Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Our Lady of Fatima youth minister leads diocesan teens on service trip to Mexico

by Jami LeBrun, Inland Register staff

(From the July 29, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

Los Embajadores 2004

Youth and adults participated in the Los Embajadores service trip to Mexico last month. (IR photo courtesy of Sean Kelly)

Nineteen teenagers, ten adult chaperones, shovels, wheelbarrows, hot sun, poverty, a hose, and countless bags of dry concrete mix. Sound like a recipe for disaster?

Not according to the teens and chaperones from the Spokane Diocese who recently traveled to Tijuana, Mexico as part of a mission trip to serve the poor community. They spent the majority of their 11-day journey performing intense physical labor, and surprisingly for most of them, learned more about themselves along the way.

Manual labor in Mexico Besides building community and learning important concepts of social justice, the service trip to Mexico involved simple hard work with simple tools and materials. (IR photo courtesy of Sean Kelly)

The trip lasted from June 26 to July 7. It was the 13th such journey organized by Dan Glatt, youth minister at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Spokane.

This year, teens from all over the diocese traveled by train and van to Tijuana, where they spent over a week laying 14 yards of concrete, approximately the equivalent of three concrete truckloads, in blistering heat, working side-by-side with teachers, mothers, children, and other members of the community to help build a new classroom for an overcrowded Mexican school.

Many participating teenagers were surprised at how different the Mexican culture and government is that that of the United States.

“The community (in Mexico) had to come together a lot,” said Tessa Jasper, a sophomore at Gonzaga Prep. “Teachers were actually building their own classroom. It was weird to see volunteers having to build a government building.”

Glatt organizes a trip to Mexico every year because he believes these trips are really valuable, not just to the community served, but also for the teens and adults participating. His goal it to help the youth acknowledge the presence of poverty in the world, to teach them Catholic social justice teaching, and to help them begin to take ownership of their faith. And apparently that message sinks in.

“I really learned how hard peoples’ lifestyles can be, and yet how happy they are,” said Jasper. “You really learn the difference between necessities and luxuries.”

Cooling off Staying cool was a challenge cheerfully met. (IR photo courtesy of Sean Kelly)

Taughm Meisfjord, a junior at Ferris High School in Spokane and member of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Cheney, agreed. “It was an incredibly rewarding experience. I think we were receiving more than giving,” he said, describing the generosity of the Mexican people.

“You get a tremendous sense of social justice … a sense that we’re all the same people, but these people because they live somewhere else are denied basic rights,” Meisfjord said.

Teens who went on the trip shared story after story of the Mexican spirit of generosity in spite of their intense poverty. Perhaps most impressive, however, was their dedication to their Catholic faith and their total trust in God.

“These people are so faithful,” said one 15-year-old girl.

And according to Glatt, that is what these trips are all about. Glatt wants the teens to spend time not just working, but also integrating themselves into the community, learning about the people and their way of life, discovering the dangers of materialism and learning to make their faith their own. Each evening Glatt and the other adult chaperones lead the kids in discussion, prayer and often a cultural field trip meant to help them understand and delve into what they take in during the day.

“We want to show them a different way of thinking,” said Deacon Kelly Stewart, youth minister at Assumption Parish, Spokane, and an adult chaperone for this trip to Mexico.

The trip was organized through Los Embajadaors, Spanish for “the ambassadors,” a mission outreach organization based in Portland. Participants are responsible for raising their own funding.

For more information about the mission trip to Mexico or to get involved next year, contact Dan Glatt at (509) 747-7213.

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