If I casually asked someone to tell me about their most memorable vacation, I would likely hear about a tropical beach or scenic mountain vista in some beautiful locale. If someone were to ask me about my most memorable vacation, it would be quite the contrary. The first thing I noticed when I walked out of the Laredo, Texas airport was the heat. One day the high was 108 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature unknown to a North Carolina native.
I went to Laredo, Texas to experience my first mission trip with a group from my church. My church provides funds for about forty-five missionaries at the Rio Grande Missionary Help Center in Laredo. These missionaries were our mentors and guides during our week stay. While I soon discovered I would not be able to describe my vacation as scenic or picturesque, I did find it beautiful, in another sense.
Crossing the border the first time was quite an experience; on the Mexican side of the bride we saw soldiers with huge guns and a military truck fully loaded with bullets the size of soda cans. As the news constantly broadcasts, Mexico is having a problem with drug cartels and gangs. The scene at the bridge scared me, and I thought to myself, “What in the world did I get myself into?” But after handing out tracts of the gospel in a park, I realized why I was there – to share my faith.
The next day we went to a church service in Mexico. I was amazed by the people in the church. They were so joyful and shining with happiness because they had found a true religion. It shocked me because they had so little but were so happy while in the United States, the average person has so much to be thankful for, but they are not. The church services softened my heart towards the Mexican people.
The last day of the mission trip we went to an area called Navidad Blanca. Navidad Blanca is a very poor area on the outskirts of Nuevo Laredo. Children walked barefoot in the dirt roads with a jug of water in each hand. The houses were tiny and would be condemned by the standards in the United States. Trash covered both sides of the road. To make matters worse, the missionary told us that most children here could not go to school because it was too far to walk and they could not afford uniforms. While the people in the church service softened my heart, the scene of Navidad Blanca burdened my heart to act somehow, someway. All of these children would not get an education preventing them from securing the most simple of jobs that would satisfy their basic needs. They would have to stay in Navidad Blanca, likely uneducated with little hope of experiencing anything outside their village.
The trip to Laredo, Texas was the most challenging week of my life. I was challenged to confront my preconceptions of the Mexican people. I was challenged to make difficult decisions, and I was challenged to sacrifice myself and do something. I discovered through this trip, my calling. I realized that I am needed in places such as Navidad Blanca to establish schools where children can learn materials necessary for acquiring a job. It is my desire not only to help provide a means for education, whether it be planting schools or teaching, but share my faith also.
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