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Turn to Jesus (Article)

129 Hours in Mexico
New Hampshire apostolic school student writes about his recent mission trip

Mexico Mission Trip Graphic

Following is the first of two testimonies from students at Immaculate Conception Apostolic School in Center Harbor, New Hampshire, about their experience on a recent mission trip to Mexico.

by Cawood Thompson

Waking up at three in the morning is no easy task for a sixteen-year-old.

However, on January 7, 2014, I couldn’t wait to be woken up.  I was going on my first trip outside the country to Metlac, Mexico. There I would be doing charitable missions with 17 of my brothers from Immaculate Conception Apostolic School in Center Harbor, New Hampshire.

At 2:55 a.m. I was already awake when I felt a tug on my comforter and heard the dean whisper, “Christ our King!” I responded with, “Thy kingdom come!” and I meant it. I knew I would need Christ’s kingdom in my heart if I wanted to help people and bring them the Gospel by word and example.

After quick showers, we all grabbed our bags and got on the bus waiting outside. It was then I noticed my wet hair had frozen on the way down from the dorm! That was the last time that would happen for the next week.

We drove to the airport, praying our morning offering and meditation on the way. Security was no problem, and we were at our gate in short order. That’s when I realized just how tired I really was, and needless to say, our first flight was uneventful.  During our descent into Chicago, Fr. Thanh Nguyen LC, our vice rector and mission leader, told us that we had 40 minutes from the time we landed in Chicago until our next flight. We moved quickly to our gate; I said some prayers, asking the Lord to let us arrive on time. Thankfully, He heard them.

Five hours later we landed in Mexico City and caught a bus to the apostolic school there. The next day we headed to Metlac. We finally arrived at our work site around five o’clock in the afternoon.  Our mission was to install light fixtures and switches in the houses of the people living there.

But the first order of business was to set up camp. As I was laying down a tarp, I noticed a little guy, maybe five or six years old, watching us. Smiling at him, I resumed my work of pounding the tent stakes into the ground with a rock.  After the stakes were in, I looked up and there were five more kids.  My team and I put the rods through the slots at the top, bent them, and clipped some parts that were hanging down to the rods, thus erecting the tent. After we had pitched our “home, sweet home,” there were ten youngsters standing in the group, looking on.

By the time we had put on the rain cover, there were 17, and after camp was finally set up, 23 little children were watching us and whispering among themselves.

We walked over and started
Playing with the children on mission to Mexico
to play with them. We played tag, follow the leader, and, of course, soccer, for a long time.  And as the sun went down, the number of kids went up again. 

I left the fun to get a flashlight from my tent, and, on my way, I noticed a little boy crying and aimlessly walking around.

“What happened, little man?” I asked.

“I hurt my feet,” he said through his tears.

“Where are your shoes?”

“Somewhere in the field, I’m looking for them.”

“What is your name?”


“Come with me.”

I brought him to one of my brothers, who entertained him while we found his shoes, and he was all better in no time.

We worked in Metlac for the next four days, installing lights and switches in the people’s houses.  Every morning, we would wake up to a cacophony of sound from the countless local animals. This, along with music that someone, somewhere, was playing, combined with the sirens from a guy who drove down the street advertising his wares with a yell of, “TORTILLAS!” made for quite a distracting environment. However, amid all this, we prayed our morning prayers and meditation. It was amazing to feel the presence of God in the “middle-of-nowhere” in Mexico.

I’ll never forget a realization that came to me, my eyes half open, during meditation one morning – “God is with us no matter where we are, who we are, or what we’ve done, and He just wants to talk.”

After our chat with God, we had breakfast. Then we cleaned up, split up into four work teams, grabbed our supplies, and headed off into the village.  We walked wherever we went, because the town of Metlac was so small. We went up the mountain a little further to work, because the people that live there are the poorest.  We stopped at a wooden shack, as our group leader, Juan Carlos, talked to a man standing nearby.  I was thinking, “Are we going to install lights in this man’s barn?” Then we stepped inside.  I was surprised to see his “barn” was, in fact, his home.  It was the size of my bedroom back home!  Not only that, but the man lived in this hut with his wife, children, and mother. There was a dirt floor, the walls were wood, and the roof was made of tin.  The place was full of smoke because they were cooking their lunch, on a wood fire, in the house. I thanked God then and there for all that He had blessed me with in this life.

Then, we went to work. I screwed a metal box into the wall of the house, while my one of my brothers wired the switch. We put the switch into the box and attached the wire to the breaker box we installed outside and to the light fixture. We flipped the new switch on to show the man how it worked. He thanked us and we moved on.  I wish I could have done more for that family, but there were others that needed us as well.

After a morning of this work, we went back to our camp site to eat a quick lunch, and then we were
Cawood Thompson with Fr. Fr. Thanh Nguyen LC
Cawood Thompson with Fr. Thanh Nguyen LC during a mission Mass.
back out working again until five o’clock. Afterward, we would go back to camp and entertain the myriad of village children until the seven o’clock Mass.

That was the schedule for the next four days, and by the third day, I was about ready to give up. That’s when I realized, “This is what the average man does every day” and “This is what my father does every day.” Still not motivated, I reached into my pocket and pulled out my rosary. As I looked at the cross, Jesus said to me, “I died for you, man! You can’t even work for four days?” Amazed at my lack of will power, I went back to work, again thanking God for everything.

When four days had passed, we left Metlac, going further up the mountain.  As Fr. Thanh put it, we “suffered a night there.” Then we had Mass and went to the Legionary mission center in Chilapa, a neighboring village.  The next morning we got up at what my father would call “zero-dark-hundred,” showered, and drove back to the airport in Mexico City.  We caught our flight to New Jersey, and then flew from there to Manchester, New Hampshire.  A bus from the apostolic school picked us up and we got back home at two o’clock.  I fell into my bed with a smile, thanking Jesus and Mary for the mission trip and the safe return.



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