Saturday, May 24, 2008


Gayla and I spoke at First Christian Church (FCC) of Concord this evening. FCC has been going to Mexico for 30 years. Yes, their youth group has been going to Mexico that long. Longer than Amor has even existed. But Gayla worked with them on their first trip in 1978 in Tijuana, Mexico when she was living at a Tijuana orphanage. After Gayla and I met for the first time that same year I began working with them and in the early eighties we moved from working on the orphanage to building the first homes in the Tijuana dump. Yes, I said "dump". It was here that the city was sending their garbage and where well over a hundred homeless children lived and more than 300 impoverished families lived off the garbage.

FCC Concord Celebrates 30 Years of Ministry to Mexico

In those early years, Youth Director Bill McNabb and Steven Mabry brought their Northern California youth groups to rustic Tijuana, Mexico. These were the days of showing up in Mexico with a general idea of what we were going to do and the youth group bringing what cash they had raise. We had to plan the projects and buy the materials the day the groups arrived in Mexico! Oh the thrill of it.

It was amazing hearing all the stories of people who had gone on trips to Mexico with Amor. One adult had gone on more than 16 trips to Mexico. FCC Concord Senior Pastor Russ Peterman has led trips from his previous church assignments as well from LaFayette, (California) and Sandy Springs (Georgio). Russ had even gone on the very first Amor trip to Cancun, Mexico to help put a roof on a home and establish the beginning of Amor in the tropics of the Yucatan.

This was a wonderful evening hearing such great stories and seeing their enthusiasm for their upcoming Mexico trips. 30 years of of ministry to Mexico, 28 years of partnership with Amor, and we look forward to what the next 30+ years of ministry bring.


Gayla and I stopped in at Solana Beach Presbyterian Church this morning to see the 350 participants load up on MexiCoach buses this morning.

They left about 8am and headed to Tijuana, Mexico to join the other40 members of their church who were at Rancho Amor in Tijuana already setting up their camp.

hat's a total of 380 people from Solana Beach to build homes over the long Memorial weekend. Six MexiCoach buses and a long line of assorted shuttle buses, cargo vans and other vehicles followed right behind.

Past Amor Board member- Polly Nelson (in red jacket on the left), Amor Co-Founder- Gayla Congdon (my adorable wife in black in the center), and past Amor Board member and Senior Pastor of Solana Beach Presbyterian Church- Mike McClenahan (on right in jeans, of course!) had a great time visiting with all those people going on the buses to Mexico.

One of the last sights we saw as this great team of compassionate servants began heading south was past Amor board member- Polly Nelson waving her banner for her team as she lead them to the bus to head south.

In three days this huge team will build over 20 homes. I wish Gayla and I could be there but we are at the San Diego airport right now getting ready to board a plane to Oakland, CA to speak First Christian Church Concord and First Christian Church San Francisco this weekend. I really look forward to reporting to you how their weekend goes. I am sure they are all really happy as the buses pulled away and the clouds broke open for the sun to shine through. It looks like the rain that has saturated San Diego and Tijuana has finally moved on. Hurray!! McClenahan mentioned that he was glad the rain passed through and put a damper on the normally ever present dirt and dust. He did comment on how the sawing of the wood might be a little more difficult the first day since some of the wood may have gotten soaked. "A challenge we will gladly will take on", he said with a smile.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I just got of the phone with Rainbow FM 90.7 in Johannesburg, South Africa. I once again had the pleasure of talking live with radio station manager Humphrey Birkenstock. It still is quite an amazing phenomenon to think you call can from your home in San Diego and talk to a radio station in Johannesburg and be heard in a city of some 6 million people more than 10,000 miles away.

Humphrey and I had talked on the phone yesterday mostly for me to get a proper perspective on the news about South Africa that has been running on all the US media. Recent riots in the poorest communities in Johannesburg have made international headlines and they describe nearly two dozen communities that have been affected. Rising costs of food, major unemployment, and the perception of broken promises by the government for such essentials as housing have driven them to desperate measures. Their anger is being focused on the estimated 3 million undocumented foreigners who have fled Zimbabwe and Botswana from the north of South Africa. Conditions far worse than in South Africa have driven them from their homelands.

Our discussion on the radio was in part to answer my questions about how the media was reporting this situation and for Humphrey to let his listeners hear how the US and international community was perceiving this news. If I didn't know anything about South Africa I would be deeply concerned about making travel plans to South Africa. I think foreign investors are likely looking at this news also and getting very concerned.

But lets talk about the reality of the situation as it is today. Twenty two people have been killed as a result of these pressures but to the everyday person in Johannesburg, six million no less, life is as normal as it has always been. The news has an amazing way of creating what I continue to call a disproportionate response. Why this morning I read in my own local paper that 11 homes had been broken into and robbed since April in the neighborhood where I grew up and where my parents still live. This is a really nice neighborhood, and one full of million dollar and up homes. Based on the brief news I read, if I reacted like many are regarding South Africa and the drug wars in Mexico I probably would stop driving the 10 or so miles to visit my parents.

The good news is that 9 million tourists visited south Africa last year and that number is expected to climb to 10 million by 2010. At present Amor has an estimated 700 mission trip participants going to South Africa next year, up from 75 participants this year.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I've been on a world wind tour of Tijuana and Rosarito, Mexico today. Steve Horrex, Amor Director of International Relations, and Gayla, Amor Chief Spiritual Officer, and I met with the top city officials of Tijuana. Our intent was to meet the newly elected officials now in office in Tijuana, re-acquaint them with Amor, and request their support in locating land for a new camp and Center of Appropriate Technology. Among the officials we met with were the head Administrator for the city as well as the Director of Public Relations. As usual, they were very receptive, appreciative and more than welcome to assist us.

Steve will be going with officials in the next week or so to look at potential available property for our needs. This all goes so well in hand with our newly developed partnership with one of Tijuana's leading universities, the University of Tijuana.

Immediately after our meeting with the city, I drove to the old Tijuana dump. Not the original Tijuana dump were we built our first homes in 1985-1990, but the old, new dump that has recently been closed and moved towards Tecate. As it was, Amor board member Dan Kuban was working with a college group from his church in Tennessee. This week they have been doing some additions for some very need families. After many years of working with Amor at our Juarez location, Dan had never seen the areas in Tijuana where we work. Dan and I drove from his work location at the dump, our our Rosarito Beach camp, south though Rosarito Beach, past the Foxploration movies studios to what is knows as Dos Mil (2000) highway. This is Tijuana's newest highway project and traverses the far south extreme hills of Tijuana and wraps all the way around to the eastern fringes of Tijuana, almost to the border community and border crossing of Otay.

We visited several work sites were Amor had built homes and then visited Rancho Amor, our main camp in Tijuana. It was interesting seeing the Ranch before the big Memorial weekend. There were nearly a hundred tents laying flat on the ground in preparation for the weekend groups. I am not sure how many groups or people for that matter will be at Ranch this weekend, but its a lot. I'll let you know on my next post.

Our travels reminded how much Tijuana is continuing to grow. Tijuana is a big city now, well into 3 million people. I love this city. From the ocean, the beaches, through the city, to the rural countryside, its city of adventure and amazing history. I was reminded of how much this city means to us as Gayla shared just that sentiment with the city leaders today with here eyes watering up. She has been involved with ministry in Tijuana for well over 30 years. Amor has been involved for 28 years here. It breaks her heart and mine about all the disproportionate media regarding the supposed violence in Mexico. There is a war on drugs in Mexico, thank goodness.