The very first thing we did as a youth group when the Farra Tribe moved to Texas in 1995 was take a mission trip to Juarez, Mexico…before we even unboxed things in our new apartment. That yearly spring break trip would shape our personality as a youth group and influence who we became as a whole church for over 15 years.
For years, we raised money, stockpiled tools and camping gear, collected donated food, and mobilized teams of kids and adult leaders to make our yearly 1300-mile round trip through west Texas nothingness, to build houses for people living in poverty.
We would load vans and trucks and trailers and buses full of nervous expectations and servant hearts. We would always come back changed people with a different view of ourselves and the world we lived in here in Lewisville. On those trips, we always felt a little closer to what Jesus called his followers to do in the world and a little better prepared to do it at home, also.
Then it all changed.
In March of 2010, we made our last youth group trip to Juarez. That was the year the local drug cartels made open war with each other and travel to Juarez became too risky. Even though things got back to normal in just a few years, Amor Ministries (the organization that always managed our trip) had decided to close down mission trips in that area for good.
I had always hoped we could take kids back to Juarez. A couple of weeks ago, that hope became a reality as we took a small group back to where our life in Texas began 24 years ago. I am grateful to Amor Ministries for making the trip possible…for connecting our youth ministry to the group of Mexican pastors in Juarez who have continued the work of building homes for people in need and to the local church that hosted our group.
The trip was very different than the way we used to do it back in the old days. We stayed inside a nice church building and shared fellowship with some pretty sweet church folks. Gone were the dusty tents and bucket showers and temporary banos. It was anything but roughing it.
The work project was like old times, tho. We raised a bunch of money to pay for building materials and supplies. We cut and hammered and nailed and mixed and rolled and stretched and spread. And in the end, we passed on a set of keys and a Bible and some hope of a better life for a young family and their parents.
The house isn’t much by our standards. It’s an 11-foot by 22-foot, wood framed, stucco coated, asphalt roofed building. Not much bigger than a bedroom or a backyard storage shed here in our burgh. But to the family that received it, the gift is a treasure.
It was good to be back. It was good to get our priorities realigned. It was good to be reminded we have more than enough and that, as a church, we spend way too much money and attention on ourselves, our building, our technology, and our experience…all in the name of kingdom building.
I’m glad we get to go back. We’re better now.