Students' Mexico trip not what you might think

Posted at 7:00 AM, Jan 21, 2016

Spring break isn’t until March, but nearly 50 Kings High School students will head to Mexico next month. The students will spend Feb. 13-17 in Monterrey engaging in physical labor and interacting with orphans.

The trip, organized by Kings High School seniors Evan and Emma Guckenberger with their parents’ help, will be a first for many participants.

“Many of these people are getting their passports for the first time,” said Beth Guckenberger, mother of Evan and Emma. “Some of them have never been on an airplane.”

Beth Guckenberger, along with her husband, Todd, is co-executive director of Back2Back Ministries, an international Christian nonprofit organization. The couple, who are from Cincinnati originally, organized their first mission trips to Monterrey in 1997 and founded Back2Back shortly after.

They spent the next 16 years living in Mexico and expanding their ministry with three mission sites in Mexico as well as Nigeria, India and Haiti. Their ministry provides “care for today” for orphans’ ongoing daily needs, like food, education and medical care, as well as “hope for tomorrow,” geared toward putting orphans through college.

When the Guckenbergers moved back to Cincinnati two years ago, Evan and Emma, then sophomores at Kings High School, began envisioning a trip back to Mexico with their friends and peers.

With the help of their parents and a school guidance counselor who participated in Back2Back missions as a teen, the siblings made the plans to bring their dream to life.

“I kind of helped from the school end as counselor … while their mom and dad helped from the trip-planning end,” Kings High School guidance counselor Alex Garvin said.

While Back2Back is facilitating the trip, it was promoted as neither a religious experience nor a school experience, he said.

With a personal goal of five students, Beth Guckenberger was impressed when 48 students signed up for the trip.

“I was very, very surprised when the registrations were due and we got close to 50 of them,” she said.

The desire to serve is a positive reflection of the high school’s student body – especially the athletes, who make up a majority of the trip’s participants, she said.

“I just thought it’d be a great opportunity to go out and serve others,” senior Ricky Brayton said.

Brayton, who is close friends with Evan Guckenberger, said he’s excited to get to Mexico and do the work but also anxious, since he’s never been out of the country before.

He and his fellow students will spend about half their time doing construction and repairs on Back2Back facilities. They’ll spend the remainder of their time interacting with orphans doing athletic activities, tutoring and playing.

Senior Hannah Chunn, who went on a Back2Back mission two summers ago, is looking forward to the relationship-building aspect of the trip.

“I think that is going to be awesome for our friendships and for our relationships with teachers,” she said.

She also hopes to see the experience impact her schoolmates’ perspectives.

“When you’re serving other people, that’s a perspective change … especially in a country where the kids are disadvantaged, where the people are disadvantaged compared to you,” she said.

Garvin, who is one of 12 adults accompanying the teens, is looking forward to returning to Mexico as well.

“I imagine the things I see will look a lot different, but the hearts of the kids and the hearts of the people, I think, will be the same from when I left,” he said.

Like Chunn, he hopes to see students grow in their relationship-building skills and acceptance of those who are different from them.

“(When) you have the opportunity to practice those skills in an environment where you don’t really have a choice but to practice them – I think they’ll be sharpened,” Garvin said.