Mexico mission trip: Snapshots from a week in Mazatlan

By Esther Fultz

Cedarville University’s Global Outreach program provides students with opportunities to serve and evangelize both locally and globally. The GO staff works hard all year to locate service opportunities, recruit trip participants, and equip students and faculty to serve and witness to others. GO organizes mission trips during spring break and over the summer.

Saturday, March 4, 12:30 pm; Phoenix, Arizona

Hey! Just wanted to let you know I won’t have access to my phone until March 11 because I’ll be in Mexico for a week. See you after spring break!

I glance up from sending my final text to a client from my internship and breathe a sigh of relief. My team’s flight to Mazatlan, Mexico is preparing for takeoff, and this trip has come at the perfect time.

Between classes, an internship and working over 20 hours a week, these past few weeks have left me stressed and burnt out. I’ve tried to make time for my friends and my relationship with the Lord, but lately even these blessings have felt like just another task on my plate. 

I know this mission trip will challenge me, but I’m eager for the opportunities it will bring. Opportunities to reset, to focus on what truly matters through serving the Lord and others. Opportunities to reevaluate, to view my own lifestyle and beliefs through a new perspective. 

As the mountains of Phoenix grow smaller beneath me, my mind wanders to the people I will be serving in Mazatlan – the staff, children and families involved with Back2Back Ministries.

Back2Back is an international Christian nonprofit founded to care for orphans and vulnerable children. Currently, it has nine locations across the globe, including four in Mexico. As a social work major, I appreciate Back2Back’s passion for holistic ministry and trauma-informed care. Although the cost of the trip initially intimidated me, I decided to stay on the team and was pleasantly surprised when the Lord provided more than enough resources through generous family members and friends.

Reflecting on the Lord’s provision, I feel a sense of comfort. In many ways, I still feel inadequate to go on this trip, considering my limited ability to speak Spanish and my minimal knowledge of Hispanic culture. I’ve tried to educate myself leading up to the trip, but I worry I will say or do something offensive. More than that, I worry about being useless in ministry. I want to learn and grow and I know the Lord can use me, but I want to be able to truly serve others in Mazatlan – not just walk away changed.

Finally, unhindered by the chaos of school, I pull out my prayer journal and write down my thoughts, then turn to my teammate Katie to practice the few words of Spanish I remember.

Sunday, March 5, 5:00 pm; Back2Back Ministries; Mazatlan, Mexico

“Hola!” I smile at Maria, a participant in Back2Back’s Strong Families Program. Today, she’s teaching our team how to make tortillas and tamales. It’s only been 24 hours since we landed in Mexico, and the greeting already feels more natural on my tongue. According to Matt, the staff member supervising our group today, Maria was anxious about leading these classes when she started just six months ago. Today, she smiles confidently as she demonstrates how to assemble a tamale and press tortillas, even joking with our team despite the language barrier.

When I think of ministry, this isn’t what I usually think of – receiving when I came to give. A small part of me is uncomfortable with it. But looking at the pride on Maria’s face, I know this experience is more empowering to her than anything I could give. 

Too often, short-term missions are focused on the incoming team, driven by a desire to satisfy participants’ egos and create a sense of self-importance. I’ve been on these trips and have also been guilty of thinking this way, but learning from Maria, I remember Acts 20:35 – “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” 

What if, instead of viewing ministry as doing grand, showy things for the Lord, we view it as simply coming alongside people, working to understand them and allowing ourselves to be given to in ways that would truly bless them?

Monday, March 6, 3:00 pm; Salvation Army, Mazatlan, Mexico


The little girl I’ve been playing with for the past half hour grins up at me and points towards a row of bicycles leaned up against the side of a building. Without waiting for a response, she starts running, and I remember that vamos means “let’s go” in English.

This is our third day in Mexico, but the first I have interacted with the children without a staff member in earshot. Earlier this morning, I had been concerned about how the children would respond to my limited Spanish vocabulary. Even now, I think of children I know from the United States mocking second language English speakers. But so far the children I have spoken to here have been surprisingly welcoming. 

“Como se dice este?” I grab the bicycle and point to it, and the little girl smiles. It feels like the hundredth time I’ve asked this question, yet she’s patient and doesn’t seem annoyed.

“Bicicleta,” she responds, grabbing her own bicycle. “Vamos!”

She takes off down the gravel road, looking back at me and laughing because I haven’t gotten on the bicycle yet.

“Muy rapido!” I exclaim, pedaling faster to catch up with the little girl on my one-speed bicycle. As she continues to giggle and pedal harder to remain ahead of me, I close my eyes momentarily and take a deep breath, wanting to remember everything about this moment – the gentle breeze, the warm sun, the shade from trees far ahead, the sound of laughter as children play nearby. I think about God’s faithfulness and redemption in mending what has been broken. I think about the true cause of joy – not material possessions but renewed life in Him.

Compared with American children I know, these children have nothing. They can’t live at home with their families and have most likely experienced abuse, neglect and trauma. Before coming here, they have not had much of a future to look forward to and even afterward, their lives will be harder than most Americans. Yet they are smiling, they greet visitors without judgment, they don’t constantly whine and complain like American children I know, they are present and focused on the moment, and they have shown me and my team true and genuine love.

“Change me,” I pray as I catch up with the little girl on the bicycle. “And show me your will, God.”

Before this trip, I never thought about leaving the United States as a possibility. The thought never even crossed my mind. But today I can see it. My future is still wide open. I don’t know where the Lord will call me. But today, I realize that I could see myself here forever.

Esther Fultz is a junior Social Work major and the Off-Campus Editor for Cedars. She enjoys thrifting, writing music, hiking and hanging out with friends.

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