As a Mexican-American, I am no stranger to Mexico. Visiting my family in Mexico is something I look forward to and plan my life around. But this week was very different.
Over my spring break, I joined around 300 of my fellow students on a trip to Mexicali. I spent the week with my mostly American peers in a country that I love and that I feel a deep connection to and I was absolutely not looking forward to it.
Like most of the other major decisions I make in my life, I didn't really think too much about this trip when I first signed on. All I knew was that a friend needed members and a translator, so I went for it without giving myself time to doubt the decision.
The week before the trip was brutal for me. There were so many times that I was convinced that I needed to back out. These students intended to drive down to Mexico in order to serve the people in this town on a mission trip. A huge part of me knew that dealing with that would be ridiculously hard for me.
As a student at a Christian university, I am constantly being told about and given opportunities to go around the world to serve people for the cause of Christ. Taking advantage of these opportunities has always been an easy decision for me, but I avoided signing up for these trips to Mexico on purpose.
Along with Christians in America sending out missionaries around the world comes the oh-so-real American Savior mentality. We Americans think it's our job to save the world. It's our job to take our God from right here in America and ship Him out to places that we deem as worthy of receiving Him.
Fortunately, I know that the people sending us all over the world from my university do not have this mentality, but I know for a fact that there are students that still think this way, whether they realize it or not.
I've heard the way that my peers talk about those living in material poverty and I've heard the way they commend each other for being "brave" for choosing to serve them. I didn't want to go hear the same things in a place that I love so dearly, but I went anyway with all the reservations in the world.
Let me tell you that on the way down and the first few days at camp, I was extremely bitter and angry. How dare these Americans come into this place and pity these people. How dare they use my people to make themselves feel better. How dare they even come to Mexico.
It hit me the worst when people started talking about the food and the kids. Bravery is not eating at a taco stand in Mexico. Bravery is not playing with kids that could potentially have lice. I heard these things and I grew furious. It got to the point where I almost called my dad to come pick me up because I felt like I couldn't be there anymore. But I stayed.
I talked about it. I prayed about it. I asked others to pray about it. In talking with the camp chaplain, I learned that I needed to have grace. I needed to stop thinking about what my peers could do better and needed to start thinking about what I could do better. The one thing he told me that stuck out the most was that the fault cannot entirely be placed on my peers.
I had the privilege of being raised in the middle. Culturally, I was half-American and half-Mexican. I got to pick and choose which ideals and customs I wanted to follow from each. I had the choice to not to have an American mentality when it came to the way other people live. Most of my peers did not have that choice. Society dictated the way they saw people who had less than them or who lived differently than them. They were strange and they were wrong because America is always right.
God sent me there to learn how to ask tougher questions and how to challenge people. He sent me there to learn how to have grace in these situations because, in a very American fashion, I was thinking that they were strange and that they were wrong because they grew up differently.
By the end of the week, I enjoyed Mexico as I usually would. I had fun with the people around me and I was able to translate people to great food. God provided grace and good times, which in the end made this one of the best experiences of my life.