Visiting a foreign land will open your eyes. You will see things that you do not normally see. It shows us the differences that separate nations. Yet, it also gives us a chance to embrace what makes us similar. Once the walls that divide the world are broken down, we can build bridges in their place.
I actually had an opportunity to build bridges of my own. The Roman poet, Horace, once stated the phrase, “carpe diem,” which simply means to seize the day. I chose to seize the day and took advantage of this wonderful possibility. I am part of the Senior High Youth Group at my church. During our February vacation of 2008 we crossed our southern border into the depths of Mexico to the State of Oaxaca. Our church had the opportunity to work alongside a missionary man who was working in Mexico with the small congregation of ‘Iglesia Nacional Presbiteriana De MÃ©xico’ (National Presbyterian Church of Mexico.)
Not only was our goal to build interpersonal relationships between two countries, but we crossed the border to strengthen another congregation of God. By establishing a new classroom and doing other various odd jobs, we hoped that new worshippers would be enticed to join. On this voyage, eight teenagers and four adults from around the Schenectady area worked together with the members of the Oaxaca congregation on this never-ending task. Our mission was endless; a new duty would always arise. Our only breaks would be taken for refreshments or to escape the harsh heat emanating from the sun. I was always willing to give an extra hand whenever needed. Neither the sun’s brutality nor the unique cuisine could impede me. While there, we constructed a church classroom, mixed cement to fill potholes, pruned the trees and painted a handicap parking and a no parking sign on the pavement. These were only the major jobs that were of chief importance. Numerous odd-jobs always popped up such as cleaning the shed and cooking meals.
While the Congregation appearance was improving, so were our friendships. Despite the obvious dissimilarities between us, we examined beyond that to see the true person lying beneath their dark skin. Although, we fluently spoke in two diverse languages and possessed different customs, we overcame those obstacles. Only four, including myself, of the twelve Americans on the journey actually knew any of the Spanish language. Even with that hindrance to prevail over, every single one of us was able to communicate with our new friends and learn from them. Some confusion about phrases did occur, but that was bound to happen. Besides it just provided more laughs and greater conversation. Through our many conversations they taught us some of their culture and we reciprocated the gesture towards them. On this adventure, I was devoid of my true family. However, during our stay there I became closer to each and every one of the community. I even became closer to my own church. While we were there we became more than just friends. We became family.
Our goal was to improve the church but we were also determined to build bridges between our two nations, our two languages and our two cultures. Our farewell was harder than any of us could have imagined. Tears were shed despite resistance and we wished that we did not have to leave. However, one thing is certain. We will never forget Oaxaca, Mexico.
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.