When I was 11 (or was I just 10?) I went on my first mission trip. It was my first time on an airplane. My first time south of Ohio. The trip was for high schoolers but my mom volunteered with the youth group and was going, so I got to go too. Back then you didn’t need a passport to enter Mexico. Can you imagine? This was before 9/11. Can you imagine? I’m old enough to have traveled to Mexico before 9/11.
We flew to Texas and then drove to Mexico. At least we must’ve. I don’t remember the trip, but I do remember that the love of my young life was supposed to go on the trip as the only other middle schooler. Unfortunately, just before the trip, his mother’s inappropriate relationship with a high school boy at the church was exposed Boo. There was something about a letter and sexual advances… I don’t think anything actually happened between his mom and the teenage boy, but the result was my biggest crush’s family and the teenage boy’s family both left the church. All it meant to me was that I did NOT get to spend a week in Mexico with the hottest guy I knew. Boo.
At the border it was discovered that my mom’s birth certificate was not official, not valid enough to gain her access to Mexico. The missionary/translator who was helping us move through customs told my mom to look for anything official in her purse. He told the customs man that she was looking for her paperwork. She ended up getting into Mexico with our cat’s vaccination records.
I remember snapshots from the trip. I remember the legs of our bunk beds were in bowls of water so that bugs couldn’t crawl up into our beds. I cried on the first night and my mom shared (then or later?) that she was worried she made a huge mistake taking me to a foreign country. It wasn’t a mistake. I was fine.
I was wearing a red and white sleeveless dress. It was hot and humid. I was given a tract (“Jesus lives! You’re a sinner! Repent today!” …only in Spanish) and taught the word “regalo” (gift). I walked up to a house (surely not alone) and knocked on the door. I remember cartoons playing on the TV. “Regalo,” I said, handing the tract to the woman.
One of the high schoolers (they seemed so old!) fell off the side of a mountain while on a walk (surely not alone) in the dark. She took a wrong step and took a tumble. She was fine – just scratched up and shaken.
There was one big drain in the middle of the bathroom. One night after my shower I couldn’t find my glasses. We looked “everywhere” and figured they might have fallen down the drain. A nice Mexican man reached his arm into that drain to try to feel for my glasses. I found them in my bed. I probably cried.
We took more showers than we were anticipating, because of all of the humidity and the sweating. My mom and I washed our underwear in the bathroom because we did not pack enough for two showers a day. I can picture my underwear hanging up in the bathroom to dry. (Did it ever?)
I remember going out to eat one night. I think I was wearing my red and white dress again. We went into town. There were people everywhere and lots of music. I remember a dirty little girl coming up to the group of Americans and asking for pesos. Someone nudged me and pointed to the little girl’s hand hidden behind her back, full of pesos. I was scared of all of the new and different.
I remember sitting in the house of a Mexican family, talking and playing with their toddler. I remember my mom coming to get me. It was time for me to take a shower before bed. I needed to take a shower. I was sweaty and smelly. I didn’t want to leave. I felt so comfortable in this home with this family. That was the first time I remember hearing God’s voice speak clearly to me. “This is what I have for you.”
I wouldn’t remember this, but my grandma remembered for me – I had two reversible dresses (remember reversible clothing?) that my mom had bought me specifically for this trip. There was a Mexican woman who was somehow part of our mission (I have no memory of what we actually did besides passing out tracts). I don’t remember her name but I remember that she had a son (or grandson?) named Sammy who was about 2. I tried to convince my mom to let her and Sammy come home with us. When my mom turned down my plan, I left my two reversible dresses with the woman. My grandma reminded me of this story just this past Christmas, nearly two decades later. It’s interesting the things people remember about us.