NEW PALESTINE — As his church youth group prayed leading up to a mission trip to Mexico, two words popped into Tyler Horsley’s mind.
When the New Palestine High School freshman headed for Mexico with more than 50 other youth from the church, he wondered what those words might mean.
The group from Brookville Road Community Church spent the first week of Southern Hancock’s spring break in Mazatlan, Mexico, building homes for three families and distributing more than 500 Bibles in the city. In the weeks since, as those who went have gathered for a group night of sharing with their parents and reflected in private, there have been people and moments that continue to make an impression on them.
They remember the joy. Cameron Shanahan said that was a big part of the trip for him — serving people who have so little, materially speaking, and seeing how happy they are.
“It just gives you perspective,” said Shanahan, who turned 17 during the trip.
Gunnar Large, a junior at New Palestine High School, remembers how pleased a family was to receive a house the mission team built through Youth with a Mission’s Homes of Hope program. He describes it as a two-room shed with no bathroom, yet “they were bawling when we were giving them the keys.”
They remember the food. There were whole pig heads with the eyeballs still in at the market. There was the plentiful food a woman made while crews worked on a house: Pizza one day, tacos another, and on the next, a huge pot of soup with a whole chicken stewing inside. Large remembers smelling it from the rooftop as he screwed in pieces of carbon fiber. Horsley remembers that maybe an eighth of what was prepared was actually eaten. The woman’s generosity was striking.
“It was amazing to see how much she was willing to put forth,” Horsley said.
They remember the children. For Jordan Shanahan, Cameron’s cousin, the memory is of the skittish little boy he would hold when a bus passed. For Large, it was the group who gathered as his work group finished its work on a house. With water jugs as makeshift goals, bricks to anchor them, and the American youths and Mexican children largely not understanding each other’s words, a pickup game of soccer ensued nonetheless.
And then there was “the boy.” As his work group finished at its house one day and went to catch up with another crew at its site, they saw a boy of maybe 10 or 11. His mother was calling out about some kind of torment in his head; something didn’t seem right. The group went over and began to pray for him.
For Horsley, who’d describe himself as a quieter guy, to put a hand on the boy’s head and pray out loud in front of his peers for the child was a stretching experience. But it was for him a profound one, too — that he would feel that such a message had been delivered, that he would feel God using him in helping the situation. And just as strong as the boy was the impression he had after that — that the boy was going to be fine.
These are the moments that stay with a group after returning to the United States. They’re often moments that propel them to consider future mission trips; Large, Horsley and the Shanahan cousins all hope to go again someday, whether to Mexico or somewhere else. They’re also moments that shape viewpoints on the here and now, that impress upon people “not taking anything for granted,” as Jordan Shanahan said.
“It’s a good reminder,” said Large. “You gotta do mission work all the time, not just when you go on trips.”