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Missionaries arrive with food, building materials as quake hits
Thirty-two adults and teens from the Covenant and Presbyterian churches in Escalon conducted a successful mission trip to help the less fortunate in Mexicali, Mexico. They arrived at the same time as the recent earthquake struck the area. - photo by Photo Contributed
Growing up in Ripon had relatively peaceful memories for Ed and Terri Beeler compared to their recent church mission trip to Mexicali, Mexico where they were greeted by a 7.2 earthquake that hit shortly after they arrived.

They were among 15 adults and 17 teenagers in a caravan that carried building materials and food supplies for the members of that community.  The event is sponsored by the Azusa Pacific College in Southern California.

They were actually in the community of Cuernavaca with a population of 1,500 where they set up camp and lived in tents.

While they admitted to being rattled by the trembler, there were no injuries resulting from the quake.  They did witness some buildings collapse and said the utility systems were disabled.

The mission group had three different church families as their focus as they helped with construction additions to church buildings.  

Beeler said the churches are small – using old mix and match chairs – serving a very poor area of Mexicali where Bible studies for about 15 youth and adults were ongoing.  The women in the group taught classes from 10 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon.  She said that even adults would come in to their sessions to hear their message.

“Everything was done in Spanish,” Beeler said, “using sign language and charades.”

The mission site was about 50 miles south of the border and led by Dan and Terri Franklin.

The group arrived on Good Friday and worked all week until the following Friday.

They used three trucks, an extended cab pickup and an Excursion along with a 16 passenger van.  One church member brought a construction van and a horse van.

On their way down through Los Angeles the caravan stopped at a Nestle distribution center where they loaded up with donated pallets of baby food for the people of Mexicali.  Every year the group  partners with other churches from the L.A. area.  Ironically when they were crossing into Mexico, police stopped them saying they couldn’t enter with the foods they were bringing into the country.

“They told us to take it back,” she said.  The missionaries just sat and waited in their vehicles waiting for a change of heart started prayed for nearly an hour praying the border guards finally changed their minds and told them they could enter with the food.

The carpenters in the group had planned to do only a one room addition during their week’s stay, but they were able to erect a second story – that’s when the earthquake hit with the men on top of the building.  Terri Franklin and her daughter Angels were taking a shower miles away at the time.  The water along with electricity and cell phone communications stopped immediately.

“The kids were all scared, but they went into a circle when the shaking stopped, and sang hymns.  One of the men on the roof was quoted as saying, ‘Let’s just ride this out,’” she said.

“It was odd, we weren’t scared,” Beeler recalled.  “There were no tall buildings around any of us.  It was just the fact that all of us women were all together, and the construction activity was some 40 minutes away.”

The group was finally able to get through on their cell phones so the women and the men could connect following the earthquake.  Buildings had come down and windows were broken, she added.  

“Little did Nestles know that we would arrive with their food when an earthquake hit.  So when we got to camp we told the churches they could have what they wanted,” she said.

Beeler said that the earthquake didn’t take away from their mission trip.  The ground continually shook with aftershocks, and it just became a routine for them.

The “heart and soul” of the entire experience was seeing the local teens teaching the Mexican kids through unconditional love.  Several were making good use of their high school Spanish classes, she said.