|First church of Winsted
95 North Main Street
Winsted, Connecticut 06098
American Baptist ~ United Church of Christ
|2016 MEXICO MISSION
|2016 Final Mission Trip Reflections...
Our final flight to get home arrived at Bradley International
Airport just after 6 o'clock this evening. I never thought that 94
degrees could feel so good. Compared to the heat of Merida, it
really felt nice outside.
I again want to offer kudos to the members of the mission
team. They proved once again that through Christ, we can
accomplish far more than we can imagine.
Finally, I just wanted to offer up a final insight about each team
Rose gets the award for making the funniest comment. As we
walked through the terminal at Bradley International toward the
baggage claim area, I commented that I wouldn't be surprised if
her parents were waiting for her in the baggage claim area.
Midway through the trip, we called Kat to let her know that
Rose's stomach was in a bit of a revolt over something she ate.
Kat was very concerned (to say the least), and I quipped to
Rose that her mother probably thought I made her sick. Rose
retorted, "no, you didn't make me sick, the food from
McDonald's did....you shouldn't eat American food in Mexico."
Couldn't have said it better myself....
Rumors abound that Debby Kane will be resigning her position
as Treasurer at Church and as a VP at Northwest Community
Bank. She aced the art of driving in Mexico (and had to follow
me, no less) and many conjecture that she decided to be an
Uber driver in Merida, Mexico. Proof of her extraordinary driving
skills was the fact that her car was always filled and those who
got to any meeting place late had to go in the car I was driving.
I was getting a little concerned that people were showing up 10
minutes before I told the group to gather. But I finally figured it
out.... Ask her about driving into the roundabouts (traffic circles)
in Merida. That was her favorite thing to do....
Frank proudly announces that he is opening a side business to
replace the fabric in screens. But he won't accept a job unless
it involves the screens in every window of the house. When
asked to take on a task (like replacing the fabric in all the
screens at Solyluna), he always replied, "I've never done it
before, but I'll figure it out." And he did. The screens were not
only worn out and full of holes, but they were filthy. Frank got a
5 star rating for screen disassembly, repair, fabric replacement,
and re-installation on the Mexican version of Yelp....
As a first-timer, Johnny had to learn of the many idiosyncrasies
of electrical work in Mexico the hard way. He went to new
heights (literally) without a proper ladder or tools. He discovered
that one particular light didn't work because it was attached to
two positive wires, rather than to a positive and a ground (which
is what you need for the flow of electrical current). But best of
all, he learned how to nail light fixtures into walls with screws.
He used to think that you screwed fixtures into the wall with
screws, and you nailed things into the wall with nails. Glad we
set him straight... He's now a prime nominee for a position on
On the trip, Aleigh and Brigitte devised their "Plan B" in case
things get boring as a commissioned officer in the US Army or
working with institutionalized children and youth with
psychological disorders. It is "VS Roofing Company". None of
us ever knew of their love for heights. Actually, they finally
realized that the rest of us are afraid of heights. So they got
lots of time away from the rest of the team by being on the roof
of the Solyluna building most of the day. We will not be
releasing to the public the photos of the two of them hanging
from the roof over the front of the building painting the facade
On the surface, Meghan appears to be a typical
communications major. She is very pleasant but underneath of
the facade is an obsessive compulsive trim painter. (I deny any
animosity over the fact that she repainted every single piece off
trim that I painted....). However, even more important is that
Meghan is an undercover Transportation Safety Administration
officer. Her job is to try to sneak bottles of water through
security to see if the TSA screeners can detect the bottles of
water as her bag goes through the X-Ray machine. As with all
the Kane women, she does her job very well!
The night before Laura left Mexico (she and Brigitte had to
return a few days earlier than the rest), the Internet in the hotel
went down. So we could not print out her boarding passes.
