Clark Fork Church Members Make Christmas Mission Trip to Mexico

February 27, 2021 | Missions and Outreach | Beth Duffey

In late December 2020, despite all the odds of it happening, Clark Fork Seventh-day Adventist Church members James Hunt and Yvonne Eller Hunt took off from Idaho for a two-week mission trip to Mexico. They flew to Cancun and were picked up by a local Adventist bus driver who lent his 30-passenger bus at no cost other than fuel.

The pair traveled to Playa del Carmen, about 40 miles to the south. They were joined by several family members, but this was no ordinary Christmas reunion. The group was housed in a school, where they could spread out their sleeping bags.

Every day, the group split into four teams: one leading a Vacation Bible School, the startup crew, the finish crew and the roofing crew. Few had any previous experience laying cement blocks or leading VBS. In addition, speakers from the group held evening meetings, giving people a chance to give their lives to Jesus.

On two successive Sabbath afternoons, the group handed out literature in the poorer areas where they just had built a church or would be building a church in the next few days. The group was able to build eight churches successfully in a very short time.

The Hunts were interviewed for a personal account of their trip.

What persuaded you to give up your Christmas holiday at home and travel outside the U.S. despite the risks of getting COVID?

It is more blessed to give than to receive, so we couldn't think of a better way to give to some people who couldn't give back. This mission trip was scheduled, so we had no choice on the dates. As for COVID — we determined that if we got it, so be it, and we were not worried. We knew that God was in control. Remarkably, back in December 2019, before any COVID restrictions, the decision was made that the 2020 mission group would fly into Cancun instead of the usual plans to drive from the U.S. Little did the planners know that by December 2020, flying into Mexico would be the only way to get there.

Other family members also joined?

Yvonne's son Beaver and his family (wife Rebecca and children Zoe, Benjamin and Liberty) also went. Yvonne's daughter and son-in-law, Shama and A.J., came, as did James's grandson, Daren.

How was this adventure organized and who persuaded you to join? Who paid the travel expenses?

Rich and Pam Sutton, relatives of Yvonne, have been organizing these mission trips for more than 30 years (see Rich gave a presentation at Faith Camp at the Hayden Lake Seventh-day Adventist Church in north Idaho in July 2020, and we decided to join about 80 Americans on this Mexico mission trip. Each person paid their own travel expenses as well as contributed $350 per person for church building materials and other expenses.

How were you fed? Where did you sleep?

Rich hired some of the local Mexican church members to cook for us all. We were housed in a school with no students because of COVID. We took camping mattresses and sleeping bags and slept on the floor of the classrooms.

Did you have any previous experience for this work? What were your functions?

Yvonne had been on two mission trips before, but this was the first mission trip for James. Because James had done construction work previously, he helped lay concrete blocks and did other construction jobs. Yvonne also helped with the building, but she mainly helped with the Vacation Bible School for local children.

Why did so many churches need to be built in such a short time?

Mexican cities have many Adventist churches, but more are needed to house its many congregations. Church groups tend to be rather small, and some have to meet in homes because of lack of churches. Lots of American students volunteered to participate on this trip, so construction had to occur during their vacation time.

In your photos, the churches look rather small. Do the churches have roofs and windows and doors, electricity for lights, plumbing for bathrooms, and chairs or pews?

Our mission was to put up the concrete block walls and a metal roof on each church building, which was 60 feet long by 30 feet wide. After we left, the local congregation added the floor and stucco on the walls, installed the doors and windows, and did the electrical work. Some churches use outhouses for restrooms. The churches we built used inexpensive plastic chairs. Once a church is built, I think they fill it fairly quickly.

Who pays for the building materials and where do they come from?

For each church, the Mexican Conference pays $2,000, the local church pays $2,000 and our mission trip money contributed $2,000. All of the building materials were purchased in Mexico.

What were the highlights of your trip?

This was an especially great experience for the young people who came. I saw families that worked and worshipped together. I saw some examples of what our young people can become when raised to work for God. We both really enjoyed handing out literature because the Mexican people eagerly received it. They almost always smiled and gave us a hearty “gracias.” As we walked on and looked back, many already were absorbed in reading the literature. Yvonne really enjoyed working with the Mexican children in the various VBS programs. The children were very enthusiastic and attentive.