High Peak Staff’s Mission Trip to Juarez a ‘Life Changer’

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by Captain Carla Lafayette – 

Our High Peak Camp staff members were handed five days of unscheduled time during their midsummer camp break. The options were: cool streams, gentle breezes, and incredible mountain views at the foot of the Rockies, or…hot, dusty, humid air with temperatures that tipped well over 100 degrees (with no bodies of water in sight AND a 12-hour van ride). Did I mention the days would be filled with painting two buildings in the midday heat?

Twenty-four chose the latter.

I thought it would be great to do something productive and also life-changing this year. A short-term mission trip to Tijuana and a nice stop at Disneyland or the beach was my first pick. That would be attractive enough to entice the staff to choose the mission trip over staying home. However, air fares were much too high. The next choice was Juarez, Mexico. It would be a grueling 12-hour drive in vans, followed by hot working conditions with no ocean breeze.

After calling Captain Mike Olsen at the El Paso command, I was convinced this was where we needed to go. Juarez, he said, was a city of three million and much poorer than Tijuana. The Salvation Army Corps there had a day care center and a shelter in desperate need of painting. They could not afford the paint.

I brought the information to our staff and asked for volunteers to sign up. They were forewarned of the heat and hard work. In addition, each person had to pay $50 for the paint and gas. I was shamefully surprised when 24 staff members signed up.

They departed on Saturday, July 12th, stayed the night at the Albuquerque Corps, and arrived in El Paso on Sunday where they stayed the week at the emergency shelter. Each morning, the corps officer from Juarez, Captain Andres Saldaña, came and escorted the team into Juarez where they painted before it became too hot. In the afternoon, part of the team conducted a chapel service for the daycare children. The team also conducted an evening service for the men at the shelter. When they arrived home, most of the team expressed disappointment that they could not have stayed longer to do more because there was so much more to be done.

“A lot of people came outside just to watch us paint,” said Ken James. “One guy came up and thanked us for what we were doing and said he hoped that the gangs wouldn’t come and ruin it. During the week, I learned to do whatever it takes to help people in need. I had never done that before.”

“It was my first mission trip and sparked interest in me to investigate more missionary work,” Fulton Hawk remarked. “It’s amazing to see people who have so little be so thankful for what they do have. I wanted to do more because there is so much more we have to offer.”

Trip leader Angie Kalnin, youth program and event coordinator for the Intermountain Division, recalls “Each morning we had breakfast at the shelter with the clients and then went into Juarez. As the drive got deeper into Mexico, away from Texas, the poverty became greater. The painting would start right away before it got too hot. It was so hot that the paint began to dry on the brush.

“The coolest thing was that when we were leaving, the little kids ran after our van down the street.”

Lincoln Hawk says, “The greatest experience for me was to know how other people live in a different country. I was scared because I didn’t know what to expect. .

“The last chapel was great! They were all happy even though they lived very poorly. I don’t think I could be that happy if I lived there. They were great.”

The experience became more than physical labor and service. The staff members also ministered to and served spiritually those housed in the building they painted. The team was affected in a very positive way as God used them to touch the lives of people in a different world. Bridges were built, and relationships established in spite of the language barrier.

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