From April 21 to May 1, a team of 6 men from Woodland travelled to Vera Cruz, Mexico for the AWOL mission trip. Below is a recap of the trip based on the reflections of the team that went on the trip.
Men from Woodland Hills have been serving on the AWOL (A Work Of Love) mission teams to Vera Cruz, Mexico for over 20 years. Alongside missionaries, Ed and Denise Aulie, we serve the Nahuatl Indians, building homes, working in community clinics, digging outhouses and community cisterns, and a variety of other manual labor projects.
This year, the main purpose of the AWOL mission team was to build a new house for Marina, a Mexican national who left her life in the city to join Ed and Denise and serve the Nahuatl over 18 years ago. She is a gifted teacher and caregiver and has sacrificed everything she could have had—marriage, career, home, family—to serve the Nahuatl.
Normally, we spend a good amount of our time in Vera Cruz connecting with the community and building relationships, but Marina’s home was on leased land and the lease was up, meaning we had a lot to get done in the very short amount time we were there. Every day, we would wake by 6:30-7am (if the chickens, turkeys, donkeys or dogs hadn’t woken us up before then!), eat breakfast and have a short time of devotions and prayer. We’d then walk the short distance with the hired workers to the building site and get to work!
The days were long, for sure. This was the most work we have ever had to get done on an AWOL trip. But everyone on the team displayed amazing character: perseverance through difficult tasks such as installing extra beams below new floors, calm demeanors even when hot and exhausted, and positive attitudes when tasks got overwhelming. The team and hired workers all worked together very well and very hard. And it never rained, something that happens almost every day in those mountains. What an answer to prayer!
At the end of each work day we would break for a bit to clean up and gather for the evening meal. The hired workers, the women working in Marina’s kitchen, Ed and Denise, and our team would all sit together, laughing and crying, as we shared stories and testimonies. To wrap up the day, an extended time of prayer and devotions would take place. Ed would translate English to Spanish for the women and one of the women would translate from Spanish to Nahuatl for the hired men. It was an amazing picture of God’s Kingdom.
AWOL is a great example of how we can display Christ’s love by helping to meet the tangible needs of a community. It is an even greater example of how building relationships around Christ with those different than you has the power to transform hearts. In the 20 years we have served the area, communities have gone from viewing us with suspicion and disdain to inviting us into their homes and throwing us parties. This year, while at church on the first Sunday of our trip, an older, familiar Nahautl woman approached the team. Tears filled her eyes as she thanked us for the times that we had spent in community with her father in previous years. She asked for prayer for her family and father, who was now bed-ridden and dying. We prayed and cried and held each other. This is the reason we go.