April 2009 - Vol. 29

UCO students enjoying a time of games with children in Agua Prieta, Mexico
Learning to be a Servant

reflections on a spring break mission trip to Naco and Agua Prieta, Mexico

by Ashley Martin

A dozen students from University Christian Outreach at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan USA spent their spring break between February 21 and March 1, 2009 on a mission trip to Agua Prieta, Mexico. Ashley Martin shares her experience.
After waiting for what felt like forever, we were finally on our way to Mexico. Having never been out of the country, (besides Canada, which is right on the border with Michigan) I couldn't contain my excitement, so much so that had I started practicing my Spanish weeks before the trip at any chance I would get, speaking with Hispanics in University Christian Outreach, translating things in my own mind, or even speaking with people who didn't speak Spanish at all. I was ecstatic and felt myself prepared for the trip... or so I thought.

I distinctly remember crossing the border, getting through as if it was just another green light in America. They didn't ask for our passports, they didn't search our car, and the most surprising thing was that I don't even remember seeing anyone like a border guard there! As much as I was thankful for that, I was definitely shocked, expecting a lot more of a hassle than just driving straight across the border. But this definitely wasn't the only surprising thing. I couldn't believe the difference in the change of scenery within only ten yards!  On the American side of the border there was a Wal-Mart and a McDonalds, and we were driving along a four-lane road. It was completely the opposite in Mexico. There were tiny buildings and houses (probably about the size of my dorm room), trash, dogs roaming the streets (some with only 3 legs), and most of the time dirt roads barely big enough for two cars. The biggest thing that shocked me, though, wasn’t so much the scenery, but the children. There were so many little ones walking along the street by themselves, with what seemed like no parents in sight, and even sometimes as it was getting dark. From what I had known growning up in the USA, that was way too dangerous, but in Mexico, the children seemed to have so much more responsibility and independence from a very young age.

UCO students on top of the house they built in Naco, Mexico

As the trip went on, I was continually shocked by the poverty in the area that we were in (Agua Prieta), but more shocked by how welcoming and hospitable the people were. At one point, I was given the opportunity to deliver hand-knit sweaters to children in the neighborhood we were working in. We just walked around, knocked on doors, and told them (in Spanish) that we had free sweaters to give to their children. They responded by saying, “Sure!” or even, “Come in!” and let us talk to their kids and hang out in their house as if we were close friends. The same thing happened in the neighborhood elementary school where the principal just let us walk into the classrooms and hand out sweaters. 

This experience of joy and love was just one of the many that was life-changing and unforgettable. I will never forget the children who I had never met before, but who came running up to me and jumped on me to give me a huge bear hug. I will never forget being sick for two days, but having almost all of the girls I had been spending time with ask me if they could make me food, get me water, or get me medicine. I will never forget the abandoned house that I walked into with no windows, dirt and trash everywhere on the floor, and walls falling apart, but with a colorful and ornate picture of Jesus on the wall. I will never forget how much physical pain and soreness we felt helping rebuild a house, mixing cement, digging out the floor, and making mortar, and then seeing the four year old boy from the family we were staying with helping carry bricks which seemed like half his size from the back of a truck to a pile about 10 feet away. I will never forget the family who hosted us for a Mexican dinner one night, the dance party that we helped host, and a guy from our group dancing with the grandmother who cooked the food for us. 

Among all of the things I learned and all of the ways I grew on the week-long trip, there is one thing that I think is the most important: learning how to become a servant. Being in college now, with 1,000 things to remember and 2,000 places to be at once, it is very easy to become too focused on myself, but going on this trip and experiencing the fulfillment and joy that comes from completely giving my life to others, I am forever grateful.  I now know that it is possible to change the world. It starts with simply serving one family. 

“God blessed us and worked through us in many ways on that trip. We were able to build two rooms of a house for a poor family, paint two classrooms at a school, and hand out clothes and basic supplies to families. We were also able to help out at two orphanages and played with the orphans for hours nearly every day.  We learned and saw things that really put things in perspective and made us appreciate the life that God has given us.  It was an experience that I will never forget and I am blessed to have had the opportunity to go.”

       – Charlie, EMU, Sophomore

Kelsie Norton, mission team member  with 
some of the orphans she worked with in Mexico

“Working in Mexico was a time of faith and affirmation. Faith because it required going beyond what I was comfortable with in some ways: not knowing Spanish or how to build anything, let alone a house! And affirmation because God blessed the work there, despite, or perhaps because, of our individual weaknesses. The love of God was made clear through submission to his will. And by being willing to be weak, our energy under his direction was useable, and paradoxically more powerful. I was priviledged to be part of a group of people who allowed themselves to be used for a purpose so much bigger than their resources that the only explanation for any success at all was that God met us there and was present in our work.”

       – Amy, U of M Junior

Ashley Martin is a 
University of Michigan Freshman


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