I recently came back from a mission trip to Ensenada, Mexico and it was an amazing experience that I will never forget. My twenty-four other team members agree that we have all been changed one way or another (it's true, no matter how cliche this may sound). Before this trip, I was stressed beyond belief about college and senior year, but this trip has changed a lot about my mindset for senior year. (Don't get me wrong though, I'm still very stressed).
For ten days, our team slept on hard, dirt ground with our faces towards the most amazing view of shooting stars in the night sky or the majestic mountains rising in the background. The campsite had a glaring lack of showers so we showered at a local facility twice in ten days, no cellular reception, and lots of scorpions (we wore sneakers and long pants every day in the Mexican heat). Surprisingly, everything still felt comfortable. Comfortable because I learned to depend on my teammates around me and because when everyone smells bad, you kind of get used to it.
Our 2018 Mexico Team from Pennsylvania
The best thing about Mexico is the people. During our week in Baja California, we did construction work at the church with the guidance of our friends from a local rehab center. Some of us mixed cement for a new parking lot, some helped wheel and spread the cement, others painted the walls of the church, and the rest kept the kids company. In the afternoon, we ran a Vacation Bible School for the kids who lived in the slums surrounding our partner church. I bonded with the kids through crafts, games, and song time. Even though I couldn't speak Spanish very well, I was able to create a connection with the children way beyond what I’d ever expected. They will forever have a place in my heart.
Me and some of the older kids posing in front of the wall we painted on our last day
Unexpectedly, while rolling chocolate brown paint on cracked walls of the church, I bonded with Poncho, one of the guys from the men’s rehab center. In my broken Spanish and his broken English, I learned about his many hobbies, his past of struggling with drug addiction, and his hopes and dreams for the future. He painted “Sarah crazy” onto the church walls when I danced around to Footloose and laughed as I splashed paint onto his shirt. He was truly one of kindest guys I have ever met. We became fast friends and he cried on our last day.
Poncho painted "Sarah crazy" on the walls
In Mexico, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulder. With no phone and no access to my life back at home, I was free of the constant worries that plagued me and finally able to live in the moment. All the summer work and college application stuff still piled on my desk at home seeped out of my brain as I created relationships and memories in Mexico.
When I get stressed and overwhelmed, I often retreat into my shell and only focus on myself, but my trip to Mexico altered how I viewed senior year. The people I met in Mexico gave everything to us - their smiles, their stories, their time, their amazing cooking skills - even when they were struggling through abusive relationships or drug addictions. They never complained. In fact, they were willing to give everything when they had nothing and this is a glaring reminder that even when I’m stressed, I am not entitled to making everything about me. As the anxiety of college application season kicks in, I will consciously try to poke my head out of my own little bubble and find ways to pour into the people around me.
The beautiful scenery at our campsite served as a reminder for me to appreciate every little thing.
My other goal for senior year is to also try and appreciate every moment. There will be so many last times for me - last football games, last homecomings, last swim meets, etc. - so I want to make it all worth it. I know that senior year will fly by and by this time of year next year, I'll be shopping for dorm decorations at Bed, Bath, an Beyond. So this is my promise to myself that I will put my phone away more, go to more school functions, talk to more people, and truly live in the present.
Thanks for reading! My name is Sarah Guan and I am excited to be a Student Editor for ChannelCCR. You can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org