Sand, Enchiladas, a woman named Lupe, and a beautiful Mission
We finally made it! We arrived in East L.A. yesterday afternoon. Upon arrival we met the Jesuit Volunteer, Joanne, who will be guiding our service trip for the week. After brief introductions with Joanne, she escorted us to our home for the next two days. After spending a night with all 8 of us girls in one hotel room on the way to east L.A. we were once again delighted to find we would have even more time to bond. For the next two days we will be sleeping together in a classroom at the Dolores Mission School. To those at home, this may seem like it would be a less than enjoyable experience. However, after reading about the story here at Dolores Mission, we are more than honored and humbled to have this experience. Leading up to our trip to East L.A. we have been reading “Tattoos on the Heart”, a book written by father Greg who started the work here at Dolores Mission. Dolores Mission does a lot of work with gang rehabilitation, assistance for the homeless, and assistance for immigrants. Throughout the week we will get to see and participate in some of the work that Father Greg has for these three groups of individuals. We are all excited for what the week has in store. Consequently, spending a night together on a classroom floor was no discouraging task. After getting settled (blowing up air mattresses with hair dryers and somehow fitting in 12 sleeping bags) we decided to take a little trip to Manhattan Beach. For a group of Montana folks who drove 18 hours to get here, swimming in the 65 degree weather was a must. After getting thrashed around by the waves, we had an amazing dinner at a local restaurant in Manhattan Beach to celebrate Natasha’s birthday! When we got back to school, our first priority was to wash off the sand and head straight to bed because we knew tomorrow would be a busy day.
Which brings us to this morning…. This morning we got up and got ready (three girls sitting on the floor in a elementary school hallway attempting to straighten their hair is quite the sight to see). We attended mass at 9:00 am (the only English mass of the five masses celebrated at the Dolores Mission Parish every Sunday). After mass we hung out with the locals from the surrounding neighborhood in the church courtyard. We all had the pleasure of eating food prepared by a few of the local women. Authentic Mexican food doesn’t even begin to describe that experience! Per the suggestion of Mary and Laura’s sister Anne, we all tried the enchiladas, which were delicious. Even more so than the food, we were delighted to share in the experience with the people of the neighborhood. We had the opportunity to meet one of the Priests, Father Ted, and many of the locals. It was amazing how hospitable and joyful they were!
After spending sometime in the church courtyard we went back the school and Joanne introduced us to a woman named Lupe. Lupe has lived in this neighborhood for over 40 years! She has seen it at the best of times and at the worst of times. Lupe gave us an even better explanation of the history of the neighborhood and the work done by Father Greg. She talked to us about the problem of gang violence in the area and how it has changed over the years. Reading the book about Dolores Mission was inspiring in and of itself but actually hearing a firsthand account of woman who had lived here and raised 8 boys in this area gave the story of the neighborhood a whole new reality. After learning more and more about Dolores Mission we are all very excited to see the ways in which Christ will work through us to touch this community even in our short time here. These people are truly an inspiration in faith and a testament to God’s love and I can hardly wait for what the week has in store.