Esther Camacho performs a skit for indigenous children while on her youth group's mission trip.
CINTALAPA, Mexico Youth group mission trips are a rite of passage for many teens in developed countries. They excitedly pile into the church van and ride across the country to more exotic locales to do Bible schools and children's camps, arriving home a week later tired, sunburned and brimming with stories of lives changed, including their own.
When youth at the Compassion-assisted Torch of Christ Student Center (ME-731) go on a mission trip, things take on a different look. Their church van is a dusty pickup truck bouncing over dirt roads. There is no air conditioning to cool their sunburned skin after a day of hard work, and when these teens arrive home, they aren't leaving the poverty in an exotic locale. It's right there at home where they left it.
Train Up a Child
When Compassion staff came to Cintalapa, Mexico, in 1999, they were drawn to the dynamic work being done at Bethlehem's Star Baptist Church. Pastor José „omingo was equally excited about partnering with Compassion, and soon his church's ministry grew to impact hundreds of children and youth in the community. Many of the students who came to the center had never heard the gospel, and as Pastor Domingo and other project workers shared the love of Christ with those eager little ones, lives were transformed. Soon the center began offering classes on evangelism, and a class on missions was offered for students of all ages.
When Pastor Domingo learned that several youth were interested in sharing their faith with the lost, he and the project staff planned a mission trip that would send three teams of youth to some of the most remote villages in Mexico, villages where many had never heard the teachings of Jesus.
The Needs of the World
Esther Camacho was one of the youth participating in the mission trip. Sixteen-year-old Esther had attended the Compassion child development center for seven years, during which time she had learned countless Bible stories and developed a passion for the lost and hurting whether they were her neighbors and friends or strangers hours away. In a community where 35 percent of adults are unemployed and the average family lives on less than U.S.$5 a day, there were plenty of opportunities to serve others actively.
"This was my second missionary trip," says Esther, "and it reminded me of the need there is in the world." Esther says she hopes to one day be a full-time missionary.
Eager to Serve
That passion for the lost impressed Pastor Domingo. Despite the team's grueling schedule, the teens went above and beyond what was asked of them.
"The teenagers of my team really impressed me," says Pastor Domingo. "When I told them that they had to wake up at six in the morning for their devotion time, I thought they were going to be mad. But, to my surprise, they not only didn't complain, but they woke up at five!"
The team spent more than a week distributing Bibles and telling the people of Mexico the good news of Jesus Christ. As they walked steep paths to isolated villages and prayed with the lost, they transformed from eager teenagers into passionate missionaries, willing to follow wherever God led.
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