I had been counting the days in my planner for weeks, and March 28th, 2009 had finally arrived. I hugged and kissed my parents goodbye and set off with my seven fellow travelers—three girls close to my age, my pastor and his wife, and an elderly couple from a neighboring church. I could barely contain my excitement as my first airplane ride took off from Cleveland Hopkins Airport and eventually landed in the Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City, Mexico. This was the start of one of the most memorable weeks of my life.
Our destination was San Vicente, a city about an hour from the capital. Our host unlocked the gated courtyard and we entered Genesis House, one of four houses that make up NiÃ±os de Mexico, a non-profit mission dedicated to caring for and educating orphaned and abandoned children. Each child is supported by numerous sponsors, individuals in the U.S. and Canada who have decided to send $25 a month to keep them clothed, fed, and educated. Under the care of the staff at NiÃ±os, the boys and girls undergo a rapid change of attitude as they realize that they are loved by all the people around them and by the God who created them.
During our weeklong stay my friends and I were able to learn so much about Mexican culture, such as their reliance on beans and their terrifying driving habits. Of course language was a bit of a barrier, and I discovered that even Honors Spanish III is no preparation for daily interaction and conversation. We took excursions to the TeotÃhuacan Pyramid complex, and climbed the Sun and Moon pyramids; we toured the Presidential Palace and the National Cathedral; and we experienced several markets. But while these trips were pleasurable and informative, they were not the reason we had flown 1,841 miles.
Our main purpose in visiting NiÃ±os was to assist the mission in any manual labor they had need of and to interact with the kids. Our jobs for the week were to paint the laundry room and courtyard walls, and to erect a new chain link fence. Once our day’s work was done, we went to the various houses and ate dinner, played games, and learned a little about each kid. Soccer, volleyball, and good food can bridge any cultural gap.
It was so surprising to see the children’s delight in our visits. Simply showing off their rooms put brilliant smiles on their faces. And when we pulled out the surprise bag of stuffed animals for them they could hardly contain their excitement. Scenes like this made me appreciate the wealth I enjoy in this country, and made me ashamed of my greed and selfishness.
Our trip ended April 4th, and the returning flight was not quite as fun as the incoming one. Reminiscing on my trip later, I found within myself a newfound compassion and a desire to help those who have not had the blessed childhood I have enjoyed. I realized that while I do not want to make missions my career choice, I have a deep longing to participate in many future short-term trips. The trip also awakened an appreciation for Mexican culture that will never leave me. I truly wish that every student could have the same opportunity as I had—our world would never be the same.
If you would like to know more, schedule a trip, or sponsor a child, go to www.ninosdemexico.org. The staff is very passionate about their work, and would be more than willing to answer any questions you may have.
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