My classmate and I attend the same church, called the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, which is located behind the Unit 3 Residence Hall. One day in class, while we were waiting for the professor to arrive, she invited me to the Chiapas Trip Reflection Event, where college students from the Fellowship of College and University Students group, also known as FoCUS, reflect and talk about their experiences on the mission trip to Chiapas, Mexico during spring break.
FoCUS is the undergraduate student ministry group in our church where a lot of Cal students, who are Presbyterians, join. There are many other spiritual fellowship groups on campus that provide niches for students with different religious beliefs: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and etc. I was curious about and interested in joining the FoCUS group. So, I decided to take the first step in knowing more about this ministry by attending the reflection event. I was also looking forward to hearing other students’ experiences, especially after hearing my friend’s stories.
Once I arrived at the venue, I was warmly welcomed by the two Heads of the college ministry, and was invited to some snacks and refreshments prepared by the students. I was drawn to different conversations with other members of the FoCUS group as well as other church members who came to the event. Eventually, we gathered, sat together, and began the event.
Both the heads of FoCUS gave a brief background of the entire trip and they introduced us to the four student speakers, one of them was my friend. The speakers shared different experiences about their immersion into the culture and the environment, the struggles of the immigrants and the indigenous people living in the area, but more importantly, the lessons they’ve learned through this trip as they tied them back to their lives and families. I was greatly touched by my friend’s story, when she shared how her parents were immigrants from Mexico, how each people she talked to in Chiapas had a different “American Dream” for their families, and how it was hard to know that there’s not enough Mexican history and representation in our textbooks.
One of the things that the speakers mentioned that struck me the most was this, “Just because you have all the material goods in this world doesn’t mean that you have all the answers to solve all the problems”. This line made an impact to me because I always believed that as long as we, who are more fortunate than others in many ways, do something for those in need that we are solving the problem one step at a time. Sometimes we believe that there is a solution to every problem, and that it can be easily done. But first of all, we have to understand that there’s truly no right way and no definite solution to solve any problem. We also have to put ourselves in the shoes of others. What do they truly need? Are we really addressing the problem? At the same time, we have to humble ourselves and realize that not everyone is helpless; each person has his own way to survive. We just have to always be open minded and always lend a helping hand to the best of our abilities. We have to be the support group and not the dictator of solutions. We’ll be there for them, humbled and ready.
At the end of this reflection event, not only was I even more encouraged to join the FoCUS group, but also I learned so much about how to look and approach a certain issue as well as how to provide better aid and support for those in need. I hope to join other mission trips hosted by the college ministry and take part in being a support group for the people we meet.