As our group arrived in Houston and prepared to leave for Mexico City, we were told, “when you encounter God, there will be great joy, but also great sorrow.” I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this when when I first heard it, so instead, I just let myself get the experience.
Our group consisted of five FOCUS missionaries, one priest, and sixteen students from FOCUS campuses all across the country. We were told that every single one of us was a missionary doing God’s service everyday. Our mission was to serve the women of Villa de Mujeres and encounter Jesus in everyone we met. Some of my personal fears about the trip were that I wouldn’t be useful without fluent Spanish. I was afraid of my own ignorance of Mexican culture and I hoped that I would be able to hear what God was speaking to my heart above the noise of distractions and lies from Satan, who was waiting eagerly to work on us.
In Mexico City, we stayed with the Conceptionista sisters in their convent, which was only a short walk from the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I found myself excited to walk out of the doors of the convent everyday to go where I could look straight up at the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe during our daily holy hour. The attitude of constant prayerfulness on the trip is one of the ways I know that God held me together and bound our group together in blessed friendship.
Monday was our first day of service at the Villa, and it was nothing that I had expected it to be. The conditions of this women’s shelter were heartbreaking.We walked around to see the lonely, abandoned, bruised, hungry, anxious, and dying filling the buildings, congregating near radios, and sitting on the bare ground to feel the warm sunshine and breathe fresh air. At first, the whole scene was hard to take in. The needs of the shelter became more apparent in every step and in every conversation. Debrief for me on that first night was emotionless as I was still processing all that I had seen. The rest of the time we were able to spend with the women was filled by praying rosaries with them, painting their nails, and rubbing lotion on their hands and legs. Cleaning and feeding tasks were also split up between our group and we did our best to see that all of the workers had the help they needed. One of the most moving encounters I had was when all I could do was simply to hug one of the women to keep her warm. The women just wanted to be loved and listened to. They did not even care that we were unable to understand everything that they were saying.
God entrusted us to give hope, and I was comforted to know that we could show them through a simple smile. Our theme verse for the trip was Matthew 25:40 which says, “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me.’” Though our work was hard, especially seeing the incredible suffering of the women, this verse kept us going. I will never forget looking into the eyes of those beautiful women and seeing the face of Jesus. My life was changed forever by encountering Christ, and as promised I found incredible sorrow, but also overwhelming joy in Mexico City.
Andi Kitten (far left) is a Freshman, Baylor Business Fellows major from Lubbock, TX.