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Sat, Sept. 19

GC teens help<br>Mexican family<br>

Although they were worlds apart, there was no mistaking the connection made between a group of teen-agers on a mission to Tijuana, Mexico, and a poor family of six who spoke Spanish.

For 2 1/2 days, Grand Canyon teens John Gabaldon, Matt Hender and Brandon Smith were among a group of teens and young adults who helped build a small house for the family, which included young children of 1, 3, 7 and 9 years old.

Arizonans on the trip included Susan Sears, Matt Hender, Debra Sears, John Gabaldon and Brandon Smith. The Sears sisters are from Happy Jack.

The father, whose family had been living under a tarp, helped too. But the good samaritans from north of the border had another surprise for the thankful family — new furniture and precious food to eat.

“We all put this in the house before we finished as a surprise for the family,” said Hender, 16. “None of them spoke English but we had a translator. The mother told us her tears meant more than any words could say.”

Smith, 24, was a chaperone on the trip. He and the two Grand Canyon teens are part of the Grand Canyon Community Church and became part of the trip through the Youth With A Mission (YWAM) organization.

“It was an honor just being able to share with somebody who’s not a little less fortunate, but a lot,” Smith said about the house project. “We built them a house the equivalent of my dad’s workshop, 20 by 12 (feet) with a dividing wall.”

Still, it was a dream come true for the Mexican family.

Gabaldon, 15, said the experience in Mexico will be something he’ll never forget.

“I’ll probably keep the thoughts I had down there with the way they were living the rest of my life,” Gabaldon said.

The Grand Canyon trio left July 3 and returned Thursday. Besides the time spend in Mexico, the group also was involved in several inspirational activities in California.

Hender was among youth who donned clown costumes to entertain youngsters. There were also magic tricks, dramas, Biblical re-enactments and other activities.

One of the aspects of the trip Hender seemed to be most proud of was the number of people who accepted Christ into their lives, including the poor Mexican family.

Before heading down to Mexico, the missionaries had a passion play performed for them in Los Angeles. The following evening was commitment night.

“By the end of it, everyone was in tears,” Hender said. “It was amazing. I was just praying and sitting there. Then I saw a boy from Gardner (Mont.) and I walked to him to comfort him and I started crying.”

Among those joining the Grand Canyon group were teens and young adults from Canada, Montana and Indiana. Hender had family involved with the mission. His aunt and uncle from Montana were among those helping with the YWAM organization, which is based in New Zealand.

Although none of the group drank the water in Mexico, they did eat well.

“They fed us very well,” Hender said. “They had at least a three-course meal every meal. I’d like to say I ate more in the last 10 days than at any other time in my life.”

Gabaldon said the trip was definitely a beneficial experience.

“I definitely feel like we all achieved a goal for what we were there for,” Gabaldon said.

Smith, who is heavily involved with the Grand Canyon Community Church, including director of the choir, said “it was an incredible trip. There was an incredible sense of accomplishment.”

“I was floored by the kids, their maturity, their spiritual insights,” Smith said.

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