February 2002 - Present.
I’ve had the opportunity to visit the Quest Mexico program for several years now as an instructor and team leader for the group of students that come to Quest from The King’s University. Without fail each iteration of the Quest program is memorable and transformative for students and indeed for myself. The encounters with local community members who freely share stories of tragedy and courage are moving and inspiring. The pace and rhythm of the 10 day immersion is designed to allow for maximum exposure but also maximum reflection. Quest has had a profound effect on the lives of my students, causing them to see the world in a whole new way, prompting them to think more deeply about global justice and injustice and sin some cases, leading students to radically alter their course of studies and even their way of life. Quest Mexico is a godsend for a school such as King’s and especially for the Micah Centre because our educational objective is transformed students who are omitted to lives of justice and reconciliation. I don’t think we could be as successful at that without the Quest program.
The King's University
February 2018 - Present.
I remember in January praying that God would break my heart. It is an odd thing to pray for, I know, but some how I knew I needed to be changed. I was attempting to prepare myself for something I knew very little about. I went to Mexico this past February with 4 other students and our professors, through a program called Quest Mexico. Pay close attention to this next part, I am going to try to explain what Quest Mexico actually is. This is a near impossible task, but I am always up for a challenge.
If you are unaware, Mexico is nothing like Canada (unless you are a fan of Coca-Cola, then it is pretty much the exact same). For 10 days over reading week, when most other students were doing homework or watching Netflix, we were sitting. We did a lot of sitting (Mexico is a culture where if one person sits, you all sit), but while we were sitting we were listening. We opened ourselves to a narrative that was unknown to us and sat across from those who had a story to share, hoping to benefit from their experience and knowledge. These stories were about the past, present, and future of our global neighbors, specifically those in Mexico. We witnessed the paralyzing fear of political injustices, and then shook hands with young women and men living out what it means to be a politician for the people. We heard stories of those who had no choice but to cross the Mexico-US boarder and how they survived to tell the tale. We listened to brave men and women who are hoping for a better future, and how we in a developed country are able to impact what that future may look like. We walked with the poor, we sat with the marginalized, we celebrated with the advocates, and we laughed with all of them.
Some of you may be thinking, “so what did you actually do?” I just told you: listening is a form of doing. It may be hard to believe a Christian can go to Mexico without building a school or volunteering in an orphanage and come back with a story to tell. We listened, and we listened to learn; But knowledge is only a gift that comes with humility. I am learning this lesson still. Since returning to my comfortable, middle-class, student life, I have been faced with the challenge that knowledge cannot be divorced from responsibility; if it is, did you learn anything at all? I know I have a responsibility here. I know that right now God is not calling me to drop everything and move to Mexico (no matter how many papers I wish I didn’t have to write), but this doesn’t mean I am not being called to action. I’ll figure it out. Though more than anything, I do not want to forget. I gained an understanding I can never put into words, and I am actively letting it change me.
Student, The King's University
February 2017 - Present.
Quest Mexico challenged our students to re-examine the global community and their own local communities with new eyes. Our students left Quest Mexico with a renewed commitment to see and listen to the marginalized in Latin America, within the Mexican context, and in their own backyards.
They left with a willingness to ask uncomfortable questions about their own political, social, and economic choices. They left with an appreciation for the culture and vitality of Central Mexico, especially of the poor and their advocates. They left with the stories of the poor and pushed-aside ringing in their ears.
Most importantly, maybe, our students left Quest Mexico with an openness to new people, new cultures, and a new way of seeing their world and their place in it.
Director, Micah Center
The King's University.
January 2002 – March 2014 (12 years 3 months)
To whom it may concern:
One of our goals at Bethel College is that every student at the college will experience a cross-cultural, peace and social justice educational encounter. Several years ago I was fortunate to discover the Quest Mexico program directed by Gerardo Debbink. Since that time students are at Quest Mexico for 2-3 week stays during the January interterm at Bethel College.
Without exception, students who have taken part in the Quest Mexico program have described
this as a life-changing experience. Taken out of their comfort zone and challenged by first-hand
encounters with teachers from Mexico’s third world, students learn in new and profound ways
about urban and rural poverty, about racism, about economic and political relationships between
Mexico and U.S./Canada. They have the opportunity to experience a bit of what it means to be a
minority in a foreign land. In this context, students gain a better understanding of the negative
impact of their own privileged lifestyles on the lives of the poor of Mexico. This is truly an
encounter with global realities.
The program of Quest Mexico is a solid and well organized program. I am impressed with how
effectively Gerardo Debbink works to create a rigorous and complete learning experience for my
students. Attention to creating a group learning environment and accommodations at the Quest center enhances the overall experience. Finally, Gerardo models close and collegial relationships with the “teachers” who come to the center or in whose homes the students visit. In this regard, Gerardo and his staff model relationships of admiration and mutual respect absent barriers of race and class.
The experience provided by Quest Mexico has truly been transformational in the lives of
students and faculty from Bethel College. I am happy to strongly affirm the Quest Mexico
program and look forward to exposing future students to this educational experience.
