|This year, three families went to Nuevo Durango for the missions.|
August 18, 2009. Atlanta, GA. “It was one of those
snap decisions,” said Mark Doxtader, who took his family on
missions to Nuevo Durango, Mexico with Rick Swygman and his
family for the first time last year.
He first found
out about the mission while talking with Rick Swygman, the
executive director of Pinecrest Academy. With logistical help from
Roberto Sánchez, Alejandro Piñelo, and a full-time lay missionary named
Juan Manuel Arroyo, Rick had been planning the mission as
a family trip. When Rick had shared his plans with
Mark, the two men realized that they had similar ideals:
they both wanted to share an experience of self-giving in
missions as a family. They wanted their children to grow
and be enriched, and to have their horizons widened.
decision was one that Mark has not regretted. In fact,
the experience was so enriching that they decided to go
again this year, accompanied by the Gores, a third family.
They plan to return again next year with as many
other families as are willing to join them.
mission took place from August 2-6. As they did last
year, the families spent their morning working on building up
the local parish. The specific project this year was to
build a grotto and a garden dedicated to Our Lady
of Guadalupe. After working in the mornings, the families spent
the afternoons building relationships with the local people.
Rick Swygman, spending time with the local people for the
past two years has been a lesson about life’s essentials.
|Mornings were spent working on a grotto for Our Lady of Guadalupe outside the parish church.|
taught me to come back and show delight in others.
They lack so many material things, yet they are so
joyful and they’re always serving,” he said. “They never complained.
They just live their life and they’re happy.”
The adults weren’t
the only ones who were strong and generous. He also
noticed the hardiness of the children.
“These kids are tough as
nails,” he said. “I wish our kids back at Pinecrest
could see these kids play soccer on concrete in bare
feet. They wipe out, scrape up… and you never see
The Nuevo Durango men had their own silent
lessons to share. They don’t rush around from one thing
to another, trying to keep up with an overstuffed agenda.
There is no hurry, no cloud of stress over their
heads. Sometimes they just go away and sit on a
rock by themselves for a while.
“They have time to
sit and just be,” said Rick.
Observing this habit, Rick and
Mark tried it themselves: when they got frustrated, they took
time out to just go and be quiet, without the
distraction of doing anything. To their surprise, it turned out
to be just the solution. Now they refer to it
as their “rock time.”
“Oftentimes we as parents think we’re doing
something for our kids and it turns out to be
much more fulfilling for us personally than we ever imagined
it could be,” said Mark.
After some days on the mission,
|The afternoons were spent with the local townspeople, building relationships and playing with the children.|
Mark sat down with his 16-year-old daughter and began talking
about possible ways to help some of the local people
improve their financial situation, especially the youth. Would it be
best to sponsor one of them to attend Pinecrest Academy
or to work in his company?
Her response was immediate:
“No, that would be the wrong thing to do. They
are so happy with their life, their relationships, their family.”
She had perceived clearly that in spite of the lack
of material things, their lives were full and rich in
“As a father, it means a lot to be
able to have your children realize that all the stuff
we attach ourselves to— the nice car, the big house—
doesn’t make you happy. When they set up their family
and make decisions, they’ll see that some of the things
we are attached to can really make you miserable,” said
Missions or the beach?
Mark’s children liked the missions
experience so much that when they were offered the choice
to go to the beach or to Mexico for next
year, they all chose Mexico.
“That’s one of the main
motivations for a mother or father to consider this trip:
it’s to give your kids an opportunity to see something
new and to spend some quality time together,” said Mark.
children also found that missions weighed more in the balance.
Last year, the Swygman family had gone to the beach
at Cozumel for two and half days after the mission.
|A view of the completed grotto.|
Before that first mission, the kids were looking forward to
the beach as the main attraction, with missions as something
to be endured before the real fun could begin. But
after that first missions experience, the balance had swung in
favor of missions.
To Rick’s surprise, the children spontaneously suggested
that they cut down the time in Cozumel next year
so that they could spend more time in Nuevo Durango.
And this, noted Rick, in spite of putting in manual
labor in the mornings, sweating all day long, and sleeping
in hammocks at night.
A universal language
Mark and his wife
Angie had always wanted to do a family mission for
the sake of their children. That was why the snap
decision last year had come so easily; it just fit.
the time, his children were 15, 13, 7, and 4.
Rick’s were 16 and 15, with two 5-year olds.
one of the biggest things for me to overcome was
my own personal pride as a father, taking my kids
into what others might perceive as a potentially dangerous situation,”
Mark said. “But one of the biggest things I learned
was that God really protects his missionaries.”
Not only have
the missions unfolded peacefully, but the missionaries have also formed
bonds with the local people. In spite of the language
barrier, they were still able to communicate. The language of
a smile, a hug, is universal.
Also universal was the
sense of belonging to the same Church, the same faith.
“The mission gave me a perspective of the universal Church,
that no matter where you are, what you have, how
you’re suffering, or how many blessings you have, you’re all
united in the universal Catholic Church,” said Mark. “I learned
that these people are Catholic just like me, and that’s
what really unites us.”
To find out more about next year’s
summer mission to Nuevo Durango, contact Mark Doxtader at firstname.lastname@example.org or Rick Swygman at RSwygman@pinecrestacademy.org.