Oct. 6, 2004 - Around 20 students from Pusch Ridge Christian Academy traveled to distant nations during their summer break and shared their faith with others across the globe.
Some went as far away as Bangkok, Thailand or Lima, Peru. Others went just across the border to Tijuana, Mexico. In separate interviews, those that made the journey said that, despite the lack of material goods possessed by those in some of these countries, the residents carried a joy in life lacking in many Americans.
The trips were not organized by the school, said Judy Davidson, the Director of Development at Pusch Ridge. Instead, local churches and religious organizations made the arrangements and set up the trips for the students. She said Pusch Ridge students have likely made trips such as these ones in years past, but she's never collected information about them before now.
The motto for Pusch Ridge this year is "Send Me," drawn from the Bible passage Isaiah 6:8, which reads "Then I heard the Lord say 'whom shall I send and who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me.'"
Inspired by the school's message, Davidson put out an announcement asking students to describe any mission trips they had taken during the summer. She said she did not expect to get such a substantial response.
The trips were paid for by the families of the students themselves or the church organizations they traveled with, the students said.
Three girls from Pusch Ridge, Gretchen Musgrave, Amy Bergendorff and Emily Vaughn, went to Juarez, Mexico with a youth group from the Oro Valley Church of the Nazarene. About 29 members of the church took the trip to Mexico, and together they built a two bedroom house for a family with four children. Previously the family had lived in a much smaller home, and Bergendorff, a senior, said that she could tell the family was overwhelmed by their efforts.
The girls said it was a humbling experience to see how people in Juarez were quite happy despite their lower standard of living.
"They were so happy with what they had," Bergendorff said. "I feel like a lot of stuff we have in the United States, we definitely take for granted."
Bergendorff described her motivations for going to Mexico and working hard during her summer break.
"I wanted to be a witness of Christ's love to the Mexican people," she said.
Musgrave, a senior, said the youth group was unified by the contribution they made to the family in Mexico. They didn't consider the trip a sacrifice of their summer vacation because they had fun working hard with their friends.
The most difficult part of the job was mixing the concrete in the heat of the Mexican sun, Musgrave said. The girls didn't use any power tools. Missionaries who had traveled there before them told them it would help maintain their solidarity with the Mexican people.
There was also no electricity or running water, which was an adjustment for the Pusch Ridge students while they camped in Mexico for four days.
They said an aspect of life in the United States they missed was the ability to take a shower with hot water.
The family from Juarez was able to express its gratitude despite the language barrier because an individual in the youth group was able to speak Spanish, Musgrave said. All three said it was gratifying to see Christ's love in action.
Vaughn, a junior, said she was able to gain a greater understanding of Mexican culture, because while they had less material possessions the family still treated them as equals. And Musgrave enjoyed playing with the children in the neighborhood.
Pusch Ridge freshman Rio Perez admitted that at first he was not excited about his opportunity to travel to Lima, Peru. He said he only went because his parents wanted him to.
He had fears about going to a different country without anybody he knew, but looking back on it, he said he really enjoyed the trip. He went with around 40 people from the organization Maranatha, a Christian group that goes on missions throughout the world. He said traveling with a group that size alleviated his concerns about being in a foreign country. The entire group stayed with a family of four in Peru, which meant he often slept on the roof.
He contributed to laying the block foundation of what would eventually become a church, although he never saw the finished product. Until that point, he had only learned about Christianity in school and church.
"I was getting closer to God, it was the best thing ever," he said.
From his trip, he said he learned that Christianity means putting faith in Christ first and everything else in life second.
He also said, while people in the United States have so many material goods and people in Peru had so little, the people in Peru seemed to enjoy life more. In that sense he echoed a lesson learned by the students who had traveled to Juarez.
Two Pusch Ridge students, Timarie Lambrose and Heather McLeod, went to Tijuana, Mexico to spread their religion. It was their second trip to Mexico with the Sovereign Grace Church. They also went last year.
They gave out free car washes and the culminating event was a carnival that had rides and dramas provided free of charge to the residents of Tijuana.
McLeod, a senior, said people had a hard time believing it was free and Lambrose, a junior, said they had to convince people they were doing it to show the power of their love for Christ.
Lambrose said that seeing the way people live in Mexico made her realize how blessed people are in the United States, and how much Americans take for granted.
The trip solidified the girls' faith in Christianity, they said. Although they speak a different language than the people of Mexico, they are still worshipping the same God, McLeod said.