Who Needs a Poof, and She Who Almost Forgot Her Sister’s Bakery Was Close When We Wanted Dessert.
27million: website//facebook 27million is a non-profit that networks and connects grassroots efforts to combat human trafficking. They recognize that this kind of work will look different in different contexts so they aim to connect and fundraise for grassroots organizations that are already doing good work. Poke around on their website for more info.
R$1 Documentary- A documentary filmmaker in Mexico City made this short documentary about human trafficking in Brazil.