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Mission Trip Journal: February 2004
My first mission trip was a pivotal event for me.
In February 2004, I went on my first mission trip with a group from Eastridge to build a house in Juárez with Casas por Cristo.
That was a pivotal trip for me because it taught me about foreign missions, a ministry area that I was almost apathetic toward before then. This trip changed my heart, and little did I know I would receive an offer to join the church staff about four months later.
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Oh, and it was the first time I had ever eaten at Cheddar’s, a restaurant chain I love that now has several locations in Georgia.
I recently stumbled on my journal from that trip, so I thought it might be worth sharing. I hope you enjoy it.
(Note: I’ve edited the journal slightly, taking out some personal recollections and leaving out names.)
February 15, 2004, flight to El Paso
I bought this huge duffel bag at the Army-Navy surplus store, $30, thinking it was the best way to take everything with me. I didn’t like that I couldn’t organize my stuff that well. I’m getting ready to walk out the door to load my stuff up, and I can’t get my bag thru the door to the garage! Finally, I squeezed it through, and I decided the duffel bag wasn’t the way to go. With half an hour before time to go, I decided to repack everything into my suitcase. MUCH better!
I’m excited about the group we have on this trip. The funny thing is, we have several students who have NEVER flown before! I’m interested in their perceptions of and reactions to things on the flight. For instance, one student is in the bathroom as I’m writing this, and no one has explained to her what an airline bathroom is like. When she came back, she sarcastically told us “it was awesome.”
Do I really know what to expect on this trip? I don’t know. I feel like I’m pretty open to what the Lord is going to show me, and I think it’s a good sign that I don’t have any preconceived notions. For so long, the whole idea of foreign missions was one I never truly bought into. I don’t know why, really; I guess it was just something that seemed distant not just physically but psychologically, too. Several things have brought about some changes in my views. The Lord has worked in me through those things, and now here I am on my way to a week-long mission trip. If you had asked me if I’d do something like this ten… five… even two years ago, I would have said “no,” probably pretty emphatically.
All that brings me back around to the question of what I’m expecting to get out of this trip. I don’t think I’ll come back wanting to be a missionary to Africa or Romania or something; I mean, God does some amazing things, but you know… I expect a changed attitude toward foreign missions and perhaps toward the poor — not like I’m Ebenezer Scrooge right now, but more like seeing need in people more clearly. God might increase my sensitivity, though He knows I’m sensitive enough as it is.
God, I thank You so much for all You do—for all You’ve blessed me with. Thank You for the talents and abilities You’ve given me. Thank You for LIFE—abundant life here on earth as well as the eternal life that awaits. I love You for all You are and all You do.
Thank You for this team—this unique group of students and adults embarking on a week-long journey. Help each one of us to learn more about You and work in our lives this weeks as we work for You.
Please keep us safe this week as we’re traveling and working. Keep us safe and immune from Satan’s attacks throughout the week.
Be with my family this week, and please grow them in You. Be with the families of everyone else, too. I pray all these things in Your name — AMEN.
We’ve been on this plane a while now, and everyone’s getting restless! I know I am… It’s been a pretty turbulent flight, and they’ve kept the seatbelt sign on most of the flight, but that hasn’t stopped most of us from getting up from time to time. I gotta work on the devotion for tomorrow night…
I’m going to Walmart with some of the students and adults when we get to El Paso. I’ve pretty much written off sleeping tonight!
February 16, 2004, in Juárez
Last night was an experience at Walmart. We darted around Walmart looking for bargains and gifts for the kids in the family we’re building the house for; then we went to Taco Bell.
The view from the church in El Paso was breathtaking; there are beautiful mountains behind the building. All the students were taking pictures. We met up with Jason, the missionary, right after breakfast, and we loaded up. We crossed the border shortly after 8:00, and at first Juárez looked not that much different from any American town. Then we passed through an industrial area and into an extremely poor area. The church where we’re staying is fairly nice. Everyone is sleeping in the sanctuary. We laid the concrete slab foundation/floor for the house today while some people built the walls to frame the house. I was impressed with how hard everyone worked, especially the students who helped me mix concrete. It’s 7:00 pm local time. Everyone’s ready to crash, and it’s about time for me to lead the devotion…
February 17, 2004, in Juárez
More work on the house today. We framed the house, at which point I really began to feel pride in what we’re doing. After that, we put up insulated sheathing and chicken wire (for the stucco) on the outside and insulation on the inside. We also roofed and wired the house. Sheetrock and stucco and whatever else will come tomorrow. The wife of the pastor of the church near the house offered to feed us lunch, and most of us took her up on it. We had the best burritos I’ve ever had, along with some quesadillas. As soon as he heard the word “quesadillas,” one student’s facial expression changed from fatigue to enthusiasm instantly. One adult tried to ask the lady (who did speak pretty good English) what kind of cheese they use in Spanish, but she would up asking, “¿Se llama queso?” (Do they call you cheese?). When she finally asked her the right question in English, the wife’s response was “Chihuahua Cheese.” Some of the kids had funny looks on their faces, and I got tickled imagining someone milking a chihuahua. Turns out Chihuahua is the state in Mexico, and that’s what the cheese is named for.
