NEW PALESTINE — Mission students from Brookville Road Community Church are still trying to process their experiences from a recent eight-day trip to Mazatlan, Mexico, where they built two homes for families in need.
Youth Pastor Paul Romoser and other church members took 38 area youths, who spent time interacting with local residents and learning the type of lessons that will stay with them a lifetime.
“One of the biggest things I noticed is that all the people down there were so happy to see us,” New Palestine High School senior Pete Rusche said. “The area there was dirt, and dusty roads with pretty much shacks everywhere.”
The eye-opening journey was a humbling experience, the teens said. Seeing life in such a different environment from what they are used to made them both thankful and sad.
“Seeing what these people live in compared to what we have here and comparing their normal to our normal was amazing,” Pete said.
While the students didn’t have a whole lot of carpentry experience, that didn’t keep them from working hard and erecting two box-type homes. The structures are considered palace-like for the area where they worked.
“It was pretty cool to see how God worked through our youth group,” NPHS freshman Jordan Shanahan said. “They live near a place down there called the ‘dump’ where they would go and get things to build a home out of. We saw a lot of things like old signs that they would turn around and use for roofs.”
The homes the teens built were made to last, with steel beams to reinforce them. Each of the homes has two rooms, including a kitchen and bedroom.
“We not only built the homes, but we furnished them,” Jordan said.
Church members raised an
estimated $50,000 for the mission trip. Local pastors then worked with a religious group in the area to determine which two families received the homes.
Shanahan’s cousin Cameron Shanahan also made the trip and described it as a fun and eye-opening experience.
“It was a lot of fun just getting to build the house for a particular family and then seeing the kids who were so happy,” he said.
Jordan Shanahan said the trip opened his eyes in ways he could not have imagined.
“I live with my mom, and I used to think we didn’t have that much, but when I went down there, I saw that I am living really well compared to what they were.”
While in Mazatlan the group stayed in an older hotel arranged through YWAM – Youth With A Mission – an international mission movement dedicated to providing young people all over the world with opportunities to serve the Mazatlan, Mexico area.
Each day, the group would take a 20-minute ride to the work area, whose poverty was a stark contrast to the suburban neighborhood where they stayed in the city of about 480,000 people. Mazatlan is on the Pacific Coast, across from the Baja peninsula.
For NPHS freshman Jenni Gish, it was a trip she won’t soon forget. She hopes to make a similar journey again.
“It was breathtaking,” she said. “Just to see the poverty – you just realize how blessed you are.”
After returning home she said the trip made her realize she has a calling to do more mission work.
Grant Gish, a senior at NPHS and Jenni’s brother, took a similar mission trip to Brazil his freshman year, where the goal was slightly different.
“We did more of an interaction English-type thing with the kids there,” he said. “It wasn’t as much hands-on work as we did this time.”
It took the group three days to build the homes. After that, they traveled the area and through a church there they were able to help feed the hungry.
“One of those stops was at the ‘dump’ where people searched the trash, and that is how they made their living,” Pete Rusche said. “It was pretty interesting to see the life-style and how they had to survive.”
What was interesting about the dump site Romoser said was watching the people develop a skill for gathering a specific type of trash that was designated for a specific use.
“One group of workers would rummage through to find broom handles, and another finds crates and another one finds bottles...”
Romoser said they were able to give gloves, hats and other clothing to the workers.
All the teens said they felt called to go on the trip.
“It’s one of those type of experiences that you don’t want to pass up on ever,” Grant Gish said.
Romoser said he’s been on at least nine mission trips during his 30 years as a pastor and said he always see the same thing on the flight home: young teens transformed from a single view of life to a worldwide perspective.
“My goal as a pastor is for the students to leave part of their heart there,” Romoser said. “Our hope is that someday they go back and pick it up... They can see now that the world is larger and the need is larger and that the kingdom of God is larger.”