When I decided to participate in Potter’s Clay in March, I didn’t know I would see a complex organizational entity in process. I didn’t realize I would leave so proud of our students and the relationships they’ve developed with the Mexican people of Ensenada. I didn’t think about how much planning and leadership went into this week.
I knew the numbers: 207 students, 50 volunteers, seven days. I knew the ministry groups: construction, VBS, medical, dental, optometry, sports, mobile salon—although I didn’t understand what that was.
I completely missed that it would take a team of about
10 students to provide food for their peers, their chosen ministry for the week. And I wasn’t aware of the praise and worship group that moved from site to site to pray and lead worship, directing our attention first to God.
I lear ned so muc h about our students. While t hey hammered two-by-fours beside an experienced carpenter, they wondered how the Ensenada government could allow a building project with all the right permits to be halted by a neighbor’s complaint until the man who made the original arrangements returned from Mexico City and put the project back on track.
I met a student on the VBS ministry team who tried to discern how emotionally close to get to the kids, wondering if a short-term attachment that instills a sense of intimacy or hope of relationship but ends in five short days does more harm than good. Late one night around a small fire, several student leaders discussed the value of showing vulnerability as a leader with those they lead.
I watched our students bounce back from a five-gallon bucket of paint spilled in the back of a car and money and a passport stolen from a box truck as they stood right there.
Students talked about their awareness of God’s presence among them and Mexican people as they served, marveling at Mambo, a Mexican surfer who started a ministry to reach out to people just like him in Ensenada.
Medical team members shadowed optometrists, doctors and dentists, obser ving diagnoses and procedures like reinserting a pacemaker into a man’s chest, extracting teeth and prescribing glasses for people who had never seen clearly.
I listened to testimonies of our students strike a chord with Mexican young people and spark conversation about God.
As I stood on a hillside overlooking Ensenada with the spread of the city below, nestled in the hills on the coast with a busy harbor and cruise ships appearing almost every day, I thought about the impact of our work. We held five free medical/dental clinics throughout the area. The sports team hosted competitions and clinics in parks and on fields. Children attended VBS programs at 19 different locations, including some outside the city with indigenous people groups. We blessed multiple women, children, and, yes, a few men, by putting lotion on their hands, massaging their sore knuckles, painting their nails and calling them beautiful.
For 38 year s, relationships and par tner ships have been part of God’s plan for changing a city and changing the hearts of our students. How different is Ensenada because we’ve been there? And how different is Westmont because of our relationships with people in Ensenada?
About 20 churches there have formed an alliance to determine with us how best to use our time and efforts during that one week to reach those on the margins of life.
I didn’t understand the Spanish words, but I knew that Pastor Rey and his wife were deeply grateful when one of our construction teams handed them the keys to four small rooms we built above their church for a ministry to single mothers with no place to live. They had a vision that a second story and a week of work would serve a deep need in their neighborhood.
I don’t completely understand how we will do greater works than Jesus because He went to the Father and left us with the Holy Spirit, but I saw something of those greater works that week. And I know that He is the potter and we are the clay. I was blessed to be a part of the gem that is Potter’s Clay. It’s much more than a spring break mission trip, which would be enough. But it’s also a living laboratory for our students and almost four decades of global engagement and investment because we love Jesus and obey his commands.
By Edee Schulze, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students