Before speaking of my actual experiences in Ensenada, it’s important to understand where I was in my life going into the trip. Having just gone through my first year of high school, I was lost and broken in every aspect of my life: at home, at school, in relation to others, in relation to God, and in relation to myself.
A snippet of my 14-year-old self’s testimony:
“By the time my arm had healed, my friends had already found new groups to join and I didn't even know who I was anymore...I did not have a vast array of friends in different groups as I did in middle school. What was the point [of finding a new group of friends]? I had missed my chance […and] I was too shy to approach a new group. But honestly, more than that, I was too tired, too drained, too overwhelmed to even try to fix my social life. I was curiously driven by this insane need to prove that I was good enough to my parents, yet I often found myself wondering what my point, what my purpose in life was. I've always hated competitions, but at Leland, I felt that my whole life had turned into a competition with the fellow freshmen who attend this church, that whoever was the smartest, worked the hardest, and did the best in school would somehow get something rewarding. I felt that if I didn't compete or even try in this pointless race, parents would gossip to my mom and how ashamed and horrified she would be of me. How in her eyes, I would be a failure and how I would be the one to ruin her reputation [as a good parent].”
When I came on this trip, I was feeling numb, only letting a thread of apprehension slip into my consciousness as I realized none of the fellow freshmen at my church were going. As a shy person, not even wanting to make new friends my age at school, this group of college students my sister’s age was the least expected group of people I would let down my guard around.
But that’s exactly what happened. As I began to take in the generous friendship and open hearts of the YWAM staff and the college students of the mission group, the earnest worship and quiet time, and the events taking place in the mission field, my heart began to heal and grow in God’s love. I began to find my identity as a daughter of God, as someone who was meant to love others and not stand independently alone. YWAM gave me the chance to get away from normal life and the chance to get a larger perspective. Being a part of something I knew had purpose opened my heart to a bigger life, a life lead by God to care for others.
My fourteen-year-old self aptly describes: “It made me feel quite foolish to think back upon this past year and see that I’ve been so blessed, even when I thought I was going through something hard- to know that it wasn’t even half as bad as what some people who live in this city have to go through day after day and year after year.”
Somehow, by us caring for others, God was able to show me how much he cared for me. No matter how lost and alone and worthless I felt that year, God showed me that he has a greater plan and purpose for me, that he provides and is seen to act in people’s lives. It was at the Ensenada mission trip that I truly surrendered my heart to God for the first time. It was at the Ensenada mission trip that I was able to give up control of my broken life and decide to live it for God’s will.
“I learned that God might not heal you right away when you ask, but slowly and gradually he has his own plan. He might not answer you right away when you pray, but he will answer in opportunities where you never expected it. Sometimes, I will just have to trust him. I’ve found what I’ve been searching for this entire year- my purpose in life: to love and follow God. I know that there will be times in my life where I will have to go thru much worse things than what I’ve gone thru this past year, but now I know where to turn to.”
I shudder to think of what my life would have been like without having learned this: overwhelmed, misunderstood, stressed, alone. Instead, my high school experience has been balanced and tempered by being assured in my forgiveness and salvation by Jesus, of God’s love in my worth, and by God’s purpose and provision for me.
Looking back, now as a senior in high school, God has continued his plan and purpose in me. Going to Ensenada opened my heart up to God’s healing grace. It opened me up to being mentored by a youth counselor, where I was encouraged and supported in a relationship with God when I might have given up on it otherwise. It opened me up to taking risks and beginning ballet classes, where God has spoken to me about my beauty and helped erase insecurities. After having the courage to reach out and receive these two gifts, God has called me to share my passions with middle school girls by beginning a body worship team at my church. I hope to show them I care about them as my mentor did to me; I hope to show them that they are beautiful and worthy as ballet did to me; I hope to show them God’s wonder and power as Ensenada did to me.
This is why I do what I do!! Even if one student gets it or one teenager understands that their life is meant for more and they are truly precious in His sight then I have done my job well!! People often ask me how I can not be passionate about building houses for the poor in Mexico. I love that we have this wonderful ministry called Homes of Hope and I love that so many people can connect to that. For me, my passions lie with students and their journey in getting closer to the Lord.