December 3, 2012 will not be remembered as significant for most, but for six Christians it was the start of something special.  We were embarking on a volunteer service and learning trip to Dulce Refugio, an orphanage in Aguascalientes, Mexico.  Our group consisted of 3 men and 3 women with ages ranging from 22 to 62.  The group was very anxious to get started with the work projects and getting to know the children at the orphanage so the wait times at the layovers seemed like an eternity. 

In Mexico we were chauffeured in a large van, which had lots of room for when we went on some of our sight-seeing excursions.  We stayed at the orphanage with the children, just in a separate isolated building.  Settling in was easy as the group was shown where the local emergency facilities were located and were also given an emergency contact sheet with important phone numbers and the orphanage`s address.

When it came to the work we came to do, we focused on remembering why we volunteered and Who was really guiding our journey as well as keeping Him in our hearts as we worked on the tasks He had placed in front of us.  On this trip the guys were responsible for constructing aluminum window frames and sashes for the new boy`s dormitory.  While the ladies' tasks were more varied as they grouted tiles, sealed the outside concrete for future painting, and expertly painted the upstairs rec room.  Even though our group was small in comparison to previous groups we were able to accomplish more than the coordinators had expected.  At days end and well at the beginning and in the middle to, we were all treated to15 prepared meals from Marce (the orphanage coordinator), and to some of our surprise it was the more authentic Mexican meals that delighted us the most.  After meals our group did a lot of team bonding; playing cards and going for long walks around the neighbourhood, while enjoying some local frozen yogurt.  Wandering the neighbourhood was a much looked forward to nightly activity that brought on some great team bonding.  Safety was never a concern as there was often a strong police presence and the people in the community really embraced the orphanage and those working volunteering to help the children.

Worshipping in Aguascalientes was a new experience for us.  It was a treat to join in on a couple of the children’s worship services.  We tried singing along (mostly the English versions) and even led them in an impromptu worship session where we had one of the members play guitar.  Attending an afternoon house service at a Presbyterian church was educational as we were able to be welcomed and share in their worship service.  The group also felt it might have been beneficial to attend a service at one of the churches the coordinators visit more regularly, however I think the language barrier might have prevented us from absorbing much of the message, but the experience alone could have been rewarding.  Our devotions were done every morning after a delicious breakfast, and were well participated in as we took turns reading and leading the discussion.  They did bring into light the feelings and concerns most were having and got the group talking about their experience, which was awesome to see how the LORD had used different circumstances in their lives and how that translated into what they noticed and focused on during the trip.  

At the trip's end the group was experiencing mixed emotions as on one hand they wanted to stay and build on the connections they had made with the children and on the other returning home to our families and loved ones.  It was stressed again how we could use this trip as a tool and really connect our donors and supporters by reaching out and telling of our experience, which is also a great personal spiritual tool.  Some members in the group even took the pledge to sponsor one of the children in the orphanage, staying in contact and building on the relationships established there.  One of the members was so drawn to the work and cause that he returned one and a half months later for a week to help with more of the building.

– Bruce