Senior immerses in Mexico to make an impact

By Marie-Claire DeJarnett

Jenelle learning how to make homemade torillas.
Jenelle learning how to make homemade torillas.

Jenelle McClean ’11 went to Mexico City to work with the homeless and those addicted to drugs. She wanted to have an impact on them; however, they taught her about generosity, patience and so much more. Jenelle earned Asbury University’s Initiative Grant, which provides an expenses-paid internship in the areas of international community, social and economic development, public wellness and treatment, literacy and education, and other public services in developing countries.

Jenelle, a social work major from Indianapolis, is working with OMS missionaries at the Drop-In Center a center for young people living on the streets in the area of La Raza in Mexico City. Most of the young people who visit the Center are addicted to drugs and have come to get help. As a first step, the youth must be sober at the time of check-in. The Center offers them a shower and meal, as well as an opportunity to learn a trade, as long as they remain drug-free. The Center can house 16 people at a time.

Completely immersing herself in the experience, Jenelle is using the Spanish she learned during her semester in Spain in the spring of 2009 to communicate with the people who come into the center. She has learned to make authentic Mexican tortillas, find her way around the city on the bus, has treated women for head lice, and still has a few weeks left. Jenelle wants to get the full "Mexico City experience" and isn't afraid to try new things.

Her experiences at the Drop-In Center have been invaluable so far. "I am learning so much here," she said. "There is just so much you can discover on the mission field that you can never learn in a classroom. I am learning how to [work] with people in all situations and how to meet their needs in a practical sense before trying to help them spiritually or emotionally."

While her time at the Center is helping her to grow and learn, Jenelle has also realized the need to further her own education before trying to make a real impact. "I'm at the point where I know what I need to do before I come back to Mexico City—I know I need more school before I can be completely effective here."

Jenelle said that the knowledge she has gleaned from the social work classes at Asbury have given her a good knowledge base for helping the Center from a social work point of view. Her experiences are also helping her to see the impact she can make once she returns. "[The people at the Center] have a good knowledge of biblical principles and are helping these people to find out about Jesus. But I would like to bring a more organized element into the ministry, helping them work on following through, using basic social work skills to increase the effectiveness of the Drop-In Center Program."

Jenelle is eager to contribute and help the Center in any way she can. She is humbled by the missionaries she has had the privilege to work alongside, Fidel and Juana Sanchez and Alejandro and Paty Islas. "All I know is I am learning so much from [them] as they’re working with all of these people. They have so much patience and love for them, while you know it is breaking their hearts along the way [to see the addicted and their struggles]. However, there are so many success stories from this place. It's a place where these people get loved and hear about God. That’s all you can do. I’m definitely realizing that God is the one that does the changing. You can give them food and clothes and a shower, but God is the one that has the power."

You can read more about Jenelle’s ministry in Mexico City on her blog, jenelleinspain.blogspot.com.

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