PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - A group of South Mississippians recently returned from a life changing trip out of the states. The youth group from Arlington Baptist Church in Pascagoula traveled to Guatemala, a beautiful country full of active volcanoes, busy cities, and many largely rural impoverished areas.
The group was there to share a message of love and hope. David Easley, youth pastor at Arlington Baptist, said those he brought on this trip got to serve in multiple ways. One of those was hosting a week of faith-based programs for Guatemalan children.
"They make a personal connection with them. But then what they don't maybe expect beforehand is making that personal connection and then seeing how those kids live and seeing how different it is from how they live," said Easley.
Sam LaGanga was on this mission trip for the second year in a row. She said she's still impacted by the experience.
"It makes you really grateful because you don't realize that these people even though we don't speak the same language that we can actually talk to them and that we're not so different in so many ways. It's just our lifestyles are different. These kids have my heart and I love it here," said LaGanga.
While these coast folks were hoping to change the lives of those they met on the trip, they themselves came away changed. Andres Sanchez was able to connect with the children without the obstacle of a language barrier.
"The kids, man. I'm just like wow! These kids will change your life. The humbleness that they give you. The kids are just joyful out of anything. You can give them a piece of gum and that will make their day," said Sanchez.
It was Easley's second time to bring the group to Guatemala and he couldn't wait to get back this summer.
"The Lord gives them a boldness and gives them opportunities to step up and serve and minister. And so, for me, the coolest part is just to see the life change happening in our kids and to see what they take back home," he said.
For some people in the youth group, like Andrew Bond, this trip was a first. He didn't know what to expect when driving deep into the heart of the country to a village at the foot of an active volcano. But what he found is a new viewpoint that he says he'll remember for a long time.
"I really want to try and change our perspectives of kids complaining whenever they don't get a new x-box when kids over here don't know if they're going to eat tomorrow," said Bond.
The trip, through a mission camp called Clubhouse Guatemala, also allowed these South Mississippians to reach out into the surrounding village installing water filtration systems, building houses, and building relationships along the way.
David Williams was blown away by his experience, and he believes it strengthened his faith.
"I felt God like never before. It's been amazing. I'm never going to forget this trip ever. It'll change your outlook on a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff," said Williams.
A lot of stuff that he believes we can sometimes take for granted back in the states. These students returned home with a hopeful heart and a new outlook on life.