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My Mission Trip This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Learninghappens in a variety of ways, but the lessons I remember best are learned fromexperience. Last spring I had the opportunity to spend a week in Tijuana, Mexicoon a mission trip to build a house for a family. I signed up right away, andthought the pre trip meetings had prepared me. I was wrong.

We left on aSunday morning, right after a Mass where the community blessed our travels. Whenwe arrived in Tijuana, we were taken directly to our campsite. It was a dirt lotwithout running water or flush toilets. These "problems" seemedinsignificant, though, when we arrived the next day at our building site. I soonrealized that the family whose house we were building had a far worse situation.Not only did they not have indoor plumbing, but they were sharing a shack withanother family. Soon we were all ready to work, tired from the previous day, butinspired by the presence of the family.

By the end of the day I was readyto sleep, but I didn't want to leave my new friends - the neighborhood kids.Whether or not you spoke Spanish, these kids were irresistible and totallywilling to help.

We finished the house on the fourth day. To step back andlook at it was amazing. What we built could hardly be called a house, it was justa wood frame covered in chicken wire and stucco topped by plywood and tar paper.Despite its shortcomings by American standards, it was home for our family.

The father thanked us, shaking each of our dried-out, splintered,Band-Aid-covered hands while his wife cried with joy. Few of us had dry eyes,either; I know I didn't. After posing for pictures, we had to go, although Ireally wished we could stay forever.

I cannot speak for the whole group,but that was the best way I could have spent my spring break. I knew this wouldfulfill all my service requirements, and look great on a college application, butI never expected it to teach me so much. I still remember every detail of thetrip, though it was the people who made the trip special. I was so impressed byeveryone I met.

I couldn't understand much of what was said, but it wasundeniably clear that everyone was willing to do anything to get this housebuilt. Even when we were having trouble getting the stucco to stick, theneighbors gave us their bowls to wet the mix again. One neighbor stayed until shewas sure our problem was fixed. It made me smile for days.

I discoveredthe spirit of community from this trip. I was really impressed with howsupportive the community was, and I was also surprised by our own group's senseof community. We were 30 students and adults who may or may not have known eachother very well, but by the end of the trip we had so many memories that saying"Mango van" or "Grandma feet" would make us laughhysterically, recalling the times we shared. It is difficult to have that kind ofrelationship these days, not to mention forming this bond in less than a week.

I enjoyed the trip so much that I signed up for it again. I cannotwait to relive everything and take a refresher course in "community"before I head off to college.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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