Mexico Outreach Commissions Students to Mexicali

by Rebekah Bruckner

Mexico Outreach is a long-standing tradition at Azusa Pacific University, deeply cherished among students and alumni. Mobilizing students and local churches since 1970, the program aims to glorify God in Mexicali, Mexico, through service. Since it’s inception, more than 200,000 people have participated, and the numbers continue to grow.

This spring's Mexicali program runs from March 4-10, 2017, and involves approximately 250 APU students commissioned around the theme of “Brave,” based on Psalm 27:1-3. “The theme is two-fold; it encourages us as students to carry the light of Christ wherever we go, whether it be in our own home, or far outside of our comfort zone, and to stand with courage through the challenges that life throws at us,” said Evan Cain, a junior biblical studies major in the Honors College, who went on Mexico Outreach over Thanksgiving break.

Students are placed on teams that focus on specific aspects of service. From Team Luke, a health and wellness ministry, to Team Noah, students who help with building projects, to groups that visit prisons and rehabilitation centers, Mexico Outreach provides a space for anyone who desires to share God’s love, no matter their gifts and talents. “This program is unique as a ministry in that students are integral to every aspect. They lead the teams and they do the planning,” said Bob McCorkle, senior coordinator of marketing and publications of Mexico Outreach.

“Mexico Outreach has become a pivotal part of who I am. Throughout seven trips to Mexicali, I’ve learned invaluable leadership skills that I will use for the rest of my life. My experiences with Mexico Outreach have taught me how to support others, while accepting support as well,” said Abby Peck, a junior public relations major.

Not only does Mexico Outreach facilitate growth for students in areas of leadership, the program changes hearts. “Many people are afraid they will not be able to make a tangible difference in the lives of those they encounter on a mission trip. This is not so. The men that I met at the prison, the rehabilitation centers, and the refugee centers were overjoyed just because we cared enough to hear their stories,” said Evan Cain.

Mexico Outreach students live and serve in a tight-knit community with one another. “You are stripped of your comforts and this allows you to be vulnerable with others. In Mexicali, we tent camp for the week without showers, restrooms, or cell service. This creates an immediate bond between the students,” said Peck. This sense of community is also created through service projects. “We share with one another in ways I would never experience in my comfortable campus life at APU. It takes so little for us to be present in the lives of those we are working with, and in return for our attention and time, we gain life, love, and joy to the fullest,” said Evan Cain.

Through their work in Mexicali, students develop a greater understanding of what true service looks like. Logan Cain, a junior biblical studies major in the Honors College, had the opportunity to work with men in prison. “One of the men, Luberto, could tell that I was nervous, as I was in a completely foreign situation and knew very little Spanish. But, I’ll never forget what he said to comfort me: ‘It’s enough that you are here. You show us that the world has not forgotten about us.’ I held on to those words throughout the rest of the trip. He taught me that all we need to do is show up, that when we are present and want to help we can bring so much hope.”

The time students spend in Mexicali is laden with challenges and new experiences that deepen faith. “The Kingdom of God had come near. I saw Jesus bring needed hope into hopeless situations, and I realized the success of His ministry did not rely on the students, leaders, or even the pastors to say the right words or act like the right kind of people. He took impossible, awkward, and difficult situations and turned them into spaces where he could manifest His kingdom,” said Logan Cain.

As teams prepare to spend spring break serving in Mexicali, many reflect on the incredible things God has done through APU students in the past. “Over the years I’ve seen everything you can imagine happen. The great miracle is watching the Lord transform these students and those they serve. These God moments are what make everything worth it,” said McCorkle.

Rebekah Bruckner '18 is a public relations intern in the Office of University Relations. She is a English major and a graphic design minor.