UMC youth head to border
De Soto youth are spending this week learning about the needs and culture along the Mexican border.
The De Soto United Methodist Church sent 14 youth and three adults on a 10-day trip to visit El Paso, Texas; Juarez, Mexico; and Oklahoma City, Okla., for mission work and learning about the culture.
Youth sponsors Larry Cox and Brenda Crisco said fund-raising for the trip was so successful that the youngsters won't have to be responsible for any of the expenses, aside from spending money.
"I've looked at other trips and everything is 'You pay X dollars for the trip,'" Crisco said. "We think it's a unique opportunity that we offer in that we do a 100-percent funded trip and it allows more of our kids to go who might not have the funds to go."
Cisco said the average cost of the trip was about $8,600 because the group will rent three vans and stay in church facilities for most of the trip. The group raised about $6,500 through bingo nights, family nights and Parents' Day Out. The remainder of about $3,000 came directly from the congregation and donations.
For the first part of the week, the youth have worked at the Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso. The Methodist organization provides education to both American and Mexican citizens. The De Soto group will be painting and providing maintenance work and will attend an hourlong Spanish class each day.
"There's a lot of Hispanic children from Juarez who get education from Patterson," Cox said. "That's one of the things we'll do is maintenance work and volunteer our time and talents."
The students will also have the chance to interact with Hispanic students and the culture. The De Soto students will work alongside these students, which Cox hopes will give students not only a better world perspective, but also a better perspective of the many Hispanic residents in De Soto.
"It's good for the kids," Cox said. "Most of these kids in the Johnson County area sometimes forget the fact there are a lot of people out there that are less fortunate. They come back with a greater sense of how fortunate they really are."
Last year, the group went on a mission trip to Mexican American Ministries in Garden City. Cox said the group wanted to continue learning about the Hispanic community this year.
The institute will take the students on a guided tour of Juarez, Mexico, on Thursday so they can experience another country firsthand. After Mexico, the group will travel north to visit the Alamo, Six Flags and the Riverwalk in San Antonio. The group will travel Monday to Oklahoma City to visit the memorial of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
Crisco said the trip would give many middle and high school students the opportunity to experience a different side of American culture.
"These kids have studied the Alamo in school," she said. "Now we'll go see the real thing."
Cox said the entire group was grateful for the donations from the church and community. He said past donations have allowed students to attend music festivals and river rafting trips. The students already want to plan next year's trip, he said.
"One hundred percent of the donations go to the kids," Cox said. "This is really the third time we've gone and it keeps getting bigger. We have tremendous backing from our congregation and community."