In early May, 25 members of the Bonnyville Community Church participated in the church's first mission trip. The trip took place in Mexico at an orphanage but included outreach programs in surrounding communities as well.
The church members went through Foundation for His Ministry. The mission trip was located in the Baja Peninsula of Mexico, 178 miles south of the US/Mexico boarder, in a rural community called Vincente Guerrero.
“The needs of the people are greater than what we expected, right down to just blankets,” said Irene Forsyth, a church member. “The whole trip, your heart is heavy.”
Their duties varied throughout the trip, from cleaning, organizing, picking fruit, bathing children, to outreach programs in the communities where food was provided and games were played.
In the orphanage, children were bathed and dressed in red uniforms, which Forsyth said hid just how poor and hungry they were.
“At the orphanage, they're all in these little red uniforms and they're all clean. But I didn't realize what they looked like before they got to the orphanage.”
Forsyth said they didn't understand how poor they were until their final day on the mission trip, when they rode the school bus to pick the children up from their houses. This was done at about 6:30 a.m., before the children were bathed and dressed in their clean uniforms.
She said that was a “very emotional day” seeing children covered in filth boarding the buses, most of them doing so on their own. Their parents had already left for work for the day.
“This little girl, she eventually got out and you could tell this little girl was probably by herself because she came out by herself and pushed aside this little piece of plywood. You can tell she just woke up because her hair is over her face and stuck on her face because she had mud and dirt on it. She's wearing no shoes and dirty pants and a little parka jacket that's open.”
Forsyth said as soon as this little girl, about the age of two, boarded the bus, she fell asleep instantly. She even slept through the “ruts and bumps” on the underdeveloped road.
When Forsyth asked why the girl was so tired, the bus driver replied, “It's so cold at night so she must have had a bad night. Most don't have blankets.”
On Forsyth's first night, she said she and her daughter each brought one small fuzzy blanket, not thinking it would be cold in Mexico. However, with no heat and temperatures dropping in the night, Forsyth and her daughter doubled up their blankets and by the second night, had acquired two more blankets and a sleeping bag. She also said blankets were a luxury most families couldn't afford.
Forsyth said their outreach programs were extremely rewarding.
“When you're driving through the neighbourhood, all these little kids will come running because they know when they see those vans that you're coming,” she said. “They get one scoop of peanut butter and one cup of milk.”
On these outreach sessions, Forsyth said they will also teach the children and families scripture with their snack and make crafts with them.
“It's amazing to see how much they cherish stuff like that and how much they rely on these people coming to the community to be able to allow them to do that.”
Forsyth said the milk and peanut butter was a huge part of the children's nutritional intake, living in what she described as, “shacks” held up with “plywood and cardboard fences.” Most children didn't wear shoes and all of them were covered in dirt, she said.
After the children had their fill, mothers would come with jugs to take home the leftover milk to feed to their family.
They also had evening outreach programs. The first night, they brought candy, played with the children and read scripture.
“When we all got back that first night and we had experienced so much and we had seen and how poor people were, we basically thought there was something that we had to do, something bigger, for our next one.
“So what we ended up doing was we cooked for an entire community. We did hot dogs and tortilla wraps and hot sauce with tortilla chips.”
Forsyth said when they arrived to the community at 5 p.m., driving past plywood houses, parents were just coming home from the fields.
“It was amazing how fast we fed them and how fast the food went but every single person in that community got fed. And that was so much bigger to us,” she said. “It was a good feeling to know we did a little more than what we did the first night, not knowing what we were getting into.”
Forsyth said they were not alone on their outreach trips. Some of the older orphans would come to assist the guides and help reach out to the people in the communities.
“Some of them could be already from the area, had grown up there and been left at the orphanage, and they were coming back and giving back to their community so they could minister to these kids and adults,” she said.
Forsyth said when the church members were preparing their trip they fundraised over $10,000. On their mission trip, they only used about $4,000, so the remaining $6,000 will be donated to the community.
She said an overhead door or giant tent are both needed at the orphanage, so she hopes their funds will be used toward those projects.
Forsyth said the Bonnyville Community Church plans to continue to do mission trips as often as they can in the future.