LF Alliance Church sends 16 members to Mexico

A week-long mission trip to La Ventosa resulted in new friends for all

Sixteen members of the Little Falls Alliance Church spent one week in La Ventosa, Oaxaca, Mexico, on a mission trip. The town, close to the size of Little Falls, also has an Alliance Church. The pastor had, for the past 19 years, been asking for a group from the United States to come and help the church. He finally got his wish.

“There were actually tears in his eyes when we arrived,” said Sarah Olson, the wife of Little Falls Alliance Pastor Ryan Olson.

The group left June 25, and returned July 4. Travel went without a glitch, except for Gabby Dupre, who had the wrong passport.

The Little Falls Alliance Church sent 16 people to La Ventosa, Oaxaca, Mexico for a week, to work alongside community members who were expanding the church classrooms and to help with a Vacation Bible School. Pictured filling a truck with sand to make cement are front row (from left): Connor Jorgensen, Canyon Hoheisel and Joey Horejsi. Back row: Sarah Olson, Carrie Lalum and Zach Lalum. The cement is then driven to the building site, loaded into buckets and carried to the roof where it’s mixed. Not pictured are Pastor Ryan Olson, Garrett Horejsi, Makayla Jorgensen, Mallory and Moriah Gross, Stephanie Cluever, Samantha Zapzalka, Carly Becker, Gabby Dupre and Shanda Jennings.

“I had a passport card, not a book. It’s used to drive into Mexico and we were flying,” she said. “But I was lucky and got the right one at the Federal Building in Minneapolis, booked another flight to Houston, Texas, where I met the rest of the group.”

While La Ventosa has a population similar to  Little Falls, it seemed smaller to Garrett Horejsi. Dupre said it was very remote and had dirt roads throughout the town. Samantha Zapzalka said the buildings and homes were very close together and there was really no downtown or shopping area, just several vendors.

“Some of the homes actually looked as if they were sharing a wall,” said Olson.

The purpose of the mission trip was twofold. The group helped organize and participate in a Vacation Bible School (VBS) plus they assisted local residents in adding a second floor to a church building used for classes.

The four-day VBS was a lot of fun. Only two of the 100 local children who attended spoke English. A bilingual church couple from Little Falls, Rich and Carol Acosta, were along to help translate for the entire group.

The Little Falls Alliance members read and acted out  Bible stories, played games and did crafts with the children from La Ventosa, plus assisted in memorizing Bible verses.

“I was part of the object lesson group, I took pictures and played games,” said Horejsi. “I basically had fun with the kids.”

Zapzalka said she really enjoyed watching the excitement on the children’s faces as they created with crafts. Dupre said it was fun being creative to get her point across when trying to communicate with the La Ventosa children.

The building project, which they all worked on every day, was a bit different than playing with the children.

“It was a separate building from the church and used for classes,” said Zapzalka. “It already had the first floor built. We were adding the walls for a second floor.”

Horejsi said they would spend the mornings moving bricks, brigade style, to the second floor, hauling sand for the cement which they also helped to mix.

The males in the group stayed in the church and the females stayed in a vacant home with no running water. They slept on cots.

For the most part, everyone enjoyed the food. There was a fish soup that was not a hit.

“The fish had scales. Sometimes I would find a half a crab or half a fish or shrimp that still had its eyes,” said Zapzalka. “But I liked the meat with lemon juice.”

Olson said she liked the potato pancakes and the beans.

“Another dish with meat, cheese and vegetables in a large tortilla and grilled was great,” she said.

Horejsi’s favorite food was an empanada, a cornmeal and flour mixture, flattened and stuffed with meat, then fried.

The food was cooked by the hermanas, or sisters of the La Ventosa Alliance Church. It was specially made for the Little Falls guests and what wasn’t consumed by them would be eaten by the sisters.

It wasn’t all work, the group did go to a natural water park called Ojo de Agua, or Eye of the Water. It was in a river with many swimming areas.

They also visited the partially excavated pre-Columbian ruins just outside of the city of Oaxaca called Monte Albán and built by the Zapotecs around 500 B.C. The view from the ruins, looking down on the capital city of Oaxaca, they said was breathtaking.

While in Oaxaca, a city of more than 250,000 people, the young adults said that it seemed a very busy, but colorful town, especially the buildings and the mountainous backdrop.

“There was so much love from the people of La Ventosa,” said Olson. “They did so much for us. There was even a group of boys who slept outside of our home each night to make sure we would be safe.”

Dupre said that many of the young people they met have Facebook pages and they all have kept in touch that way.

Each said they would recommend taking a mission trip to the area to anyone. They said it was a great learning experience being part of a different culture. If they had the chance to go again, they would.