In October 2017, Garett Lane & Chris Balint (NC Chico youth pastors) had the privilege and opportunity of going on a scout trip to the C&MA base in Mexicali. They got to spend just a few days with these guys but instantly knew we couldn’t wait to partner with them. Chris shared with the team that he knew the service projects, Vacation Bible School, etc. would all be amazing, but he was equally as excited for our team to rub shoulders with Gil and his crew. They model Jesus well, as they serve and bless those who visit the base.
After months of planning and preparation, the end of June finally arrived. We loaded 61 of us up early on the 24th and headed for the border. We made it by dusk and prepared to cross over. Gil and his crew were there to greet us, and we lined our vans up along the streets of Mexicali as we waited for our cargo van to get through. It was bit of an adventure navigating Mexicali at night, but eventually we made it to the base. We ate tacos at 10:00 at night (we told you these guys are amazing!), and headed for bed.
We were excited and expectant for what we knew we’d see the Lord do over the rest of this week. Many on our team had never been out of the country or on a mission trip of this type. It was awesome to see the youth anticipating what would come.
Our days would start early doing various service projects. We were such a large group, actually one of the largest that Gil has had, that we split up into four groups for most of the day. One team spent two days at a local park building bleachers, painting over graffiti, and picking up garbage. Other teams stayed on base to help with some demo work, to build a fence etc.
Each team got to spend one day doing street ministry. We would prep burritos & juice, and drive to the park in the city to pass lunch out. One of our team members would share a short gospel message, and then we had the opportunity to talk & pray with the homeless people that had come. We saw our young people (& adults!) stepping out in courageous ways. They prayed for people boldy, some who didn’t speak English, and heard stories of heartache and hope.
In the afternoon, we would all come back together for some down time. Being from Chico, we are used to the heat, but that Mexicali summer heat was intense. Gil and his crew were insistent and wise to have us rest, drink, and regroup in the afternoons.
Some days we had some time for worship, team debriefing, and training before getting a chance to rest.
Our team was so thankful for a great (& cool!) place to rest in the afternoons.
The highlight for many on our team was a Vacation Bible School that we got to put on. We spent three nights, partnering with a church in Mexicali, to run a VBS. The first night we probably had less than 20 kids. Our team worked hard but were a bit apprehensive in knowing how to navigate things. We were in a new culture, in a strange neighborhood, and way out of our comfort zone.
We loved engaging with the children (and parents) of Mexicali. We can still picture their faces full of life and joy. Soccer, crafts, and laughter cross all cultures. Some of us were quickly picking up phrases like ‘Hasta Manana!’, and we looked forward to seeing our new friends each day. It was so fun to see our numbers double then triple each night of VBS. By the end of the week, our team was engaged and excited to jump in. Relationships were built, even with the language barrier, and we were all bummed to leave on the last night.
Our dear friends, Gil & his crew, were wonderful. It truly is a privilege to partner with them, and we can’t wait to take another team back. We all had different ‘takeaways’. Some were impacted deeply by the culture, and it was a wake up to the privilege we live with. Some had huge moments of breakthrough in their personal faith journey. Some of us learned to step out courageously. Some built memories as a family that they will carry forever. Some made new friends and relationships that will last. All of these things couldn’t have happened had we stayed home in our comfortable places.
Here are a couple of testimonials from our team:
First from Cathy Sanchez, who is an amazing woman and friend to many of us. Cathy is part of Cristo Salva and went with us to help navigate the language and culture. We often found ourselves saying, ‘Hey Cathy, how do I say….?’ She has a heart to serve and is passionate about seeing people meet Jesus. Cathy was absolutely invaluable to our trip, not just because of her language skills, but because of who she is. Here are some thoughts from Cathy:
"Romans 12:4 says, 'For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.'
I had the blessing and privilege of going out with every team to the park where many were prayed for and encouraged. It was beautiful to see many young people take a step of faith and lay hands on someone whom they’d never met before. I loved seeing the body of Christ work as one. A need was identified by one group and shared with the other three groups later at base and the next day a second group was able to meet that need identified by the first group.
There is no doubt in me that chains were broken, and hearts were healed through the powerful prayers done both on base and off base. This was my fifth trip to Mexicali, but my first with my home church in Chico. It was special because the friendships that began in Mexicali are now continuing to grow in Chico!"
This next testimony is from Emily Vineyard, who is now entering her Senior year here in Chico. Emily met Jesus just a couple years ago, and Chris had the opportunity to pray with her through that decision. It has been amazing to see God get a hold of her heart as she seeks Him and His ways for her. We are so proud of this sweet girl, and so many of her peers, for the bold and faith-filled decisions they made to go to Mexicali. Lives were changed, and this is just one more example of how God worked:
"At the beginning of the trip, I was really anxious about going, as I was going to be missing a week of my Chico State courses that were challenging. When leaving Mexico, I knew that God had put me there for a reason.
For most of my life, I have wanted to go into a section of Criminal Justice called Forensic Science. This trip changed that. I was one of very few on this trip that spoke Spanish, and this was a blessing that allowed me the opportunity to learn about these kids’ aspirations and goals. These kids want to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, just like us here in the States. The only difference is that we are ten steps ahead of them, and continually blessed with a bountiful amount of opportunity.
This really opened my eyes to what I do want to do for the rest of my life. I want to work with children and teens that are at a disadvantage and help them get on to the right path of success, as well as show them the huge impact walking with God can have in their life. I prayed the entire trip on what kind of major or career path this might look like.
It came to me that I can stay in the Criminal Justice field but work in Juvenile Justice and eventually even work in immigration law to help kids like Maria and David (kids that I bonded with in Mexicali) get ten times closer to becoming the doctor or lawyer they have always wanted to be. This was a life changing trip."
We are so thankful for the ways God moved and the impact that was made over this week. We trust and pray it will be lasting.
Pray for Mexicali - for Gil and his beautiful family, for his team of servant-hearted leaders, and for their ministry as they make a huge impact in the community.
Chris & Rhonda Balint