by David Tesitor
CHIHUAHUA, MEXICO- When the Apostle Paul spoke about his ministry, he wrote, “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Paul’s reminder to the Church at Corinth was that the power of ministry does not come from our own humanity or our own goodness, but from God’s faithfulness and grace.
Two local residents found out firsthand just what Saint Paul meant when they headed to Chihuahua, Mexico to volunteer their time, talents and treasures at the Guardian Angels Orphanage. George Birrer and Vera Espinoza took a van full of supplies, building materials and food to work with Guardian Angel founder, Ben Perea. What they saw when they arrived in Mexico were corrupt border guards who were more concerned with the contents of the panel van than they were with the humanity of the children to be served. According to Birrer, “if you paid a tariff (bribe), they’d let you through. It seems they did not care one iota about the kids.”
Once there, the level of poverty was apparent. People live in shacks made of discarded pallets and tin with blankets for the door. Things most of us take for granted, like running water and electricity, are sporadic. Birrer said that the electric wires were on the ground, and he worried that when it rained, the children would be electrocuted.
Their mission was helping a friend with repairs and construction. This was their second trip to Mexico and will not be their last. They did whatever was needed. They built beds, constructed with love and compassion, for the children. Espinoza painted. Exterior walls were constructed. People were fed, and the list went on and on. The walls are being built around the compound to keep kids safe and to keep them alive. She said, “there was a child who was killed while we were there. They found her in a ditch a block away.”
The trip changed them both. They spent two days going and two days back. This left three days in Mexico to try to accomplish so much. They wished they had more time to give. The message they want to convey is not about their deeds but the needs of the orphanage. The two want us to focus on the plight of the poor and to understand why people are crossing the borders to go to America.
The ministry of Guardian Angels in Chihuahua, Mexico became a passion of Ben Perea, who is the heartbeat of Guardian Angels. He serves as founder, leader, fundraiser, program manager, primary (and sometimes only) volunteer, and fulltime cheerleader. Seven years ago, he was invited to visit an orphanage in Chihuahua. Little did he realize that this visit would change his life forever.
Perea is in the process of selling his Pueblo West home and moving to Chihuahua to devote his life to these kids. He speaks passionately of his first reaction to the plight of the orphans he encountered. “When I arrived, I saw a group of children inside this broken-down van, and I asked what they were doing there. They said they were looking for something to eat. As curious as I was, I looked inside and to my surprise, I could not believe what I saw. Someone had just given them a van load of food that was not even fit for the pigs to eat!” The injustice in another’s goodwill gesture fueled his desire to do it right.
Various church groups help whenever they can, but the needs are great. The orphanage is in desperate need of volunteers, money, clothing, food, building materials and just about everything else. Birrer and Espinoza want to let people know that a visit there will change your life. If you would like to help with this mission or have any donations, contact George Birrer at 859-1274 or Ben Perea at 547-9751.