For the next 3 months, I’ll be serving with Homes of Hope, a YWAM ministry here in Tijuana that provides free homes to families in need. I’m working with their Community branch, which focuses on following up with families who have received houses. We’ll be spending time with them and listening to their stories: where they’ve come from, where they are now. And sharing the love of Jesus with them, any way we can.
This is one of their stories.
Originally from the South of Mexico, Rocopio moved to the US in the 70’s. After living there for decades with his wife Martina and their many children, he was eventually given notice that they would be deported back to Mexico. Martina and the children were given the option of being able to stay in the States, while their father would be deported, since the children were born there, but they wanted to stay together as a family.
When the immigration officer asked him why they wanted to stick together, because life in Tijuana is hard, and Rocopio might not be able to provide for his children, the father replied: “If I have to starve so that my children do not, so be it."
They were sad to leave their beautiful home in the US: with plantings and a garden all around their house.
After deportation to Tijuana, they moved South, where Rocopio spent day after day picking heavy buckets full of cherry tomatoes. The work was extremely hard on him: so much so that he fractured 3 vertebrae doing it.
His work slowed considerably (and consequently, so did his pay), and he said he felt like a failure, because he wasn’t able to provide for his family.
They decided that they needed to move back to Tijuana, where aid and work is easier to come by. Rocopio told us that he realized, “If we don’t move to Tijuana, we’re going to die here.”
Just looking at Rocopio, you can tell that he has had a difficult life. His face is leathery and heavily lined from years of agricultural work. When he speaks, you can see that several teeth are missing. He was born the same year as my father, but he looks decades older.
BUT. That’s not what I’m here to talk about.
I’m here to tell you that this family is filled with so much JOY.
Rocopio's eyes twinkle with every smile that breaks across his face. The deepest creases in his face are laugh lines. It is a face that has seen deep hardship, yes, but also one that experiences great joy.
When we first arrived, he greeted us like a grandfather, giving each of us a giant hug. A genuine smile was fixed on his face, missing teeth and all. And he joked as he began to tell his story: “When we first came here, I still had all of my teeth!”
Once, when Rocopio was up held up at gunpoint, he laughed when the thief demanded that he hand his earnings over to him. “Why?” Rocopio asked, “It’s not that much. It’s all I have!”
Oh I see so much joy here.
I also see life.
Their new house, which they received last year, is surrounded by flourishing plants, so tenderly cared for: replacements for the garden they used to have in America. Their home overlooks a beautiful little green valley with rolling hills.
Unbelievably generous, Martina cut up a tiny homegrown melon for us to enjoy, and later served us the most delicious slices of pumpkin.
An army of tiny kittens mobbed us when we arrived at their house, meowing at us until we surrendered and picked them up. Makeshift sheds all around their yard held chickens, ducks, and the largest pig I have ever seen (which, as Martina informed us, they are “saving for Christmas”)
From the moment we arrived, to the time we left, Martina and Rocopio continually expressed how grateful they were for what they had. What joy. What hope.
Every time I picture Rocopio’s smiling face, or picture their tiny plants curling their way up toward the sun, I’m encouraged. Because joy and hope can grow in the darkest of places.
Please be praying for Rocopio, Martina, and all of their children. Rocopio is having surgery on a toxin-filled hernia on October 15. After the surgery, he will have to recover for 6-8 weeks, and is worried about not being able to work for those weeks.