After mission opportunities fell through the last school year, Maplewood was eager to offer their hands and feet for God’s work this year. But where? There were many tropical and exotic options, but the staff felt strongly we should go where we were most needed. A unanimous vote revealed the answer: LaVida Mission in New Mexico.

 LaVida Mission is a self-funded outreach ministry that provides health, healing and happiness to the Navajo community. Every person we met there, be it staff or those they serve, was gracious and grateful. I watched my kiddos’ eyes light up with the giving Spirit as they dug out gnarled thistle bushes, felled dead trees, courageously sanitized areas contaminated with virus-ridden mouse waste, and cleared out entire giant greenhouses in preparation for LaVida’s new permaculture initiative they’re hoping to get off the ground.

Each LaVida staff member, some of whom were graduates from LaVida’s high school learning program themselves, had an incredible story of how they got to LaVida and why they choose LaVida as their means of showing God’s love and serving His people. 

It was evident the love they emanated affected all of us. The three students I was working with one day to create, dig out and level two pathways up to a picnic area finally understood why we were there. “This is the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life, but it’s the best work I’ve ever done in my life,” one exclaimed between laborious efforts with his shovel.  

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Piper Hembre, a Junior at Maplewood, was already experiencing the nostalgia and impact of a similar path. Her mother came to LaVida Mission on her own spring break back when she was a Junior at Maplewood, and now here Piper was, building on the work her mom had started years before. “This mission trip is something I am going to remember forever. It was definitely one of my favorite weeks I’ve ever lived,” Piper said. “I saw God pretty much everywhere, which was another good thing that made the whole week so, so good. I saw Him in the hearts of the people, in the stars, in our worships, in the work and willingness of our students. I would love to go again in the future and see what all has changed and stayed the same.”

 This mission trip revealed things to each of us. My revelation goes something like this: If the future of the gospel rides on these kids, and wonderful people like those at LaVida mission, we are in good hands.

 We asked each student who participated this question: “What was the best/most inspirational part of the mission trip?” Here are some of their answers.

“The most inspirational part about the mission trip was the people. The staff at LaVida Mission are very dedicated to helping their students get closer to God and seeing them share their testimonies with us was very powerful.” —Carl Pellazar

“The best part of the mission trip for me was getting to see how the La Vida school is based entirely on donations and seeing how wonderful the people there are. They and the school were so inspiring and made me want to help them where I can even more than I already wanted to.” —Nevaya Cape

“Although the people of La Vida Mission are poor and have gone through many trials, they still praise God for all the blessings they have. They are happy and grateful for what they have. This trip taught me a very important lesson in thankfulness.” —Jasmine Garcia

“One of the most inspirational parts on this mission trip was the faith of the staff at La Vida. They fully depended on God and had a strong faith that He would provide for them.” —Nyadheal Dak

“My favorite part about the mission trip was actually at the very end. When we were in the Denver airport for a 10-hour layover, God showed us someone who needed some encouragement. I believe God changed our flight so we could meet this guy!” —Abby Cook (see story on opposite page)

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Jesse Tasche is the Assistant Girl’s Dean at Maplewood Academy.

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