[Editor’s note: today’s meditation is by Ella Michael, one of the participants of our recent mission trip to Mexico.]

Do you remember when you were a kid and you would make those really complicated forts out of dining room chairs, couch cushions, and a throw blanket? Maybe you’d use pillows as chairs, and bring in that one camping lantern for a lamp. Maybe you would use an umbrella as a roof or a door. Or maybe you had a leftover cardboard box that you used as a tunnel to get to your secret hideout. It probably wasn’t very secret — my sisters and I took up half the living room or the entire stair landing.

I want you to envision that fort.
And now I want you to imagine living in that fort your whole life.
I want you to imagine using cardboard for a bed, and an umbrella for a roof, and tires for a wall.
I want you to take away a couple windows, and replace them with drywall.
I want you to imagine your home with two and a half walls and having to build onto that with whatever you can find.

This is what parts of Mexico look like. Dirt roads, stray dogs, houses that were never completed. Many of these people are poor.

And yet, every time I am there, I witness the wealth these people have.
They are rich in relationship with each other, and with God.
They are rich in joy, and are content.
They are rich in love, and open their arms and hearts to those around them with such gentle, kind hospitality.

When our vans pulled up to the build site the first day, the woman we were building for, a widow named Alma, burst into tears.

Throughout the week, she and her brother, José, helped us build, provided water, soda, and Gatorade, and ordered pizza and chicken for lunch our last day.

We went down to Mexico to serve them, and I feel as though they were the ones building us a house.

Alma and José blessed us with their riches in ways we did not expect, and I realized this year that relationship with God enriches relationship with others. I do not believe that our youth group would have grown as close to Alma and José had it not been for God’s love, and Jesus’ sacrifice that unites us all.

This mission trip was my favorite trip I’ve ever done, by far. God’s presence was felt throughout the week, we sang His praise daily, and we built a home. And it could not have happened without your help, church.

We have a statement above our stage that I read every Sunday. It reads: “Be the Blessing.” And church, we are.

We have been richly blessed by our God.

Let’s continue to richly bless others.

All the best and all the love,

Ella Michael