Experiencia Mexicana for Orcas Christian School

Here I am, the day before our missionary students and teachers return to the San Juan Islands and to Orcas Christian School.

The trip has been amazing! We are proud of the students and how they’ve soaked up the culture, devoted their energies to the service projects and, yes, even kept up with math, science and English. (It’s been great fun integrating our mission experience into the curriculum—nature walks, nightly journaling, geography, etc.)

I've heard we remember moments, not days. This has to be true as I mull over mental snapshots of our adventure: rough-riding over rut-ridden roads through Uruapan, Baja California; the sun smiling through the window and browning our arms; the girls singing Spanish songs at the top of their lungs and the boys making fun of them; sweaty bodies clad in dirty, paint-speckled T-shirts and jeans sandwiched next to each other; all of us on our way to soak and scrub off in rustic, shack-style baths consisting of scratched-up old cast-iron claw-foot tubs fed by hot natural springs mineral water while Mexican women scrub clothes outside. Yeah, we're having fun!

And working hard. During the past week, we’ve built a 12-by-16-foot house for the local Adventist pastor and his family of seven (an upgrade from their current 10-by-10 tar-paper and cardboard box-like space). We’ve scraped, painted, tarred and repainted the roof and ceiling of the local clinic so the regional doctor would actually use it. We’ve also painted 14 toilet and shower rooms in Bethesda Mission where we’re staying—now future mission groups will have it even better than we did. All this while the students sang, danced, cheered and prayed their way through each challenge.

On Sabbath we put our Spanish to work by singing “Alma Misionera” (“Missionary Spirit”) for special music; on Sunday we went to the markets and beach. Today we visited Gabriel’s House, an orphanage for handicapped and mentally challenged children and abandoned AIDS babies. We gave them much-needed supplies, played with them, fed them, spoke tender words in broken Spanish and hugged them. They loved us back instantly and cried when we had to leave.

Last night as 13 students and four teachers crowded around the table to write and share journal entries one last time, the impact became clear.

“They have so little but are so happy; it’s crazy to think of how much Americans have and yet how unhappy we are,” wrote Caleb.

“You can only be really happy when you’re helping someone else,” wrote Eli.

They’re both right.

Tomorrow we’ll finally glide into the Orcas Island ferry landing. We won’t be the same students and teachers who left on March 9. We’ve experienced poverty and peace, struggling and celebration, confusion and clarity, challenges, thrills and God. We’ve learned that when we make another’s life better we’re helping ourselves even more.

July 01, 2004 / Washington Conference