By Olivia Mancinelli
Two summers ago, I was supposed to be headed back to Haiti with the High School Ministry team. Unfortunately though, around the same time Haiti broke out into a season of political unrest and the Haitian Christian Mission decided that it would be unsafe for our team to come. I was devastated to say the least, I loved Haiti the summer before, and I was ready to share that experience with the rest of the team that I had been bonding with all summer.
Despite my disappointment though, God had a new plan in store for me and some of those high schoolers, and that was to go to Oaxaca, Mexico. Five of the students from the original Haiti team boarded a plane about 3 weeks later, excited about this new adventure.
Oaxaca (wa-ha-ka) is located in the southern mountains of Mexico. It is a beautiful place, with every type of landscape from desert to city, to forest. The people there have a rich history, having been settled in as much as 4,000 years ago. Because of this, there are more than 200 indigenous languages like Mixtec and Zapotec. In the city of Oaxaca, you can find one of the oldest markets in Mexico, historic cathedrals, and remains of Aztec civilization.
There is clearly beauty in Oaxaca, but that doesn’t distract from some of the troubled past that it has faced. There was a time not too long ago that a drug cartel had much power in Oaxaca, and even today there is influence. The agave plant also grows here, which is what the locals use to make cheap alcohol, which is the cause of a lot of alcohol abuse. On top of that, it’s also the 4th poorest state with over 61% of the people living below the poverty line and 23% in extreme poverty. These statistics aren’t the end of the story for Oaxaca though. During my trips there I have met people hungry for Christ. There is hope for tomorrow for Oaxaca, and it’s starting with the kids at the children’s home.
This home takes kids out of the worst situations and introduces them to the most precious and valuable thing they could know - Jesus Christ. At the home volunteers get to bond with the kids, hear their stories, form relationships that can continue far after the trip. For me, I decided to sponsor two sisters, and God has been so faithful to make it possible for me to to write them, pray for them, and visit them. Volunteers get to help with landscapes, caring for the kids, cooking, cleaning, prison ministry, in the school, and more. The biggest ministry though is the relationships built through Christ at the home.
This mission trip is not necessarily easy. You will have fun, but you will also work until your hands blister and your heart will break a million times over for some of the kids you meet. This trip is though, an example of what it looks like to serve God in a global context. God is much bigger than the Tri-Cities, and even bigger than America. He has a heart for Mexico, and a heart for the kids and staff you will be interacting with.
If you have a heart to serve in this context I would first approach the trip in prayer. Go into this trip with a heart that is humble, ready to learn and listen, not one that is fixed on our American version of Christianity. Most importantly though, go in the love of Christ. This trip isn’t one that is meant to be a vacation or about you in anyway, it’s all about loving our family in Christ in Oaxaca in anyway they might need.