Building Relationships in Ensenada
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About 230 Westmont students embarked upon spring break trips to Ensenada, Mexico with Potter’s Clay, and Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Santa Barbara with Urban Initiative. They sought to witness and begin to understand “God’s Glory in the Neighborhood” and Convivencia, translated loosely to coexistence.
In Mexico, the newly developed Cultural Immersion team of Potter’s Clay sought to create a better partnership with the people of Ensenada. Student Kennedy Dalager emphasized the “relationship of reciprocity,” which she described as first “walk[ing] in with humility...a posture of learning.” This group consisted of eight students whom were all hosted by local families of Ensenada and welcomed into their day-to-day lives, whether it be cooking in the kitchen, watching movies, having conversations, eating meals, grocery shopping, or working at the job site. Through readings, tours of local sites like the History Museum of Ensenada, and taking part in the lives of their host families, Dalager said, the team hoped to “understand culture within missions” in hopes of making “a short-term mission a long one, a relationship.”
In preparation for the trip, Potter’s Clay also sent out prayer cards to community and family members to pray for the relationships that would be built and safety in travels. Maggie Hime, who studied in Mexico last semester, conveyed her need for help from the families they stayed with, creating space for fellowship to serve and be served. She expressed an awareness of working and being with, rather than simply working for, the people of Ensenada. Hime also expressed the desire to be “more intentional about being with people when and where ‘convivencia’ in my day happens at Westmont.” Her advice to students in fostering convivencia is: “anticipating hindsight in who am I going to wish I talked to when I’m not at Westmont anymore to reorient myself to what matters.”
Urban Initiative runs several programs during spring break. On these trips, students learned about urban issues and were moved to thoughtful response. “I was touched by the level of faith I encountered from people who were experiencing the brutal realities of life and genuinely moved to not let their stories be another fleeting memory,” said Luvuyo Magwaza, who participated in the Los Angeles program. “My time in LA served as a fitting reminder of how broken the world is but also how, through God, something could be and is being done.”
On the Salt Lake City trip, co-leader Katelyn Merrell, shared about witnessing God’s presence and proclaiming the gospel. Merrell affirms that “God is present, active, and moving in Utah,” saying “we can’t be fearful of having conversations with other people about our faith [because]...perfect love casts out (all) fear.” Merrell hopes that Westmont students can be “so rooted in Christ that love would just pour out of them onto others,” encouraging them to “be bold in the sharing of their faith because people want to hear the good news of Christ.”
Merrell also extolled the strong power of prayer, as numbers of both Westmont and LDS students have doubled now on her third year of the trip. Nathan Sirovatka, a second-year member of the trip, concluded “the Lord asks us to be faithful to His plan, and getting to be a part of what He is doing is incredible.”