When we got back, a group of us made supper — sloppy joes — and then a few of us went to the park across the street. A few of the boys managed to get into a basketball game with some local teenagers. One girl managed to roll coming off the slide, which got the attention of everyone at the park, and the rest of us who went just enjoyed ourselves. We also talked to a few kids there and at the church where we’re staying.
February 18, 2004, in Juárez
We finished the house today! It was such an amazing process to see through. I was in charge of making the stucco — 1 part water, 1 part concrete & lime mixture, and 3 parts sand. I could make it in my sleep now if I had to. It was a tough process, but I think I’d rather have done that than anything else. Several of the kids (mainly the boys) were frustrated at the process of putting the stucco on the house; it was weird how the girls all did much better at this than the guys. Amy, Jason’s wife, helped the girls with the stucco; her help was invaluable. The grandmother of the family who we’re building for fixed lunch for us; it was the only real interaction we’ve had with them. She made burritos with beans, potatoes, and cheese, along with some SPICY green chilis. They were pretty good.
After we finished the house and cleaned up, we dedicated the house; that was a special moment. The pastor from the church close to the site prayed in Spanish, and our youth pastor prayed in English. We didn’t find out until today that the family is not Christian at all. They believe in Christ, but they mix a shallow belief with some form of idolatry. (There was this place on the mountain up above the area where we were that was the idolatry temple — very scary.) From my shallow knowledge of Spanish, I could tell that the pastor was praying for their souls. I can only hope and pray that we were a witness to them.
We got back early this afternoon, and the team in charge of tonight’s supper diverted from the cooking plan and made hamburgers with the leftover ground beef to go along with the hot dogs that were part of the plan. Both were especially good.
February 19, 2004, in El Paso
After supper last night, several of us played Guesstures; we had a blast and laughed so hard! One student was particularly funny, picking out props that were clear across the room, running to point them out, and running back to grab the card. We pretty much stayed up late — well, later than we have all week. The supper team cooked up a weird prank to play on the youth pastor. They cooked three extra hot dogs last night, and they took the weenies and tied them to the rearview mirror of the van.
We got up early this morning and cleaned up the church campus. After that, around 9:00 or so, we went to the house and gave gifts to the pastor and his wife at the church there. We had a sweet time of prayer there, and then we went to see the house one last time.
After we unloaded the tools and equipment at the Casas por Cristo office, we went to the market in Juárez. A little of that went a long way! Our passage across the border was a breeze — no wait at all. We ate lunch at McDonald’s in El Paso and came back to the church there. A couple of us adults took a few of the kids to Walmart to get pictures developed (I had 145 on my camera). We hung out in the furniture department while we waited for the pictures to be developed.
We had some interesting weather today. All week long the weather has been beautiful — clear blue skies, warm days, cool nights. We woke up this morning, however, to 30 mph winds! In Juárez, where dust is king, it was almost like a sandstorm at times. When we got over the border to El Paso, the winds got stronger, gusting up to 50 mph. Driving to Walmart was a bit scary, and when we had time to kill at the church and it was quiet enough, you could hear the wind whipping against the building. I’ve never seen or heard anything quite like it!
We went to a restaurant called Cheddar’s for supper; it was pretty good, especially the mashed potatoes. Afterwards we picked up Krispy Kreme (the hot sign was on) for snacks and breakfast, and we had a really neat devotion before we said goodbye to Jason and Amy. We have to leave out at 6:00 local time for our 8:00 flight… I’d better get some sleep!
February 20, 2004, flight home to Atlanta
At last night’s devotion, the youth pastor asked for volunteers to speak up about what God had taught them or spoken to them about this week. Some of the students spoke up about laziness or materialism; some adults talked about their heart for missions. I didn’t speak up because I didn’t know if anyone else would have understood this like I do, but I think the Lord was showing me a thing or two about vision. My nature is to look at the details and tasks in the smaller-scale picture, and it’s harder for me to see the big picture. I believe a project like this helped me to look at things with a broader outlook in mind. That may not be the most profound or life-changing lesson anyone has ever taken away from a trip like this one, but I feel like that’s how I’ve been changed as a result of this trip. Another thing that amazed me — and touched me — was how, in the face of poverty and persecution, people like Eligio and Carmelita, the pastor at Casa de Oración and his wife, live happy, simple lives that seem to be free of stress. I want to be like that.
We’re flying home now. HOME. That was we did — we built a home for this family. I’m impressed by and thankful for the level of teamwork we achieved. These kids (and adults) were great! Thank You Lord for an incredible trip and an immeasurable experience.
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