Larry D. Friesen, MSW, DSW
Director, Social Work Program
January 2002 – March 2014 (12 years 3 months)
St. Scholastica College 1200 Kenwood Ave. Duluth, MN 55811-4199
I am writing this letter to express my strong support for Quest Mexico and The College of St. Scholastica. This social justice-based program allows our undergraduates to observe first-hand the realities of life for Mexico’s dispossessed, as well as to participate in a service-learning placement that is often related to their career plans. The student participants often return home eager to be active in domestic and international social justice organizations. Quest Mexico truly offers its participants a transformative experience.
Gerardo Debbink, coordinates the details of the program. The speakers and site visits focus on conveying some of the human rights issues and grass-roots democracy movements that concern the urban poor of Cuernavaca as well as the rural poor in communities nearby. A highlight of the program is a day trip to the state of Guerrero where students visit poor villages and have the opportunity to speak with human rights activists.
A key component of the program is the service-learning placement. Through Gerardo’s diligent work, Quest does all the work necessary to set up service-learning placements for each of the students and faculty who participate in the program. These placements provide the participants with direct experience working in Mexican health clinics, orphanages, schools, and various social justice organizations that focus on the well-being of the poor or dispossessed in Mexico. This invariably proves to be a memorable experience for the participants.
As director of the Summer Program in México at The College of St. Scholastica, I am extremely pleased to work with Quest and I would enthusiastically recommend that other institutions take advantage of this opportunity. If you have any questions regarding Quest, I would be most happy to respond to them.
David J. Schuettler, Ph.D.
January 2002 – February 2006 (4 years 2 months)
To: Whom it may concern
I am currently an Assistant Professor at New Mexico Highlands University located at the Rio
Rancho branch. This is located outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. I have been this position since August of 2006. Before that I was an Assistant Professor at the University
of Denver. At that facility I was the Director of the Latino/a Certificate Program.
The idea of the program was to enable students to work with Mexican immigrants in the United States. The premise of the program was that in order to understand Mexican immigrants it is necessary to understand Mexico. A part of the program was a two-week class which was coordinated with Quest Mexico, in Cuernavaca, Mexico. I coordinated four classes at Quest before I left the University.
There are many programs to choose from in Mexico. The reason we continued to coordinate with Quest Mexico was because of its strong theoretical orientation of popular education and the works of Paul Freire. The program offered a good mix of theory and practice. We visited many communities and listened to the poor and the intellectuals. Most of the students returned to the United States “moved”. Their original perceptions changed. One of the strengths of the program was that students left with a feeling of hope. The entire program challenged fatalism.
For many students this class at Quest Mexico was the favourite component of the Latino/a Certificate Program. One of my regrets in leaving the University of Denver was not being able to go to Quest as part of the class. I do plan on returning on my own in the future. It is well thought out; relevant and necessary in these days of globalization. If you need further information please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jose Sisneros Ph.D.
Endorsement of Quest Mexico and Gerardo Debbink
Since 2000, I have had the opportunity to yearly bring a class of University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work students to Quest Mexico. The two-week course we offer, Global Relations and Poverty in Mexico, provides a captivating mixture of experiential and academic learning based on the community-learning philosophy of Paulo Freire. It touches students in profound and transformative ways. Rather than going to books and texts, as is typical of most graduate level studies, participants learn directly from the people themselves via lively two-way conversations with peasants, spiritual and civic leaders, squatters, refugees, social workers, human rights activists, indigenous peoples, children, adults, and elders. Students venture out of their comfort zones to visit remote communities where they gain knowledge regarding Mexican culture; individual, family, and community responses to poverty; historical patterns of oppression; spirituality and liberation theology; global economics and policy; and the role of indigenous movements. Theorizing and action plans occur organically in the process and experience of dialogues between students and local community people. Included are discussions on the relationship between poverty in Mexico and policies in the U. S.; the plight of legal and illegal immigrants to the U.S. and Canada; and international trade policies –do they help or further marginalize those with less. The implications for social workers come alive as participants connect these broader issues to their commitments to personal and social change. Students leave the course transformed and challenged to participate more fully in creating a world that is friendly to all who inhabit it. Below are just 3 of the many enthusiastic reflections I have received over the years describing students reflections on their experience at Quest Mexico.
* The experience is truly one that must be lived to be fully understood. The opportunity to hear the personal stories of people in Mexico and see such a beautiful culture first-hand is invaluable (and helped me justify some of my tuition costs). In addition to the academic benefits of this course, I feel connected to some of my peers at GSSW for the first time. I consider the Mexico course to be one of the most valuable aspects of my graduate degree from GSSW at DU.
* We heard their stories, saw their tears, and felt their pain. These stories have reached into the core of our hearts and made us question everything we thought we knew before we got here. We people from the U.S. have a history of violence, oppression, and destruction. We learned that here in Mexico, just like in our own country, the wealth and power are in the hands of a few.
* As we attempt to make sense of all of this, we have questions. Everyday concepts suddenly have become complicated and confusing: What do we do with our money? What does it mean to be a consumer? How do we define happiness and poverty? What values do we use to make these judgments?
Gerardo Debbink is the creative genius behind this course. He is a joy with whom to collaborate. I am deeply indebted to him for the rich and unique experience he offers each student and to me as well.
I cannot recommend Quest more enthusiastically.
Please do not hesitate to contact me for further information.
Lynn Parker, PhD Professor Emeritu