It's hard to wrap up a week like this in a few blog posts. It's been challenging, strengthening, painful, hard, joyful and silly all at the same time.
On our last night in Juarez, we sat in the church and sang "Desert Song" and "Mighty to Save" in the kitchen. With all 37 voices in one small room, the sound filled every part of the church up to the rafters. (It was awesome!) Afterwards, Mitch opened it up for people to talk about what parts of the trip that stood out to them and this is what they said:
Nate talked about how the communication barriers that we faced with our families didn't really matter. While he wishes he had paid more attention in high school Spanish (that was a pretty common theme that night), he realized that you don't need to know the same language to make an impact in someone else's life.
Emma mentioned how Maria, the younger mom we built for, was always smiling. Even though her situation is hard and they have very little (her husband makes $100 a week to support their family of 6), she was always happy and smiling.
Brandon had never been out of Michigan and the biggest part of the trip for him was seeing the actual homes that these families live in. It's so easy to hear about the tragic conditions and not really care, but when you actually see it and can put names to faces and ages to children, it starts to sink in a little bit more and you start to pay attention. Brett agreed and said that seeing faces make a bigger impact than just hearing the statistics.
Jim, who was adamant up until 2 weeks before that he was not going to Mexico, challenged everyone to not just leave mission trip mode once we got back to Big Rapids, but to continue in it 24/7/365. We went down to Juarez to not just build a family a house, but to show them Christ's love. Students aren't just here to go to classes, they are here to spread the love of Christ on campus.
Casey, a senior from FSU, talked about her first trip when everyone on the way home was asking her if she was going to come back. Outwardly, she was saying "Oh, maybe. I'll think about it", while inwardly her thoughts were "Heck yeah I'm coming back!" This trip was her 3rd time to Juarez and she continued to go every year because she loves the chance to make a difference in other people's lives.
Cassie S. was another student who had a lot of excuses for why she wasn't going to Mexico, but as each one got shot down, she realized that she really didn't have a reason to not go. Her final excuse was that her parents wouldn't be excited about the idea, but they were (hehehe). So, Cassie came on the trip and by Wednesday night could say that it was the best spring break she's ever had.
Hannah also had a lot of excuses (are you noticing a theme here?) as its her last spring break before she's getting married and it was a week she could have spent with her fiance. On the trip though, she realized that God needed to be her first love and that the trip was a chance for her to put God in that rightful place again.
Kelsey, a freshman on her first trip, said that while she was working on the houses, she was able to see and learn from the go-getter students and found role models that she can learn from not only on a work site but here on campus. She told me last night that she's excited to come back again.
Lauren P. (the fantastic photographer) told all of us about how her heart had been broken by the lack of communication we had with the family. We built them a house, but what difference does that make in eternity? This trip made her realize how much our efforts depend on God to move on the hearts of the families that we build for. We have no idea what God is doing in Maria and Martha's and their children and husband's hearts even now, but it's not our place to worry about that. God has it all under control.
Our hope and our prayer has been that our students would be challenged and encouraged to grow in their relationships with God and those around them. That they would be forced to be open and vulnerable to what God wanted to teach them through this experience.
We will probably never know what happens to Maria and Martha, Vincente, Leslie and Evangeline and all of the others. But we do know that we were able to make a difference in their lives and our prayer for them now is that they will be able to make a difference for good in their neighborhood, their city and their country.
Thank you for all of your prayers, your encouragement and your support as we journeyed. It was really cool to see how many people had read the blog each day and be able to share the daily experiences with you. We're glad to be home with you, but we're already looking forward to returning next year to a city that will not be forgotten.