In just a few more days, Jackie and Melissa Flores will have a great answer for all of those "what did you do last summer" questions they'll hear in the fall.
The sisters, along with other members of The Church at South Las Vegas, will travel to Mexico to participate in their first mission trip.
For almost a week, in a poor neighborhood near Ensenada, Jackie, 16, and Melissa, 19, will help conduct Bible school for local children. They'll meet and worship with members of a local church. They and the group will present local pastors and church members with vitally needed supplies and material goods.
And, when the trip has ended and they've returned home, Jackie and Melissa are certain that they'll return with memories that'll last a lifetime.
Thanks to vacations, school breaks and the season's general desire for wanderlust, summer is a popular time of year for people of all faiths to take a working vacation of the spiritual kind.
At The Church at South Las Vegas, 3051 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway, Henderson, mission trips to Mexico have been a staple of the summertime calendar for about six years, according to the Rev. Benny Perez, the church's pastor.
About 35 youth and adult members of the church are scheduled to take this year's trip from Saturday through July 22. The week's itinerary will include worship, fellowship and vacation Bible school, which, Perez notes, some of the children "have never experienced before."
"We also do things in the orphanage down there. We go to play with the kids. A lot of the kids are lonely; they don't have anybody to visit them. So we go and show them love and hope and, obviously, some spiritual guidance."
Some of the Southern Nevada missionaries also will do a bit of fix-up work on the church building there, Perez says. "A few years ago, we helped put a roof on the church building."
But for mission trip director Ivan Rubio, the most amazing thing about the yearly event is seeing how excited younger members are to exchange a week of summer vacation for hard work in the hot sun.
"We have a lot of second-timers and even third-timers and fourth-timers," he says. "They remember some of the kids (from previous visits) and some of the kids they play soccer with. They go the next year, (and say), 'Hey, you've grown,' and now they're friends."
"They enjoy it because it's just a fun trip," Rubio says. "We don't like to call it a vacation. We're there with a mission, obviously. But it's a fun, life-changing thing."
Jackie Flores, a junior at Coronado High School, says she's "superexcited" about going on her first mission trip.
She wanted to go on last summer's trip, but couldn't afford it then (the trips cost about $400 per person). This year, both Jackie and her sister, Melissa, are working -- they're baby-sitting and worked at the church's Fourth of July fireworks booth -- to help cover the cost.
"I love people, and I Iove seeing people's hearts and just the way they react when God is introduced to them," Jackie says. "And what we're going to be doing is, we'll be influencing little kids. We'll be helping them out, not only by spreading the word of God, but also just being there with them."
"I can't think of a better way to spend my summer," says Melissa, who will begin her junior year at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in the fall. "God gave us so much, and being able to help others is amazing. It will be such a privilege."
This summer's mission trip will be Griffin Fox's third. He made his first when he was just 13 and, before leaving, talked to others who had been on previous trips.
"All said the same thing: Your life will be changed," says Griffin, who graduated in June as Silverado High School's salutatorian and will begin studies at Oral Roberts University in the fall.
"When we go down to Mexico, we have one mission in mind, which is to help people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and with materials such as food and clothing. We're going to be visiting orphanages and helping out a church that definitely needs more help than an American church."
Perez says young missionaries always return with a greater appreciation of the blessings they have and a willingness to share those blessings with others.
"It's good to see young people learn to give back to the less fortunate, and not just here in Las Vegas," he says. "You go to where we go, and you see kids living in what they call homes but what we wouldn't call garages. They come back really grateful and with compassion."
"I definitely love mission trips. It' a huge part of my life," Griffin says. He counts among his most vivid mission trip memories the year when, as part of a vacation Bible school lesson, "we had (kids) write on small pieces of paper what their dream would be -- to be a basketball player or to be a doctor, whatever their dream is, because, for kids, anything is possible.
"We put those (messages) into helium balloons and, on the count of three, said, 'OK, we're releasing your dreams to God.' You could see all those balloons in the sky, filling the air, and that day the kids left with hope and understanding that their dreams were with God."
Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280.