Even the most dedicated and excited of missions or ministry majors have a difficult time picturing themselves in a foreign country. Jon Reid and his wife, Nicolle, were no different.
“When I came to Huntington University, the PRIME program was obviously a major draw to me,” Reid said. “I was excited about where I might go on PRIME, especially after reading about students that had gone all over the world to exciting places like Africa and Ireland. But I didn’t actually think that I would be one of those students that would go overseas. I am actually a little surprised that I ended up in Mexico, but I am happy that I am here.”
In 2005, Reid went to Mazatlán, Mexico, with a group from Michigan. After seeing what a church was like in a much less privileged part of the world, Reid decided that if it was in his power, any youth group he worked with would have the same experience to see what he saw. Since his experience, Mexico has always had a special place in his heart.
“I love the people, the culture, the food and the church – it is different and refreshing,” said Reid, a senior youth ministries major from Mansfield, Ohio.
With all this in mind, when it came time to decide where his PRIME would take place and how it would all come about, Reid’s heart pulled him toward Mexico.
After speaking with a professor about his draw to Mexico, Dr. Karen Jones, associate professor of ministry and missions, put Reid in contact with Dennis Poulette, a professor of youth ministry in Mexico City, who worked with Reid to fill out an application for Youth Ministry International. YMI is a worldwide organization that sends youth ministers as teachers to other countries to work with youth and youth pastors. By filling out an application for YMI, Reid was considered a college intern for YMI and from there, things seemed to fall into place.
After finalizing all the plans for Mexico, the Reids began the process of raising the finances to go and putting life on the states on hold. And then there was the language barrier.
To compensate for their lack of Spanish skills, upon arriving in Mexico in late May, it was decided that the Reids would spend their first month in a little town named Cuernavaca. While there, Jon Reid spent seven hours a day, five days a week, studying Spanish at the language school.
“This helped immensely!” he said. “I am by no means fluent, but I can usually carry on a conversation.”
In early July, the Reids moved into an apartment that “has less square footage than the hallway of a residence hall at the university” in Mexico City where Jon Reid’s true PRIME experience began with Iglesia Cristiana Renovación as the assistant youth minister with Huberto. Working as the assistant youth minister, Reid has taken over planning and executing Saturday afternoon youth meetings as well as organizing and programming youth events and starting up Wednesday movie nights. On top of this, the Reids are working as English tutors to some of their neighbors, and Jon Reid occasionally plays piano during the Friday night prayer meeting.
Though it has been a challenge to be so far from home and the normalcy of a life they have known, the Reids considered themselves well prepared for life outside the United States.
“Mexican culture is very different, but RuthAnn Price’s mantra ‘It’s not wrong; it’s just different’ rings in my head,” said Jon Reid. Price serves as the missionary-in-residence at Huntington University.
There were situations that the Reids could prepare themselves for such as small spaces, hot weather, more lax time rules. But there were also situations they couldn’t prepare for such as bad traffic, having a toilet in the shower and living in a host home for a month with no door, just a sheet nailed to the frame. And then there were circumstances that were merely an adjustment like being greeted with a kiss on the cheek—by everyone, rain every day during the rainy season and the difference in a daily time structure.
But in the midst of all the changes and culture shocks, it has been well worth it.
“As difficult, frustrating and tiring as it has been,” said Jon Reid, “I would not trade this experience for anything. I have learned so much about myself, my faith and my future, and even my marriage to Nicolle.”
He pointed out that one of the most humbling and exciting experiences has been watching how God has provided for him and his wife. Not having raised their goal of funds to cover all their rent, utilities, food and other needs they might have, the Reids left for Mexico on faith. However, since arriving in Mexico, they have not only raised the remainder of their hoped for funds, but also their rent was half of what they had budgeted. Their utilities have been provided to them free of charge, and everything except their food bill has been well under their projected estimates. For the Reids, these unexpected blessings are a testament to the goodness of God.
PRIME is used as a teaching tool, not only for those that PRIME students work with, but for the PRIME students themselves. Reid pointed out that if nothing else, the time spent in Mexico has taught him and his wife to trust God and his provision.
“Everything I have right now is God’s,” he said. “I am poorer than I have ever been in my life, yet I have everything I need and God is providing daily.”
Jon Reid’s passion for youth in the States and in Mexico is a driving force for him. He looks forward to the chance to be youth pastor in Mexico while working with churches in the States to organize service and mission trips to Mexico. But he sees a need now to be a strong male leader.
“There is a serious disintegration of the family structure in Mexico,” he said. “The problem is focused on the role of the male/father figure, or lack there of. With this in mind, the youth director and I would like very much to host a men’s retreat for teens, young adults and fathers to teach the Biblical definition of masculinity and how God intends men to lead the family.”
For Jon and Nicolle Reid, Mexico has been a life changing experience. Jon Reid pointed out that RuthAnn Price says it best when she gave the example of circles and squares.
“When you grow up in one cultural setting, you are like a square living among other squares,” Jon explained. “Then you travel to another country, and it is a whole new culture, a culture of circles. You are a square among a sea of circles. If you stay there and you learn and change, a few of your corners get knocked off. You are not quite a circle, but you are no longer a square. And you may find that when you return home you don’t quite fit in anymore.
“So far,” he said, “I have found her words to be true.”