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Substandard living conditions don’t discourage ‘cream of crop’ on international mission trip

GUADALAJARA, Jal., Mexico (BP)–By American standards, accommodations were lousy for M-Fuge International campers staying at La Roca in Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico, June 15-22. But that was kind of the point.

Tiny, cramped concrete rooms furnished with prison-like bunk beds, limited water for showers and flushing, precarious electricity and unidentified insects, welcomed the 70 kids from four states who spent their own money to go on a mission trip to Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico.

“Some of my friends wanted to go to (M-Fuge International in) London, but I said, ‘No, let’s go somewhere harder,'” said Andrea Cloninger, a participant from Denver Baptist Church, Denver, N.C.

She said most of the M-Fuge teens realized the Mexicans they reached out to lived those conditions every day of their lives.

“The guy’s dorm or the staff housing didn’t have water this morning,” said Joel Reynolds, M-Fuge International pastor from Birmingham, Ala. “But who needs a shower? We’re going out in the sun all day. Hey, we’re on a mission trip. We’re in another country. This is not like doing M-Fuge in the States.”

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 are being 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, and Amsterdam.

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.

From June 15-22, about 70 kids from churches in South Carolina, North Carolina, New Mexico and Wyoming lived in Camp La Roca, about 20 miles south of central Guadalajara.

Three camps were held in Guadalajara this summer. During the first camp, June 8-15, 114 youth attended, and during the third, June 22-29, 170 participated.

Tiffany Triplett of Jackson, Miss., Guadalajara’s camp director, was among 12 young adults who gave up an entire summer month with no day off to help teens discover what mission work was like in living conditions very different from their homes.

“The kids who come to these camps are generally older, more mature and more committed to their churches,” Triplett said. “But still they come from North American where we think we are a Christian nation with so much to offer. We think we have what it takes to make a difference.”

But money and time are not what it takes to help someone find God, she said.

“In the long run, the people will hopefully find God because these kids are going out and showing them what God’s love is all about,” Triplett said.

They did that by completing such activities as painting, construction, Vacation Bible School, sports and recreation, creative ministries and community projects.

“What we are doing this week is not about what we can do for others. It’s about the blessings and glory of God. Kids and adults, too, think that blessings from God are to make our lives better, but really blessings are about glorifying the name of God. And we think we do that through these helping activities.”

Cindy Ingle, youth leader at Denver Baptist Church, said her church’s youth pastor, Joe Hammiel, described the kids who go on these types of international mission trips as “the cream of the crop.”

“They are more committed and naturally lean toward a relationship with God,” Ingle said. “We’ve got more cream of the crop back home; they just couldn’t come.”

Ingle said her group definitely experienced “culture shock” when they arrived at Camp La Roca where they were to live for a week.

“But they are finding out they don’t have to have so much stuff to be happy. The differences in their attitudes on the day we arrived and the day we leave will probably be completely opposite,” she said. “They are getting a lot of personal growth out of this.”

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 Guadalajaran M-Fuge during June. In addition to the states listed above, they included: 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