By Julie Cole
Rick Klippenstein knows the ins and outs of taking a bus load of high school youth to Mexico. He’s done it 11 times.
Klippenstein, the children’s education and youth pastor at Caronport Community Church (CCC) heads up a yearly Mission to Mexico (M2M) trip. This year’s team was made up of 31 people – 24 of them were Caronport High School students. A group of five students and two additional leaders from Cornerstone Christian School also joined the team.
“About 12 years ago . . . I was looking and praying for different ways for young people to get exposed to a little taste of mission involvement,” Klippenstein said.
A news article about two Briercrest alumni who took a team of youth to Juarez, Mexico caught Klippenstein’s eye. In one week the team built a home for a family. He decided to try to do the same thing with his youth.
“We spent two or three months kind of preparing for this thing and realized ‘You know, there’s a lot more to this than first meets the eye!’” he chuckled. “So the first year of Missions to Mexico we didn’t go anywhere.”
After another year of careful planning, M2M made its first trip during Easter week of 2001. The team of 26 built a two room house in four days.
“We completed pouring the floor, framing the walls, putting the roof on, putting windows and doors in, stuccoing it, insulating it, and dry walling it,” Klippenstein recounted. “With a crew of 26 people, we had a lot of manpower.”
After another successful trip to Juarez the following year, Klippenstein and his team started looking for other ministry opportunities in Mexico where they could be more involved with the local people and the church. A Briercrest student from California told them about Mexican Medical Ministries. For the last nine years the M2M team has served at Mexican Medical Ministries bases in San Felipe and San Vicente.
Each year the M2M team conducts vacation Bible school (VBS) from Tuesday to Friday for local children, participates in evening church services, helps with building projects and serves wherever else they may be needed.
But this trip doesn’t just fall into place. It takes lots of planning and help.
Seven years ago Cora Lee Schulz, the administrative assistant at CCC, joined the team and directed the VBS program for the children. For the last three years she and Klippenstein have been co-leaders of the M2M team.
“My favourite part of being on M2M has to be the teens,” Schulz said. “It’s exciting to me to see them experience this trip and see the way that they are impacted and changed by their experiences. I get to see them step out of their comfort zones and succeed at things they never thought possible and then celebrate with them. I get to be a “mom” to 25 or 30 teens and care for them as if they were my own. And when we return I get to see how this trip changes their perspective on life here in Canada and what they feel God is leading them to do.”
Besides providing a mom’s touch to the team, Schulz takes care of many of the details involved prior to the team’s departure.
“I oversee the ‘music’ team and make sure that things come together for the crafts and food,” Schulz said. “I also help organize the fundraisers and keep track of the money that comes in from donations. I try to connect with the parents and keep them updated on . . . what their teen needs to do to be ready for the trip.”
The team joins together to raise the money for their trip. Projects like the sale of homemade apple pies have become fundraisers that the entire community anticipates.
With the help of the Briercrest cafeteria, which mass produces pie dough for the event, the team and other community volunteers gather on a specified day and slice apples, make the filling, assemble the pies and deliver them.
“The first year we made maybe 200 pies,” said Klippenstein. “Now we make about 1,000.”
M2M sees the yearly fundraising as the corporate responsibility of the team.
“Our goal is not for each team member to raise a certain amount, but for the whole team to raise the money,” Klippenstein said. “Most team members want to do their fair share but we know some team members are better at raising funds. We’ve never said no to anybody because they didn’t have enough funds.”
CHS Grade 12 student Gillian Harrison is a two-year veteran of M2M. She said this year’s trip is the “best missions trip she’s been on so far.”
“The team was so unified and we were all friends,” she said. “We all wanted to serve God and with no drama. (With) such support behind you, it made everything easier.”
This year the team’s stability was challenged in a unique way.
During a pit stop in Barstow, CA, some team members noticed a small leak underneath the bus. Providentially the team was parked right next to a truck shop. They quickly pulled the bus into one of the bays to have the leak checked.
“(The problem was) a two inch hydraulic hose that was a return line for the transmission retarder,” said Klippenstein. “This part helps the bus to slow down when it’s going down hills, so it’s a fairly important component!”
The team’s pit stop ended up being 10 hours long.
“It was an unplanned team building exercise,” Klippenstein said with a grin. “It was amazing. I didn’t sense any significant level of anxiety amongst any team members. They were creative in the use of their time and energy and we were able to meet other travellers coming through.”
Schulz said incidents like this provide some of her biggest lessons.
“Each year this trip challenges me in a new area,” she said. “I have learned that I need to have a plan, but that plan may or may not happen and that’s o.k. I think I have things all figured out and then God smiles and says, ‘Cora Lee, haven’t you learned yet that my plans are not your plans?’”
Students and leaders alike are impacted by being on the M2M team.
“It’s a significant discipleship moment for the team members,” Klippenstein said. “It’s not just a trip at Easter time.”
Grade 12 CHS student Dean Wells agrees.
“Mission 2 Mexico was one of the best experiences of my high school life. This trip has shown me so much about God and His plans for my future. I'm so glad I have made so many friends and had unforgettable memories and lessons learned that will be with me forever.”