That would have been no big deal in the USA, but she her return
flights were booked on two separate airlines. So when she
checked in for her Aeromexico flight, she should not get a
boarding pass for her next flight on Delta. And when you make
a connection in Mexico City, after getting off your arriving
aircraft you immediately have to show a hard copy boarding
pass for your connecting flight. Then you go through security
screening to get to the boarding gates for your connecting
flight. If you don't have a paper boarding pass, you have to
leave the secured area, go upstairs to the departures
concourse, find the ticket counter for your airline, wait in line to
get your boarding pass, and then trek half way across the
terminal building back to the lines of people waiting to go
through security. To avoid having to go through all the additional
hassle, Laura convinced the security personnel to let her go
straight to the departure gates for connecting flights by showing
an electronic version of her boarding pass on her cell phone
screen. So our advice to you is that in any discussions or
negotiations with Laura, watch out. She may seem like a mild
mannered, incredibly accommodating person. But in her very
unassuming way, she can get you to buy the Brooklyn Bridge.
Because of her demonstrated skills of persuasion, while in
Mexico, she received numerous job offers to sell timeshares in
Thanks for following the posts about our 2016 Mission Trip and
thanks again for your support of our endeavors!
2016 Mexico Mission Trip ~ Day 8
Saturday was a day to relax and get some rest before the trip
home. Breakfast was a little later (8:30am) and in one of our
rooms in the hotel (the hotel did not have a restaurant and we
didn't feel like spending the extra time it takes to eat in a
restaurant). Everyone went to the beach (literally across the
street from the hotel) while I trekked downtown to seek out an
afternoon activity. The water was calm and as beautiful as at
any other Caribbean beach.
I found someone on a street corner who was selling tour
"packages". I was able to negotiate a "deal" where the price
per person dropped from 750 pesos to 350 pesos per person.
And instead of having to be part of a larger group, we got our
own van and driver. The package included 4 activities, and we
also got the flexibility of choosing whichever activities we wanted
to do and spending however much time we wanted to at each
The first thing we decided to do was to go to some fresh water
springs. The Yucatan peninsula is a huge limestone formation.
So it has no above ground rivers. All the rivers on the peninsula
are underground. In many places, there are holes in the
limestone where fresh water comes out of the ground. We took
a short boat ride to a place with 4 of these fresh water springs
and swam in the largest of the springs. The water was much
cooler than the sea water, and very refreshing given the heat of
From there, we went to a place on the coast populated by
flamingos. We learned that flamingos are white, not pink. They
take on their pink color because of the pink colored berries that
they eat. Finally, we went to a small, private beach club for
We were picked up at the hotel at 12:45am for the 3 1/2 hour
ride to the International Airport in Cancun. Everyone slept on
the ride and when we arrived to check in for our 7am flight, we
learned that the departure was delayed to 8:30am. The extra
time was used to have a leisurely breakfast.
We thank God for the opportunity to spend a week in Mexico
meeting new people and using our time, energy and talents to
help those who dedicate their lives to help others. We also
thank God for the support of the members and friends of First
Church in supporting the Mission Trip. Finally, I want to thank
each member of the team who dedicated a week of their
summer to participate in this mission.
2016 Mexico Mission Trip ~ Day 7
It’s hard to believe that we have been in Mexico for 7 days….
except for the fact that everyone is exhausted.
We had a very nice, final day at the Solyluna Reforma building.
We did a few, final things to complete our “makeover” of the
facility. Johnny installed two bulb light for the hallway. As you
may recall, the light in the hallway didn’t work at all. After some
sleuthing, John found two live wires coming out of the wall in a
totally different area from the existing light socket. So he took
the light socket off the wall where it was located and connected
it to the live wires. Last night Frank, Johnny and I made a trip to
home depot to find a better, brighter light for the hallway.
