In early March, our group of 27 students and missionaries from the country embarked on a week-long Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) Mission trip to Mexico City. As we piled off the bus at the city dump on our first day, no one was prepared for what we were about to see. Over 1,000 people live in the dump, collecting recyclables for an income, living in shacks and raising their small children.
The smells were horrid, but the smiles were unforgettable.
Craig Johring, founder Hope of the Poor, grinned from ear to ear as he greeted his friends who quickly made their way out of the massive piles of trash and into the chapel (made of garbage) to celebrate Mass and share tacos together.
“I love coming to the dump, because I get to encounter Jesus. I want you to encounter Jesus in the poor.”
Craig repeated this statement over and over, drilling it into our heads. He visits the dump on a weekly basis to encounter others – and encounter Jesus in them. Hope of the Poor identifies the greatest needs in the community and works with those who once lived on the street to help facilitate mission trips.
Since 2004, more than 7,000 college students and FOCUS missionaries have served on more than 400 FOCUS Mission trips around the world, reaching out to some of the most impoverished people on the planet and cultivating a heart for the poor.
During the 2017 – 2018 academic year, FOCUS Missions is hosting more than 130 trips in nearly 50 countries. FOCUS Missions coordinates several FOCUS Greek trips and sports camps for student-athletes in conjunction with Varsity Catholic. Medical mission trips to Peru, Argentina and Uganda give students in the medical field an opportunity to share their medical skills and the love of Christ.
During this mission trip, students served the poor, both spiritually and physically. We shared meals and entered into conversations about Jesus. We prayed, kicked the soccer ball and held hands with community members of all ages.
Fr. Gabriel, C.F.R. joined our FOCUS Mission team and celebrated Mass daily for us, sometimes twice, both in English and Spanish. He reverently celebrated the anointing of the sick with half a dozen women dying – a moment I will never forget. Many appeared unconscious, but when it was time to say “Amen” a small subtle voice could be heard from the dying. The veil between heaven and earth felt near.
By the end of our Mexico City FOCUS Mission trip, our group realized that we had encountered the physically poor in Mexico City, but our “own Calcutta” as Mother Teresa said, was waiting for us back on college campuses, where the spiritually poor are in desperate need of the love, mercy and truth of Christ. As a team, our group committed to finding new ways to reach friends and family to share the joy of the Gospel.
This is a guest post written by Angela Wasko. Angela started her career in sunny Los Angeles at TOMS Shoes as an ecommerce merchandiser. She drove sales for the infamous “with every pair of shoes you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need.” Following her time in California, Angela did contract work for Alternative Appeal, a sustainable apparel company, and Humanum, an international interreligious colloquium. She then landed a role at 3M in Minnesota, where she helped construct a robust social media program. After a two years in corporate America, she felt the call to work for the Catholic Church and currently leads social media for FOCUS.