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Bayside teens recall spring break service trip

Mission built homes in Mexicali
By: Laura O'Brien, Press Tribune corresponden
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Mexico Outreach, Bayside Church’s spring break mission in Mexicali, has assisted needy families for the past 17 years.

For one week during spring break, high school and college students provide children’s programming and fellowship at 25 area churches. Teams also build homes for the neediest families in those communities.

Joey Petrali served at one of the church sites.

“I bonded with this little niño, Jesus Eduardo. It was really hard to say goodbye to him,” said Petrali, who interns in the Thrive Leadership School at Bayside. “I had to leave him there, but I knew that he was part of the family of God now, and so I wasn’t going to have to leave him forever.”

Bayside transported 1,000 volunteers to and from Mexico this year — 200 more people than last year. The group returned home the day before Easter.

Base of operations was a 63-tent camp on an alfalfa field in Mexicali. Experienced staff and adult volunteers from Bayside campuses in Granite Bay, Folsom, Lincoln and Midtown Sacramento provided security, food prep, first aid and logistical support.

Each service team comprised adult and youth leaders, an interpreter and about 15 teens and young adults. Spring breakers were allowed one shower during the week, at a designated time, and had no access to electricity for recharging their cellphones.

Teresa Wilcox and her husband ran the snack bar at base camp for the fifth straight year.

“After the first day, the kids come up and they tell you, ‘I’ve got to tell you what happened,’” Wilcox said. “This year we had a whole bunch of kids that would just come by and say, ‘I just need a hug.’”

Spring breakers woke up at 6:30 a.m. for chapel service, ate a breakfast of pancakes and eggs and then packed sandwiches and supplies into vans headed for their project sites. Teams returned to camp around 5 p.m. for dinner and evening worship service.

“You just see the transformation where they become these amazing young adults,” said Wilcox, whose two sons, one in high school and one in college, also attended the trip. “It gives you faith in this next generation.”

Bayside Teaching Pastor Curt Harlow said the program serves a twofold purpose of providing basic and spiritual needs for families in Mexicali, as well as an experience of service for the Bayside spring breakers.

“It’s a better heart-transformation experience than any one that I’ve been involved with in 30 years of working in youth ministry,” Harlow said. “It’s really about helping our kids get a bigger picture.”

Jordanna Sadri, Bayside pastor of connections and Mexico Outreach, handles the overall logistics of the trip. Sardi participated in the program as a senior at Oakmont High School in 1996, the first year Bayside went to Mexicali. She later attended seminary with the intent of becoming an overseas missionary.

“I tried to get out of (my) hometown, but God just kept saying, ‘No. You will stay,’” Sadri said. “Now God is using me to mobilize folks to go out and be missionaries.”

Bayside community members supported the Mexicali trip with in-kind and monetary donations, from gas cards to loaning their own SUVs to funding the nine prefabricated homes Bayside crews built this year, at a cost of $4,000 to $5,000 for each 16-by-20-foot home.

Fundraisers included a golf tournament last October. Zocalo at the Fountains in Roseville donated food, staff time and dining proceeds during a fundraiser at the restaurant last month.