At Riv, we strongly encourage everyone to “Go”—to serve and tell others about Jesus. Each year we send a number of groups down to Mexico to work with Back2Back Ministries and help care for orphans. This is Angela’s story.
I’m a military wife of 17 years and a mother of two teenage boys (ages 15 and 13). At Riv I’m on the Welcome Team, and serve as meals team coordinator and second Sunday meal team lead. I work for two non-profits: Eaton County United Way (office manager/finance) and Eaton Clothing & Furniture Center (manager).
From July 26-August 1, I went on my fourth mission trip to Mexico with Riv (my third time going to Mazatlan). I didn’t plan on going this year, but in November 2013, when Becca, Rodo, and Gabo from Back2Back came to Riv, I knew within minutes of talking with Becca about my new sponsor child that lives in Floreser that I would be going back. Something about Mazatlan just has me going back year after year. “My kid” (sponsor child) is there, and I know many of the other kids by name. I just want see them and see how they have grown and progressed, be it a child who couldn’t walk but can now walk, a child who wouldn’t interact with others but is now sociable, or a child who had left one the homes and has come back. The kids and staff in Mazatlan have a piece of my heart.
Matt Metzger (Back2Back staff), Salvation Army’s go-to person or captain, said he loves when “repeat offenders” come year after year or even every other year. The “ROs” take ownership of what they have worked on during each trip, from knowing where they dug a hole one year, made footers another year, and poured concrete another year. It’s a process that takes time, but it’s amazing to see a wall that was being started on one trip to then come back to see it completely finished the next. God uses those that go and serve on short-term missions in some spectacular ways. Matt also said he finds it interesting that Riv always manages to send teams in the summer when it is ridiculously humid and hot in MazatHOT, but sometimes has to cancel a trip in what would be the ideal months to leave Michigan’s coldness behind for warmer, but not hot temps. No matter when Riv does send a group he loves working with us.
On my first mission trip to Monterrey, I helped work on the cement/concrete crew one of the work days. Since then, I’ve been hooked. Every trip since I get excited when anyone mentions that there will be cement/concrete work that needs to be done. Each trip I have branched out a little and done different things but cement/concrete makes me happy. On this trip I learned how to do stucco and dig holes with a post hole digger. I was still on the cement/concrete crew at Salvation Army, so I was excited.
Before leaving on this year’s trip, I didn’t really have any expectations. I just hoped that I could spend more time with my sponsor child than I did the previous year. Last year we didn’t have a work day at Floreser so I was only able to spend a few hours with my sponsor child during the field trip. This year I have a new sponsor child due to my original child leaving the home. It was good to go with no expectations and just be open to whatever God has planned.
This trip was by far was the best mission trip I have gone on with Riv. All the trips have been great, but this one had something extra. God was working in/on me many ways during this trip. During our small group time, I opened up about things that nobody knew about me other than God. Clearly I needed to get some things off of my heart to allow healing to begin. Our entire group didn’t hold back; we put our muck boots on and just jumped in. Being away from my over-scheduled, need-to-be-on-the-go-every-minute life was wonderful. I was forced to live in community with others and that was exactly what I needed. I can’t do life and grow spiritually on my own. Once I returned home I had to make some tough choices on what was more beneficial for me, my family and our growth.
I did get to spend time with my sponsor child Xochil, who turned 17 on September 1st. Our last work day we spent a half day at Floreser. We played Jenga with the girls before they had to leave. It was great to see Xochil’s face light up when I listed off her favorite musical artist. I’m going to assume it was because at least for that moment she had one person that cared enough to remember what she liked and it made her feel special. At least that is my hope. After Jenga and chatting with the girls, the group went on the roof to apply sealant so the rain water wouldn’t come through. Then on Thursday our field trip day was spent bowling and doing a scavenger hunt in the mall with the girls from Floreser. Xochil was on my scavenger hunt team and we came in first. It was fun to see that she has a competitive side that equally matches mine.
Riv’s motto is GO, SERVE, and GROW. By going on a short-term mission trip to Mazatlan, you accomplish all three in one shot. You go to another country, you serve by doing work projects and spending time with the kids, and you grow more than you can imagine. Initially you may go thinking you are going to do a little work and play with some kids and hopefully make a difference in their lives. Those things will happen, but it’s more. You are the one that will get more out of it than anything. I’m not sure if I will make it back in 2015, but now my oldest wants to go. Hopefully there will be a trip date that work for him.
In November there is a ladies only group going to Mazatlan. I would encourage those ladies who don’t like the heat and humidity or aren’t into doing “construction” type work to sign up and go on the ladies only trip. On this trip you will be going around decorating the different homes for Christmas and spending more one-on-one time with the kids doing crafts, baking cookies and other fun stuff. For anyone else considering going to Mazatlan, take a step out in faith and just GO. The rest will follow.
Want to GO with us? Learn more about our Mexico trips and apply online.
All photos provided by Angela Brooks-Andry