Spreading God’s word by serving others
Local church group builds home, ministers in Mexico.
With reports of drug-related homicides and kidnappings in Mexican border towns, several local Evangelical Free Church members wondered about safety before a two-week mission trip to Tijuana and Los Angeles, CA.
Polly Ackerman, an adult on the trip, said she thought Tijuana was a dangerous place and was discouraged from traveling there by some friends and family.
Sophomore Stefen Ostergard said he expected to see “shooting all around.”
Upon their arrival and stay in the city across the border from San Diego, they realized their fears were unfounded.
“We felt safer in Tijuana than we did in Los Angeles,” said Gothenburg High School junior Jon Rehmert.
The 43-member group, that included church members from Trenton and Laramie, WY, left Gothenburg on May 29 in a chartered bus and returned June 12 after spending time in Mexico and helping at homeless shelters in Los Angeles.
More than safety, however, was the life-changing experience they encountered.
“I feel like I crave God,” said junior Danielle Shriver. “I don’t want to sit around, I want to help people.”
Shriver said the experience helped her look at her own selfishness.
“Now I want to share more and not think about myself because in Mexico, people would have shared,” she said.
Although the Tijuanans the group met didn’t have much, Rehmert said they were always willing to give away what little they had.
In Tijuana, the group built a home, helped at an orphanage and visited a hospice house, nursing home and shelter for victims of domestic abuse where they took food and toiletries and worshipped, prayed and ministered with the people.
“Our mission was to serve God’s people which we did in a various ways,” Ackerman said.
They stayed at a youth hostel in Tijuana operated by a man who started the orphanage they visited.
At the orphanage, the group played with the children, cleared away rubble from a site where a new dorm could be built and did some painting.
While building a home for a family, church members worked 12-hour shifts for three days.
Ackerman said the family who received the home felt blessed with the finished product.
“They had a roof over their heads and didn’t care how good it looked,” Ackerman said.
The father and mother who received the home helped build it while church youth were carpenters and playmates for the couple’s children aged 2, 4 and 6.
For Ostergard, the highlight of the trip was when the father of the home they built accepted Christ.
Shriver said it was connecting with people while Rehmert said it was meeting a homeless woman with three children who prayed with him.
On the trip, Ackerman said they were told the Mexicans were high relationship, low-task people which was what she found to be true.
Rehmert likened that observation to the Bible story about Mary and Martha, two sisters who loved Jesus.
However Martha, who was task-oriented, became upset with Mary who spent time with Jesus and anointing his feet with expensive oil.
“People in the United States are a lot like Martha while people in Mexico are like Mary,” he said.
A highlight for Ackerman was watching her own and the group’s relationship with Christ evolve.
“I saw God working through people on our team as they discipled to others,” she said. “I want that close relationship with Christ to continue.”
Interestingly, culture shock happened in Los Angeles in the United States—not Tijuana.
“It was really different how people acted,” he said.
Shriver said many more people were living on the streets, than what she observed in Tijuana, and used roadways as bathrooms.
“It was gross and dangerous,” she said.
Ackerman said she learned that 5,500 people in downtown Los Angeles are homeless, many who are too prideful to expose their family flaws and character defects.
Preparing and serving food in homeless shelters there was an experience, the youths said, noting that some recipients were ungrateful while others complained about the food—a contrast to the gratefulness of the people they helped in Mexico.
Rehmert said he felt safer in Tijuana than in the City of Angels.
The trip was through Table in the Wilderness, an organization based in Laramie. It was led by Gothenburg High School graduate Dan Wahlgren.
After the youth in the church decided they wanted to experience a mission trip, they contacted Wahlgren who gave a presentation about previous mission trips.
Two days of training, discussion and Biblical teaching then followed.
All of the participants interviewed said the trip encouraged them to do more mission work.