Mending Broken Relationships Beyond the Border

Dan Trego is a Spanish instructor at MSU and one of the founders of Bittersweet Ministries. You can follow their story at @bittersweetministries.


“Poverty is really about broken relationships; whether that is between you and the government, you and your community…” Dan began, with a contemplative stare and a justifying tone. After a few introductory questions, Dan passionately made his way toward discussing his observations he has made working within an impoverished community in Tijuana, Mexico.  

It all began with an innocent curiosity, when Dan met his wife in a local coffee shop in a small town, in Ohio, where he grew up. As the beginnings of their relationship unfolded, Dan discovered a world beyond his childhood home; a world that his wife, Sam, had entered before he came into her life. This world was beyond the borders of the United States, in an impoverished border town called Tijuana, Mexico. This is where Sam began to find passion for ministry and poverty alleviation, and this is also where Dan’s experiential story begins. 

Dan visits with a friend in Cañon Carretas, Tijuana.

Dan visits with a friend in Cañon Carretas, Tijuana.

It was only a few months after they met when Dan traveled with Sam to Tijuana, Mexico for the first time. This was the place his wife visited many times before, working within the community, to infuse positive change, sustainability, and development, through ministry work and volunteerism; this was also the place where Dan would come face-to-face with the broken relationships that foreshadow poverty itself.

“I fell in love with the friends that she had there; the presence of the community”, Dan said as he reminisced on his first trip to Mexico. Not only did this very trip expand his understanding of the world beyond all that he once new in his small hometown in Ohio, but he also began to acknowledge his desire to be more engrossed in this new culture and community. 

By providing them with food, school supplies, and uniforms, kids are given a chance to pursue an education, break out of the cycle of poverty, and positively impact the community.

By providing them with food, school supplies, and uniforms, kids are given a chance to pursue an education, break out of the cycle of poverty, and positively impact the community.

From lack of educational opportunities for children to homes established in the middle of a massive garbage dump, there were clear opportunities to instill healing and resolution. It was only a matter of time, manual labor, a sense of cultural understanding, a budding love for the Spanish language, and an open-minded approach in communicating & understanding the true needs of this community, that led Dan, and his wife, to where they are today. 
 
Dan and his wife have developed an unconditional love for their community within Tijuana, establishing a second home, and collaborating alongside neighbors, friends, and family to create Bittersweet Ministries, a nonprofit organization based out of Tijuana that seeks to mend those very relationships which have become broken. Through fundraising, housing projects, educational initiatives, faith-based missions, and collaborating amongst community members, Bittersweet Ministries has become a foundational testament to Dan’s original message; taking the time to understand the brokenness within poverty, and directly communicating to understand the depth and complexities of that very brokenness, in order to instill healing.

Dan engages with the community in Cañon Carretas by facilitating the construction of simple but sturdy (and colorful) homes.

Dan engages with the community in Cañon Carretas by facilitating the construction of simple but sturdy (and colorful) homes.

Bittersweet is working to create more opportunities for sustainable employment in the community.

Bittersweet is working to create more opportunities for sustainable employment in the community.

– Story by Kristen Gmerek