In the spring of 2005, my church youth group made plans to visit a church that we sponsor in Matlapa, Mexico. Our guide and helper told our youth group the seriousness of this trip. He told us that he did not know how useful our limited use of the Spanish language would be since we would be visiting the Huaxtecan Indians, whose dialect is quite different. Although he would help translate, he told us that a smile is the same in all languages.
We set about gathering stuffed animals and toys for the children. We spent our fist night in Brownsville, Texas and crossed the border the next morning without incident. After another day’s drive, we arrived at the Hotel Taninul in Valles. Our hotel was built around a sulfur spring and we encountered this new smell immediately. That dusk, we witnessed a great exodus of bats from the bat cave.
The hotel and its natural surroundings were breath-taking, but what we would experience over the next few days would definitely be heart-warming. On Sunday morning, we traveled to the mountain community of Matlapa to the ‘Iglesia de Christo’. The minister, Nicolas Medina, was spotted on the corner waving his arms to direct us to turn at the correct intersection.
After a mile of serious ruts in the road, we arrived. The church building was under construction, so we met in the basement for morning services. The floors were dirt and more than one of us left with serious chigger bites.
We learned that the people of Mexico build as funds are available, so they may add a few bricks now and then not be able to continue building for several months. As we met with our brothers or ‘hermanos’ of different skin color and language, we soon learned that we could communicate in unique ways. They sang a song of welcome, ‘Bienvenido’ to us and we sang a song of praise in return.
As Nicolas delivered the message, we attempted to follow along in our Spanish Bibles. At the close of the service, Ron was able to communicate with them and present them our check of support so that they could continue their evangelism and add to their building.
By then, my friends and I had lost interest. We were busy finding just the right toy for each little boy and girl. They especially loved the soccer balls that I had re-inflated with an air pump. Soccer seems to be a common language too.
The children were not greedy. We had to call them back for more. The loved the ‘dulces’, or candies. After seeing the living conditions of many of these children, I know that our visit was better than Christmas to them. We gave them ‘things’, but I left with so much more — an appreciation and renewed gratitude for all the blessings that I have. We take so much for granted.
In the following days, we visited in many of member’s homes and a school. That’s another story altogether — no textbooks, no school supplies, but such wonderful teachers and students who were SO grateful for the meager school supplies we brought.
I have made subsequent trips to Matlapa to work on the church building, to build simple pews, to help with Bible School, but I will never forget that first visit — a truly eye-opening trip that has made a lasting impression.
My plans are to attend college and major in chemistry. I eventually hope to study epidemiology and would like to plan medical/dental missions to Mexico. Your scholarship would definitely help me to accomplish this.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.