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A summer of service: Lodi teen extends mission trip to help women in halfway house

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Posted: Friday, July 18, 2014 7:08 am

A group of 20 volunteers from Vinewood Community Church drove south to Vicente Guererro, Mexico, on June 7. But when the team returned to Lodi a week later, the caravan included only 19.

Miranda O’Mahony, 18, made the decision to remain serving in Mexico serving for several weeks after a visit to New Beginnings halfway house inspired her to find a bigger way to help. This was her second trip with the church to help build a home for a young impoverished family, and to help spread her Christian faith with the people and children in the area.

The Lodi High School graduate is now home from her extended adventure and ready to begin raising money to support the women and children of New Beginnings. In the fall, she plans to study sociology at University of California, Santa Barbara.

What made you decide to extend the length of your mission trip?

I had felt the need to serve abroad for a long time. When given the opportunity, I extended the mission trip because I wanted to do as much as I could for those people. Also, I’m always up for new experiences.

After your family and church group went home, where did you stay?

I stayed at the Manzano family’s house down the street for the first few days; then I stayed at New Beginnings for about a week. The Manzanos are missionaries and take in kids from social services, or the equivalent in Mexico. At the halfway house, I slept in a trailer in the yard with Luz, a girl from Vicente Guerrero who was also there to volunteer her time. I got to practice speaking Spanish with her!

The last four days, I stayed at Heart Ministries with a couple of groups, one from Petaluma and the other from Rochester, Minn. I helped build their house, accompanied them on an outreach (handing out care packages and ministering to people in another town), and made great friends.

They showed me that wonderful people can be found anywhere you go. I felt totally accepted among the volunteers and missionaries.

What did your typical day look like?

The typical day centered around chores, children, and church — and food. While the mothers were making tortillas to eat or sticky buns to sell, I entertained the kids or helped them with their homework.

What opportunities did you have that weren’t possible during a shorter trip?

I had the chance to attend church services in town, volunteer at Oasis (the after-school program), tour the mission in Vicente Gurrero, shop at Globos (the weekly market) with Luz, and attend a bridal shower with the Manzano girls. The bridal shower was remarkably similar to those in America, with the exception of the food and more shower games.

What was the biggest challenge you ran in to? What was it about your time there that made that challenge worthwhile?

The biggest challenge was seeing an immense amount of hardship that I couldn’t do much about. But it was worth it because I found a way that we can help from California.

I’m going to set up a donation system to send a little money each month to New Beginnings. This will fund a tutor for the mothers and children, many of whom need help reading and writing.

When did you realize it was time to head home? How did it feel to cross the border again?

I knew it was time to head home when I felt that my contribution to New Beginnings would be greater from America. I went home after three weeks.

I left at 7 a.m. for San Diego in a van with one of the American groups, which went pretty smoothly. Crossing the border only took a couple of hours. The driver of my van rolled down the window and bought churros for everyone from the vendors in the road.

Once we crossed, I was thrilled to be back where I didn’t have to worry about contaminated tap water. From San Diego, I flew to Sacramento and got home around 1 a.m.

Has this experience changed how you approach service work or your plans for the future?

The most suitable form of service work is different for each of us. I discovered that my strengths do not lie in working with children, so I am not so sure that I want to be a missionary for life.

However, I definitely see nonprofit work in my future, and I hope to work on cases of domestic abuse if I eventually become a lawyer.

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