“If you follow instructions, you will have little problems with your house. If you take shortcuts, you will be taking it apart and doing it over. Now. Are you ready to listen?" George Waterman was never one to sacrifice clarity for tact, and, as we slurped water in the 100° heat, we decided that we had better listen up.
I admit that my first encounter with George that summer of 1996 wasn’t all that positive. As an adult sponsor of a high school youth mission trip in Reynosa, Mexico, I was thinking, “He sure is bossy." But he needed to be. As missionaries for World Servants, an international organization dedicated to overseeing short term mission trips, George and his wife Jan were responsible for not only the construction of a dozen 12’ x 16’ houses that week, but also the well being of dozens of high school kids. In retrospect, they needed to be tough.
Only two years prior, George and Jan (both around 45 years old at the time) had left their lives in Michigan to respond to God’s call to mission work. George had been a very successful sales rep; they had two children, a beautiful home and the world at their fingertips. But God called; they answered and found themselves in the swelter of Mexico.
In 1997, George and Jan’s world was further disrupted as when local businessman Aaron Berman dedicated a large plat of land just outside Reynosa to be used as a camp for children and a retreat for the training and encouragement of the local pastors. Aaron, a very Godly man, showed George and Jan the barren acreage, shared his vision, and then looked George in the eye, “You are going to build it." Aaron was not a man to be refused, so the Watermans apprehensively accepted the challenge. “George", quipped Jan, “does not know how to build a dog house, much less a camp."
They named their mission Vamonos (“let’s go" in Spanish from the Great Commission found in Mat 28:18-20), created a preliminary site plan and went on tour from Mexico to Michigan and back through the East Coast, sharing the vision and asking for partners. The response was less than encouraging: about $3,000 in donations and gifts for the first phase building that would cost over $100,000. Not knowing what else to do, they felt that God wanted them to use what money He had provided, so they spent the $3,000 building a road from the main highway to the location of that first building. Upon completion of that road, they received a check in the mail for $10,000….enough to pour a foundation and start the structural steel work. As the $10,000 was getting spent down, more donations came…all totally unsolicited. And so it went, month after month, year after year. Of course the camp was being used at every phase of construction, but after the main dining area was built, dorms were built, a chapel was built, a modern water purification plant was built. Today this camp (see photos) is truly a tribute to God and is used regularly to honor Him.
Our church in Southern Illinois has continued to partner with George and Jan over the years. I have been on about ten trips; all four of my kids have been on trips and my youngest son has been back several times. Although we help out at the camp, George would always plan projects with the local churches, sometimes making simple repairs but always having Vacation Bible School. VBS is a blast in Mexico because we can simply walk along the roads, announce “Escuela Biblica" and the kids come running from every direction.
Short term mission trips have been a wonderful part of my life. The memories of going with my kids when they were in high school, seeing their love of the local people, and watching them process how people can be very happy with very little “stuff" has been cemented into my mind forever. The relationships that I have developed with my fellow believers are cherished and the excitement that builds as we plan yet another trip (nearly every year) is a huge part of my life.
I want to encourage you to consider taking short term mission trips. Read Craig Ford’s posts Short Term Mission Trips: Worth the Cost? and 11 Missionary Care Package Ideas to give you all the great info to be thinking about. And make sure you purchase Craig’s “Handbook for Short Term Mission Trips“. Craig KNOWS missions and knows how to write about missions. He leaves nothing out of this handbook; it should be required reading for each high school or college student even considering taking a mission trip and an absolute essential for the adult leaders. The book is being offered at a 25% discount until midnight March 12.
And hey. All sales profits from my blog site will go to support “Vamanos", the mission ministry of George and Jan Waterman. Click here to learn more.