LS Calvary Church Mission 2007BY AMY CODISPOTI | JOURNAL REPORTER This April for Spring break, 23 local high school students opted to use their vacation time to do heavy construction, manual labor, play with children and feed people in a poverty-stricken area of Mexico.
For the past 12 years, Calvary Chapel of Lake Stevens has been making several annual trips to a small town in Baja California, called San Vicente.
While other teams from the church (as well as teams from other churches) go down to San Vicente throughout the year, April is traditionally the month that the youth group makes their trip, taking the entire spring break.
The students are responsible for raising the $400 to cover the cost of the trip and pledge to spend the time in Mexico serving the needs of San Vicente’s battered women’s shelter and the children who stay there.
“They work hard for the week they’re down there,” said Shane Algard, a pastor at Calvary Chapel, describing how the youth mixed concrete by hand, repaired a truck, painted and even sewed curtains on this recent trip.
They also play hard. About 50 percent of the students’ time is dedicated to hanging out with the children of the local battered women’s shelter.
The youth group also heads out to migrant farm work camps where they feed the workers and children. The children, most of whom are left to themselves while their parents work in the fields, are thrilled to see the vans pull up to the farms and know they’ll be loved and fed for the afternoon.
“These kids are generally abandoned while their parents are in the fields,” said Pastor Jim Jacobson.
This was 16-year-old Rosalie McAuliffe’s first trip to Mexico, and first time to leave the U.S.
“When I first got there, I was in shock,” she said. “I’ve never really seen poverty. But, once we got to the shelter, all the kids came running up to us and it was awesome. Even if you don’t speak their language, you can be buds with the kids.”
When the battered women’s shelter first started more than 16 years ago, Casa del Pastor was only a travel trailer.
With the help of Calvary Chapel’s youth group and other teams, the shelter has expanded and currently is made up of a trailer and a house, which accommodate approximately 50 women and children.
While the expansions have benefited many women and children, the space isn’t adequate or of very high quality.
“The rooms the women are currently in are very small,” said Algard. “They stay in one room for a family and the room is smaller than a small bedroom in a typical house. There’s only one bathroom for five families.”
To remedy this problem, on this most recent trip the Calvary Chapel youth group worked on constructing an extension building for Casa del Pastor, which will provide more space and better facilities for the women at the shelter.
Several youth group members said that the Casa del Pastor’s new bright orange building is easily distinguishable as the nicest building in the town.
“I got to help decorate three of the new rooms for the new building,” said Kjersti Brandes. “I’m really excited to go down there again; it was amazing.”
The important thing for Jacobson and Algard is that the teams going down don’t have an agenda, but go to help with whatever is needed.
“We’re there to fulfill needs,” said Jacobson.
Of equal importance, he said is exposing the Calvary Chapel youth group to the harsher realities people experience just south of the U.S. border.
“It’s good for them to see that there’s more to the world than America,” he said. “What we consider having it rough here is nothing in comparison with how it is in some other countries.”