San Angelo Spring Breakers Endure Tough Mission to El Paso
On a chilly Sunday morning on March 9, about 40 high school students and 10 adult sponsors from Paul Ann Baptist Church embarked on a journey across the Chihuahuan desert toward the warm, sunny city of El Paso. The group had formed with the intent of spending the entire spring break on a mission trip in the metropolitan city.
With the help of a few adult translators and energized students, Pastors Brian Hutchinson and CB Sutton led the charge into the rich culture of Mexican-American dominated El Paso. They stayed in the church of Dr. Marco Samaniego, a partnering minister in the El Paso area. The goal of the entire trip was to evangelize in the name of Jesus Christ by ministering to students at a local skate park, completing community service projects, and running a vacation Bible school throughout the week.
“I like to bring our high school students on a mission trip because I think it’s really good for them to spend a week not thinking about themselves, not doing what they want to do, but really just spending the entire week investing in other people’s lives,” said Pastor Hutchinson, the high school pastor.
He continued by saying, “Our primary role is to share the gospel [of Jesus Christ] with children, but we also like, when we’re down here [in El Paso], to do things that build up the other churches that are already in existence.”
Throughout the week, the Paul Ann group was met with several unfortunate events, ranging from the bus breaking down to sickness.
On Sunday upon arrival, the bus broke down. On Monday, not only was the bus still broken, but one of the pastors locked his keys in one of the borrowed vans, and a flat tire disabled another one. Tuesday the bus was still out of service, the snow cone machine malfunctioned and a couple of the children felt ill on a long afternoon. Wednesday brought the surprise of minuscule issues, but Thursday brought along more sickness.
Pastor Sutton, the junior high pastor, described the plethora of issues by saying, “Spiritual warfare – scripturally we’re told about it. [In the New Testament] Paul tells us many times that we’re going to face that. As Christians actively pursuing to share the gospel, we definitely have opposition. We definitely have an enemy that does not want these students unencumbered in an El Paso to hear the gospel and be able to have a life transformed.”
Even through a tough week, Pastor Sutton voiced his passion and reason for surrendering a week in El Paso by saying, "We come here because we have this hope and message, and it’s a great way to train and disciple our students from San Angelo.”
Even the high school students maintained their joy throughout the week. Laughter and tears covered their faces as they ministered to others and served strangers throughout the week.
The youth band leader and high school senior, Ryan Johnston, reiterated his pastors by saying, “I just want to be a light to the people here [in El Paso], and show them the love of Jesus by my actions.”
Another high school senior from San Angelo, Stephen Hall, also mentioned his passion for Christ by saying, “All that matters essentially is that Jesus is Lord and that we [as believers] are in Him.”
With issues occurring left and right, the students remained flexible and maintained poise as they continued the week's hard work.
The work started Monday. Students unloaded food for Dr. Samaniego’s orphanage, passed out flyers in a local neighborhood, and began the vacation Bible school at Carolina Park in the evening. Afterwards, the students built friendships and had conversations with local skateboarders at the park.
Tuesday was filled with passing out flyers for a local church plant on the outskirts of El Paso, hanging out with local skateboarders, putting on the vacation Bible school and observing talented dancers at the Carolina Recreation Center.
Wednesday swept by quickly with more evangelism at the Carolina skate park, directing a local block party for the new church plant and completing various community service projects at a local partnering church.
Digging ditches, painting picnic tables and cleaning a partnering church—those were the time takers on Thursday morning, while Thursday afternoon was filled with a visit to the mall, teaching the vacation Bible school, and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ at the skate park.
One of the adult sponsors and older brother of Stephen Hall, Matthew, described his favorite moment of the week by saying, “One of the biggest things for me is seeing him [little brother] grow in his faith and seeing him living it out.”
What the Paul Ann students did throughout the week impacted many people, especially numerous children and young students. Lives began to be changed and many people came to faith in Jesus Christ.
An El Paso native and avid trick bicyclist, Marco Antonio Marin, discussed how the San Angeloans impacted his life. “Having them [the students] here has gotten me to the point where I want to get closer to God because I hear their stories, before and after, and that makes me want to change. I just want to follow the right path and be with God.”
In the midst of an emotionally and physically exhausting week, the Paul Ann group never falter or lose heart. They continued serving and placing others before themselves. Before they knew it, the end of the week approached, and it was time to head back home. Their spring break was drenched in sacrifice and long hours, but according to the group, every minute was worth it.
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