By: Mari Evelin Moreno Velasco
Master’s in Education – UC Santa Cruz
Short mission trips changed my life by giving me an opportunity to serve others and find a purpose in life. This life we have on earth is short and fleeting, and through the mission trips, I realized that I could help others and use my talents to be a light in the lives of those who come from underprivileged communities. I also found the light and love within the eyes and hearts of children in the orphanages of Tijuana, in the faces of the homeless people we served, in the smiles of our at- risk-children in Colima. I found hope among hopeless situations and did not only give love and hope, but I received love and hope by opening my heart to a life of service. Before going on mission trips I led a reserved and closed-off life and couldn’t see far beyond the four-walled world I lived in, but after serving in different short mission trips I realized that the world is a miraculous place full of inspiring and resilient people. Serving in short mission trips made me more open-minded and awakened my world-consciousness.
I think it’s important to provide opportunities for high schoolers to experience mission trips during the crucial young adult social-emotional development. During my high school years I was feeling lost and without purpose. I was invited on a weeklong mission trip to Tijuana and I was elated, I felt hopeful. I was instantly overwhelmed by the amount of poverty I saw in the Tijuana communities. I had never seen so many people living in shacks and stark living conditions. Standing small in front of the immense task ahead, there we were, a group of teenagers trying to save the world. We helped feed the homeless people of Tijuana in the Salesian Desayunador the next day and they told me stories of how they got to Tijuana. Many were deported from the United States and taken from their families. We visited different orphanages and though my heart was breaking, those children gave us love and smiles and looked beyond their situations. Serving in these mission trips taught me how to open my heart and I found my life’s purpose through those mission trips. My mission is to live my life for others and myself by giving and receiving love, peace, and the miracles of life.
I am now a Spanish Bilingual teacher and my dream is to impact communities in a positive way by instilling hope in the hearts of our young people. In my first year of teaching, I started a toy drive in my classroom, and students donated toys and wrote letters to children in Tijuana. The mission trips to Tijuana continue to make an impact in my life and I’m grateful for being able to serve and bring awareness about the needs of our brothers and sisters in Tijuana. Through these mission trips, I found the essence of life, which is to share life’s gifts with others. In the book of Deuteronomy they state” For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land'” (Deuteronomy 15:11). I will continue to open my hands and heart to give to those in need because God gave us gifts and love to share and receive.