It was after our retreat that we grew excited about the possibility of taking a "big" mission trip. I loved one experience in particular that Rev. Coombs shared with me regarding being out west and being woken by a herd of wild horses. Low and behold, with lots of hard, hard work (washing hundreds and hundreds of windows inside and out & many church dinners), we were able to take an extraordinary mission trip. This first mission trip held many first for me and our youth group. We drove to Illinois where we would catch a train; a real life train. The kind of train you see in movies. It was so cool. Of course to save money, we didn't sleep in sleeper cars. No, we slept in our seats. However, it was one of the best experiences. We saw a part of the country I am sure that few see these days. The train took us through the heart of our beautiful country where we were able to see God's handy work. We enjoyed meals in the dinner car. The snack car was good if you were low on cash, wanted to save some money and eat cheap. The observation car was so cool. Imagine being able to see out on both sides of the train, not just through windows but almost feeling like you could reach out and touch the outside. We all had a great time on the train. We pretended to be way more Mountainous than we were. It is now that I must apologize to the group of Boy Scouts that we told we didn't have inside plumbing, electricity, or more than one pair of shoes. We did tell them the truth before they got off, but I am not sure they believed us by that point.
I remember doing lots of labor intensive work while in Mexico. We worked through the morning, took a break in the middle of the day because of the extreme temperatures and lack of shade, and resumed work again in the evening. We dug trenches for plumbing, poured concrete, worked on exterior walls, laid the foundation for interior walls in an orphange. I remember the worst Mexican meal I have ever eaten. We were all sure that when one of the ladies said she wanted to cook us a meal, that we would be in for a treat. However, we were sorely disappointed upon filling our plates with cheese and potato quesadillas. All I can say is we were so glad that Papa Coombs had thought it important enough to pack large cans of fruit cocktail. The fruit cocktail from the can sure was extra good that night! The children were so adorable. We helped with a local VBS going on that same week. Even without speaking much spanish it was amazing how much we were able to communicate. I also remember being so concerned about not drinking the water; none of us wanted to be sick. The lady that the girls stayed with was fairly wealthy fro her community. She had a TV, and her grandkids loved watching "The Lion King" Disney movie. At the time it was my favorite movie, and I remember feeling lucky to watch it in Spanish. This lady was such a gracious host; she made us popcorn. It was so good. She offered us Jell-o one day. We all drooled wanting it, but we turned it down knowing it was made with water. Then once we were all back on the work site, we remember it was made by boiling the water. We could have eaten it. We were all eager to return sure they probably saved us some. However, it was clearly gone when were returned several hours later. We learned a valuable lesson: be a gracious guest. When your host offers you food, accept! I also remember how bizarre we all felt by being out of the country on the 4th of July; we felt unpatriotic. To make up for this, we sang patriotic songs most of the day.
Later on this trip we went to California and decided to get "California" hair styles. Goodbye brown hair, hello blonde!! Not the best fashion move I've ever made, but it was fun at the time.
The trip ended with a sad goodbye. The last stop of our trip was Colorado where we stayed with the Wilsons and Meredith would no longer be a part of the youth group. After our group of girls had become so close, it was extremely hard to say goodbye. Our group was never the same, in many ways, after this trip. It was until a few years later that we would rebound, thanks to a new minister (Keith).