We'd gone down to Mexico to help some family members build a church in their neighborhood. The church already existed, all they needed was a building to go with it. Actually, they had the building, too, but, they wanted a better one not made of wood and thatch roof, and maybe one with bathrooms.

It's funny that when I think of Mexico, I don't think of a third world country even though it is. In this one particular town, right on the edge of the Rio Grande, a small community of squatters arose. It's a community that's been around for a long enough time that the city that it borders has dained to officially ignore it. It came up as a result of people trying to get across the river. It was founded on a former trash heap, a land fill, and the people are actually the children, or grandchildren, of those that didn't get across; or, haven't gotten across. It seems the families would camp out and wait for those that were caught trying to cross the river to come back home. Further, it seems that they made it their job to get across, and the families were there to support that endeavor. You can imagine that there were no permanent dwellings to begin with, and that the goverment reluctantly added infrastructure. That infrastructure isn't much, though. I think they get something like one power line per 10 blocks, and the houses are all "rigged" off that one line. Therefore, power shortages are the norm. The "streets" are actually broad and pretty straight paths, unpaved, and unkept. I know they have sewage and water, but I'm not too sure where the water comes from, and I'd hate to know, if you want to know the truth. It's peopled with "foreigners" from Central and South America; the locals, I'm told, resent them and look down on them. So, we went to build them a church -- one that has a bathroom (for men AND women), and some walls and roof.

The stories from those days are endless. But on this one day, we went to look for scaffolding. We were going to put the finish on the cieling of this one-room church. I can't be sure, but I think it's standard that they use cement on everything. There's no sheet rock. So, once the roof (ie, ceiling) was poured, it was time to smooth it out by adding cement to the underside (the cieling, that is). Picture those guys smoothing out a cement side walk with those trowles. Now picture that upside down. Gravity becomes a real . . . menace.

Luckily, we had a foreman who knows the ropes -- his name is Maestro. The task at hand was to grab hammers and ding the crap out of the cieling and chip away at any smooth spots. The idea being that when we splatted trowels of wet cement on it, it would stick better. So, some of us spent the day shoveling yards of sand and cement piles from spot to spot. Some of us spent the day sifting the cement and making the right consistency. Some took breaks and played soccer with the neighborhood kids in the "street" outside. The heat was oppressive, the breeze was hot and the smell of human waste riding on it was daunting. Still, we worked hard and generally kept up our spirits.

In order to get the cieling done, though, we need the scaffolding.

One of the skilled workers (all of them lived in that "colonia") said he had some piping at his house. So, my friend TJ jumped in the back of the truck and I with him as his interpretor along with some people and off we went. Along the way there was talk of where they lived and how "nice" it was; they named this particular section of the colonia "Beach Front Vistas". I was thinking how thankful I was that we were leaving, even for just a little bit, the deplorable conditions of the neighborhood we were working in. What we actually drove up on (while holding on with a death grip because the pot holes were so big it was more like off-roading) was breath taking -- literally.

It was getting harder and harder to take a breath because the air was so dusty, so hot, so freaking foul, dude. So foul. The neighborhood started to have a definite change. The houses became shacks, then became adobe shacks, then finally just adobe huts with thatched roofs; a spotted dog all skin and ribs looking at us as we bounced by. We pulled into an encirclement of homes, and on my left there, just over the wall of the first house, was the beach they were refering to.

Now I knew where that sewage was going.

It's a scene that I will forever vividly recall. I just sat there and kinda stared at that. TJ jumped out and started grabbing pipes -- I was shaken back to the task at hand.

Getting back to the church, I was so glad to be back in the lap of luxury. Someone asked on that trip if the people truly knew the conditions in which they were living. I think so -- I know so.

What to know something? The people were so proud of that church, man. My apartment is bigger, and more comfortable (with indoor plumbing and carpet and air conditioning and heat, and a fridge with FOOD) than that church. But it doesn't have half the value. And when we met for service that night, the people came -- clean, pressed, tidy, hair combed, shaved, with humility, with honor, wearing their best clothes and entering with a sense of reverance.

Today, the editors of CNN.com thought I should know Anna Nicole's baby's birth certificate might be a fraud.

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