Graffiti on buildings and walls isn’t any more prevalent in Cozumel than in U.S. cities. When it occurs, the message is typically painted over quickly to discourage additional defacement. That’s what took place at the new site of the Vida Abundante church. But this graffiti was proudly painted in broad daylight by volunteers from the Worldwide Christian Scuba Divers Organization. As everyone watched, they tagged the unpainted cement block wall with “WCSDO was aqui” (WCSDO was here). It was a positive message—but was still covered quickly as the volunteers dove into their painting tasks. They were on a mission.
Painting was just one of the many projects the group of 27 undertook to help Vida Abundante settle in to their new outdoor worship site. Their work was part of a seven day trip that had two purposes: combining scuba diving and mission work.
“So many people say they feel closer to God underwater than at any other time,” said Jim Mustoe, one of the organization founders. “You just can’t fully appreciate the awesomeness of God until you see what he made underwater.”WCSDO trips help members leave the hotel zone to get to know the community and its people through service projects. Their first mission trips were to Roatan, Honduras and Nausau in the Bahamas. Then they contacted Friends of Cozumel to see how they could help during their March 1-8 visit to Cozumel.
WCSDO is a national organization that began about five years ago. Local chapters have formed in Dallas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Phoenix, Seattle and South Florida with approximately 1,000 members.
Dallas members Heather and Denny Gepford have been divers for six years. Their trip to Cozumel is their second experience with mission work.“God has done a lot for us out there so we thought maybe we should do something for him, too,” said Denny.
“You know some people just throw money at it,” said Heather amidst the dust created by a belt sander. “But this work makes it so much more real. This bench I’ve been working on—someday someone sitting on this bench will meet Jesus for the first time and that’s exciting.”
In addition to several painting projects at the church, the WCSDO volunteers also installed a section of roof, a water storage system and much needed plumbing for a restroom. They replaced windows and screens in the pastors’ quarters, repaired electrical outlets and potted plants for the altar. In addition, they distributed eyeglasses to the community and made a monetary donation to the church to help replace the congregation’s rickety wooden chairs.Judy and Dean Hadfield of California saw significant improvements as worked progressed over two days. Even without a closed structure that is typical in the U.S., the outdoor space began to look more like a church. “It reminds me of the TV show Extreme Makeover,” Judy said. “When Dean visited the day before the group started work, he told me ‘it’s going to break your heart.’ But you won’t get that impression now. We came in with this big crew and wow—look how quickly it changed.”
“We’re having a blast,” said Dean, a recently retired firefighter who was paint-spattered, but happy. “What I get out of this—I now have a visual to pray for this specific church,” Judy said. “When you get boots on the ground, it’s so exciting to see.”
The work of the WCSDO group made an impact on the Vida Abundante church as well as the volunteers. Nineteen year old Ben Radyk from New Britain, Conn. said “It’s interesting to see how so many people from everywhere from California to Connecticut can work together. And it’s interesting to see what people here go through; life is hard here. We’re very privileged as Americans. This definitely adds perspective.”
At the end of the day, the task list was checked off, the seven-foot wooden cross was hung, new chairs awaited the next church service and fresh paint covered the writing on the walls.
Pastors Mariela and Salomón summed it up simply. “This is a miracle that this group is here,” Salomón said. “A true miracle is taking place today.”