Hannah Hagar served with Project Go for five weeks in the Rio Grande Valley in 2013 with a small team of young people from her church, Memorial Baptist in Columbia, Mo. In this Q&A, she shares the best and worst of her experience, along with lessons learned along the way.
How did you hear about this program and what made you choose it out of all the summer missions options out there?
My home church was planning a weeklong mission trip to help build a house in Peñitas, Texas. A group of my very close friends and I were all interested in going on this trip, but we wanted to do more. This desire led us to get into contact with Javier [Perez, director of national missions for Buckner], Diego [Batista, mission group coordinator] and finally Ashley Marble [long term opportunity manager], who directed us toward Project Go.
As a group, we chose this option because we wanted to be able to serve for an extended amount of time, build relationships with the people and become immersed in the culture. At the same time, this option gave us the ability to serve along with our church family the final week of our trip.
What kinds of projects and activities did your Project Go team do day-to-day?
Each day, my team would usually split into two groups – the girls helping with Bible school, and the boys assisting Diego and Sam [Hutchinson, Buckner construction and aid coordinator in the Rio Grande Valley], or helping build houses in Peñitas. After lunch together, we would usually combine to work on houses or work in Buckner's warehouse. We also painted fences, and the inside of the Family Hope Center.
What was the best single moment of your trip?
The best single moment of the trip would have to be the block party. There was a moment where I stepped back and just watched and captured the moment. All the kids I had been playing with all month were there, along with their families, my Project Go team and everyone from my home church who came the final week for their mission trip. There were bounce houses, cotton candy, snow cones, carnival games, and clients from the Family Hope Center selling handicrafts.
Everyone was smiling and having a good time, and it was so fulfilling to see everyone working together to serve this community where this night would most likely be the highlight of their summer. In that moment, I could see the difference Project Go makes in peoples' lives.
What was the hardest part of the experience?
The hardest part of the experience was honestly working with my team all day, every day, for six weeks.
We all knew each other very well before leaving on this trip; we knew the best part of everyone, but we also knew the worst. This made it easy to get on each other’s last nerve. Our communication was rocky, and this made it hard to make any cohesive decisions.
This challenge we faced was put in place to make doing work for the Lord difficult. I’m traveling with Project Go again this summer, and I have already committed to not make the same mistake twice.
[caption id="attachment_10784" align="alignright" width="300"] Angel and his mom received a new home thanks to Memorial Baptist Church and the Project Go summer 2013 volunteers.[/caption]
Is there a child or family you met that you still think about or pray for? What was their story?
I met many families that had tragic stories, and everyone in the area was in poverty. One family that stays with me, though, is the mother and little boy, Angel, that our team and home church built a home for.
They had previously been living in a very small camper that was in bad condition. When my Project Go team, along with Diego, went to deliver the news that they would be receiving a new house from Buckner, the mother was overjoyed. She couldn't contain her excitement, and this continued throughout the building process. She was so kind to all of us, and would bring out homemade snacks later in the evening when we were constructing past dark. She was so appreciative and thankful for everything we were doing.
I pray for Angel and his mother regularly, that they continue to be involved at the Family Hope Center in Peñitas, and that they know that we built that house for them because we love them and because we love the Lord.
What has been your biggest lesson from your time serving with Project Go? What did you learn that has stuck with you?
My biggest takeaway from serving with Project Go would be to "build God’s kingdom." I try to live by this daily, so that all my actions would fall under this encouraging phrase.
While in Peñitas, I spent my time playing with children who did not know what love was, and I showed them. I strive to do this with everyone in my life, that they may know what love is, and from there, know where this great love comes from.
This desire to build his kingdom has led me to work with the youth back at my home church for the past year and a half, and now God has called me to serve with Project Go once again this summer in Ethiopia. I was made for one purpose: to serve God as his Kingdom worker.
Project Go is a one- to two-month missions opportunity for college students and young adults who wish to serve with Buckner in the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kenya, Mexico, Peru, Russia or the Rio Grande Valley. Applications for summer 2015 are due by March 1. Click here to learn more about Project Go.