I live on a wide, dirt road in a low-income neighborhood in Mazatlán, Mexico. Neighbors skeptically share rumors. “They say they are going to pave it. One day.” Cars, taxis, dump trucks, city buses, and even an occasional cowboy on a horse all hurry past lifting clouds of fine silt now that the rainy season has ended.Ellens image edited

My hard-working neighbors sweep the piles of dirt off their short, concrete driveways every morning.

Every morning at five, one neighbor washes his car. After my last baby, his wife swept our driveway daily for more than a year. But now my baby is almost two, and she has a newborn grandson of her own. In an effort to be more neighborly and a fit into my adopted culture, I’ve made myself a personal goal of sweeping the dirt off the driveway and washing our minivan at least once a week.

I hate washing our minivan. I wouldn’t mind so much if it stayed clean.

If I wash the car Monday morning, by Monday afternoon local teenagers have lovingly written in the newly accumulated dust. “God does miracles, but he doesn’t wash cars.” Or “This car isn’t dirty. It’s protected from the sun!”

I’ve been trying a new mental exercise. If something bothers me, I try to turn it into something I can be thankful for.

It's an exercise in gratitude.

When the bathroom is covered in muddy footprints. I say to myself, "Thank you Jesus for giving me healthy boys that make dirty footprints." I would rather have them in my life than always have a clean floor.

This morning I washed the car. The kids started a pickup soccer game while I worked. By the time the car was done, eight or nine kids scrambled across the driveway. After the game, I returned to sweep.

Fresh muddy fingerprints dotted the bumper.

Thank you Jesus for allowing us to have a car. I really appreciate the freedom a car provides.

I swept the fine dirt. Trash swirled around my feet—leaves, wrappers, someone’s missing homework assignment, an advertisement for a new sushi restaurant.

Thank you Jesus that my broom works.

Thank you that the sun isn’t quite a hot as it was a few months ago.

Thank you Jesus for another beautiful day in Mazatlán where the dust swirls through the air.


Ellen BenefieldIn Her Own Words: My husband Kyle grew up planning to be a doctor. He met Jesus late in high school. Our first year in college, we went to a church planting conference. He very clearly heard the Holy Spirit tell him that he would be a church planter in Latin America. He argued for a while, and eventually gave in. In the 12 years that have followed, he hasn't looked back. When we told me his new plan, I was thrilled. I never saw myself as a doctor's wife. We got married, finished out degrees, and spent 9 months in training at our local church. In the summer of 2007, we loaded up my grandpa's pickup and moved to Mazatlan, Mexico.

Seven years later, we have three small children and a bustling church in the middle of a low-income neighborhood. We consistently meet women who think they need to be perfect before they can connect with God. Poverty puts people in difficult situations, and many have made choices they aren't proud of as a result. Our church motto is "Imperfect people full of Jesus' love." Over and over again we find ourselves explaining God's wonderful, amazing grace. My favorite part of ministry is watching people hear from the Holy Spirit.

Connect With Ellen Online:

Website: mexicomercy.org
Twitter: @Ellenbenefield
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mexicomercyBenefield