I grew up in a wonderful pastor’s home outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Every year my family and I would visit our relatives who lived in the hills of Knoxville, Tennessee, for Christmas and for a summer family reunion. I had also traveled to other neighboring states like Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, and the Carolinas. However, I had never left the southeastern United States until I went on my first mission trip in the summer of 2001 after graduating from high school at the age of eighteen.
I remember loading up an old bus that belonged to our church early one morning with my youth group and heading for the Mexican border along Texas. We got on Interstate 20 and headed due west through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and finally to Texas. While in Texas, right outside of Dallas, our old church bus overheated and decided it had had enough. We had to pull over to the side of the interstate to check it out. In the blazing hot summer sun, many of us were asked to get out and help push the large bus to a nearby mechanic shop. I remember that being the hottest, most miserable day I had ever experienced in all my eighteen years of life. Nothing but black, burning hot asphalt and sweaty hands, pushing a scalding hot metal bus for what seemed like an eternity.
My first day spent outside of the Southeast was a memorable one, but for several unpleasant reasons. The mechanics did manage to get the bus fixed, and after driving what seemed like a dozen more hours, we made it to the Mexican border. At the border, we met some American missionaries who picked us up in a yellow school bus. We made it past border patrol and traveled another four hours or so through the dry, barren desert before we reached the city of Jiménez.