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A Week Never To Be Forgotten
By Joan Betsanes

Throughout my life, I have been to Florida, Niagara Falls, and Hawaii. Because I have been to some very beautiful places, some people might ask why my favorite place is a run-down city in Mexico. The answer is that it is not about the sights you see, or how nice the hotels are, but about the people you meet and the things you do.

About a year ago, I was approached with the question “wouldn’t it be cool to go on a missionary trip to Mexico?!” Little did I know that this one simple question would change my life. When it was finally decided that we were going on the trip, I was eager to learn more about what we were going to do there. I found out that our group of ten from St. Luke's Orthodox Church was going to be traveling to Rosarito, Mexico, right outside of Tijuana, and we were going to build a house for a family that had nothing. As the time got closer, we started to learn more details, like the fact that we were going to have rice and beans for every meal, and that we would be staying at an orphanage in a tent. Some of these things seemed like they would be really hard to adjust to.

Once months turned to weeks, and weeks turned to days, I became very nervous about the trip. Everybody who I talked to said “watch out down there, it’s a dangerous place!” As we drove across the border, I was shaking. I had no idea what to expect. Passing through Tijuana, I noticed that some of the houses were huge and very nice, while right next door was a house that was made of two sticks holding up a blanket. On that ride to the orphanage, we all rode in silence, taking in the view, not exactly knowing what to make of it. As we arrived at the orphanage, I was automatically assured that we were safe. The people there took us in as if they had known us forever. When we put up our tent, others who came to build houses introduced themselves to us and began to help us set up. It made me so happy to see that people we had know for just a few minutes were willing to help us set up our home for the week. After we learned about the routine we would be following, and we were placed in our groups, we went to bed prepared for an early wake up.

On the first day of work, we made, mixed, and poured the cement. The next day, we built the walls and put them on the foundation. The next task was putting up the roof and chicken wire. On the last day, we made, mixed, and applied the stucco. Throughout all of this work, Moises, the man whose house we built would go early to his job on the roads, and he would get off early so that he could come to help us build his house. When we were saying our goodbyes to Moises and his wife, Maria Guadalupe, Moises said “thank you.” We use these two simple words several times a day, but his use of them meant so much to me. This was a man who spoke only Kumiai and Spanish. The fact that he had paid enough attention during the week to be able to thank us in our own language was amazing. I will be forever grateful that we have left this man with that impression of us.

This seemed like the conclusion of our trip, but it was far from it. On Sunday, we didn’t go out to the work place, but instead spent the day at the orphanage. This was a great opportunity to meet all of the people who came from all across the United States for this one cause. We also had the chance to interact with the boys who lived at the orphanage. The boys told us how things really were in Mexico. During this trip, we made several friends that we still talk to, despite the distances we live from each other.

The most important lesson that I learned on this trip was that you don’t need very many things to be happy, and sometimes you are happier without them. This mission trip was by far the best thing I have ever done in my life. Sure, it’s not Hawaii or Niagara Falls, but it was the love that was given and received that made this trip so beautiful.

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