This past June, my church Youth Group traveled to Leona Vicario, Mexico for a week long mission trip. Our group of forty-four had never left the country for a mission trip, but spent months preparing for the cultural differences. We arrived at Detroit Metro Airport at 4 a.m. and landed in Cancun just six hours later.
As we exited Cancun Airport an instantaneous heat wave blasted us in the face. The bright signs and palm trees created a paradise feeling as we crossed the parking lot to our bus. That feeling was lost just three blocks away from the airport as we turned down a dirt road through the jungle to our destination. Sights of huts, poverty stricken villages and burned down shacks filled our minds as we imagined where we were headed.
The village children chased our bus and waved as we entered the Yucatan Peninsula Missionary compound where we would be spending the next six days. Upon arrival we divided into two separate buildings, dropped our stuff and headed to the kitchen for directions. We were all seated in a tiny cement room where we would be eating our meals. There we were assigned to our work groups, daily assignments and given a hammock to sleep in. After an hour to get settled in and change, we gathered for dinner. This was our first meal and we were all a bit hesitant of what to expect. Mary and Terri, our two cooks, had prepared spaghetti with a Mexican twist. It was delicious. After dinner we split up into three separate vans and headed into Cancun to see Reverend William preach. Although the entire service was in Spanish, it didn’t stop us from singing the projected lyrics as loud as we possibly could.
Throughout the week, our mornings were spent working at two different work sites. At the first site, we broke up the tough clay ground and moved tons of dirt to the back of the house. Once the perimeter of the house was level, we laid a thin layer of sand and then very carefully laid a patio and walkway with brick pavers. This job was very detailed and precise. It took the entire week to accomplish. At the other worksite, a 300 foot cinder block wall was built to be the outer fence for a future boarding school. This was the biggest project of the week. We split ourselves into groups to mix mortar and cement, move scaffolding, lay bricks, and handle other small jobs. Building a wall may seem like a miniscule task, but when you’re working with hand tools and hand mixing mortar and cement it’s very strenuous.
The evenings were spent interacting with the villagers who came to see “the Americans.” The children would wait at the gates to the compound until we were done working. We joined together to play soccer, football, tag, handclap games and color.
Overall this was an amzing experience that I will never forget. Most of the children didn’t have food at home and just the single piece of candy we gave them each day would brighten their smiles. I learned not to waste any food or materials. The cultural shcok was enough to change my life. Although they had very little if anything, the people of Leona Vicario were as happy as they could be. Their lives were full and they were content. Yet, they were economically challenged compared to Americans. It changed my whole perspective. No other tirp could have opened my eyes to how much we waste and what we take for granted.
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