Changing Lives One Vacation at a Time

Rachelle Struthers, left, and Tania Reynolds trowel the

Local church youth groups volunteer during vacation
For the past four years, 19-year-old Tom Mozzone has packed his bag with swim trunks and sunscreen and headed to Mexico for his annual vacation, but he hasn’t been sipping mai tais on the beach when he’s there.

A member of the Saint Mary Church Youth Group, Mozzone has been participating in a program where church organizations spend a week in Mexico building houses for the poor. It’s his only vacation during the year, and even though his entire week is spent building houses, Mozzone said it’s more than worth it.

“I actually enjoy my time down there, and I’m changing someone else’s life at the same time, and that makes things much more rewarding,” he said.

Each participant paid $525 to cover transportation to Tijuana, food, a camp site where they’ll stay and building supplies.

Sheryl Cathers, who helps organize the St. Mary trip, said after volunteering as a parent one year, she fell in love with the program.

“The kids are so engaged down there, and they’re working with others they wouldn’t normally work with for a week,” she said. “I would like to think that the participants get immediate rewards while they’re working with the kids in Mexico. They’re also getting hands-on knowledge of building and a week away from home, which is neat because some of the kids have never been out of the country or the state.”

John Sheppard, who is the director of student ministries at Morgan Hill Bible Church, brought his youth group to Cinco de Mayo, Mexico, last March. The trip was so personally rewarding, the youth group is already planning its next trip.

“I think we left Mexico feeling like we had been more blessed than when we came,” he said. “We just felt like the relationships we had built and having the gratification for how God had used us – that was the real excitement.”

The Morgan Hill Bible Church covered the majority of the trip’s funding, and along with rewiring a church, Sheppard said the teenagers organized Bible studies with the town’s children.

“All of the kids in town were invited, and they would come and make crafts, sings songs, do skits and learn Bible lessons.”

Along with the gratification of knowing they helped others, some participants head back to the South Valley with memories they’ll cherish forever. Mozzone won’t remember jet skiing or dancing all night like some 19-year-olds vacationing in Mexico do, but he will remember one family he worked with.

“I was the foreman, and I was working on this one house,” he said. “I had to leave and work on something else for a little bit, and when I returned the daughter had just been baptized and her mother gave me the cross that they were given. It really meant a lot to me.”

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