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Kids on international mission trip learn there’s more to life than wealth

GUADALAJARA, Jal., Mexico (BP)–Despite the sweat, grime and heat they encountered while doing mission work in Guadalajara, about 70 teens from four U.S. states left Mexico feeling blessed and just a little guilty about the extravagances they enjoy in the United States.

“It’s like a blessing to me to be helping them,” said George Ferguson, a teen from Anderson Mill Road Baptist Church, Spartanburg, S.C. “I could have gone to the beach this week, but I chose to come here. It’s rewarding to know that instead of doing what could have been more fun, I came and did what is actually going to do a lot more for me in the long run.”

Co-sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention and the SBC International Mission Board, M-Fuge International is a weeklong camp for youth, grades 10 through college. M-Fuge International events were held this summer in Wales, Venezuela, England, France and Mexico. Next year they will be held in five cities in Wales, Guadalajara, Mexico; Santa Cruz, Bolivia; Kingston, Canada; and possibly Paris, France, and Amsterdam.

“The camps give kids a taste of missions in other countries and helped them know whether they want to become a bigger part of missions in the future,” said Rick Jenkins, IMB strategy coordinator for Western Mexico, who helped arrange the events.

The camps are designed to challenge youth to a new and deeper relationship with Christ and incorporate a teenager’s need for activity, fellowship and spiritual growth with their desire to learn, said Mark Robbins, M-Fuge International coordinator for LifeWay. The Bible study curriculum is built around activities and games, resulting in stronger group relationships and a better application of spiritual truths, he added.

Kids from churches in South Carolina, North Carolina, New Mexico and Wyoming lived from June 15-22 in Camp La Roca, about 20 miles south of central Guadalajara. Mission activities included: painting, construction, Vacation Bible School, sports and recreation, creative ministries and community projects.

Ferguson, who spent his week in Guadalajara painting walls at Iglesia Bautista Filadelfia, said even his grungy living quarters gave him a better perspective on how many of the poorer people in Mexico live.

“The dorms are not the nicest places to live ever, but thy are tolerable,” Ferguson said. “You get used it, and it helps you realize more how the Mexican people live here. Now I see how they live every day, and they don’t get to go home to their big nice houses and cars.”

Lisa Schroeder, Allison Hansen and Samantha Swaney of North Cheyenne Baptist Church, Cheyenne, Wyo., spent time with children in a small village near Iglesia Bautista Lirio de los Valles (Lily of the Valley Baptist Church) making crafts, performing skits and puppetry and singing songs in Spanish and English.

“It was great. I had so much fun. I got to play with little kids all day, and I usually don’t like that,” Schroeder said. “It was really neat to see how open and sweet the people were. And it was a really cool blessing to share a message across a language barrier like that because I speak, like, three words of Spanish.”

Hansen said the children “would get excited over practically nothing, like puppets, little puppets! We gave them necklaces with the Christian fish. It was interesting to realize that people who aren’t as fortunate as we are can be so happy with not as many things.”

Swaney said she believes she will be changed by the fact that the Mexicans “just don’t care as much about material things. I realize how fortunate we are, and I think that will change me.”

Hansen added: “And that’s the way we should be. I think I’ll be more appreciative of what I have now.”

Jarod Caranta, a youth from First Baptist Church, Farmington, N.M., said the way he acquired the money for his trip convinced him God wanted him to go to Guadalajara. The week before he left on the trip, Caranta had only raised $400 of the $950 he needed to go.

“So I started praying, I mean, I got down on my knees and said, ‘God, I need some help. You know I really want to go.'”

Within a week, Caranta learned his church was giving him $250 raised during a golf tournament; and he made the rest moving furniture.

“Of course I feel God was bringing me here, and it’s been worth it,” Caranta said.

Caranta, who is working light construction at Iglesia Bautista Lirio de los Valles, said he enjoyed the relationships the trip provided with the Hispanic people.

“We had this guy named Manuel at our site today, and we’d start working, and he would come up and want to join in. He was a neat guy. It made me feel cool and good. I was blessed to even come here because I didn’t have the money.”

Kathy Peterson, an adult leader from Freedom Baptist Church, Wilmington, N.C., said the mission trip to Mexico “has been a real awakening for me.”

Peterson, who was helping paint Filadelfia Baptist Church, said seeing the conditions of the Mexican churches, with their bare floors, broken windows, cracked walls and few, if any, pews made her realize how lucky she was — “even in my own church.”

“Just the differences in aesthetics; my church has carpeting, wallpaper, air conditioning and bathrooms . . . . I just never realized people lived so differently. This is a humbling experience.”

George Ferguson said he hopes the people of Filadelfia Baptist Church will always remember the group who came to help them fix up their worship space.

“I hope they will remember us because I know I will remember them for the rest of my life.”

Churches involved in the camp June 15-22 included: Anderson Mill Road Baptist Church, Spartanburg, S.C.; Spring Valley Baptist Church, Columbia, S.C.; Denver Baptist Church, Denver, N.C.; Freedom Baptist Church, Wilmington, N.C.; First Baptist Church, Farmington, N.M.; and North Cheyenne Baptist Church, Cheyenne, Wyo.

Churches from 13 states took part in the three M-Fuge camps held in Guadalajaran M-Fuge during June. During the first camp, June 8-15, 114 youth attended, and during the third, June 22-29, 170 participated. In addition to the states listed above, others are: Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Arizona, Mississippi, Virginia, California, Washington and Georgia.

For more information about M-Fuge International, visit the LifeWay site: http://www.lifeway.com/fuge/ls_mfuge_intl.asp.

    About the Author

  • Terri Lackey