My senior year of high school, I was convinced my parents were the meanest parents in the world because my friends were all going to Mexico for Spring Break, and they wouldn’t let me go! That was the first year Bayside sent 26 students and adults to Mexico to serve over Easter week. I had been a part of the new youth group since September (1995), and our Youth Pastor had been talking about this incredible trip to Mexico where we would camp with all our friends and another 1,000 students from all over the nation. Pastor Ray was going to be the camp speaker; we would be telling kids every day about Jesus and road-tripping down and back. So, my 16-year-old, very extroverted, adventure-loving self was, of course, DEVASTATED when my dad, for the 17th time, said “no” in way more words to my pleading and begging with him to let me go.
It all worked out that year because I stayed home and helped with junior high and worked on Bayside Easter services, which I did for the following two years on staff with the church and because my parents did not change their mind about Mexico. My dad did say, however, that when I was “out of this house,” I could do whatever I wanted. God led me to Santa Barbara to finish college and work at another Covenant Church Plant; then through the support of Bayside, I spent my first year after college, serving God in North Africa… still having never been to Mexico. Shortly after my return home, I was given the opportunity to join the staff at Bayside again in the Outreach department and that Spring of 2002, I went on my first Bayside trip to Mexico. The trip had grown from 26 in 1996 to 288 in 2002.
That trip to Mexico changed me forever. I was finally able to experience this trip that I had heard so much about. Our church loaded up vans and drove all the way to Mexico to camp in a field in a rural farming community as a base to be sent out each day and love the people of Mexico. When we would show up at the park, we were greeted with smiles from ear to ear on the faces of children who had been waiting for us all year. When we arrived at the churches, we were greeted with warm embraces of men and women who had been praying for their churches and communities and for us. The pastors were encouraged by the fact that we just showed up. The kids were blessed by our time, our sharing of the stories in God’s word and by our piggyback rides. I knew that year that I would be back.
I have been going to Mexico multiple times a year since that Spring of 2002.
In 2004 our number of participants from Bayside was well over 300, so we began our very own camp as our home base for teams serving throughout the Mexicali Valley, and in 2008 we found the land where our current “Camp Bayside” is located.
This year we will celebrate Bayside’s 25th year serving in Mexico.
It’s impossible to recount all of the moments where God showed up and how His people were His hands and feet, but so many are remembered with sincere fondness. Each person who has participated has their own personal list of how God moved in their hearts that week. Here’s mine:
· Teenagers building a home for an elderly man living in a tree with only his dogs for warmth!
· Adults sacrificing vacation time to lead students and pour into the next generation!
· Teenagers making first time decisions to follow Christ and get baptized!
· Repairing a church that regularly feeds and serves the homeless!
· Befriending, praying with, and caring for a woman living in the dump!
· Mexican boys and girls running through the streets welcoming our teams that they’ve been praying for all year!
· High school and college students hearing God’s call on their lives clearly for full-time ministry in the church and around the world!
· Interpreters using their language gift to bridge the gap between our cultures!
· Encouraging pastors in Mexico to KEEP GOING in ministry!
· Teens and adults being transformed by incredible messages during camp chapels!
· Seeing the local church in action through Bayside AND the local churches in Mexico!
· High school boys full of pride after completing a home build in just five days!
· Countless adults saying that it was when they were a student in Mexico that they made significant faith decisions that changed the trajectory of their lives!
· Truly loving our neighbor in practical, tangible, and transformational ways!
The impact that Mexico Outreach has had is unparalleled. For the people of Mexico and us.
Since 1996, we have sent out 852 with a total of 14,404 participants. The ripple effect of that has spread throughout our community, the Mexicali Valley, and around the world because of those changed by this experience.
When I tell the story of the years where my parents wouldn’t let me go on the trip, I have to chuckle. At the time it seemed so permanent. Now, some 19 years later, I am just humbled and in awe of God, the way He works in His perfect timing and at the fact He chooses to use any of us to be a part of what He is doing all over the world. God is on the move!
– Jordanna Sadri
25 years at Bayside