Today’s blog is by a guest blogger, my daughter Stacey.
This summer, my brother Joey and I went to Mexico for the first time. I had never been out of the country before, so I was very excited. I was also afraid, because I speak very little Spanish.
The first day was mostly traveling and unpacking at the compound we stayed at. We called it “the compound”, but it was more like a campus. There were several buildings which housed some of the staff, and a main building where interns and groups like ours stayed. We could see huge mountains in every direction. They were really pretty in the morning, when the sunrise was behind them and clouds seemed to rest on top of the peaks. The mountains were one of my favorite parts.
The second day was more eventful. After eating breakfast, we visited a children’s home called Casa Hogar Douglas. Since it was Sunday, we got to see the church there. It was cool to listen to so many people worshipping in Spanish. When the service started, we left and cooked chicken burgers for the children at the home. They ate with us, and we played with them for a while. Some of us went down to the library and cleaned it. There are very few libraries in Mexico. Many of the children can’t read when they arrive at children’s homes, so the staff built this library so they could learn and enjoy books the same way we do in America.
I became friends with a little boy named Roberto. He liked to watch the girls paint each other’s nails, and decided he wanted to try. One of the staff let him paint hers. After the first one, he left. We were kind of confused. He came back with water and a napkin. Apparently, he didn’t like how it had turned out and wanted to start over! This time, he painted all of the girl’s nails. We were all amazed at how good at it he was. If he had the opportunity, he could do it for a living.
On the third day, we came back to Casa Hogar Douglas. This time, another girl and I played jump rope with some of the kids. They were really good at it, especially the boys. I learned how to count a little in Spanish. One of the little girls was trying to be like us and kept asking my brother, “Do you want a piece of me?” He said “yes”, so she beat him up. He was fine, she was only five.
It was hard for us to leave, because we weren’t coming back the next day. Some of the kids started crying, and some wouldn’t stop hugging us. It was good to know that we had made a difference to them, even though it was sad when we left.
My favorite day was the fourth. We went to Rio 3, which was what the staff called the area. Basically, it was a community by a river. The people living there literally had nothing. They had built their houses out of whatever they could find, like fences or pieces of old buildings. We served a lunch at the church there, and passed out the leftovers to people in the community. Then we gathered all of the kids we could, and played games. One of the staff read them a story called Tu es Especial (you are special). I didn’t understand the words, but I realized later that I had read the book in English a long time ago, when I was little.
During the story, a girl about eleven or twelve sat down next to me. When the story was over, the kids colored a picture of a ribbon that said (in Spanish, of course) “thank you for making me special”. I watched the girl color and we talked, I with my limited Spanish, and she with her limited English. She told me that her name was Vero, and that there was a fruit tree near her house. When she was done coloring, she showed me her picture and held it out to me, saying “tu”. You. She wanted me to take her picture. The point of coloring it was for her to understand how special she is, so I didn’t let her give it to me. She looked disappointed, and walked away. When it was time to go, I headed towards the bus. Suddenly Vero was there, with a big smile on her face. She handed me a piece of paper and hugged me. I looked at the paper, and it said, “thank you for making me special”. I was confused. Why was it so important to her that I have that paper? She looked up at me and grinned, and then I understood. Vero knew how special she was. Now she wanted to make sure I knew how special I was. This little girl, who had almost nothing, was more concerned with making sure that the people around her knew that they were loved, that they were not worthless.
I understand now the needs of these people. Yes, they need food and shelter. But more than that, they need love. They need someone to care about them. They need someone to share the love of Jesus Christ with them. I think people don’t understand this. They send money, clothes, and food, and there’s plenty of it. But how many are willing to send themselves? How many of us are willing to go and be with the orphans, the poor, the homeless?
The organization we went through, Back2Back, works to meet all of the needs of people like the ones we met, in Mexico, Nigeria, India, and Haiti. They have come up with five categories of needs: physical, social, educational, emotional, and spiritual. Why is it that we are so eager to meet only the physical needs? These people are just like us, they need friends, family, education, love, and especially God. I encourage you to pray about this. Why not go to a homeless shelter or food bank near you? I know that it’s awkward to socialize with people you’ve never met, but it’s worth it.
The fifth day went quickly. We worked at a children’s home that’s still being build. In one of the rooms we were painted, I discovered enormous moths, easily as big as my hand. Since I was apparently the only one there not afraid of insects, I had to chase them out. It wasn’t fun. Imagine standing on a ladder while bugs the size of bats fly at your face. That’s what it was like. When we got back to the compound, I had to chase a two inch long flying cockroach out of the girls’ room. That was also interesting.
On day six, we took a field trip with another children’s home to a park. It was incredibly hot. We played a version of tag, and spent most of the time running around. When it was time for lunch, we sat under the three tiny trees in the park. Unfortunately, several hundred fire ants had beaten us to the shade and they bit everyone. Despite the ants, it was fun.
After the field trip, we went back to the children’s home and hung out with the kids. A few of us walked around and prayed over different parts of the home. We met some of the older girls and talked with them. We found out that one of the oldest ones had been accepted into the Hope program.
In Mexico, education only goes up to 9th grade, and when you turn sixteen, you have to leave the children’s home you live at. Most of these kids don’t have enough education to get a job, so they turn to drugs or prostitution to support themselves. Back2Back created the Hope program to give the kids a chance at a better life. Kids who are accepted move to the compound I stayed at and live with some of the staff. There are about forty kids living there, ranging from 10th graders to college students. They all have jobs to help pay for their education, but a lot of their tuition is paid for with donations. Some of the kids are also sponsored by Americans. The sponsors pay $100 a month per child, and write to them four times a year. Some of the people on our team decided to sponsor a child.
The last day, day seven, was mostly travel. While it’s good to be home, I miss those kids I met. I want to go on another mission trip, either to Mexico or another country. This trip has changed me for the better. I’ve made a commitment to be more involved with the ministries in my community, to meet the physical, social, educational, emotional, and spiritual needs of the people in Fairfield.
If you have never been on a mission trip, I encourage you to go. We in America have been given so much. The average person here lives on more than $100 per day. Over 40% of the world’s population lives on $2 a day. We have the resources to make a difference in so many people’s lives. I ask you to pray about it. I also encourage you to read a book, Helping Without Hurting. It’s a good guide for those who aren’t sure how to meet the social, emotional, and spiritual needs of people in need.
I have had an amazing experience, but it wouldn’t have been possible without help. Thank you to those of you who helped Joey and me raise enough money to go to Mexico and help so many people. The money you’ve given helped improve the living condition of a child. They appreciate everything you’ve made possible.
I can honestly say that this has been the most incredible experience in my life. After praying about it for a long time, I know that I am meant to be involved in ministry. I don’t know yet if it will be a career, or if it’s just something to do when I can, but I will do whatever the Lord tells me. It’s not hard. You just have to be willing to do it. Paul instructs us to minister “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (Romans 10: 12-15) Paul is sending us. It’s up to us to preach so people can hear and believe.
I know, you feel like you can’t make a difference. Here’s a story I heard in Mexico: a man walks along the shore of an ocean. He sees a boy picking up something and throwing it back into the ocean. He walks up to the boy and asks, “What are you doing?” The boy replies, “Throwing starfish back into the water. The tide washes them up, and if I don’t throw them back they’ll die.” The man says, “Look, there are miles of beach and thousands of starfish. You can’t possibly make a difference.” The boy listens politely, then picks up another starfish and throws it into the water. “Well,” he says, “it makes a difference to that one.” Yes, you can’t help everyone. So just concentrate on helping one person at a time. That one person will thank you. And so will God.