Latino teens work, pray & have fun on mission trip


by Greg Smith

from - published 9/5/09

LUCHA Ministries summer intern Kyle Smith (center) served as the leader and coordinator of the July trip to Passport Missions Camp in Massachusetts.  Antonella Membreno (left) and Karen Portillo (right) attended Passport for the first time.

AREA YOUTH de scribed Passport as: "awesome!" "amazing!" "unbelievable!" and "fun!"

This summer, 10 Latino youth from the Fredericksburg area left home for Passport Missions Camp at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass. My wife, Sue, our son Kyle, a LUCHA Ministries summer intern and I chaperoned the group.

LUCHA Ministries sponsored the trip with the generous support of Passport Camp, Fredericksburg Baptist Church, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Virginia and others.

For 15 years, Passport has offered youth a unique camp experience that combines Bible study, worship and recreation with hands-on mission projects.

For three hours each day, the youth work in local schools, retirement homes, churches, parks and other places painting, ministering with children, cleaning and repairing buildings. The goal is to be the hands, feet and presence of Jesus in the community.

This year, for the first time, LUCHA Ministries organized local Latino youth to attend Passport.

LUCHA Ministries is a social and spiritual outreach in the greater Fredericksburg area serving the first-generation Latino community. During the summer--with help from interns--we focus much of our attention on children and youth. Passport missions camp fit perfectly into our summer plans.

About 150 campers from 10 faith groups attended our session.

We brought six boys and four girls, ages 13 to 17. All youth gathered for study, games and missions outreach to make new friends and learn to work together.

"[Re]mix" was the camp's theme, based on 2 Corinthians 5:17-20. During the week, the youth were challenged to consider how to re-create their relationship with God, redo their lives under God's control, rethink the meaning of their faith and react as God leads.

Bible studies and worship experiences reinforced the themes. Youth also participated in games, sports and an '80s themed dance.

Each night of camp featured a different type of group activity for all campers and their respective groups.  Antonella Membreno, Juana Roa, Karen Portillo and Rocio Cruz pose before the mid-week 80s Dance.

 All youth and adults left the college each day at 11 a.m. for a variety of mission projects in the nearby town of Lynn. Some of us cleaned up a local park, others painted and cleaned a local elementary school, a few helped out in a retirement home, some painted classrooms at local churches and some organized and led games at a kids carnival.

Each night, our youth gathered for group devotions to talk about the day. One night, Alfonso Saavedra couldn't stop talking about how he weed-whacked for two hours, nonstop. Juana Roa enjoyed helping children play games. As the week wore on, the youth competed to narrate the exciting moments of their day.

Our aim was to help them evaluate their lives and their faith in light of God's love.

One of the coolest comments came from Rocio Cruz, a rising senior. After returning to Fredericksburg, she told Sue, "Before we came home, some of the people I met at Passport promised to add me on their list of friends on Facebook. Usually people make promises and then don't do it. But the next day after we got home, they were writing me to add me on their list of friends. That is so neat."

In the end, we all discovered that making real connections at Passport--with new friends, on mission project sites, and with God--was the best part of our week away.

The ten Latino teens selected to attend Passsport Missions Camp, plus their leaders, represented the countries of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States.  All participate regularly in youth activities sponsored by LUCHA Ministries, Inc.