Cornerstone Christian School
Cornerstone's Mission Team
Came Face-to-Face with Faith
I had the extraordinary pleasure to sit down with the Mission Team at Cornerstone Christian School who had just returned from Guatemala. Many of them were still adjusting to getting back into daily routines of school, a few overcoming some stomach bugs and allergies, all the while the Seniors were enjoying all the Senior perks of the last few days of school before their graduation.
I had received an early morning email inviting me to meet with this team at 11:45 that morning. There was no time to prep for the meeting; just time to rearrange my morning schedule and block off the time to be with them. So off I went to this meeting without having read the background material they had sent me. Thanks to Facebook, I knew a few of the faces would be friends because I had noticed their postings during their adventure.
The San Angelo Standard Times reporter was there as well. We decided to split up where we were working with the student missionaries so we could both do our work at the same time and not overstep one another. Andrew Atterbury took the hallway to interview a few of the students; I videoed the whole group as they rotated in and out to speak with him. We gathered around a large table in the library with many of the students and parents sitting smartly on elementary size chairs.
When I finally had a chance to sit down and work on this story later in the week, I pulled some of the background material that Cornerstone's Principal had sent me. One paragraph I read jumped out at me in alignment with this story. "It is our hope that this mission experience will lead our students and all team members into a deeper understanding of Christ’s love for the world and will provide opportunities to follow His example and teachings in serving those in need. We will leave the walls of our classrooms to go out and “practice what we preach!” After visiting with them, I'd say, "Mission Accomplished!"
The mission team consisted of:
Seniors - Max French, Beau Beckendorf, Brooklyn Clark, Briana Falkner, Haylee Ward, Hannah Hernandez, and Sierra (Kaufmann) Smith
Juniors - Lauren Brooks, Clara Cargile, Frank Cargile, and Michaela Allen
CCS Alum - Mason Brooks and Micah Hernandez
Parents - Susan Brooks (CCS Board Member), Randy Brooks, Benjy Hernandez (CCS Board Member), Anabel Hernandez, Melissa Falkner, Brandon Allen
CCS Staff - Lora Bird (CCS Coach), Paige Southwell (teacher), Gabriella Spraggins (staff)
I knew the mission team had been sent out on this assignment to build houses and also stoves for the homes. From the pictures I had seen on Facebook and what I was hearing them share with the Standard Times reporter before we split up, I knew they had accomplished their mission. What I wanted to know was: how had this mission trip personally impacted each one of them and how it would change things for them in the future? They each truly brought back something unique from their mission.
Everyone being reluctant to start off the conversation, they handed off the start position to the only adult present when the interview began. Paige Southwell, a teacher at Cornerstone Christian School, led off the responses.
PAIGE SOUTHWELL - humbling
Ms. Southwell began by expressing the overwhelming beauty of the country versus the stark living conditions of the people they were serving. They lived in huts.
She compared it to where she lives. They live in an apartment here. She said her family complains that they don't have the latest and nicest things. In contrast, these families had huge smiles on their faces and were so excited to be getting a house built for them, something her family couldn't imagine living in.
She also talked about the children. As a mom, it was hard for her to see the children who needed medical care. She stressed how we take our kids to the doctor if they need to go, but they don't have that ability there. That was the hardest thing for her to see. But, as she stresses, they had smiles on their faces everyday!
MAX FRENCH - untapped potential
Max saw untapped potential because of the lack of education available to the children. What education was available, was not the same caliber as in the United States. He wondered if there were doctors, scientists, etc. amongst them that would never realize their full potential because they won't be able to go to college somewhere.
When asked how that impacted him, he said he felt like they needed to do something about that. We'll see in the years to come if Max picks up that challenge he feels so strongly now.
BEAU BECKENDORF - they had faith
Beau shared a story about a man who had impacted him while he was there. This man shared how he had prayed for a house and he knew God would provide it. He stood in faith for a year and now he has his house. The level of faith that he saw amongst the people they were helping stood out to him. They relied on their faith for the necessities whereas we don't in the states. "We are complacent," he said. This man "knew" it was going to happen, not that it might happen someday, but he knew it would happen. The people there rely on their faith more than we do here in the states. Interesting!
SIERRA K SMITH - learning Spanish
Sierra discovered the importance of language. She shared how she began to focus more on her Spanish while being down there and even used it on the trip back home when she was ordering in a restaurant. She returned with an improved ability to communicate in Spanish.
MICHAELA ALLEN - grateful
In working with the children through assisting with Vacation Bible School, Michaela discovered gratefulness. She shared how they taught them how to make bracelets out of yarn and their reaction to such a gift amazed her. Something so little to her was such a huge thing to them.