With the help of a carpenter friend of the school director, the
Smart Board, which had been uninstalled for nearly a year, was
mounted on a wall in one of the classrooms. Next to it a smart
TV (new out of the box but unused for over 7 months for lack of
someone to put it on the wall) was put on the wall near the
Smart Board. We had to purchase a wall mount for the TV, and
I was astounded by the price for one. It was about 50% more
than it would have cost in the US.
Frank completed the caulking of the windows in the metal
window frames. And we 3 more large trash bags with grass
and debris from the garden in the front of the building.
The director of the school, Marian, took us to lunch at an open
air restaurant a short walk from the school. We thought we
would die sitting outside in the middle of the day, but there was
a breeze and it turned out to be quite pleasant. Marian again
expressed her thanks for the work we completed, and we
presented her with a “certificate” that we made on the hotel
computer to recognize three rather unique things about the
school: most of the children are doing things that their families
and doctors said they would never be able to do (for example,
walk); the parents of the students are actively involved in the
education process (they literally stay with their child for the
entire school day, participate in the lessons, etc.) and involved in
the life of the school (they plan activities, etc., which from an
American perspective is common, but in Mexico is very unusual;
and she has empowered her staff to carry out the programs
without here continual presence and involvement in every
activity. We also presented her with some European chocolates
and a Samsung Tablet.
After lunch, we returned to the school to find the children,
parents and staff waiting for us. The teacher/spokesperson told
us that they all appreciated what we had done during the week,
and the child whose pediatrician believed that she would never
be able to walk walked to us with another child. They presented
to us a yellow poster with their handprints and the inscription,
“Thanks for giving us a hand.”
2016 Mexico Mission Trip ~ Day 6
It was a long, but good day It started at 3:30am as Laura and
Bridgett were on the 6am flight to Mexico City and had to be at
the airport by 4:45am.
We started our day at Solyluna a little earlier, also. The director
asked us to paint the roofline in the back of the building red, and
while part of the team polished off that task, the rest were
finishing the trim on the front of the building. We then
transitioned from painting to yard work. The grass in both the
front and the back of the building was severely overgrown: over
a foot high. The municipality is supposed to mow the lawn
because the organization is a school, but a written request has
to be submitted asking for the services. Upon receipt of the
request letter, the city scheduled the work at the other facility of
Solyluna, but forgot to schedule a crew to come to this building.
So, we hired a passerby with a machete to cut the lawn. The
team then raked the cut grass, along with what seemed like a
few years worth of leaves and other debris and bagged it all.
Due to the midday heat, we took a break for lunch and then
completed that task in the afternoon. During the afternoon we
sent Aleigh, Meg and Rose onto the roof to paint a few more
walls that the director never asked us to paint, but that were
visible from the backyard. The walls were badly stained and
with the rest of the facility newly painted, stuck out like a sore
thumb. We also decided to paint another wall that wasn’t
readily visible, and we scrapped peeling paint and painted one
more room inside the building.
The putty holding the windows into place in some of the metal
window frames was old and cracked. So we chipped out the
old, dried putty out and used silicon caulk to seat them into the
We learned that the monthly paid to the municipality for trash
removal entitled the school to throw away three bags of trash
three times a week. The limit of 3 bags is strictly enforced.
And if you don’t pay the monthly fee, they won’t take any of your
trash! We filled over 25+ large black trash bags with yard
debris, and although we inquired about hiring someone to haul it
away, that was not an option. So when the garbage truck came
into the neighborhood to collect everyone’s trash, we entered
into some negotiations with the city workers. They agreed to
take away all of the bags for a “fee”.
Aleigh, Rose and Meghan get today’s award for doing the most
Debby gets the award for yard work.
Johnny gets the “bag man” award for filling the most bags with
yard debris (and then carrying them to the designated place).
Frank gets the utility outfielder award and also the window
2016 Mexico Mission Trip ~ Day 5
This message will be a bit shorter because the Internet service
at the hotel is not working...
