Baja Mission Trip: Jeff Brannon

Our family’s trip to the Baja was our first mission trip ever.  Just from hearing other reports through the years, I knew we would come back with an appreciation for things we take for granted in our first world, technology rich country.

I thank our Heavenly Father for the free enterprise system, that our forefathers enacted to propagate such benevolence to other parts of the world that are not blessed with just governments, or means to profit from their own natural resources. Even though these freedoms we enjoy come with tremendous responsibilities to restrain and discipline ourselves from overindulgence, my heart is overwhelmingly grateful for this beautiful land which I have been born into, at no doing of my own.

As well, I am very grateful for the time and energy spent of the many individuals who organized and facilitated this specific event.  It became evident very quickly how much planning and forethought goes in to such a well run event. Thank you so much to each one that played a part! 

This trip has made me recognize the many needs and opportunities that surround me every day to engage in acts of service. I hope I will now be more readily willing to embrace those at our local level, and not keep them reserved for such an event as an organized mission trip. There is much to do, and little time to do it. I hope my inspirational high doesn’t fade into complacency.

My prayer is that I would see the urgency of the primarily spiritual needs that are meeting me at every turn within my little world. May I use this experience as a springboard to be more faithful to the task my Father has set before me.

Baja Mission Trip: Ann Brannon

When our family decided to participate in the 2017 mission trip to Baja Mexico, it seemed very far away and not quite real.  I am in a very busy season of life now with homeschooling, helping with our business and spending time with my grandchildren. Unfortunately, but honestly, I didn’t spend adequate time preparing for this trip by learning a few Spanish words or visualizing what the experience would be like.  I didn’t even pack until a few hours before I went to bed…….only to get up at 1:45 AM to start the process of traveling to Mexico!

About 17 hours later we arrived at “the compound”, our comfortable home for the next week. I, and the other females, spent our mornings loving on the residents of a nursing facility that was home to a few dozen elderly people who were rescued from the streets.

Our afternoons were spent providing a VBS for the children who lived near the new Oasis facility.  I loved both acts of service, but I must admit that a part of my heart remains in Mexico with the elderly.  Although our communication was very limited, I felt that we were able to share the love of God with them as we washed and massaged their old and tired feet and hands that had spent many decades in the fields.  As a lover of massage myself, I knew how good this must feel to them!  I did understand “gracias”, and heard this many times.

In my week there, I never quite got used to the poverty that surrounded us.  Despite the conditions that I had seen in pictures, but never personally witnessed, the people seemed content and happy.  I pray that this experience will teach me to be more thankful for the many blessings that the Lord has bestowed upon me.

Baja Mission Trip: Mallory Brannon

The mission trip to Vicente Guerrero was incredible. My experience with the people who live there and their culture shocked me. No matter the hardships they are facing, you will always find smiles on their faces.

One of my favorite aspects of the trip was working alongside my youth group and family. They showed me how to keep a Godly mindset and teach with a loving spirit. Staying at the compound was great, and they accommodated us so well. Every morning we woke up to hot breakfast, quiet time with God, and then headed out to serve the people who live in Baja.

Our team worked at a nursing home in the morning, which was such a blessing. While all the men did construction work, the ladies spent time with the elderly residents. Washing their feet and painting their nails was humbling. On the last day, they thanked us by fixing us a full meal. Their gratitude for our small amount of service was eye opening. I hope to become more like the people who work there, several of them volunteering hours upon hours every week to devote their lives to these elderly people.

In the afternoon, we would drive to a building to do VBS with varied ages of kids. Our theme was Peter Pan, and I dressed up as Tinker Bell. The children’s happiness was overwhelming. They live in dilapidated houses and walk around on dirt roads, yet they act like they have the world. Three guys came in everyday and sang songs in Spanish for the kids before we divided them into their groups. They loved it and it was honestly the best part of the trip for me. Leaving them was hard.

I was truly humbled by working in Mexico, and I can’t wait to go back to visit the people we built relationships with.

Baja Mission Trip: Landon Wakefield

It is difficult to express my experience in Baja, Mexico because it was unlike anything I have ever done. I am blessed to have gotten this opportunity to share the Lord’s love in the community of Vicente Guerrero. Every step of the way was not easy. At times, I was definitely out of my comfort zone and I believe that it was something that I was called to do.

