Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On Mexico

Over the past 5+ years, we've given our high school students the opportunity to join us in San Luis Potosi, Mexico for 2 weeks every other Summer.  The purpose of this trip is to work with a church there for their annual Summer Vacation Bible School.  Each Summer, they outreach into the neighborhood around the church and 300+ show up.  Since 1998, I've been there 9 times, and their ministry has grown.  They now have 3 additional VBS locations in and around San Luis Potosi, and probably minister to close to 450 people over a several week period.  We are blessed to go and be a part of what they do.

We are in the earliest of preparation for next years' trip.  Over the next few weeks, I will be meeting with some of our ministry team members to begin the conversation about the trip.  Here is what we'll be talking about:
  • Why should they go?  
    • they will grow deeply in their walk with God as the serve Him and other people
    • they will see that we are surrounded by a culture of materialism and selfishness
    • they will grow close to one another and the leaders as they serve together
    • they will have the opportunity to put their faith into action in a real, tangible way
  • Who can go?  This trip is for high school students and up.  As in the past, there will be an expectation set for those that are going.  This trip is about service to God and service to other people.  There are times on this trip where those going are outside of their comfort zones.  there will be times when each person on the trip will not get what they want.  They will experience these things when it comes to:
    • the food they eat
    • the cold shower they take
    • the floor that they sleep on
    • the language that they cannot understand
    • the poverty that they will see
    • the closeness of the group
    • the lack of privacy and "down-time"
  • When is the trip?  At this point, their Summer VBS is being scheduled in early-July of 2012.
  • What kind of expectations will we have?  It's important to understand up front that this trip is a privilege.  While any of our high school students may desire to join this trip, it may not be for all of them.  One of the things that we try to do before the trip is prepare those going for the stretching of comfort zones.  We schedule pre-trip meetings to put our students and adults into situations that will be similar to the trip so we can see how we respond and react to one another under stress.  It's our goal to become a bonded group BEFORE the trip so that we can focus our energies on serving others and God.  Students and adults that are not interested in being prepared for the trip will not be allowed to participate.  
  • What will the trip cost?  Our 2010 trip was around $1000 per person.  This included meals, lodging, transportation, everything but spending money.   In 2010, we offered a scholarship of $175, students had to write a book report and write fundraising letters.  Our Spaghetti Dinner/Dessert Auction is an easy way to raise funds for this trip.  
  • What about safety?  This topic is one among many that we cover in our pre-trip sessions.  Safety is why:
    • we tell our students to stay in groups
    • we tell our students to stay where they are if they get separated
    • we tell our students not to draw attention to themselves
    • we tell our students to be aware of their surroundings
    • we tell our students not to buy illegal items 
    • we stay in a secure facility, with locked doors
  • Safety, part 2.  We do our very best to take no unnecessary risks. An unnecessary risk would be allowing students to wander the market alone.  An unnecessary risk would be allowing our students to walk to the corner store without someone from the youth home with them. 
    • On our 2008 trip, we had a student get separated from the rest of the group.  Instead of following instructions and remaining where she was, she went out in search for the group.  This was the worst 45 minutes of both of our lives as we frantically looked for this student.  Thankfully, she was found by another one of our groups.
    • It's why we spend time with those that express interest in going on the trip and reserve the right to deny anyone (whether student, parent or adult) the privilege of attending this trip.  
    • If someone has trouble listening to instructions on a Sunday night, then they will most likely have trouble following instructions in Mexico. 
  • Safety, part 3.  The Mexican government is at war with the drug cartels.  The drug cartels are at war with one another.  Innocent bystanders and civilians have been caught up in this violence.  I neither can, nor will, say with 100% certainty that nothing will happen while we are in Mexico.  As the leaders of the trip, it is important that we share the reality of this trip and we want to partner with you as we plan.  As a parent, it is important that you understand what we are doing and why we are going, as well as have some honest conversation with your students about this trip.  
What's next?
  • In the coming weeks, I will meet with our student ministry team and we will start some long-term planning.  If you would like to be a part of that, please let me know.
  • By mid-November, we will schedule two initial meetings (only attendance at one is necessary) with parents and students to discuss the trip and the process for application.  These meetings will be a great place and time for questions, comments and concerns to be addressed.
In the meantime, please join us in praying for this trip, and the impact on lives that it will have!

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