When Peter and Becky Schalk of East Christian Reformed Church in Strathroy, Ont., decided to vacation in Texas for two weeks in 1991, they didn’t realize it would lead to many years of mission and service work in Mexico.
The couple had traveled to Texas initially to escape the Canadian winter and to rest. While there, they got involved in a weekly mission to a community in Mexico and became interested in doing more.
By 1994, they were both retired and able to stay in Texas for two months each year. With an organization called Sharing Jesus Ministries, and later with Handiwork for God, they went twice each week to Matamoros, close to the U.S. border, where many support themselves by combing the nearby garbage dump for food and recyclables they can sell for money.
“The conditions are terrible,” said Becky. “They live near the dump in shacks; they’re lucky if the roof doesn’t leak. There are no doors or windows—just blankets hung across the doorway—no running water; most had no electricity.”
Every Wednesday, the Schalks traveled to the dump, bringing beans, rice, jugs of clean water, toys, blankets, and Bibles to distribute. They would speak with people, sing and pray with them, and invite them to church services. Saturdays, the Schalks returned for the church services. “We went to the dump, the hospital, churches—wherever there was a need,” said Becky.
Peter and Becky continue to make the yearly two-month trip, serving and sharing the gospel, supported by an annual collection from East CRC and donations from their American community. There have been some special projects. One year, said Becky, they helped to build over 20 simple homes in the community. Other years they have built soup kitchens or done repairs on a school.
It hasn’t been without its challenges and dangers, said Becky, but the rewards far outweigh those. “We’ve seen miracles,” she said. “We meet a lot of wonderful people. We’ve really grown in our faith, and it’s been a blessing to us.”