By Alex Murashko
On a dirt road cut into the side of a hill created by a Tijuana dumpsite, we walk between a graveyard and a shanty town of makeshift homes, and as we veer onto a side path towards a cluster of shacks I look down to see a dead puppy at my feet.
Here, in this community located about an hour-and-a-half from my comfortable home in Orange County, I’m hit squarely between the eyes with the reality of how really close life and death co-exist with each other in this third-world country, this country that is home to our neighbors to the south.
It’s our first stop during the second day of a three-day whirlwind tour of Christian ministries that serve “the least of these.”
The tour, led by Strong Tower Ministries co-founder James Kirk-Johnson, had two primary objectives: One, to help two men from Central California learn how they and others might best serve people in need in the Baja area of Mexico and, secondly, for me to report on the story of a severely burned baby girl, Isabella, living close to Rosarito with her 20-year-old mother, Angeles.
Strong Tower Ministries has not only taken volunteers from the U.S. to build structures for training centers, orphanages, and health facilities for the last ten years, but has developed a network of Christians and ministry leaders who are passionate about sharing the love of Jesus and improving the lives of the impoverished in Baja.
“You see that when someone asks us, ‘What does Strong Tower do?’ it’s more than just building physical structures,” Kirk-Johnson tells me past the half-way point of the trip.
I know exactly what he means because it is obvious God is working through His servants in Mexico in more ways than I can explain… or count. I have been on trips to Baja with STM before, but none like this one.
Isabella has burns over 85 percent of her body, including the loss of most of her fingers and toes, as the result of a house fire started by electrical malfunction this past November. At a little over a year old, she has a long road of recovery that includes the need for constant treatment.
Isabella was home with a mother’s friend caring for her while Angeles went to be with her sister, who was having a baby when the fire happened. At the same time, Angeles’ sister’s baby died in childbirth.
After a visit to a hospital in Tijuana where medical staff told the family that Isabella was not going to live, she was medivaced to a hospital in San Diego, then taken to Shriner’s Hospital in Sacramento for intensive care and surgery.
The plight of the family came to the attention of STM about a month ago when a representative of Shriner’s Hospital was looking for a place that could take care of Isabella back home. Through a search on the Internet, the woman came across Beautiful Gate Orphanage, where severely medically fragile special needs children are taken care of and “embraced as family, as our own sons and daughters.” STM recently completed an expansion project at Beautiful Gate and the project manager was still listed as a contact.
She contacted STM and from that point on, at least a half dozen ministries have become a support team for the family. Isabella is back home with her mom, but home for now means rotating between relatives’ homes in order for the care to take place.
“We’re all pulling together and stepping up to help provide her with a home and the supplies Angeles will need to care for Isabella,” Kirk-Johnson said. Sue Fasino of Genesis Diez and Sarah Mayer of Siloé (another part of STM’s network), are helping to make sure the baby’s medical needs and physical therapy are given. Another STM supporter is helping to supply the medications, therapy items, and other items needed. Baja Christian Ministriesand Club Dust plan to build the family a home.
STM is asking for the following:
1. Prayer. There is much prayer needed for healing and salvation.
2. Donations. All financial donations to Strong Tower Ministries, identified for BABY Isabella, 100% will be used for this family and their ongoing needs. The link for donations is: http://strongtowerministries.info/donate/
3. Items. Recently gathered but still needed: PediaSure or any type similar like Costco brand, baby formula powder, Aveeno soothing bath treatment, hydrocerin moisturizing cream for dry skin, Hydrophor ointment, kids sunscreen 30 to 50 SPF, Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Lotion sunscreen, paper tape, baby wipes, diapers (Size 4).
For more information, call (949) 842-3655.
This article is the first in a series on ministry work in Baja, Mexico.