We started the day with a side trip to Uxmal, an archeological
zone about 65 miles south of Merida. The site was quite
amazing. It's hard to believe that the Mayans were able to
construct such intricate structures back in the 1500's. We were
also surprised by the number of iguanas roaming around the
site. Debby put her feet up on a bench once when it appeared
that an iguana was going to walk up and shake her toes. We're
sure he was just showing some Mexican hospitality to a foreign
After spending a couple of hours walking the grounds at Uxmal,
we ventured across the highway to the History of Chocolate
Museum. Obviously no true member of First Church would ever
drive by anything to do with chocolate. Well, maybe that's not
totally true, but I was driving the lead car....
We enjoyed watching a live Mayan religious ceremony invoking
their gods to provide rain for the cacao plants. There was a
demonstration on the preparation of the cacao beans into hot
chocolate, and we were given samples. We were surprised at
how good hot chocolate is with a bit of hot chili peppers.
The highlight of the excursion was feeding some monkeys and a
deer. These were rescue animals. The monkeys would reach
out from a chain link fence and take peanuts from your hands.
Brigitte, Aleigh and Rose seem to be the animal whisperers as
the monkeys were comfortable with them.
As he heat of the day subsided, we returned to Solyluna's
Reforma facility. Except for some minor touch up that will be
done tomorrow, we pretty much finished the exterior painting
today. Meghan, Rose and Daphne ]painted trim on the building
while Frank, Laura and Debby put on about 6 coats of paint on
the wall along the sidewalk and street. Aleigh and Brigitte
completed every task that required you to be on the roof (a lot
of trim was accessible only from the roof of the building).
Daphne told me that she meet one of the teachers of the school
at a store earlier in the day, and the teacher asked Daphne to
convey their sincere thanks for the work we have done. The
director of Solyluna commented last night to Daphne that we are
one of the only groups to help Solyluna that really does what we
commit to do. I thank God the for dedication and hard work of
2016 Mexico Mission Trip ~ Day 4
HOT is the best way to summarize the day. It felt much hotter
today than before. Part of the problems was the fact that there
were fewer clouds in the sky.
We started the day with breakfast and an intended departure
from the hotel at 8:45am. However, Frank, Laura, Debby and I
went on a short shopping trip to pick up some CFL light bulbs to
replace the burned out ones and and to fill the empty sockets.
We ended up purchasing large bottles of water (2 ½ gallons
each), more snacks, and a bunch of other things. After the
short delay, we headed to the Reforma building where we
worked the day before. The newly painted white walls looked
better than expected.
Frank finished replacing the last of the screens (they seemed to
reproduce on their own as every once in a while we would
stumble upon another one that needed a fabric replacement. I
spoke with Mariam, the director, about the work we were able
to complete the day before. She introduced me to one of the
program participants. Prior to coming to Solyluna, the girl’s
doctors told her parents that she would never walk. I was
pretty impressed as the little girl walked by me without any
difficulty. A wonderful statement about the services provided at
There was a rubber and foam pool that was part of the therapy
program. After being filled with water, colored balls would be
added. And the children could sit in the pool and be asked to
gather certain colored balls. It was placed on the side of the
building where it languished for months. Debby, Laura and I did
the best we oculd with soap, sponges and a broom brush to
clean it up. With Johnny’s help, we turned it over to clean the
other side and finally placed it on top of a storage area to dry.
Painting was also the order of the day. During the morning, we
focused our efforts on the outside to avoid disturbing the on-
going programs. A lot of scraping had to be done on the front
wall. Aleigh and Brigitte continued to have a special attraction
to working on the roof. Due to the extreme heat and strong sun
(Meghan commented that the tile floor in the entryway courtyard
was hot enough to fry eggs), we retreated to the hotel around
1pm. Instead of our regular lunch of sandwiches on Mexican
bread, we had lunch at Dafne and Enrique’s house. The team
was not reticent about telling me that they enjoyed the meal
much more than the sandwiches I normally prepare for them….