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In the mornings, we worked in a nursing home. This place has needs, yet they make do of what they have. The people who work/volunteer there have the love of the Lord. We had a conversation with a 28 year old woman who has been there since she was 20. She volunteers and she told us that this isn’t her job…it is a work of the Lord. We did things there that I never would have imagined doing but I am thankful for the opportunity to bless this community. Washing feet, painting fingernails, and feeding a man who is 106 years old is not something that I can take lightly. These people in Vicente Guerrero do this every single day with smiles on their faces. I was honored to meet and work alongside them.

As far as VBS, it was an absolute blast. These kids have no where near the things that we have in the states, yet they are as happy and content as can be. Jamie and I were in charge of crafts and the kids were so polite and excited that it brought joy to me! Although I don’t speak Spanish, I wanted to give those kids as much love as I could. On the last day, a little girl came up and gave me a huge hug and that meant the world to me.

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I think the main thing that I gained from this trip was the realization that I am so spoiled. It fascinated me that these people in Baja, Mexico were so content and happy. They love their home. Even though the roads are dirt, bumpy and full of trash…even though they don’t have as many pleasures as we have…I saw almost more joy and humbleness in the people and kids. I pray that I along with the rest of the team, glorified God in all that we did and I am blessed beyond measures to serve in this community!

Baja Mission Trip: Natalie Long

This past week I was part of a short-term mission team to Baja, Mexico. This year (my second year visiting Baja) was focused mainly around two aspects: hosting Vacation Bible School, and working on a construction site for a local nursing home.

We were divided into two groups, with one group hosting VBS in the morning and working at the construction site in the afternoon, and the other group doing the opposite. My group, which consisted predominantly of Central Church of Christ members, did construction in the morning. Upon arrival on the first day, however, it was clear that there was not a need for some of us who didn’t feel as comfortable with that kind of work (myself included). Juan, the man that ran the nursing home, took those of us who weren’t needed for construction on a tour of the facilities. It was then that he told us his incredible story; how God had given him dreams of himself preaching in a field of white only for him to discover that the white represented the white hair of the elderly. Juan explained that although the Mexican people were once known for caring for their elders, that trend was disappearing; more and more elderly men and women were being left to fend for themselves in the streets. Everyday Juan rides along the highway looking for homeless elderly people to bring to the safe haven that God has worked through him to create. Upon arrival, sad, angry seniors, weary from hardships and loneliness, are taught the Gospel. The journey to the creation of the nursing home was not an easy one, Juan explained. But every time he prayed for money or land, God provided.

We spent three mornings working with the seniors: soaking and massaging their feet, talking with them, feeding them, and even painting the women’s nails. It was something unlike anything I’d ever experienced. For many of us it may have been outside of our comfort zones, but it was an incredibly humbling and eye-opening experience nonetheless. The kindness and appreciation that the seniors showed us will stay with me forever.

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In the afternoon, my group hosted a VBS at Oasis’s new building (Oasis is the after school children’s program that we worked with last year). Our VBS was Peter Pan themed, and some of us dressed as characters from the movie, with myself portraying the forever youthful protagonist. Three men from Oasis helped us by doing opening and closing songs and translating, and I don’t know what we would have done without them. The other crew leaders and I guided three groups of kids through three stations, including crafts, a Bible lesson, and games. Each day the kids would bring back some of their friends, so by the end of the three days, we had grown significantly in our numbers.

While these were the two major aspects of the trip, they can’t begin to encompass all of the little moments and experiences that made this week as incredible and impactful as it was on all of us. I learned so much about what it means to be a servant and to let God work through me, and I hope to be able to apply everything I’ve learned to my daily life as I return home.

Baja Trip: Mitchell Brannon

    This mission trip to Baja Mexico has been my first mission trip of any kind, and it has definitely given me a new insight into another nationality. Also, it has been a great experience to attempt to share a small piece of Jesus Christ with a people that might not see it everyday! I’ll try and retell a little bit of our activities and some experiences we had from each day.

