Last Spring Break, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip with my church youth group. Our team had two goals for our stay in Ensenada, Mexico: to build a house for a family in the area and to give love to children in an orphanage nearby. I was excited, but also nervous about speaking Spanish, even though I had been practicing it extra hard ever since I knew I was going. As I wrote my support letters and attended meetings, I knew it would be a special trip, but I had no idea how much my perspective would change. The journey seemed hectic, traveling all Saturday by plane from Portland to San Diego and by bus across the USA/Mexico border, but we made it safely to our home for the week, the Youth With A Mission base.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
On Sunday all 40 of us crowded into a living-room sized church whose friendly congregation was full of genuine warmth and joy. I really enjoyed singing with them in Spanish and afterwards helping translate the Easter story for the children’s activity. As I began to speak in Spanish, I was reassured: The children were so loving and so delighted I was speaking their language they didn’t care how much I messed up.
On Sunday afternoon the whole group went to the orphanage, Casa Hogar, where I spent the next two days there painting a mural in the boys’ recreation room. The work drew many curious admirers, and also a couple helpers: Christian, a talented 19-year-old artist, who immediately chose one of our pictures and replicated it perfectly on the wall, and Elias, who became my special friend. He was good at drawing, but so incredibly shy that my friend and I were constantly pleading with him to come out of his shell and, when he didn’t reluctantly agree, resorting in exasperation to the words “Niña, niña.” Other friends drifted in and out, helping however they could, and it was often chaotic. I had to tell myself to relax and let things happen, and that the occasional paint splatter didn't matter. The important thing was we all worked on it, and it would encourage them when we were gone. It turned out just as I had imagined, but better for being real, and I learned to trust that God would guide things to turn out all right.
On Wednesday, the whole group went to the work site and I got to see what the other half of our group had been doing for two days. Together we dedicated the newly-built house and handed the keys to its new owner, Maria.
The biggest thing for me was noticing the sheer amount of opportunity I have in my life. I have the support and resources I need to take music lessons, dance lessons, participate in Art and Spanish Honors clubs, take challenging courses in school and go to college, and travel around the world. It made me grateful, but more than that it challenged me to think: What I am going to do with these chances for the people who don’t get them? A perfect life could no longer be one in which I got to use all my talents or do all the things I enjoy; I had to help people. I will never think about my future without remembering this bigger picture.
Crossing the border going home made such a contrast. Compared to most of the world, we have so much! We are basically the ones who have been given the superpowers. Are you trying to save the world? I am.
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