Lauren Felton shares her experience of traveling to Juarez, Mexico for a mission trip that was conducted by St. Philip Lutheran Church. This trip changed Lauren's view of giving and sharing what God has given.
I Went To Give and They Gave More
At St. Philip's and in my family, I have learned the value of giving to others. From as early as I can remember, I brought offering envelopes to Sunday School, pennies for the birthday bank, change for the globe, gifts for the Angel Tree, and food for the food shelf. But as I got older, I felt the need to give more of myself, to take a step outside of my comfort zone. The mission trip to Mexico was the perfect opportunity to extend myself in a bigger way. Last summer's mission trip to Juarez, Mexico was an awesome experience. I felt close to God in a way that I never have before. The mission trip helped me to realize what it really means to share God's love in the world.
At first, I was reluctant about the trip to Mexico. It interfered with my ideas of how I wanted to spend my summer. I wasn't crazy about the idea of a 34-hour bus ride, and I wasn't sure if I would be comfortable being around so much poverty. I prayed about it, and came to the decision that this trip was something that I needed to do and that it was worth giving up some of the things I wanted to do.
When I reached the work site on the first day, I was struck by the poverty in which these people lived every day. The family used a primitive outhouse that they had dug in the desert sand. The roads were gravel and littered with trash, and the air reeked of garbage and sewage. We would be building a two-room house for a family of five, including their grandmother. It would be smaller than my living room at home. This would be a huge improvement over the home in which they had been living: a makeshift shelter pieced together from discarded pallets and cardboard.
In spite of the meager conditions in which this family lived, I quickly realized that they still had what really matters in life. They had a close, loving family that worked and played together. They had a strong faith that gave them hope when life was difficult. They had a giving spirit, sharing the little that they had with us. It was my interactions with the children, though, that touched my heart and helped me to reach inside and really give of myself. The children laughed with me, played with me, and helped me with the work, and they made me understand how much alike we are, even though we are from different parts of the world. We were able to reach across our cultures and our circumstances and make a human connection. I knew that God's love was present here.
I went to Juarez, Mexico to give of my time and sweat so that a family could have a real home. I believe that in the end, this family gave me so much more than I gave them. I gave them a sturdy house, some rugs for the floor, a Bible. And a little boy, named Mario, is probably still wearing my Abercrombie visor that I gave him. The family gave me an appreciation for another culture and a new understanding of what God has given me in my life. They showed me how gratifying it is to give. During this mission trip, I shared more of myself than I ever expected. I'm grateful to St. Philip's for making it possible for me to have this awesome faith experience.
Lauren Felton is a member of St. Philip Lutheran Church, Fridley, MN.
Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa (ignaciogarcialosa.com) via Flickr. Used by permission.