Modern Day Heroes

Night is falling, and an invisible electricity that far exceeds the anticipation before a concert, buzzes in the air. About fifty people bustle around near the entrance to the underground metro, setting up foldable tables, a manicure station, and streamers. The food vendors arrive and set up their cart with a huge rotating slab of barbecued pork. Teams of three with individually wrapped roses in their hands make their way into the surrounding blocks. Passerbys flash curious looks towards the throng of busy people setting up what looks like a party. A handful of volunteers look fearfully at the sky. Ominous rain clouds seem to promise rain within minutes.

The street corner you are on is in the middle of the red light district. The volunteer team is composed of churchgoers, those who work with the organization: El Pozo De Vida, visitors from other countries, and current and past beneficiaries of the organization. They are gathered to assist in throwing a Block Party in the middle of the red light district on the last Saturday of the month. Depressing and heavy is the atmosphere of the location where the party is hosted, and yet, throughout the night, the atmosphere changes. Somehow, this place that is so dark becomes this beacon of light.

The volunteers gather and throw this party, in hopes that those who are looked down upon or forgotten by society know that they are seen and worthy of being celebrated.

It doesn’t make sense, and to be honest, it sounds ridiculous and dangerous.

And it is.

But something happens on that corner that even I can’t explain.

It’s almost as if..

Heaven invades earth..

And the rules and economics that govern our world are flipped on their heads, if even, for just one night.


Ignorance Is Bliss

You know how sometimes as you are driving and exiting the five freeway, you’ll see a homeless person with a sign?

I might be weird, but I always do this thirty second evaluation of their attire and their shoes to gauge if they are actually in need. There’s that mental conversation where I ask, “Are they going to spend this money on drugs? Do I have some food in my car? Are they actually incapable of working?”

Usually what happens, is that my mental conversation takes too long, and the light turns green. I look apologetically at the person and then drive by.

The entire encounter is usually forgotten within minutes.

Our lives are filled with encounters like these.

There are obvious needs that we see, but we get lost in the “how to help” and we end up literally or metaphorically, driving by.

I mean… we can’t possibly be expected to help all these people…

I mean shouldn’t the government or some organization with more resources help this person?

Besides… we’re in the middle of a pandemic… It’s really the safety of myself and my family that is paramount and everything else must be secondary… right?


Living for the Weekend

It’s crazy how being alive and feeling alive can be so different.

Doesn’t it feel like sometimes we string together the moments in life that make us feel happy, while trying to ignore the broad majority of life that makes us feel dead inside?

For me personally, I filled the weekends with escape rooms, dinners, concerts, alcohol, trips, relationships, and whatever made me feel less miserable for a few days. I didn’t feel super enthusiastic at work, which is probably common. But the thing that was stranger than not really enjoying work, was this unending need to fill my free time with any number of distractions, so that I wouldn’t have time to be alone with my thoughts.

I was living for the weekend, but really, I was barely surviving the week so that I could distract myself with my weekend activities.

Behind the instagram stories and the cute photos we post, it sure feels like something is missing…

Have you ever drunkenly had your head on the toilet seat wondering if there is more to life than this cycle of trying to forget about your day to day?

I have.


Safely in the Boat

Ever since 2019, I’ve been flirting with this idea of packing up my things and moving to Mexico City.

Over the years, I donated two shirts for every shirt I bought. I made frequent trips to the Salvation Army and Goodwill as I slowly decreased my piles of junk.

Every time I visited Mexico City, I stayed just a little bit longer than the last time.

Sometimes I was tutoring, other times I was just an extra pair of hands doing whatever needed to be done.

Every time I came back to the states, I mentally traversed the path that would get me to stay in Mexico City, and every time, I found a reason to stay within the bounds of my comfort zone.

Obviously my suburban life wasn’t cutting it for me, but at least I knew what to expect.

If I didn’t know every single detail, how could I responsibly leave everything I knew, to go live in a country where I didn’t know the language, to work in a context I had never worked in before?

No.

It was better to stay in the tumultuously thrown but familiar confines of the boat.


Walking on the Water

This past June, I finally decided that it would be better to take the leap of faith and to move to CDMX rather than wondering or regretting for the rest of my life.

To some it might seem a little fast or impulsive, but in reality, this whole journey has been slow-cooking for years.

What initially held me back, was my job not going remote.

But after some thought (and some mezcal), I realized that maybe this season was about unlearning some of the guiding principles that I’ve lived my whole life by.

I’ve built my life around control and knowing the next ten steps…. but maybe, this season is here to help me to learn how to just take one step at a time.


A Gang of Misfits

One of the craziest things about being here in Mexico City is how crazy everyone is.

I use crazy in the sense that, people from wildly different backgrounds are here, standing in solidarity, against human trafficking.

A couple that paid off their debts using Dave Ramsey’s principles felt the need to sell everything they had to come here.

