Looking Back on our Mexico Trip 2018

We started planning for our Mexico 2018 trip in the summer of 2017. After months of planning and emails and meetings and fund-raising, we were able to make the trip over Spring Break (March 26-30). We flew from Columbus to Phoenix and then drove to Rocky Point, Mexico, to meet our house build family and get to work on their house. In two and a half days we were able to work together with the family and the 1MISSION team to provide a home for Cesar, Carmen and Carlos.

As I think back on the trip, I found myself thinking about people.

CESAR. Even though there was a language barrier (I know barely a handful of Spanish words), we were able to communicate and connect with Cesar. Here was a young man who is a husband, a father of a four-year old and preparing to welcome a son this summer. He was able to express one evening his gratitude to 1MISSION and our team for the opportunity to earn this home. He spoke about his love for his wife and his excitement to have a home after the struggles he and Carmen had in the past. You could just sense his gratitude.

On the first day of the build, Cesar wanted to express his thankfulness to the work team. His job is that he is a vendor, selling fruit bowls and various drinks from a portable stand that he sets up on a street corner in the tourist area of Rocky Point. He made us a coconut beverage that he sells from his stand. It was a refreshing drink that was his way of saying “thanks.”

As we worked together, I saw the care that he was taking in building this house. As we mixed concrete, I saw him pull out large rocks from the gravel and concrete mix. I watched as he examined the walls and made sure there were no nails sticking out. As we put stucco on the exterior I saw him going through and smoothing out spots and adding stucco here and there. While I knew it in my mind, it hit me again: we were building his house; this was his HOME. It was a good reminder to me that to him this was way more than just a mission trip or building project; this was a home for his family.

PEDRO.  When we took our first trip with 1MISSION, Pedro lived at the base camp.  He welcomed us and served as our host.  This time when we arrived, Pedro didn’t live at the base camp.  He and his family live in town so he can devote for of his time to the work of connecting with families and leading a team of 20 who oversee the community development for 1MISSION.

I had a chance to talk with Pedro for a few minutes one morning and found out that he is helping to plant two churches in Rocky Point.  He said that one of the churches had 50 adults in attendance that most recent Sunday along with “a lot of kids.”  He also shared that a high percentage of the families who attend are families who have received homes through 1MISSION.

In Pedro, I see a man who has a heart for the people of Mexico and is giving his life and energy to making a difference.

There is a recent blog post on the 1MISSION site which gives some insight on who Pedro and is and what he does.

OUR TEAM.  The first time we went to Mexico we took a total of 14 and 5 in our group were students.  This year our group number was 20 and 12 in our group were students.  15 of our group had not been to Mexico before and a few had not ever been on a plane.  So, I was mindful of the fact that I had a number of parents who entrusted the care of their student to me to take them to another country and bring them back safely.  Our team did great!

As far as the building of the house, we stayed either on or ahead of schedule through the process.  The students (and the rest of the group) jumped in to do what was needed and kept us on track.

Beyond that our group did a good job of connecting with our build family and the people in the neighborhood.  There were a number of students in the neighborhood and our crew took the time to talk with them, learn their names, play some games with them and have some fun together.  They even got to hold brand new puppies!

We had a great experience and are thankful for the opportunity to go to Mexico and work with 1MISSION.  We also had a number of people support us in various ways and we are truly grateful for that.

Here is a recap video we put together of a number of the pictures we took over the week.  It will give  you a small window into our time at Rocky Point.

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Reason #195 Why We Love Small Groups

Like typical small group leaders our volunteers give time each week to meet with their small groups.  They take time before the small group meeting time to review the questions that will be used during the discussion time.  They show up at ball games and concerts and special occasions.  They send “we missed you” and “praying for you” texts.

They show up and are a consistent presence in the lives of students.

Then, sometimes, our small group leaders go above and beyond.

It’s just another reason why we love small groups.

One of our area high schools was having a Winter Formal Dance.  Students make plans, for the evening: buy tickets, determine what they are going to wear, find a date (if necessary) or arrange details with their group of peers, select a restaurant to eat and, of course, take a number of pictures.

