Beauty in Unexpected Places: The Annual 8th Grade Trip to Mexico

By: Dana Frain, Faculty Member and Parent

One of the long anticipated experiences at Cambridge School is the 8th grade class trip to Cuirim House in Nogales, Mexico.

Last October my eldest son Ian described Nogales as “poor, dirty and beautiful” after returning from his class trip. Not having been there myself, I could not imagine that one place could be all three of these things at once. I was excited (and a bit nervous) when the opportunity arose for me last month to accompany my 8th grade son, Peter, to Mexico. What a joy and privilege it was to be a part of this Cuirim House experience! As Scott Buresh says, “Amazing things can be accomplished if we take children and adults out of their normal context and immerse them together in one that broadens their sense of the bigness of God’s world and His call to partner with Him in it.”

Cuirim House was founded in 2003 when Brian and Kirsten Donohue purchased a small house in a poor neighborhood in Nogales, Mexico, which is located one hour south of Tucson, Arizona.

As Brian describes Nogales, “People don’t plan on living in Nogales. They just end up there. People come to Nogales from further south with hopes of crossing into the U.S., but their hopes are seldom realized. One day they wake up and find themselves working in a factory for $1/hr, raising their family in a squatter’s village, and living in a house made of pallets and a dirt floor, without basic utilities like water or electric.”

While in Nogales, the 8th grade class served alongside Mexican pastors repairing homes and leading recreational and Bible activities for the children. We also followed Celtic monastic rhythms while staying at Cuirim House – a cycle of rest and eating, praying and worshipping, and working.

After each meal we went to chapel to worship, pray and for teaching from Brian. Our time at Cuirim House brings to mind a quote from Frederick Buechner, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

A few weeks ago, the 8th graders shared about their trip with the Cambridge Community at Chapel. Eyasu Kelly said, “My favorite memory was playing soccer with the kids, they had so much joy on their faces.” He also loved seeing the soccer field that his brother, Patrick, had built 10 years ago on his class trip to Mexico. In fact, Bill Toole’s daughter Kayla, who was on that same 2008 trip with Patrick, also served as a chaperone on this year’s trip (along with her husband Chad Hunt).

Olivia Landis shared about how much she enjoyed serving a meal at the Kids Café and the prayer time we experienced there. Olivia commented on how amazing the kids are that they could care for other people while they live in such poverty.

Nina Swayne described the carnival that we helped run and stated, “even with the language barrier we were able to enjoy doing things together.”

Matthew 25:40 says, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Thanks to Cuirim House we had the opportunity to work alongside Carlos, Celia, Mari, Oscar, Michel, Mariella, Mireya and Karla to not only tell our brothers and sisters in Mexico that Jesus loves them, we were able to show them. We laid concrete floors in 3 homes, cleared a soccer field so we could host a carnival, and raised money to help the ongoing work of Cuirim.

Nogales truly is poor, dirty, and beautiful all at once. You see beauty in the sunrises, sunsets, mountains, hugs, smiles, handshakes and the children’s faces.

To find out more about Cuirim Outreach go to

Lisa Bond