Mission trip helps students recognize value in service

Elisa Kim, asst. features

Elisa Kim

asst. features editor


Trash was everywhere. Small children walked barefoot on dirty streets. People on bikes rode past on the bumpy ground. Although it’s only about a two-and-a-half hour plane ride from America, life in Mexico came as a culture shock to senior Tim Cho, junior Jeffrey Mathew and freshman Dana Sim, as they devoted their time to a mission trip in the cities of Celestun and Izamal.

From Aug. 4 to 11, Cho, Mathew and Sim accompanied Chicago Covenant Presbyterian Church on a mission trip to help two churches run a Vacation Bible School program for kids in Mexico.

“Our part was to come with fun and creative activities for the kids,” Mathew said. “We presented body worships, praise songs, skits and crafts for the kids. Our main focus of the trip was to train the local leaders on how they can lead their peers in a spiritual and effective way.”

Much preparation took place, according to Cho, before the trip was underway.  The preparation period was devoted to help the members of the group both spiritually and socially.

“Fridays and Saturdays we would wake up at 5:30 in the morning, and we would go to morning prayer just to prepare mentally,” Cho said. “Then after, we would have physical training. We would usually run a mile or do some team-building exercises. We would also have our daily meetings where we would [have] Bible study and bond.”

The physical training helped the volunteers learn perseverance. Moreover, it prepared them for the walking they would do during their trip.

“I think there [were] double meanings or triple meanings behind everything that we did,” Mathew said. “Physical training for example, when we started, I thought it was solely for the purpose [of being] physically trained, but then I learned after a few more times doing it [that] this physical training really unites us as a team.”

Regardless of the fact that  Mathew was not expecting to prepare in this way for the mission trip, he was grateful for the experience he had.

“I can honestly say I’m so happy we had each and every one of those 35 meetings because I think those meetings [were] just a really good time to get to know people,” Mathew said. “I didn’t attend the church, so getting to know [people] before we went on the trip [helped me] communicate with them.”

In spite of the fact that they put a great deal of time and effort into preparation for the trip, their time in Mexico was not all smooth sailing.

“Considering it’s constantly over 90 degrees, it was hard to praise, jump and dance without feeling like you’re getting a heat stroke,” Sim said. “Some of the guys’ shirts were a whole [other] shade from being drenched in sweat by the end of the day. It really pushed us to our limits.”

Children who attended the Vacation Bible School varied in age from 2 to 7. Furthermore, parents who did not have the time to take care of their children could bring them to the program, according to Cho.

The program was completely free, and the number of kids who attended grew significantly day by day, according to Cho.

“It started off really small, like 30 to 40 [kids],” Cho said. “And the next day would be like 70. And after that, like 100.”

Cho, Mathew and Sim were rewarded for the effort and time they gave to the children in Mexico.

“There was a little kid, and he became really attached to me,” Cho said. “Everything he wanted to do, he would have to hold my hand. When he wanted to go to bathroom, he would drag me along. He was really attached to me and I felt the love from him, so it was really nice.”

Cho’s experience on the mission trip opened his eyes to how fortunate he is to live in America. In addition to that, Cho realized that much can be learned from serving others.

“The kids taught me a lot of things,” Cho said. “Even though they were [less fortunate], they really loved a lot. They didn’t seem like they knew they were [less fortunate]. They were really happy.  They saw no barrier between us, and they just wanted to play with us and love us.”