Sunday – Day 1

Today we were simply getting into a rhythm for the rest of the week. The church there in Vicente Guerrero invited us to their church service and we enjoyed spending that time praising God and listening to the message through our interpreter! After an authentic Mexican meal we drove to the ocean and spent an hour with some children from Oasis Ministries.

Monday – Wednesday

    Brad, who was in charge of all the details, did a great job of making sure we had a well planned schedule! Our first priority was in connection with a home in Baja that cared for elderly people who were found wandering the streets. They were in the process of constructing a wall around their complex, so we helped dig, hammer, and layout rebar for its foundation the three days we were there to help. The plan was to have concrete poured by the end of our time there in Vicante Guerrero. For the rest of our time each afternoon we went to host VBS at Oasis. I was in charge of games for the week, (with the much appreciated help of Jimmy) and had such a great time with all the kids who came. We had 3 stations for VBS: Jamie and Landon did Crafts, Stephanie was in charge of the Bible lesson, and Jimmie and I did the games. It was a new experience not being able to speak directly with the kids, but the 3 translators that came to help were amazing! They were great in dealing with the kids, and had such an awesome spirit about them!

    I was introduced to a workout routine that Brad and a number of us did each morning. It’s called F3, and I was impressed by how intense it was! It was a great time to get closer to some of the other guys, and strengthened our team building.

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    In the mornings we had our quiet time which involved our 1 week study through the book of Esther. It was one of my favorite times that I looked forward to each morning! We talked about our roles within the story, and how we relate to each character in some way or another, whether good or bad. During these quiet times, I really felt the Lord’s presence in my heart, and it gave me lots of encouragement as we went out to serve.

    One thing I would like to throw out there is that I was so overwhelmed by how kind and giving all of the people we came in contact with were! I thought that based on their living conditions and personal circumstances they would be more selfish in a way, but I immediately realized how wrong I was! They were so welcoming and would give us the shirts off their backs if need be. That lifestyle is all they know, and to us Americans it’s below poverty level, but they are content with their possessions, whereas we are never ever satisfied. It was refreshing to see such selflessness, when they had every right to be otherwise. It just goes to show that we did not just travel there to help them, but they gave us something to consider about our personal lives.

    Our departure day went smooth, and we reached San Diego with no real problems. Our last “fun” activity was to eat at an awesome restaurant called Crazee Burgers, where they had exotic meats like camel and ostrich. After one more night away from home, we took our flight back to Charlotte the next morning, and landed around 12:00 AM. I was absolutely exhausted, but was so happy I made the decision to go! I will definitely remember all the great times we had, and am already looking forward to my next mission trip!

Baja Mission Trip

Over the next several days, I will be posting articles written by team members of our 2017 mission trip to Vicente Guerrero, Baja, Mexico.

Our team this year was comprised of 12 people from Spartanburg.  We joined groups from North Carolina, Indiana, Arizona and California to form a team of nearly 60 people.  We all came together to serve Oasis After School Program.

We left Spartanburg on Saturday, July 15th and traveled to Charlotte where we met up with a group from Providence Road Church of Christ.  From there, we flew to San Diego, California and drove vans down to Vicente Guerrero.  We met up with the other groups at different points along the way.

We served in Vicente Guerrero in a number of different ways that you will get to read about from our team members over the next week or so.  We then began our trip back on Thursday, July 20th.  We finally arrived home in Spartanburg around 2am on July 22nd.

I hope as you read these posts that you will see the great work that is being done down there.  We met so many beautiful people and were inspired by the work that’s being done down there.  God truly blessed our trip in every way and we hope to continue in his mission back home with more passion, wisdom and love because of our experience in Baja.

Baja Mission Trip: Summary

Written by James Drake

Baja Mission: Construction

While in Vicente Guerrero, Mexico, I (James Drake) had the opportunity to assist in the construction of the New Beginnings women’s shelter.  Typically I work with software architecture, but for this job I had to trade in my laptop for some more basic tools; a pick axe and sledge hammer.

Typical Day:

I like to start my day with a nice hot shower, but they were in the middle of a water shortage so I had to settle for a quick sprinkle. I was impressed with their ‘solar powered water heater’ (about 100’ of black garden hose coiled on the roof).  It worked, if you were one of the first to shower.

