By Jesse Delmonico
Think of the most exotic place you’ve ever visited. It could be a vacation or just a school trip. How unique of a place was it? Was it warm or cold, tropical or arctic, enjoyable or unpleasant? Does it compare to making a trip to Peru?
A local student will be making such a trip in just a few months. Twenty-one -year old, Fitchburg State University senior, Mike McLaughlin will be going to Peru in March 2015. The trip is a Mission trip to the northern part of this South American country that he will undertake with his church, The Evangel Assembly. This trip is being conducted by the organization Mission Outfitter.
Although this will be McLaughlin’s first serious trip out of the country with the purpose of helping others, he laughs when asked how many times he has been out of the United States, saying, “Definitely more than I can count, or at least more than I can count on my hands. It is well above 10.”
Mission Outfitter, whose tag-line is “Putting feet to faith,” helps and trains those interested in making such a mission trip. They provide the resources for “safe, productive, short-term” missions that they say are cost effective and highly beneficial to all. The organization’s website home page states that, “People all over the world are crying out to God for help. God is calling you and me to go and deliver His answers. Are you listening? Come on, let’s go…”
Participants in the program are briefed and given a crash course on where they are going and what they will be doing. McLaughlin says, “The coordinator came to our house, even though I had to Skype my parents during the meeting from school, and gave us a crash course on their program and the trip itself.” Those involved stay in hotels and are not out in the open with the local population, McLaughlin says. For this particular nine-day trip they will be, “building wells in the undeveloped jungle areas as well as interacting and educating the locals in the area of Iquitos, Peru. We will be doing this in about four or five different villages in the area. ” McLaughlin made sure to point out that they will be educating the willing people and that nothing will be forced upon them.
He explained that he is most fearful of unpredictability of the whole situation. He was told that while working he needs to cover up his tattoos to ensure there will be no confrontation with the gangs in the area. McLaughlin is also frightened by the potential for catching local diseases or getting sick because of the food and says that he has already been given three shots in preparation.
A lot of the motivation that McLaughlin received for this trip came from his parents, who will also be going on the trip. James and Denise McLaughlin have been doing trips like this for a while. They have been to many different remote locations including a few trips to Africa. He states that their motivation, more specifically his father’s motivation came from a traumatic event that took place when he was younger.
Mike McLaughlin’s sister Kathleen suffered from potentially life threatening injuries in a car accident when she was 18. James McLaughlin promised to devote his life to God if he could somehow save his daughter from the daunting misfortune of not being able to walk ever again. The miracle took place, Kathleen regained feeling in her legs and began walking. Subsequently, McLaughlin’s father’s devotion to God also began to take place. He offers, “This mission trip would not be happening, none of the mission trips that my parents have been on would have happened, if it was not for Kathleen and all that she has been through.”
This was motivation for McLaughlin himself, as one can imagine, but ultimately he is doing this mission trip for himself. He expresses, “I am so excited for this experience. I love travelling and cannot wait to see a completely different part of the world. Above all, I want to make a difference. For this trip in particular, I want to make a difference in at least one child’s life because eventually working with kids is what I want to do.”