Helping the Lathams meant more than just doing what they said. We were a mission TEAM - that involves teamwork. I got to know Joe, Becca, Mr. Webb, Chelsea, Jason, and Elizabeth more than I ever have before. I guess being with them for 9-10 days will do that. Mr. Webb, Joe and Becca were real leaders during the week, but especially the Bauwens. They pushed me to do things that were hard for me to do, and they knew that. It's what helped me grow and to focus more on others and less on myself. Chelsea and I became closer friends that week. We only get to see each other twice, maybe three times a week. Being in the same room for 9 days, doing projects together, eating, working together ... all this helped our friendship. Jason has always seemed like the serious type, but he has his funny side as well. Elizabeth grew in the Lord too. When we were younger we used to hang out all the time. I guess as we got older the age difference started playing a factor: she's 14, I'm almost 18. But we relied on each other at different times during the week. We were friends again.
I've never met people like I did while in Mexico. Even though only a few of the girls could speak broken English in our dorm room, they were still very friendly and made us feel welcome in their room. Claudia was a big help in translating for us. Others we met while helping in the VBS in Bosques and Arboledas. Most of the people knew we couldn't speak Spanish very well, yet they still offered their help. Many couldn't speak any English, so instead they pointed to something that needed to be done in order to ask us. So there was a language barrier of some sort, but that didn't stop us from communicating with the people. I got to know some of the adults, but more of the teens/college students. The whole time working at the VBSs I heard not one single complaint. It was hot; it was a lot of work; there were 40 kids one day, over 100 another day. But complaining wasn't in their vocabulary. They loved the Lord with all their heart, and wanted to show others how much they loved Him.
The children in these two towns broke my heart multiple times. We have so much here in America, yet they live with the bare esentials - most of the time even less. More than I could count came in to our VBS with no shoes on ... but with the biggest smiles on their face you could ask for. Some of the activities we had for them seemed so simple and boring to me. The kids loved every minute of them. Here in America I don't really "have a way" with younger kids. In Mexico, though, they seemed to be the ones who had all my attention. Since I wasn't really able to talk to many of them I wasn't able to give them a presentation of the gospel. I tried to show them through my actions instead of my words, like the other leaders in Mexico showed me.
Tears come to my eyes as I write this. I have only told this to Chelsea and a good lady friend of mine because it's something I have been ashamed of. Since last summer I have had doubts about my salvation, just tiny ones I let pass. But a few months before this trip I really started to worry about whether or not I was really saved. I could remember the time when I was 10 years old going up after one of Charlie Marshall's messages and asking the Lord into my heart, but to this day I have no idea what I said in that prayer. I didn't want to go through the rest of my life, or even on this mission trip, thinking I was saved only because everyone else thought I was. Just a week before our trip I told Chelsea about it and she said something I'll never forget. What kept me going through hard times, like when we almost lost our house? when my dad lost his job? when things were going so terribly wrong and I felt like no one was there or cared? I know it was my FAITH in GOD and nothing else. If not for Him, I wouldn't be the person I am right now. It takes faith in God to go through trials; it also takes faith in God to know you are saved. A missionary who came to our church a while ago also mentioned that it's not WHAT you said in your prayer, but if you really know what Jesus did for you and you believe that in your heart ... and I do!
God really worked in my heart in a way I've never felt Him work before, and it never would have happened if I had decided not to go on this trip. I was all worried about the different food, about being homesick, about it being so far away ... all these small things that seemed so insignificant to me. My good friends Tammy, Kenzie, and Joanna helped me through this, and I am thankful for them. Kind of without knowing it, Joe and Becca helped me to want to go as well by encouraging us all along the way. The money seemed like it would never come, yet God blessed above and beyond what we needed. With the never ending paperwork we had to fill out... God had a plan for each of us and I now know it was His will for us to be in Mexico. After being there for a mere 10 days, I have a burden for missions more than ever now. Before I think I wanted to be a missionary just to travel; to get away from my home life. Now that has nothing to do with it. Missions isn't about selfishness, it's about selfLESSness- about others. I want to share this peace that only the Lord Jesus Christ could ever fill in my heart to others who may have never heard the good news.
Our flight was canceled Saturday morning and the earliest we could get another flight home was Monday morning. I was absolutely devistated. I wanted to go home more than ever, and that day just seemed to drag. God had a plan though, and made Sunday the best day of the whole trip. In the morning service I got to play the piano (good thing I know my numbers en Espanol!). Then I was able to give a short testimony to the congregation while Mr. Latham translated. That afternoon we just hung out at the Lathams with Obed( in the group picture all the way towards the left) and Manuel(picture on the right) and played a different version of "Uno". Neither of them could speak English, but we still managed to have tons of fun. Sunday night I sat next to Miss Alonso and she translated the service into English for me so I could get something out of it :) Gracias! After the service we headed out to view the whole city of Monterrey. Beautiful! I can't put it into words, you just have to had been there. All the rest of the night we stayed up with 12 year old Manuel and tried to figure out what he was saying, and he us. So much fun! Something I would have hated missing out on, and I wish Becca and Chelsea could have been there with us.
This trip has taught me about God's everlasting love and peace. Even though so far away from home, He still worked in our hearts. Now that I'm home I feel a longing to go back to Mexico. If I could choose a second home, it would be Mexico. There are so many memories that will last forever, and I know I'll see my friends there again someday, if not here in Heaven.
And there's always Facebook and MSN!!!! If you want to see all my pictures (all 664!), you can click on the following album links.
Dios te bendiga!! God bless you!!