7:30-8:00 am – Quiet Time.

8:00 am – Breakfast

I was a little concerned about what we’d have to eat, so I brought enough snacks to tide me over.  After the first breakfast I was more concerned about how much weight I was likely to gain.  It was so awesome I took a picture of it.

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It tasted every bit as good as it looks.

To conserve water we used two tubs of water (soapy and rinse) to wash the dishes. Everybody had a chance to wash, rinse, or dry.

8:45 am – Depart for Jobsite

Our youth would spend the morning with the local youth and join the construction crew at lunch. The construction crew went directly to the building site.

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James P. is an engineer who would normally be directing a crew of over 500 building roads and bridges in southern California.  Here he was setting forms for a sand filter, and I was assisting him.  We had a great time working together. Typical banter:

James P. – “I don’t have the tools here that I would normally use.”

Shyenne – “What tools would you use?”

Me – “Other people.”

The first day I wore a ball cap to protect my dome from the sun.  Not good enough.  The next day we stopped at a roadside stand and I bought a ‘straw’ hat with a brim as wide as my shoulders.  $5 well spent (actually it was $4.50 after a little bartering).

12:00 – Lunch

All the beef and chicken enchiladas you could possibly want, dwarfed by a chocolate brownie that was the size of a brick. The ladies from the shelter helped with the meal, so this was my opportunity to do what I really came to Mexico to do: hold Mexican babies.

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12:30 ~ 4:30 pm – Back to Work

Sadly I had to give her back to her mother and return to the worksite.

Some of the youth would join us after lunch. They were a great help moving boards and shoveling dirt so we sped through the work. James P. was a great mentor, so it wasn’t long before we had multiple crews working. On Wednesday afternoon we simultaneously ran out of wood and time.

Evenings – Dinner / Group Activities / Devo

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After work everybody got back together for dinner, activities with the local youth, and an evening devotional. Typically I crawled into my bunk around 10:30, and I never had trouble going to sleep.

Why us (US)?

There is no lack of local construction labor, so why were we there?

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The architect (he’s the one with the white beard) is Canadian, and he explained our purpose there.

The facility is being built to US and Canadian standards, and it is incorporating energy and water conservation techniques that are not common in Mexico.  It is intended to be a model facility to demonstrate to the Mexican government both how a women’s shelter can be operated and how conservation can be built into the design.

For example, most local toilets just empty into a covered pit in the ground (which is why they can’t flush toilet paper). This facility not only has a septic tank, it will also have a sand filter (which is what I was working on) so the runoff from the septic tank can be filtered and used to irrigate a grove of fruit trees using subsurface irrigation piping.  To accomplish this we used a laser transit so that our entire 24’ by 80’ foundation had a less than ¼” variation in height. Typically the local construction crews would have ‘eye-balled’ the foundation (the original grade looked good, but there turned out to be over a foot difference from one corner to the other, so we had to call in a back-hoe and I got some practice swinging a pick axe).

On the other hand, the local crews are excellent at laying cinder block so that part of the effort will be hired out locally.  In order to foster good relations with the local people they intend to farm out as much work like that as they can.

Postscript

I enjoyed the work (manual labor can be a great break from endless typing at a keyboard) and the camaraderie and I felt that I had at least made some small contribution to a greater effort.

Like JD, I had spent the previous week at PBC (this year I graduated from counter service to dishwasher!).  I had the opportunity to meet with people that have a vision to make the world a better place, and with others that were just there to mop floors or do whatever other menial service was required. I’m more the latter type. I came to serve as best I could, but in the end I was left with the feeling that I was the one that benefited most from the experience.

James

 

Baja Mission Trip: Day 6

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Anna Caroline Trigg

On Thursday morning, we woke up earlier than any of the other days in order to pack, put away all of the sleeping bags that had been provided to us, and clean up the compound. This included sweeping out the sleeping rooms, cleaning the bathrooms, and washing all the dishes and cleaning the kitchen. Our purpose for getting up so early was finishing cleaning in time to have breakfast as soon as it arrived and get on the road to Ensenada. Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication and our breakfast arrived an hour later than we were expecting… As tired as we were, we made the most of our last hour there with conversation and card games and left the compound looking spotless!