A young girl fresh out of university who decided to stay and work with the girls at the safehouse who is now married and still works with the same girls.

Two Brazilians who came with a team last year and decided to come back and to stay a while supporting the different projects.

A blue haired guy who used to work in churches who now hosts teams here while lighting up the room with his jokes (and his hair).

I mean I don’t have enough space or time to write about all of the members of this eclectic superhero team.

Natives and foreigners. Beneficiaries and students. Missionaries and social workers. Psychologists and entrepreneurs. Physical therapists and handymen.

In no other context, have I seen such a wide spread of talents, giftings, and personalities.

And yet, somehow , this group manages to laugh in the face of a social ill so depressing, that most people try to forget about it.


The Art of DeReconstruction

In a blog I wrote last year, I talked about how I had experienced this long season of deconstructing my faith and religion.

I was discouraged for a very long time, and try as I might, I couldn’t seem to find the answers I was looking for in the context that I was in.

I was jaded by the constant discord in the church (side note unrelated to the blog: I am just now realizing how ironic it is that the application Discord is called discord, when the word discord means disagreement).

If we weren’t arguing about worship song lyrics, we were arguing about which churches were the most “doctrinally sound.”

It seemed like a big competition for who could have the best lights and camera setups, or the biggest “outreaches” which were just big church services hosted in arenas.

I couldn’t understand why churches were investing so much money into a weekly program when there were real needs all around us. EVEN within the church, there are huge needs for mental health awareness, education, and restoration.

But no. We are more concerned with “I believe” hands, getting churchgoers to tithe, and small group to volunteer conversion rates.

The wildest thing about being here in Mexico City is that, completely on accident, my faith is being re-constructed. I would have been happy enough with coming here and just doing work that was addressing social ills.

But no.

I’ve conveniently found myself at the intersection of faith and action. I’ve finally found people who are acting on what they’ve read about. I’ve finally found modern day heroes who are applying kingdom principles from the Bible to address the social ills that we are facing. People who are leaving the ninety nine to find the one. People who have been absolutely transformed by something that is not of this world.

People who give their time, resources, and energy in order to do crazy things, like throw a party in the middle of the redlight district on a Saturday night.

I’ve finally found “religion that is pure and just that goes to widows and orphans in their distress.”

This isn’t a biography of David Livingstone, Amy Carmichael, Gladys Aylward, or George Mueller.

This is happening today in 2022.

We have a problem with toxic masculinity and so we made a campaign to raise awareness and educate people on machismo.

We saw that forced begging was a huge problem in the city that led to human trafficking. The founder didn’t just drive by… He felt that since there wouldn’t be begging in heaven, that there shouldn’t be begging here either. So we are currently running a campaign to encourage the lawmakers to draft new laws.

Whether it’s walking alongside and providing women with safe and sustainable alternatives to their work on the streets, or if it’s incubating beneficiaries and equipping them for their own businesses and dreams in the future, everything here is about restoring people’s dignity and walking alongside them in their journeys.

And you know what?

It’s not just the women that decide to leave their work on the streets that experience transformation.

Each one of us can’t help but be impacted and transformed by the work that is being done.


So Alive

Some people say, “don’t meet your heroes,” for fear of being disappointed.

I must say, that after the last few years, I have wholeheartedly agreed with this statement. It is better for me to be blissfully unaware of how human and flawed those I look up to are…

But.

Apparently this season of my life is about healing and restoration.

No person or organization is perfect and EPDV is no exception.

But there is something to be said about people who steward the authority, power, and influence they have in an appropriate and mature manner.

Never in my life have I felt more fulfilled, excited, or happy to be working.

We are moving the needle, and I wholeheartedly believe that we will keep fighting until the 40 million people who are being trafficked becomes 0.


The Invitation

Not everyone can pack up their lives and head into a context similar to the one I am in.

But! I hope that wherever you are, that you would find a renewed sense of purpose and that perhaps for the first time, you would feel a sense of hope. Hope that our world is not just destined to self-destruction and that we can indeed make a difference.

If you’d like to learn more about El Pozo de Vida and the work that is going on here in Mexico City, don’t hesitate to reach out. It might just change your life.

If you’d like to be updated on my journey please fill out this form to select the option(s) that work best for you!

If you are interested in financially supporting the work that I am doing here in Mexico City, you can find me at:

Venmo: lifeapaulling

Zelle: pauljoshuaho@gmail.com.

I am also in the process of setting up a donation portal through EPDV so I will update the information here when that is all squared away.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me thus far in every sense of that word.

Thank you to the friends who let me stay with them, the bosses who let me go on extended trips here, and the handful of friends who have supported financially. I could not do this without you, and I am SO grateful.

I’ll leave you with a phrase that has quickly become one of my favorites:

Whatever season you are in right now, no matter how dark it might be, “no te rindas” or “don’t give up.”

Much love and I hope to see you soon over some tacos here in the city 😉

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