It’s hard to compete with a hot meal that ends with carrot cake
and ice cream…
In the afternoon, it poured just before we got back to the
facility. Colored paint arrived, and we were able to paint the
border of the front windows with an egg yolk yellow paint and
edge the entire building with tomato red paint. May sound a bit
unusual to you, but you’ll have to look at the pictures of it. The
color combination grows quickly on you.
The younger members exhibited endless energy in the evening
and helped Enrique and Dafne with top coat of white paint
another of the interior rooms. We ended the evening a little early
(9pm) and had a quick dinner on our way home at none other
than McDonalds. It may sound strange to you, but when you’re
tired and dirty, it was quite enjoyable!
2016 Mexico Mission Trip ~ Day 3
After finally being able to rent two vehicles to get us around
Merida, we met our local co-workers and then headed off to
one of the two facilities operated by Solyluna (the sun and the
moon) here. Dafne Hernandez and Enrique Visoso have been
part of our mission trips since the first year. They started
helping us by meeting our bus on the side of the highway and
providing us with cases of beverages (soda, water, juices) and
boxes of snack foods. The nephew, Lalo, through their
prompting, was a member of the Mission Trip team. And both
Enrique and Dafne’s father also were part of the Mission Trip
team another year.
The drive to the facility was relatively short, but it was obvious
that we were suddenly in a very different neighborhood. The
facility was located in a rented house that Solyluna began
renting in December of last year. They currently have 55
children and youth who participate in their programs, and they
had outgrown on of their prior facilities.
Marian, a Dutch woman who has lived in Mexico for over 25
years, operates the facilities. She was the youngest of 10
children, and two of her brothers had multiple disabilities. Since
a young age, she had a very keen interest in helping children like
her two brothers. She traveled to Latin America to investigate
what services were available to these children, and settle in
Merida because of the lack of services for them.
Classes were in session, and one parent accompanies each
child to the program. The programs air to teach the children
basic life skills: how to feed themselves, how to recognize their
spelled names (even though most will never be able to speak),
and how to use the bathroom. The programs also provide very
specific physical therapy customized to the disabilities of the
The parents are also taught things related to nutrition, caring for
their disabled child, and how to provide the therapies to their
children on their own.
At first sight, the facilities seemed to be in very good condition.
But as time passed, we realized that many sections of the
interior walls were blistering and needed to be scrapped and
then painted. The exterior back walls were in need of a coat of
paint, and all the screens needed to be repaired
We broke up into teams and got to work. Some put down
paper in the areas that would be painted. Others mixed the
paint (in Mexico paint is always sold in a concentrated form and
you have to add 10-15% water. We worked until about 2pm
when the afternoon heat became unbearable. We checked into
our new hotel at that time and then returned to paint from 5pm
until 10 pm. In our first day of hard work, we painted most of
the back exterior of the building (we couldn’t finish because the
trim was to be painted another color and the paint had not yet
been purchased.) Most of the screens were refitted with new
mesh. And we scrapped and repainted the entryway and a few
other areas of the interior.
While we were sometimes slowed by th elack of proper tools,
we made do with what was available. Before the second work
session, we purchased a step ladder, a big roll of plastic wrap
(to wrap the paint brushes and rolls so we can reuse them
Interesting factoid of the day: The plastic cord that is used to
hold the mesh into the frame of a screen is called “cola de
raton,” (rat’s tail) in Spanish. Frank, Rose, Debby, and Laura
handled a lot of rat’s tail today.
2016 Mexico Mission Trip ~ Day 2
It was another early morning. We were all at the hotel restaurant at
6am. It was obvious that no many guests have breakfast at that hour
on Sunday mornings. The restaurant was dark until a few minutes
after six, and most of the buffet dishes did not appear until close to 6:
30am. After breakfast, we headed off to the airport. No complications
in getting checked in for the flights.
