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Mission trip opens teens' eyes

November 30, 1999|By ANDREA CLARK

During spring break, when many high school students go to Florida, to the beach, or just stay home and relax, I had the opportunity to do something that I had never done before. I went to Victoria, Mexico, on a mission trip.

Sixteen of us ? 13 teens and three adult chaperones from Heritage Academy, west of Hagerstown, went to share the Christian faith with others and to minister in Mexican churches.

Our team flew to Dallas on Saturday, March 25, and then to McAllen, Texas, where we spent the night before traveling across the border. On Sunday morning, we crossed the border and stopped at Pastor Juan Molino's church in Reynosa, Mexico. While there, we did a gospel program we had prepared in Spanish, and we spent some time visiting with Pastor Molino and the people of his church.

We drove about four hours south to Ciudad Victoria, a city about twice the size of Hagerstown. There we ran into a crisis. Our hotel was out of operation. We had no idea where we were going to stay. The leaders of our group led us in prayer. Then we kept driving and found a very nice hotel called Monte Alto, with many modern conveniences. We felt our prayers had been answered.

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Monday morning came quickly, and our week of work began. The boys on our team worked under the direction of several Mexican men to mix cement for a sidewalk and knock out a cement wall to extend a church in Victoria. While the boys were doing those tasks, we girls went to a school in Victoria to help paint a classroom.

After lunch, we went back to our hotel to get ready for our evening program. We performed the program in several churches during the week. It included a couple of skits featuring one of our team members, Dylan Black, as the main character.

In the skits, Dylan was faced with making a choice between good and evil. The skits involved acting, puppets, Bible verses and songs ? all in Spanish. The children in the Mexican churches, just like American children, enjoyed our puppets very much.

On Tuesday we all went to the school again to work. The guys worked with a Mexican man we called "Señor," who led them in working on a cement roof for the school. The girls painted another classroom. Later that night we performed our program at a church way up in the mountains where the children were very poor. We brought little punch balls, soccer balls and footballs. The kids were so happy with the things we gave them. When I played with the children, it made me feel spoiled to see what little those children have.

On Wednesday, we went into Victoria to pass out religious pamphlets to people on the streets. I was amazed at the response. When I try to pass out a pamphlet here in America, nobody wants to take it. Down in Mexico, when people saw us handing these out, they would actually stop and ask for one.

On Thursday, we painted about 30 benches for the school, and the guys worked more on the roof. We also had the opportunity to visit a class at the school. The students were studying English, and we were able to talk with them about the similarities and differences in our languages.

We began our travel back to the border on Friday. Near the border, we stopped at a town called Progresso to do some shopping. This was very different from shopping or "going to the mall" in America. In Mexico, we were supposed to haggle over the price of something we wanted. The person selling the items would say one price, and we would counter with a lower price. Finally, we would come to an agreement on the price and purchase the item.

There are a few other things, besides the way of shopping, that make Mexico different from other places I've visited before on spring break. I was impressed by the overall friendliness and thankfulness of the people.

There is a problem if you do not know Spanish. While we were in Mexico, we met only five people who could speak a little English. Everyone else spoke only Spanish. It was difficult to remember that, when you saw a person, you did not say, "Hi," you said, "Hola."

Also, in Mexico, because of a septic system that is different from America's, you can't flush your toilet paper down the toilet. You have to put it in the trash can beside the toilet. That was a very hard thing to remember to do.

When I returned home Saturday, April 1, I realized I had learned so much in that one week. I saw for the first time how God could use me to help other people. I learned that, even though we look very different and live in different places and in different size homes, we have a lot in common.

I spent a week in Mexico with the intent of ministering to the people there. But the experience strengthened my own faith.

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