After our breakfast, we hit the road to Ensenada! Ensenada is a pretty big city that has a very tourist-y section for shopping and eating. Cruise ships even stop at the port. We had about 3 hours to shop and eat lunch and buy any souvenirs we may have wanted to get. This is something I’ve done on each of my Baja trips and I really love Ensenada!

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The border was our next stop. We waited in stop-and-go traffic for quite some time, trying not to make eye contact with the people coming right up to our windows trying to sell us last minute Mexico souvenirs (although Tori took someone up on an offer…) At this point, we were expecting the worst- a super long border crossing, having to stop and completely empty the vans, put our suitcases on conveyer belts and maybe have them checked, go through customs, and then reload the vans. But we got right up to the window, the guard checked each of our passports and quickly looked through the back window, and then sent us on our way! We were super thankful for that.

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Less than an hour more, and we were in San Diego. We stayed at a church that doubles as a hostel, so we checked in and dropped off our bags, and then went to get the 3rd best burger in San Diego– Crazee Burger. I would have to say that is was good but not crazee good or anything 🙂 After dinner, we went to the YMCA, where it had been arranged for us to all shower. Our group all joked about how that was ironically the BEST shower we had had in two weeks– way better than camp or the compound’s!

That night was my favorite devotional night of all. We were all so tired, and I was still not feeling well from being sick on Wednesday. I honestly just wanted to go to sleep, but all 30something of us crowded into the girls room and praised God in song. After we sang, Brad said that we would go around the room and all share one thing that God had been teaching us that week. I was worried that people would be shy and wouldn’t want to say anything, or that we would all say the same three things, but of course God was working in everyone. I am still amazed by the ways that the Lord works differently in each person’s heart, even through the same situations. It was so encouraging and exciting to hear the way that God had used this week to grow each person individually, and then how we could then grow with one another through all of our experiences. Our God is so good, and fellowship with people who strive to be more like Christ each day is so sweet.

We all slept WELL that night! We got to sleep in the next morning (Friday) and then we went out to explore San Diego! We split up into four groups with an adult in each group. My group started out with some delicious donuts, and then we went down to the bay. I got in a group with my new friend Brittney from Nashville. She’s starting college this year, and we got to talking and are now bffs. After the bay, we tried to go to a shopping plaza, ended up in an art gallery, and then finally made it to the shopping place and walked around for a while. We also got some lemonade and food from some international food stands in one of the squares. Unfortunately, it was at this point that we realized that we had walked much farther than we had realized, and that we were going to need to book it to get back to the group by our meeting time. Long story short, my group very briefly saw a lot of the city 🙂

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Finally, we were at the airport and we had to say goodbye to our Nashville friends. We got on our flight, had a short layover in Chicago, then flew into Charlotte. There we had to hug our Providence Road friends goodbye, and then we were only a short hour and 15 minute drive from home (or well, the church…) We were a little slap happy tired by then, and made the most of all the travels. I got home around 3 in the morning, and was so happy to be in my own bed! As many early morning and late nights we had traveling, Baja was such a great trip. As a member of the team, I loved getting to know our Mexican brothers and sisters and loving on some sweet kids. As a believer, I am so thankful for the grace and patience of God in the way that He teaches us over and over and faithfully pursues us. As an intern, I was so proud watching our teenagers step out of their comfort zones, push through some exhaustion, and really give their all to serving and growing this week. I’m such a proud Momtern.

Baja Mission Trip: Day 5

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Shyenne Gee

To start things off Mexico has definitely been yet another life changing experience for me. I’ve made many new relationships with people that will last a lifetime.

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For instance, today we did a field day type thing for all the neighborhood children. It was hosted by Globo Gym which is a Christ based organization. It was a blessing being able to play and watch kids do the games and just see the smiles on their faces. You could really tell that most of those kids really need a fun day like that.

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As most people know I am a HUGE baby person so for most of the time I bounced a 4 month old baby around named Levi. As I’m holding this precious baby in my arms I realized that missionary work is what God really wants me to do and I was blessed to have that placed in my heart. I can honestly say that despite the sickness and being with each other for almost two straight weeks as a youth group we stuck together, had fun together, and changed lives together.

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