by Amy Miyahara
If I’m completely honest with myself, when I look back on my first Mexicali trip my freshman year, I didn’t really want to go. I had reservations about the mosquitos, the dust, the spit pits, the port-a-potties, the language barrier, the scary upperclassmen on my team. The list goes on. Yet that week, God taught me so much about who He is and how powerful His love is, and He has continued to reveal more and more of Himself to me in each trip since.
This was my third year serving as a part of Team Bethel. Our team is always so blessed by the amazing amounts of love and hospitality that the Church of Bethel shows us each year. Bethel’s pastor, Pastor Jaime, and his family are constantly working to build relationships with us and make sure that we are comfortable and well-fed: Pastor Jaime’s wife Marisol and other women of the church can often be found in the kitchen for hours at a time preparing tasty tacos and tostadas for our consumption.
Our first day at the church was Easter Sunday, which started off with a service in which we got to witness Pastor Jaime baptize his son, Jimmy. After this, our team got to help Bethel with their weekly ministry in which they serve lunch to the homeless. On this particular Sunday, Pastor Jaime asked if any of the homeless visitors wanted to accept Christ. About seven or eight were saved that day, which was a beautiful thing to witness.
Later that afternoon, some of the members of Bethel set up an obstacle course competition as a time of fellowship. Tasks included crawling under tables and jumping through inflatable pools of water, and though our team did not survive without minor injuries, it was still a fun way to bond with the people of the church. It’s amazing that even through the language barrier, our churches can always find ways to connect.
The rest of the week was spent running a VBS program for local kids. One thing that was different this year was that we had the opportunity to have several foster kids attend our VBS, as opposed to just hosting the kids of families in the church. These foster kids were a little bit rowdy, but it was still a blessing to be able to love on kids who might not get much love from other people. Seeing their joy when we played games or did skits was priceless, and I pray that God continues to work in their lives and grow their faith.
While this was the first time that we got to work with foster kids, there were also some returning kids that attended our VBS in previous years. One group of siblings has shown up to our VBS for the past several years. The oldest of these siblings, Kevin, is now fifteen, which is older than some of the members of our team. It has been cool to see how he’s grown both physically and in terms of his faith: some of the members of our team first met Kevin when he was only 11. He is now taller than many of us and apparently has a girlfriend.
One of Kevin’s younger sisters, Ruby, was a girl who I connected with my freshman year. She was always so eager to play with me even though back then, I spoke even less Spanish than I do now. This year, we exchanged friendship bracelets and handshakes, and I was reminded of how amazing it is that we can have brothers and sisters in Christ who don’t speak the same language as us.
Something that really blessed our team this week was our translator, Felix. He is truly a man of faith and love. Some of us got the chance to hear him share his testimony, and we were brought to tears to hear all that he has gone through. Yet, through losing his family, and many other things, his testimony remains that God is good. To hear him thank the Lord for everything that he has, despite everything that he’s lost, was inspiring and serves as a model for our own walks with Christ.
One thing that God showed me this week was how much more willing I am to serve when I have a selfless mindset. Often, when I’m tired or hungry or dehydrated, I lose my will to do things simply because I don’t feel like doing them. Yet, God showed me when I put others before myself and am really focused on how I can bless those around me, I have so much more energy to serve His kingdom. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to serve this year and was once again blown away by the love that the Church of Bethel showed me and my teammates.