I wish I knew how to speak Spanish. Heck, I wish I could speak any foreign language but, after being in Mexico for the last week, especially Spanish.
I was volunteering at the Medical Missions Hospital, a small place in the vast mountainside of the Sierra Mountains.
The hospital offers health care to local Mexican families with special attention for the indigenous Tarahumara Indians that live in remote “villages” (a few huts) in the mountains.
The people that live here continue life as it has been for centuries for their culture. Dirt floors, tin roofs, no running water and small fields of corn and beans to live on year to year.
There world probably wouldn’t know they even existed except the hikers that find them or a catastrophe that brings them down to the rural towns.
I had the chance to help return a woman mother and her young child back to their village. The baby had been to the missionary hospital for surgery on his club feet. He was put in straightening casts and ready to go home until the next procedure. The four of us are going home in a two-seater Carbon Cub plane.
Brent, our pilot, has been flying in the mission fields for 20 years. The last several years he has been a pilot for UIMA, for United Indian Missions, created to help establish native, local churches among the indigenous people and Hispanics in Mexico.
Sure they fly missionaries, but they also deliver supplies, assist remote medical clinics, and evacuate patients. By providing humanitarian aid, they reach the unreached. Brent and his family live in the airport hangar, ready to taxi the gravel runway on the top of the mesa when the call comes.
The sun is rising as we pack into the tiny plane. The eastern sky is a canvas of pinks and oranges with wisps of white fog suspended on the canyon walls. Brent makes the final preparations and the young momma signals to me she needs to use the restroom before we start.
I hold the baby and point her to the outhouse that certainly is “a room with a view” as it sits, without a door, on a cliff overhanging the canyon. The little guy begins to whimper, and I’m sure my pale face, strange words and smell are a bit scary for him.
Our hour+ flight ranges up to 10,000 feet. In the time we flew, we only went over one high electrical line that I saw. Buildings were just tiny shiny squares of tin that clung to the mountains.
My farm girl eyes could identify small patches of cultivated corn and beans amidst the massive pine trees.
After landing on a remote airstrip and unloading our passengers, we made an airdrop.
Brent had a letter to be delivered to Johnny, head of a Mennonite group in the canyon. He was being requested at a meeting involving the aggressive takeover of these very passive people’s land and livelihood by some people with bad intentions.
Brent gave me a practice run. The second time over, the family was outside waiting for me to drop the weighted sack out the open plane door. I was relieved to see him grab the sack and swing it above his head, and that it didn’t land in a tree or get tangled in our aircraft.
Brent had thought to put in candy bars for his kids. I felt a bit like Santa Claus on a covert operation.
Telling my brother-in-law about the all the third world conditions (poor, dirt floors, unclean water, poor diets, etc.), he asked me “Yeah, but what did they say about the NFL taking a knee?”
We laughed and then got quiet with the sobering reality of what we consider first world problems. It really helped put things into proper perspective.
I arrived back into the United States with a deep sense of respect for people that give up comfortable lives for others, these folks that are on a mission.
Patti Beth Anderson has more than 20 years of experience in the group travel industry taking people all over the world. Her motto is "I return with the same number of people I left with… not necessarily the same people, but the same number nevertheless. So no 'crankpots' allowed" She may be reached at 918-786-3318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.