From Jordon, a CMDA Participant from Oklahoma
It’s pretty easy to get caught up in my own world. Dental school often occupies the majority of my day as well as my thoughts and free time. It’s easy to complain too. You know, when all you focus on is your own problems and needs.
I had never been on a mission’s trip before I went with the CMDA to Merida. I have friends and acquaintances that have, some becoming missionaries full time after their experience. This of course doesn’t always make sense until you go yourself. Now that I have, I’m envious. The week in Mexico that I spent with Byron, Inez, and the rest of the group was truly unforgettable. Before we left for Mexico, I was nervous, hesitant, and uncomfortable. At the end of each day however, in the streets of the village we worked in, I didn’t want to leave.
Of course we are blessed in America. Of course we have it good. Of course we take it for granted. Seeing the towns and villages of Mexico certainly helped drive these points home. But I left Mexico with something else…
The pain we often complain about, you know the real struggles we go through from time to time, are a daily occurrence for the people in these villages. They are weathered, they are seasoned, yet still loving and more caring than many of the people I see every day. The ones that know God truly know Him. The ones that don’t, they desperately need Him. Having the opportunity to use the skills I’ve learned in dentistry to open the door for Jesus was truly amazing, and I am grateful for the many that have chosen to give their talents, day to day, for the service of Jesus Christ and the furthering of his word.
This was certainly one of the greatest experiences of my life. So much so that I’m now going to Peru in May to serve once again. I suppose, once you’ve seen the need it’s hard to ignore it any longer. And this makes me thankful for Byron and Inez, and the many that made the trip to Mexico possible. I’m thankful for all those who worked much harder than I did to make it a success and flow as smoothly as it did.
Like I said before, it’s easy to get caught up in my own small world. It appears that the best way to break out is to experience the joy, the pain, and the blessing of someone else’s.
Jordon C. Smith
OU College of Dentistry
Dear Byron and Inez Ahina,
For many months, our small congregation performed community service activities, held bake sales and hosted meetings, all geared toward preparing financially and practically to send seventeen of us on a mission to the Yucatan. We were a wildly diverse group of people, families with small children, grandmothers like me and teenagers. We met every other week for several months in each others homes. We tried to learn a little Spanish. Several of us printed the e-mail pictures of the members of the congregation in Chapab and posted them in our homes, praying for this mission, that we would be helpful, uplifting, make a difference for one family – the one for whom we would build a home.
We did help build a home. And now we’re all safely back home. However, we continue to talk about Chapab, the people we met there, the life we shared with those people for a week. Many of us want to go back. The people of Chapab built a home within us. When Hurricane Dean threatened the Yucatan, prayers from our congregation were fervent. As Griselda continues to struggle with illness, our congregation remembers her in prayer.
My teenage daughter went with me on this trip. She starts college in two weeks. She talks about going into the medical field and taking her skills to a mission field. We have seen some fundraising opportunities coming up in our community. Several of us have already volunteered because there might be another call to mission and we want to be ready. This fall in Oregon there is a shortage of immigrant workers and agricultural businesses are suffering. I remember our family friends of Miguel and Humberto and wait for them to come to Oregon so we can be with those friends again and show them some of the hospitality they have shown to us.
It turns out it wasn’t a mission trip. It was a change of direction, a new vision for lives, an awakening for many of us. I do not know where the energy will come from or how it will work. I only join with others to pray and network, to explore and attempt new things.
Byron and Inez, you are blessings in our lives. I am so grateful to have been a small part of this mission. You make miraculous connections among people. I truly felt God’s hand on all of us as we worked with you.
From Patty, a mother who brought her family on a work mission
Hola Byron and Inez,
Wow! I just cannot believe that we have been home for a month already! I just wanted to take a minute to thank you for all that you did to make this an such an amazing experience for our family and our group.
You missed out on the full range agony of the discussion and indecision during the commitment making process, but you may have guessed from the number of email questions that the decision to bring an 8 year old and a 10 year old was not an easy one. But it was without a doubt the right one. Things were not always easy, but I can't imagine having gone without them. There are not a lot of opportunities to take such young children on mission trips and I really appreciate you being willing to let us come. And for giving us the chance to work together and have this experience as a family--I got to see my children do and be more than I ever expected. Justin and I had been thinking this might be the year to give in and take them to Disneyland until this opportunity presented itself. We all got so much more out of this opportunity (and probably had more fun along the way) than we ever would have just on vacation. And are now talking about doing more traveling, which we have always dreamed about, but now there is the element of wanting to go in a missional sense--to interact with real people and real communities, not resorts and staff members, to swim in cenotes not water parks and experience real life. There are so many bits and pieces of images and stories in my head whenever I start to think about the trip--there's no way to cover them all, but I just wanted to share a few with you, so you know what kind of impact you have on our lives after we head home!
People of course ask us what the best part of the trip was. The most amazing thing for me was watching the kids interact with each other. From the first evening at the church in the village when they jumped right into the volleyball game, to playing in the park in the evenings, hanging out with our host families and sharing snacks and playing in the gravel at the construction site they were such an example to the rest of us of how to be there as part of the community instead of outsiders doing something for them. Kids are kids no matter where they are, no matter what they have, no matter what language they speak. And now Kayla and Owen have an understanding of that in their hearts which they could never get from our conversations or books or life in our very small 98% white town. And it changes not only their own desire to go out and see more of the world, but their attitude about the people they come in contact with right here. Before school started they talked about remembering what it had been like to be somewhere where you only knew a few words, and what it might be like for the ESL students in their classes. Which they had understood intellectually before, but now they also knew that they didn't have to avoid those students just because they couldn't talk with them. They have images in their heads and hearts of friends that they cried about having to leave even though they couldn't say more than a few words together.
I came with the advantage of speaking Spanish, but it was amazing to watch our group as a whole interact with this new culture and come to a new understanding of our basic similarities and to be able to spend time in conversation myself with the other mothers in the park in the evening or at church. At our final meal with Rodrigo where we talked about our former stereotypes of our countries it was very meaningful to me to hear Justin talk about his new impressions of Mexico. So different from what he thought he knew from television and stereotypes of immigrant workers and his visit to Tijuana as a teenager in California!
Communion the last morning in that little hotel meeting room was very special to me too. The words "His blood shed for you" had a whole new meaning as I looked around at our group covered in band-aids. Even though we really only shed a couple drops of blood, the pictures in my head of where those came from~soccer games with the locals, cement burns, shovel blisters, bug bites, skinned knees~just overwhelmed me and gave a whole new picture of the meaning of shedding blood out of love and the blood that was shed for us.
I think the value of this trip and experience extends far, far beyond the house that we built or the Bible stories that we told. This experience of being part of a community so far from home touched our hearts, challenged our expectations of ourselves and other cultures, reminded our congregation--which had not sent a mission team in many, many years--that there is a much larger world that needs our attention, that with prayers and perseverance we are capable of setting and achieving huge goals. This is just the start of even bigger things for us-individually, as families and as a congregation-thank you so much for being our launching pad!