Every summer since I was 13 I have gone on a week-long journey that helps me define who I am, or who I want to be; that snaps me into perspective; forces me out of my comfort zone and into a place where I discover my true passions; and meet people I would normally never come into contact with,
but people that I now can’t imagine life without.

And while it’s still fresh in my mind, I want to record and share some of that experience with the M2M team, the people who supported me prayerfully and financially, those of you who have gone before, or anyone with a heart for Mexico, Cristo, or people in need.

Fourteen years ago, I joined volunteers from Hope Center on a mission trip to Mexico. We work with Rosa de Saron, a church in a small colony of Ensenada. Over the years we’ve seen the village begin to lift up out of crazy poverty, but a lot of people are living in shacks with dirt floors, without “proper” toilets, running water, basic necessities like soap, medicine, or toilet paper, or even beds. Teenagers drop out of junior high to work. Or they join gangs. Many young women are pregnant as early as 14 years old. There are single mothers working multiple jobs to survive, sometimes leaving children at home for hours, even through the night. Many have stories of abuse, alcoholism, and heavy drug use in their lives. This area is also experiencing an epidemic of cancer, without health insurance or money for doctors and treatment.

Despite hardships and poverty, the Mexicans have huge hearts and a crazy, passionate love for Christ. The friendships we have formed through the years turn our hearts to this place year after year. Their love and faith in Jesus, their perseverance, and their hugs and kisses are so inspiring and refreshing.

During the week we do a LOT…we hold not one but TWO Vacation Bible Schools, providing over one thousand lunches during the week to those who might go without; a Women’s Ministry; a Teen Girls ministry; a Sports ministry for young men; a Mens Prayer group; a construction ministry; and a sewing ministry. It’s nonstop, little sleep, a few hours of electricity a day, beans every meal, living in bunkbeds surrounded by people, large bugs, hot weather, dirt all over your body, forced to flexibility and fellowship beyond what you can possibly, humanly do. Which is exactly the point, because we can only do it with Jesus. I love learning that every year.

There were some years I was living a life that didn’t make me an interesting person. A life that helped no one, that was solely focused on me. But every year I would come on this mission trip and hang out with people who were Christ-centered, who inspired me to be better and make a difference. I’ve grown so so close to people on this trip…some of them know me, the real me, better than my family or people I would call good friends. We’ve shared and served and loved together. It’s powerful. And no matter what was going on in my day to day life during those crazy years and even now, I felt like God would meet me where I was. And teach me things. And push away everything that is worthless and silly about me so that He could work with what was good. I would find out that people cared and wanted to know me personally, that I could lead people, that I had a heart for teenagers, a heart for Spanish. I would realize I had gifts I needed to use for His good.

When in college, when I really needed to know it, I learned that I didn’t have to party with boys and alcohol to have a good time. Each week I would go on this trip, I would look back and realize I laughed the most, I felt the most love, I felt my life was overflowing, that I was HAPPIEST when I was least focused on myself and trying to serve others. I was the best Me and the happiest Me this one week out of the year, removed from all the stuff I filled up the other 51 weeks with.

I realized Christians can be intelligent, reasonable, and cool, and funny. I remember the Dodds, the Walkers, Vince and Victoria, the Sullivan sisterhood, Seghers, especially as people who taught me that this life for Christ, even when you were a grown up, was more fun than I would expect or think I deserved. Which is cool, because I like to party, so I like my Jesus to party.

When I look back, I am amazed at how I can see God’s hand on me throughout my life as a direct result of this mission trip. While in Mexico over a decade ago, I met a missionary named Mary Ellen who would sit with me for hours playing songs from “Sound of Music” on her guitar. She LOVED Jesus and all His people all over the world. From her I was inspired to learn guitar and to not be afraid to sing. I have now been leading the praise and worship for the trip the last seven or eight years, serve on the worship team at my church, and performed for my school.

Because I wanted to communicate with my amigas in Mexico, I studied Spanish and majored in it in college. Now I do a lot of translating, and spent half a year traveling through and volunteering in Central and South America. And I’m about to return to my second year of teaching, as a Latin and Spanish teacher!

These changes and realizations didn’t happen overnight. And I know I still don’t have it all together. Not by a long shot. That’s part of the beauty and intrigue of it all – there is so much to learn about God that I will never be done. But I love the challenge of continuing to learn.
I am so thankful that God kept providing a way for me to go on this journey. Every year people would answer the fundraising letters I sent out, people like Cindy Pearsall, Chris Cadiz, Aunt Penny, Aunt Carol, and Gma Susi this year. Every year I tell the trip directors “Well, if God wants me to go, money’s going to have to fall from the sky,” and then a week or two later I would get a call that $500 dollars had come in to pay my way! That’s a miracle.

And I’m so thankful that He brought such quality people into my life, and showed me things about Him and how much more fulfilling my life would be to walk this way. In 2008 I was baptized in Mexico as a testimony to the inspiration and influence the country and its people have been for me. It was an incredible experience to be surrounded by almost 100 believers from my church, baptized in the waters of a ranch in a forest in Mexico, at a place I feel saved me. Every year when I go back, I love to be in that place and feel like I’m getting saved all over again.

This kind of thing…I and anyone else on it could talk for days. I just wanted to talk this long. But I’d love to share more if anyone is interested.

Thank you to everyone who was on the trip, who were in positions of leadership, who drove, who shared water bottles or snacks or good jokes. Thanks to everyone from Hope and the community at large that contributed at all to send us on this mission. Thank you to Agua Viva ministries for hosting us and loving us. And thanks to Jesus. Thanks for loving us, and being our God. Gloria a Dios. Toda la Gloria a Dios.