The group’s day-long visit to Vida Abundante church was filled with activities, music and prayers. Part of the group also visited the new site of Casita Corazón, a place where families can bring children who need therapy for disabilities.
A clown, a teacher, a veteran, a handful of teens and their moms—they’re just ordinary people with good hearts who got together and decided to take a trip with Mission Ships. Two years ago, Deanne Slifker and Dee Walter came up with the concept of combining a girl friends retreat with a mission trip. This year 20 participants joined the group on a cruise stopping in Cozumel. It developed out of the CREW Project—Christ Reaching Every Woman.
Through translators, Pastora Mariela explained Vida Abundante’s mission. “We were called to (move the church) to this neighborhood—the one with the highest rate of suicide on the island.”
Pastora Mariela and her husband Pastor Salomón are initiating programs to support women and further the education of children. Mission Ships organizers learned some of their needs from Friends of Cozumel and arrived prepared.The volunteer group of mostly women came loaded down almost as if they were divas with a different pair of shoes for every outfit. But the shoes they brought were for children in need. There were also donations of Bibles, school supplies and more “chanclas” (rubber flip-flops) than you’ve ever seen in one place. Their financial gifts will fund summer Bible School and purchase even more Bibles.
Families from the church congregation and curious neighbors streamed into the church’s outdoor worship space to accept the chanclas being given away. Meanwhile, other volunteers offered the excited children a chance to learn to make rubber band bracelets, have their face painted, see a puppet show and receive a new toothbrush.“This is everything I want to do when I’m older,” said 15-year old volunteer Lucie Amhein. “I love how everyone is excited and appreciative. It’s great for everyone. Us helping makes them happy, and that makes us happy.” Vera Grimes used her talents as an art teacher and clown to turn childrens’ faces into her canvas for delicate flowers or fierce lions. “Poverty is overwhelming for me, but children are children and they appreciate this,” she said. “It’s good to share. They are happy. The love is amazing and I think they’re more respectful as a community (than in the U.S.).”
Mission Ships organizer Deanne loved seeing both the volunteers and the children so engaged. “This takes it to a whole new level,” she said. “I get a little emotional around so many beautiful faces. I know this is what I’m called to do.”That same sentiment was shared through a new song written by Friends of Cozumel organizer and Vida Abundante church member Larry Pedersen. Can You Feel It? was created specifically for Mission Ships and will be used as a theme song for the CREW Womens’ Conferences. Vocalist Gary Larsen, another FOC leader, first sang the song, then everyone else joined it. “Can you feel it? There’s a special feeling here. It’s ever present…”
Since the group’s return home, their Facebook messages show evidence of the special feeling created during their Cozumel visit. “People are talking about it as a life-changing experience,” said Deanne.
Asked how she felt about the Mission Ships experience, Pastora Mariela said “Very beautiful, very tired, very happy.”
“This exceeded my expectations by about a million times,” said Dee, Mission Ships’ co-organizer. “I stand in awe.”