Blessed to attend Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, I signed up my freshman year to participate in the student-run ministry over Easter Break called Potter's Clay. Hundreds of students are divided into teams to reach out in various ways to villages in and around Ensenada, Mexico. I distinctly remember the choice between serving on the medical team (a 'fit' with my pre-med interest) and serving on a village team to spend a week in a single town. I also distinctly remember leaving after my first year with a KNOWING that my village team decision was a divine and meant-to-be appointment... for I had been placed on the Bella Vista Team and had met - and fallen in love with - Pastor Ruben Castañeda and his beautiful wife, Graciela.

I returned on that special village team each of my remaining three years of college, deeply inspired and enriched in my life by the sense of connection and the development of a family-bond with these two precious ministers and their toddler son, Jonathan. I longed to introduce them to my parents and had the blessing of doing so when Pastor Ruben found a way to attend my Westmont graduation! I was so honored to have him there. It was clear that this was not a "college experience", but instead the beginning of a lifetime of love and mutual care. I had been touched and I had grown and that process was meant to continue!

The years that followed were collections of weekend visits with my precious Dad and a variety of friends from our local church. We were blessed to be involved in the Castañeda famliy's move to Paraiso, the beginning of their church "under the big tree" and in the home of our cherished Abuelita Chuyita. We helped build and maintain the first little church building and joyed at adding Sunday School rooms and new paint throughout the years. I added an amazing man to my life, my husband Michael, who became instantly involved in these lives and activities to my delight - and Pastor Ruben and Graciela added two amazing daughters, Cindy and Judi, moving us to tears for life with the gift of namesakes (Judi is my awesome Mom!).

The next phase of our 'family time' in Ensenada has been a new and exciting, albeit unexpected, ministry launch. In 1996, a close friend and Mayo Clinic physician, Casey Caldwell, knew of our family in Ensenada and asked that I try to arrange a 'medical weekend' where he and a few interns could deliver medical care to less fortunate. At that moment my friendship and babysitting service (my husband and I didn't have children yet and LOVED babysitting the Caldwell kids and learning from Casey and his wife)...added a whole new dimension. Pastor Ruben embraced the idea and agreed to organize it with a local Mexican physician. Our 1996 "team" was five staff. That 'start' never stopped, and now, our annual trek includes a team of 55+ on a chartered bus from Mayo Clinic's in Arizona and Minnesota as well as other Arizona physicians, pharmacists, nurses and support staff. Serving over 1,200 patients during the week, Pastor Ruben shepherds our passage and our locations with connections to government officials and, of course, the overarching sense of 'call' from our great Father God above. To say we are blessed by this near 20-year experience would be a severe understatement. The continued bond with Pastor Ruben's family through thick and thin of the passage of time and the strength from our Lord, the treasure of looking into the eyes of our patients and giving them with our love and respect, the amazing relationships we have made with our team members, the beauty of watching our two sons engage in their own leadership facets of the ministry before, during and after the trip and the longstanding sense of coming alongside to assist in a small way the ministry road that God has built for Pastor Ruben is life-changing indeed!