Grade 9 student Max Ernst places stucco on a wall during a recent Vernon Christian School mission trip to Tecate

Grade 9 student Max Ernst places stucco on a wall during a recent Vernon Christian School mission trip to Tecate

Youth set out on a mission

Recently, 31 Grade 9 students, nine parents and three seasoned teachers gathered at Vernon Christian School with their camping gear in tow to fulfill an annual service project.

“The kids percolated with hope for a trip that might change their lives, and would most certainly change the lives of a family of eight in Tecate, Mexico,” said Chris Bannick, a  Middle School teacher at VCS and Mexico mission leader. “The adults were excited but determined to make certain the mission would be accomplished. This exuberant group traveled to Seattle by bus, taking a flight to San Diego and then piling into vans to cross the border into Tecate.”

Bannick said there is a high poverty level in Tecate and the need for even basic necessities such as clean water, electricity, and of course, shelter, is great.

VCS partners with Amor Ministries, which assists groups who want to build houses for the families that are able to obtain a piece of land on the outskirts of the city in order to improve living conditions and escape the cycle of poverty. More than 30,000 homes have been built for families over the years, sponsored by service teams through Amor Ministries. All participants have to raise their own funds for travel expenses and to buy the items necessary to complete the project. The 11×22 size houses are built from framing lumber and stucco. Bannick said one of the many benefits to this housing upgrade for each family is the concrete flooring, two windows, and a key lock door.

The 43-member team built a house in just four days for the Osorio Palma family. Since the family makes less than $120 US a week, they were very grateful to have the team from VCS buy the supplies and build their home.

“When the home was completed, the family’s response was overwhelming,” said Bannick. “They were very appreciative with hugs and had tears in their eyes.”

In addition to the house Vernon Christian School came to build, the family also received new cooking equipment, blankets, toiletries, food, furniture, household items, and toys for the children.

The VCS students had fun playing games with the children and seeing another side of the world. Even upon entry into Mexico and seeing poverty up close, student Celine Grosch said, “I will never complain about my house again.”

In leading this 12th annual mission trip, Bannick said responses such as Celine’s provided a sense of joy and pleasure to be affiliated with such a project.

“It’s a message that in a troubled world, there are youth guided by some dedicated adults who can make a difference,” he said.