Today I got home from a week in Piedras Negras, Mexico on a mission trip with my church.
I’ll be honest here. I didn’t think that this trip was going to be as special as it was to me.
Sure, I love going on mission trips, but they have never really had a lasting impact on me. Usually, they just make me annoyed and leave me wondering how on earth I survived a week with these people. Every trip I have been on has been a mental and emotional disaster for me.
But not this one.
Last fall it was announced that the spring break mission trip with my church for 2014 would be to Piedras Negras, Mexico. We would be staying at Colegio Biblico, a Bible College in the city, and we would be doing work for churches in the area.
I decided that I would go because one, I wasn’t doing anything over spring break. Two, because I felt the need to go. I have no idea why I decided to go considering my previous experiences, but I did anyway.
In November ICOM (International Conference on Missions) was in Downtown KC and a group from Colegio Biblico was coming. I ended up going to SICOM (the student part of ICOM) and we made time to have lunch and talk with the group from Mexico.
I have to say, that was the most fun I had in a long time. I was getting excited about this trip. I thought that it just might be different.
So March 15th rolls around. I have my passport, I have paid for the trip, I’m all packed in the smallest suitcase of everyone who went, and I’m prepared for the bus ride that should take a maximum of 17 or so hours. I get to the church a little bit before 7:00 A.M. and by 8:00 (there were some minor issues getting started) we left with an esimated arrival time to Eagle Pass, TX at 11:00 P.M.
We got there at 3:00 A.M. the next morning.
It was one of the most interesting experiences I have ever had. We got caught in traffic going into Texas from Oklahoma, heading into Dallas, and while going through Austin.
I’m used to driving for travel. I’ve literally been going on roadtrips since I was 3 months old. The trip didn’t bother me, I’ve experienced a whole lot worse. (Try driving home from Washington D.C. in the middle of July then have your Air Conditioning go out as soon as you get into Ohio. That was exciting!)
The only problem was, I was already iffy on this trip. I love serving people on these trips, that is never my issue I have with them. My issue is always with the people I end up having to spend a week with and this time, I was going out of the country. I wasn’t too excited at this moment. I also really just wanted to be quiet and go to bed but people kept talking to me. I hate it when that happens.
We crossed the border in the wee hours of the morning (cue Zach’s cackling) and made it to the Piedras Negras campus of Colegio Biblico. I was in bed by 4:00 A.M. and was ready to go to church that morning.
Here is something that I should probably have said at the begining. I’m in Spanish 1, I barely know anything about the language.
So we go to church and, of course, it is in Spanish (duh, we’re in Mexico). I don’t understand much and I end up going to spend time with some little kids during the service.
I am pretty sure that most people know this, but I am AWFUL WITH CHILDREN! It’s different when it is little kids I am related to like my nieces and nephews or just kids I know really well. Unfortunately, I’m already awkward and shy around adults and people my age when I barely know them. For some reason, it is worse with children and I have no idea why.
Anyway, as you can probably tell, I’m not having that great of a time (actually I was the only one who knew this). I couldn’t talk to anyone because for some reason as soon as I got into Mexico I forgot every Spanish word I knew except for “Hola” and “Adios” (that probably has an accent but I can’t do that on my American keyboard).
We ate lunch there (Pollo Feliz es muy rico!) and my mood was improving slightly with my first taste of real Mexican food since I was ten.
So we get back to the college and we have a nice siesta time where I isolate myself (#introvertprobs) and finish reading the book I almost completed on the drive to Mexico. (“His Majesty’s Dragon” is a great book, you should read it. I will write a review on it for my school’s newspaper website and I will link you to it!)
Then, we went to church again that evening. They sang some songs that I know in English and had the words side-by-side.
Hearing praises being sung in two languages to the same God gave me chills. It was at that moment that I realized that this trip was going to be different. I did not know why, but I just felt it in my heart.
We began work the next day and it was hard. We did a lot of painting and sanding (actually I did that every day this past week) of walls and pews. It was exhausting but rewarding.
We had dinner at the college that night and as I got up to go throw away my trash I saw my friend that I had met at ICOM!
I was really excited because I had been hoping to see some people I knew but I just hadn’t bumped into any. I ended up spending most of my time I wasn’t working hanging out with him, his friend who spoke almost no English (but was muy comico), and some other girls from my church.
The week continued to get better and better. I began to open up more (I was able to spend time with people and not be exhausted like I usually am)
I became the biggest shutterbug (I have never been this much in love with photography as I am now). I took over 900 pictures! (I only ended up keeping about 600) and posted them all on Facebook.
Everything was going great! I was having a great time! I made new friends, laughed more than I have in a long time, and found myself falling deeper in love with Christ.
Thursday night was our last night in Mexico. We spent it by having a volleyball tournament and homemade Mexican food for dinner. When the group circled up we convinced a few of our friends to stay and hang out with us. When our “gringo guide” was talking, I found myself getting choked up.
Our friends asked if they could say something to us at the end and I will never forget what they said. I was just about ready to burst into tears but I managed to stop myself from doing so, but only because I didn’t have a tissue 🙂
Then Friday came. I can’t think about it without starting to cry. When I left for Mexico, I did not think that I would love it this much. I expected it to be just like before but with severe allergy attacks and a whole lot of sweat. I did sweat a lot and had allergy attacks, but I loved it.
Friday I said goodbye to the friends I had made, even through a language barrier. I crossed the border and for the first time in a week realized that I have been out of touch with the world. I had heard no news in a week, I hadn’t even turned on my phone (international phone rates are crazy).
Today was the first day that I haven’t seen my friends. I miss them and I know that they miss us as well.
I hope that someday soon we will all be able to see each other again in person.
Until then, I will pray for each and every one of them and I will never forget this week in Mexico.