The third week of June, 2007 began the greatest trip of my life. I went on a mission trip to Mexico with my church. We started out from Scottsdale, AZ very early that morning, packed snugly in two 15-passenger vans. Ten hours later, we arrived in Tijuana, Mexico’s border.
After the frightening experience of seeing a man chased down by the border patrol, we gained clearance and crossed the border into the world of Mexico. Immediately the atmosphere transformed. Everything was different; people everywhere were selling trinkets.
We continued on for another two hour drive. During those hours, I witnessed the most spectacular sights I had ever seen. The deeper we drove into the country, the more poverty. I watched countless people walking the streets with everything they owned carried on their backs. I saw thousands of trashed-out houses clumped together. Numerous people walked about poorly clothed, some with half a shirt to cover their backs from the sun. As my eyes opened to see this impoverished land, I began to realize how blessed I am and how blessed is America. I learned that I live a life far more ease than these unfortunate people. After only seeing a small portion of the hardships in this foreign country, we arrived at our destination, La Mission.
Our group stayed in a church that was connected to an orphan prevention center called Open Arms Childcare Ministries (they are reached at www.openarmsmexico.org). We helped to reconstruct a family’s house that had recently burned. It is amazing how fast a house can be built with many helpers. We also played with the children cared for by the Open Arms Ministry. We played lots of Mexican football with teenagers living there who were far more talented at the game than any of us.
I learned so much from those children. Every day when we came to see them, they tackled us with hugs and wanted to be tickled. My life was changed as I saw each one of their beautiful faces; all so happy even though their families hardly earned enough to keep them. This all changed my prospective; I should never take my freedom and wealth for granted. My friends and I felt grateful when we slept on the concrete floor in the church. It was the best they could provide and I was happy to be sleeping under a roof, unlike many people in Mexico.
I will never forget the day we went to the beach just outside the city. A dearly wonderful friend of mine and I were swimming in the ocean and were caught in a rip-tide (there were no lifeguards). We both would surely have drowned were it not for the hero from our group who saved us with a boogie-board. I do not regret that this happened, as traumatizing as it was, because now my dear friend and I are the closest of companions, with an unbreakable bond.
After saying goodbye to all the kids and the church workers, we left La Mission. It was a quiet drive back to the border because no one wanted to leave Mexico behind. Upon re-crossing the border, we made our first stop at a Starbucks in San Diego; a lattÃ© in the U.S. is equivalent to one week’s salary in Mexico.
My trip to Mexico was by far the most phenomenal trip of my life. I discovered what a third-world country looks like; I discovered true poverty. I made everlasting connections with my traveling comrades. I will never forget Mexico and its astonishing people.
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