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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Different Air, Different People, Same Redemption
Student from Immaculate Conception Apostolic School writes about his recent mission trip to Mexico

IC Apostolic School Missionaries to Mexico
The missionaries from Immaculate Conception Apostolic School

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

by Felipe Chavez

It’s three o’clock in the morning and I wake to a flashlight shining in my face. It’s Br. Lucas, our dean. I open my tired eyes, look up at the ceiling and think, “Time to go to Mexico, Lord!” I get up and start my morning routine and once I’m finished, grab my hiking bag and hop on the bus.

We leave around three-thirty in the morning, and arrive at around five in the morning. Already, we have encountered a few “scary” situations. We almost forgot our passport-bag on the bus, and one of my brothers thought he left his gear back home. But I knew God willed us to go on this mission trip because the conflicts were immediately solved.

Once we are on the plane, I realize going to Mexico for missions isn’t going to be a vacation. I am the only fluent Spanish-speaker in the pre-candidate community, and reflections of Christ’s ministry here on earth start hitting home. I know there is only one thing I can do to love God more fully in this situation, and that is to leave everything in His hands.

It is a six- or seven-hour flight to Mexico City.  Once we arrive, three of my brothers who suffer from motion-sickness are in rough shape for at least two days. I am fine and happy to be back in Mexico. I’m glad to smell the combination of petroleum and street tacos in the air. However, there is only one thing that is different compared to all of the other times I have been in Mexico.  I have never been here as a person discerning a vocation to the priesthood, as a young man who deeply loves Christ.

After we get all of our baggage, we ride to the other Apostolic School in Mexico City called La Joya.  I meet the other pre-candidates there and a few apostolic students as well.  I surprised at how charitable all the pre-candidates are.  Two of them walk up to me a
Felipe Chavez
Felipe Chavez and a new friend
little nervous. One of them says “Hello! How are you?” and I respond in Spanish. He laughs because he thought I didn’t speak Spanish, and his face resumes its original color.

The next night, I am sitting at the table and I ask if they will pass the Horchata, a famous Mexican drink. The pre-candidate next to me grabs the pitcher and pours some into my glass. He sees I have no napkin and so he gets me one. Two things came to my mind immediately: I need to step it up and be more Christ-like; and I realize Christ died for these students, too.  Everything they do, as far as spiritual life, is exactly like ours, only “in Spanish.”

We leave for missions the next day and it is a six-hour bus ride from the Apostolic School to our “drop-off.” From there, we get in a pickup truck with railings in the back and ride for half an hour to our destination, Chilapa.

When we arrive, I am stunned to see how poor the people are. I have been to Mexico “millions” of times before, but never to a village like this. Houses are held together by wooden planks, the wiring is in poor condition, dirty slippers and ripped sandals are the normal attire and there is a small chapel the size of a typical American living room.

We set up our tents inside an abandoned church with a missing a roof and without most of its walls. While we are unpacking and setting up tents, a group of kids walks up to us. I ask one of them in Spanish, “Hey! What were all of you doing?”

“We were singing.” The little boy replied in a bashful tone. “We sing, too,” I said. “Want to hear us sing?” They all giggle, nodding their heads. My brothers and I quickly think of songs we sing repeatedly in Mass and begin singing. They love it!  Unfortunately, we have to get going so we stop at four songs and tell them tomorrow we will sing more.

For the next four days, our schedule will be something like this:

  • Wake up every morning at 7:00 am and pray our morning offering from 7:20 to 8:00 am
  • Have breakfast from 8:00-8:40 am
  • Work until lunch at around 2:00 pm
  • Start working again until 5:00 pm
  • Play games with the kids until Mass at 7:00 pm
  • Have dinner and talk about the people we encountered, the food we ate, and how many times we were asked for candy while walking from place to place

Later on, we set up a fire and have night prayers and then go to sleep. There aren´t any showers, so we didn´t shower. 

Our work involves setting up new wiring in people’s houses. It is a little tough for me because the person helping us do the work gets annoyed at us when we make mistakes. But I am the only one who can understand him, and speak to him.  It is fine, though. I can’t blame him for being annoyed, and we are good friends by the end of the day.

The people we are helping are poor, simple people. Most of them don’t go to school or know about apologetics to defend their faith. But what they do have is a sincere devotion to our Blessed Mother and trust in her intercession. Every house we enter has a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe and a little shrine dedicated to her. The people have their values in life in the right order.

Whenever Fr. Thanh, our vice rector, hears confessions, celebrates Mass, or holds Benediction, the people really want to go.  I walk from one house to another to pick up tools and people always ask me, “Do you know what time the Priest is ending confessions?’’ or “Do you know what time Mass will begin?’’ Every evening, Fr. Thanh celebrates Mass outside of our camp and hundreds of people show up. One day Fr. Thanh can’t
Mass in Mexico
Hundreds of people come to Mass
even go work with us because he hears Confessions all day long.

These peoples’ hearts are full of faith. Whenever we work at a new house, as a sign of gratitude, the family always feeds us.  After Mass we talk with some families, and some of us hear them pour out their life story.  It is amazing.

One day, when I am giving Catechism to a group of boys, I ask, “Who is the Holy Trinity?” I lose count of how many times someone answers “Mary.” Slowly but surely, I get to them to say “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” I explain to them who we were, and what a seminarian is. They are content with what they learn. 

Every evening we give out candy to all the kids who come to Mass. There are more than 200 kids every night! I hear my name from all corners of the abandoned church crying out, “Felipe, help! How do you say ‘please form a line’ and ‘no cutting’?” In the end, we work at more than 100 houses and give testimony to countless numbers
Helping families on mission in Mexico
Visiting the local families
of people. I think the experience brings a deep conversion for all of us.

When we get back home, we are all tired. We arrive at two in the morning. However, I can’t stop thinking about the simplicity of the people. I can’t stop blessing and thanking God for having redeemed all of us from sin. My heart is open with a deep and sincere awareness that Christ died for everyone, and His love remains the same as it was when He extended His arms on the Cross and gave His life for us. Truly, God is present in all people.



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