I came home on Tuesday from a missions trip to Mexico with my youth group. There were 28 of us, who joined with TIME Ministries and La Gracia church in El Alamo for 10 days, and 2 VBS’s! It was my first missions trip, and it was amazing! We didn’t have much time there to sit, ponder, and write, so that’s what I’ve been doing these last few days. Looking back, I am learning and realizing so much that happened during those 10 days.
Actually getting there was quite an adventure! After boarding our plane at around 1 in the morning, we were all quite tired, but too excited to sleep a whole lot. Five or so hours later, we were in Mexico City, having to wait a few more hours for our 2nd flight to Monterrey. In the meantime, we found some breakfast and relaxed at the wrong gate, until we realized that we had missed our flight! We wandered around the airport until about 1pm, while our leaders figured out that another flight would not work, and we had to take a bus to Monterrey. A friend of the TIME Ministry leaders, Luis, came to the airport and helped us get a few taxis to the bus station, and then waited with us to make sure we got on the right bus! Haha! (We put all of our money together and exchanged it for Mexican Pasos to pay for the taxis and bus.) Luis and I got to chat for a little while in the bus station, and I was so encouraged by his testimony and everything that he shared! He was a God-sent help and encouragement to us all!
And through this whole ordeal, I didn’t hear anyone complaining. Even though we were all exhausted, and not sure exactly how or when we would get to Monterrey, everyone stayed so cheerful, and it encouraged me so much! A fond memory I have of that airport is of a dear friend, Beth, and I sitting on the floor, “We missed our flight!!”, laughing and laughing, then reading some Scripture!
I think we all learned to trust God a little more, and rest in that He would work everything out for us! And He did! After about 4 hours in the bus station, we began our 13 hour trip to Monterrey. The bus was so nice, and we were all able to sleep and enjoy the beautiful views of the city and mountains all around! It was a pretty uneventful drive, besides a stop in the middle of the night, where a uniformed, Spanish-speaking woman woke Calvin up and demanded to see 2 of our passports! (He had all of them. It’s a very funny story; you should ask about it.) While we drove, the rest of our team went to the Monterrey airport and picked up all of our luggage that flew without us! They picked us up at the bus station and we finally arrived “home” about 24 hours later than we had planned. We were able to relax for a few hours, and then we walked around our first VBS location and handed out flyers to invite the kids! It was a lot of fun, and a great time to start getting to know the summer interns who would be with us for the rest of our time there. They all became great friends to us, and we had wonderful times together! I miss them so much, but I’m happy to be connected with some of them on Facebook now!
We ran 2 VBS’s from Monday through Friday, one from 10am-1pm and one from 5-8pm. And they were both so great! I spent most of my time with the 2-6 year olds, and they were just so much fun! I was so blessed by them, as I pray they were by me! I went into it a little worried about not being able to communicate well with the kids, and there were some moments I had to ask them to repeat something or ask one of our translators for help, but each day it got so much easier and I was able to learn more Spanish and feel less awkward. Haha! Even though most of us know little-to-no Spanish, I was so encouraged to see everyone interacting with the kids and the love of Christ that was displayed! We had 6 older kids\teens accept Christ the first night of VBS, and then a few more throughout the week! There was even an older man who came by the park during our 2nd VBS who accepted Christ, after talking with 2 of the guys on our team! Praise Jesus!
Besides spending time with the kids at VBS, I also loved spending time and building friendships with the people in our group! We had so many fun times, and serious times of great conversation! You certainly get to know people a whole lot better by living with them for 10 days! And though there were some frustrations after so long, especially with the heat and exhaustion we were all feeling, I think we all got along so well and had a great time! I have made some terribly silly and wonderful memories that I will cherish forever!
I also had a birthday in Mexico, celebrated with a Mexican tradition of song, loudness, cake, and icing smeared on my face. It was quite the experience. I felt so blessed to celebrate my birthday in Mexico, with some of my favorite people all around me – singing, cheering, and then laughing with me as I licked the icing off my face. I looked around at all of those happy faces and thought about how thankful I am to experience this trip and the one year of youth group that I had with each of them.
I’m sure you understand how everyone asks you on your birthday, “So, how do you feel? Any older?”, and usually the answer is “no, not really.” But this was birthday #18, and it felt different from all the rest. It signifies to me the beginning of adulthood (of course), a goodbye to Wednesdays at a youth group that I’ve come to love, and the start of many new things. I’ll be leaving in 2 ½ weeks, and spending 4 months in Minnesota at a Leadership, Evangelism, and Discipleship (LEAD) Internship (Aug 21-Dec 15). I am so excited, and trying to focus my heart on preparing and experiencing to the fullest what God has in store for me there, and in the rest of my life.
Anyways, back to Mexico…
On both Sundays in Mexico, we went to church at La Gracia. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me! I couldn’t understand the sermon, because it was in Spanish, but I was really encouraged being there with other believers, in a different culture, speaking a different language. The worship in Spanish was beautiful, and touched my heart, even if, especially if I didn’t know what I was singing. Surrounded by a language and culture I don’t know, feeling Him come so close, and feeling the love and emotion in the room and in His people, I was changed, completely in awe of the Father of the world. This being my first missions trip and time out of the country, my heart was awakened even more to God’s call to the church to go out and make disciples of all nations. And I know this won’t be my first missions trip. I need to go where He tells me, when He tells me. My heart is to obey, to go to the nations, and go to my nation, wherever I am to be a witness.
Chris Tomlin’s world version of the song How Great Is Our God (you should go look it up if you haven’t heard it) has been a song I’ve loved since I first heard it a little while ago. But, since the trip it’s been even more touching. I’ve been listening to all of the Spanish worship songs I can find, and I discovered Hillsong’s Spanish worship album, En Esto Creo, which is amazing. I can’t even pinpoint what exactly it is about Spanish songs that make me love them so much, besides experiencing a familiar God through an unfamiliar language. That we don’t need the right words and understanding for connection. Maybe that’s it – the fact that He comes to us wherever we are, and He loves us all the same. His greatness is overwhelming, how He knows all people – this whole world.