BROOKLYN CLARK - a week can change someone's life
Brooklyn shared how she really did not want to go because she had so much to do with graduation coming up. Reality hit her though, and she realized that just one week out of her life didn't impact her life too much, but it totally made a life changing impact on someone else's life.
This impacted her in how she perceives time now. 'In our world we are so busy trying to teach one another new gadgets and trends, but in their world, they don't have all the gadgets and they are so happy,' she said. This experience is helping her "slow down" with her life.
BRIANA FALKNER - God's presence and peace
Briana shared how you could see their faith on the faces of the people. The joy of the Lord showed on their faces. She described the peace she felt there, that it was different than the peace you have here. Once again, that slower pace of life allowed time for them to live in a more peaceful atmosphere.
HAYLEE WARD - conviction of love
Haylee felt like they impacted her more than she impacted them. She felt convicted in her relationships with others, to develop more meaningful relationships because of how short time really is. She is working on being more loving. Haylee said, "God is love and we're supposed to be of God. If you're not love, then how are you of God? That is what is really convicting me."
HANNAH HERNANDEZ - grateful heart
Hannah came home with a grateful heart for all the things she has. They had so little and the smallest of things meant the world to them. She said she has lots of things and probably hadn't appreciated them like she should. She is thankful for having plenty of food, a bed to sleep in, a house, family, and all the things she has in her life.
FRANK CARGILE - joy on their faces and the energy they have
"The joy on their faces and the energy they have rejuvenated me. Life had become a drag, but now I have a new sense of purpose." His new purpose: to be the salt of the earth and the light in darkness.
LAUREN BROOKS - appreciation of education
While Lauren, too, was captivated by the joy on their faces, it was their enjoyment and appreciation of being able to go to school that touched her the most. While she admitted that we tend to complain about having to go to school and all the work that is required, there the children can't wait to get to school, and yet, their education is so very limited compared to ours. This changed Lauren's outlook on school and her appreciation of the education that she can enjoy and its benefits.
CLARA CARGILE - answer to prayer
Clara shared a story about a man who had a house that was falling apart and how he had prayed for God to provide them with a new house. Today he has that new house and the realization that they had been an answer to someone's prayers. The realization that they were the people God had sent to answer his prayer had made her look at her own life and how God had worked in so many ways in her life she never had considered before.
BENJY HERNANDEZ - difference in priorities
Mr. Hernandez began by sharing how decisions in a day for him might be where are we going to eat, but their struggles were how am I going to be able to put food on our table for our families. He shared they also had an attitude of gratitude. They were so thankful. They were hard working people, but they had little opportunity to improve their family's income. Many of the men worked in the fields cutting down coffee plants for $4.00 a day. It was so hard to provide for their families. How different it is in our country. We don't have to worry about food.
LORA BIRD - it brought joy back into her life
The trip brought joy back into Ms. Bird's life. She realized she had been bogged down with the cares of life and the stresses of life. When she returned, she didn't want to go back to the same pattern. The Lord prompted her to keep her eyes on Jesus - and not her problems. She can't wait to go back.
SUSAN BROOKS - had the vision for the trip/experience
Randy and Susan Brooks had been to this destination last summer with their church, First Presbyterian. It was from that experience that they realized that this needed to be added to the curriculum at the school. Cornerstone Christian School has been actively serving communities, but they felt a tug on their heart to see it go to a whole new level and begin branching further out, even internationally.
This was the first run at this and they all felt like they had hit a homerun and would like to see it continue on a yearly basis. This year the ninth and tenth graders tackled a service project in Austin, Texas, while the juniors and seniors traveled to Guatemala. This potentially will be the plans in the coming year as well, with the ninth and tenth graders doing a project outside of San Angelo or even Texas, while the upper classmen travel internationally.
HAYLEE WARD - final comment
Toms shoes - they really do take shoes to people around the world. It made her thankful for the Toms she had purchased. They so needed the shoes to protect their feet from the rocks and they saw Toms on the feet of some of the children!
CLOSING REMARKS - as I listened to them talk
They set out to practice what they preached, but discovered a people who lived a life that didn't require preaching to know their faith. Their faith emanated from the very core of their being. Their faith was who they were. It was their life. It was one-and-the-same. The missionary team had come face-to-face with faith and it impacted each of their lives in a unique way, touching the heart of what God wanted to reinforce of Himself in their individual lives.
The students commented that they could not wait to go back. This time they are going to be better prepared. They are going to concentrate on their ability to speak Spanish better and also spend more time reading the Bible. I think they became hungry for something they've never experienced before in quite the same way. It was the joy they saw on those faces, the peace that permeated around them, and faith that could move a mountain - bringing teenagers from San Angelo, Texas to build a house for them because they asked God for it. That had created a hunger in them that may never be satiated! Prayer works!