This year some of our small group leaders decided to host our group of students for dinner.  Rather than the students picking a restaurant and making reservations to go out to eat, our small group leaders, in the words of one of our students, created a “homemade 5 star restaurant.”

The leaders met them at the door and took their coats.  They offered them appetizers and a menu.  The students were served beverages while being asked how they would like their steaks prepared.  A tasty meal was served and dessert was provided.  On the way out the door, students were offered a beverage for the road – “Mexican Coke” (Coca Cola served in glass bottles and made with cane sugar) – it’s a favorite of several of our students.

Our small group leaders went the extra mile to create a fun dining experience for our students prior to their arrival at the school dance.

Here’s what a couple of the parents posted on Facebook following the dinner:

“Seeing your son and his friends going to a dance and having their small group leaders offer to make them dinner makes me thankful!”

“Winter Formal. Blessed to have wonderful small group leaders who were willing to provide and serve dinner to this good-looking crew.”

I know that there are countless small group leaders serving in churches all over the globe.

But I think our small group leaders are pretty great!

This is just another reason why we love small groups (and our small group leaders)!

Just Say Thank You

thanksHow many times have parents needed to remind their children of the “magic words” – please and thank you? My wife regularly prompts us to say thank you, whether to a coach, a server at a restaurant or whoever purchased the meal on that day. Not only is it good manners, scientific research is showing there is real benefit in expressing gratitude.

I try to write occasional personal thank you’s to volunteers. Even if someone isn’t being paid for a service, a heart-felt thank you can go a long way.

Dr. Robert Emmons, from the University of California Davis, and his team have done research on the role gratitude. They have learned that people who view life as a gift and consciously acquire an “attitude of gratitude” experience multiple advantages. “Gratitude improves emotional and physical health, and can strengthen relationships and communities.”

In explaining his research, Dr. Emmons wrote, “Scientists are latecomers to the concept of gratitude. Religions and philosophies have long embraced gratitude as an indispensable manifestation of virtue, and an integral component of health, wholeness, and well-being.”

Another great reminder to all of us to just say thank you!

Ode To Youth Pastors…and Volunteers! (a repost)

I subscribe to Mark Batterson’s blog and thought today’s post was good.  I would also make sure to include volunteer youth workers in this as well.  While the “paid guy” is important, that person cannot do it alone.  Without a good team of volunteers, ministry to students is pretty limited.

So, if you are a youth pastor or volunteer, THANK YOU for what you do.  Let this post remind you of the role you play in the lives of students.  Sometimes we need to hear this.

Here’s my ode to youth pastors! And this isn’t really a tribute from a pastor. It’s a tribute from a dad.  I didn’t fully appreciate the role you play in the kingdom until my kids were in your youth group!  If kids are most open to the gospel during their developmental teens years, then youth ministry is the frontlines of the kingdom.  It is where the battle is won or lost.  It is where habits are formed. It is where decisions are made.  Don’t we need our most passionate, most gifted, most Spirit-filled, most loving leaders on the frontlines?

Youth ministry is not a stepping stone to something else. It never was. It never will be.  It is where the action is.  There are kids who are contemplating suicide–they need you to discern it.  There are kids who are struggling with sexual orientation or sexual purity–they need you to speak truth.  There are kids who are trying to decide where they land spiritually–they need you to preach the gospel, live the gospel.

Just so we’re clear: It’s not your job to disciple my kids. That’s my job as a parent.  But I’m so grateful that I have someone to tag-team with.  There are times that my kids need a “third-party” to say what I’ve been saying their entire life.  They won’t hear me, but they might hear you.

So go ahead and dress cool and act cool.  Pull the all-night events and pull crazy stunts.  Laugh with the kids like crazy!  But don’t forget that you are first and foremost a prophet in the life of my child.  That’s what matters.  Don’t cower before a politically-correct culture.  Speak the truth boldly, lovingly, prophetically.  Get in their face. Get in their life.  Challenge them to dream big and pray hard.  They are capable of far more than we can imagine!