Our first flight was to Mexico City. Our plane landed at a remote
location, and we took a bus to the terminal. To get to the departure
gates for our next flight, we had to pass through security again. Frank
graciously parted with another bottle of Coke (we’re not used to having
to go through security to make a domestic connection), but we always
manage to find enough time in the Mexico City International Airport to
stop at the 7-Eleven store inside the terminal.
Ironically, we had to take a bus to the plane that would take us to
Merida. The bus took us right back to where we started. We got back
onto the plane that less than an hour before we had deplaned. We
landed in Merida fifteen minutes late, finding the weather to be hot and
humid. It was only 87 degrees out, but the heat index (how hot it felt)
was over 100 degrees.
After retrieving our luggage, we found out that the two vehicles we had
rented were not available. The rental agency was accommodating
enough to give us a ride in their shuttle van to the hotel in the historic
district of the city. The irony is that the rental car company said that
any reservation that is not prepaid is subject to availability. So even
though you are given a confirmation code, you won’t know whether the
company will rent you a car until after you arrive.
We used the afternoon to rest a bit, and in the evening we walked
along the main boulevard in the city. We saw some magnificent
architecture, a few monuments, and the group befriended a dog who
had a strange aversion to horse drawn carriages. Theories for the
poor dog’s psychosis ranged from a possible run in with a horse in the
dog’s childhood to a dislike of the clacking sound as the horses pulled
the carriages. My theory is that the dog had us pegged and realized
that if it showed signs of an abnormal dislike of horses, Americans will
feed it left over grilled steak and chicken fajitas.
We’re expecting a full day of work Monday. We will be doing indoor
painting tomorrow. The folks here are very concerned that we
acclimate ourselves to the heat and humidity. We’ll let you know how
hard it is to paint in these weather conditions tomorrow!
2016 Mexico Mission Trip ~ Day 1
We arrived to Oaxaca at 6:30pm after a long day of travel. Half the
team left on a 5:40am flight and the other half of the team departed at
7:00am. We met up in Mexico City and were together on the final flight
to Oaxaca. We thank God for a safe trip.
After renting two cars at the airport, we hustled to drop our bags off at
the hotel. We then ran to Sam’s Club where we bought 20 large pizzas
and 32 quarts of juices for dinner for our friends at Casa Hogar. It was
nice to see everyone again. It was amazing to see how everyone had
grown in a year. Betsy is a young lady. Even her twin brother, Victor,
acts more mature. Angel, who we met when he was first dropped off at
Casa Hogar by his mother, looks so grown up now.
OK, so what’s this hotel stuff about?!? For those who didn’t know, we
made a last minute change to our trip. With Carol’s prolonged
hospitalization and the on-going teachers strike in Oaxaca, along with
various consultations with people in whom we confide, we realized that
our presence would have placed more stress on the folks at Casa
Hogar. Although the leaders at Casa Hogar did not ask us to change
our plans, we learned that every person who is able is taking turns
being with Carol in the hospital. They are running 8 hour rotations
around the clock to care for her. (Hospitals in Mexico do not have the
staff to do anything more than to provide medical care. It is up to the
family to feed the patient, bathe the patient, etc.). Mexicans are the
most hospitable people in the world, and we came to the realization
that they would be further stressed by not being able to help us
purchase supplies for our work projects, etc.
So we decided to make a short visit, give the staff a breather by
allowing them to not worry about preparing a meal, and treating
everyone to pizza and chocolates. Tomorrow we leave Oaxaca in the
morning for the Yucatan peninsula, where we will spend the rest of our
stay here in Mexico working at a school founded by a Dutch woman for
children with multiple disabilities.
Each Mission Trip is full of surprises. While we were not surprised that
the rental agency did not have the vehicles we reserved to get us
around (two VW Jettas), we were surprised to get a mini-van (which is
huge on the streets of Oaxaca) and a BMW 328. What wasn’t a
surprise was that I have to drive the mini-van and Debby Kane took the