In July of 2006 the youth group at my church, the Revolution, went on a missions trip to Juarez, Mexico. We went with an organization called Youthworks and they handled many of the things that would have been potentially hazardous. They knew the neighborhoods and had several fluent Spanish speakers there to communicate our intentions to the community.
Over the next week, we built not only houses, but also friendships that will continue to affect our lives for years to come. When I left my house on that morning and headed to my church, I was a typical American kid. I took all that I had for granted and knew about poverty but had never really experienced it.
When I arrived at the church our group would be temporarily residing in, it surprised me just how different our cultures were. Here in the United States we have some very large churches, but the one I gazed at was very small; it was like no other church I had ever seen. This would be our base of operations from which to love and serve the community around us.
The first thing I did was help to build a small home for a man who wanted some independence. For two days I grew closer to the people in my group as we depended on each other to not drop cinderblocks on various body parts. We sang songs together and learned to trust each other more than the other people in the Revolution.
We never did finish the house, but we weren’t the last group that was to work on it. After we worked on the house, we spent some time with the children in the neighborhood. This was in many ways the most rewarding part of the whole trip because they just loved the fact that we were there.
They did not have video games or televisions so they played soccer in the streets and were all much better than I was/am. We even spent some of our free time with them to play games and practice our Spanish. They lived in what they call the orphanage even though very few of them were actually orphans.
Because money in Mexico is scarce their parents could not afford to support them. The orphanage was there home during the week when their parents were at work. I learned that people can be happy without all that the American culture tells us that we must have.
The only time the children were not smiling and laughing was when we told them we had to leave. That was one of the saddest days of my life because I had really connected with a boy named Jonatan. He was always around me and I would spin him, his favorite game, and because of this I learned a very useful Spanish phrase: ‘Estoy mareado’ which means, ‘I’m dizzy’.
This was a truly unforgettable experience that has altered my thought process about the world. If I could do it again I would do it in a heartbeat because everyone had an amazing time in Juarez. My only regret is that I left a very nice lady with a very incomplete and confusing description of four-square. My Spanish has fortunately improved since then.
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