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From Guatemala to New York City
Mathis follows mission trip with Macy's parade
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Most high school seniors dream of traveling to a beach and relaxing during school breaks. But, Warren County High School senior Rachel Mathis dreams of traveling to Third World countries and doing mission work.
Mathis recently traveled to Guatemala for a week with a group that helped repair 10 water filtration systems, handed out bags of food, and held Vacation Bible School (VBS) classes in the towns of Guatemala City, El Desengano, and Tierra Blanca.
“For about four years I have wanted to go on a mission trip because my cousin, Heather Black, has gone on about 13 mission trips to Guatemala,” said Mathis. “She’s always told me it would be good for me to go and that it would be a good experience. Finally, my parents allowed me to go with her. Everyone who went was from different denominations but we all worked together to show how great God’s power really is.”
Michael and Jonna Lorance, Larry and Pamela Wiley and Kelli Wood joined Mathis and Black on the trip, which was planned through Grace and Mercy Missions. Mathis, 17, was the youngest missionary on the trip.
“We repaired water purification systems which was a system of barrels on the roof running through PVC pipes hanging on the wall. The system purified their water for drinking. The trip put everything into perspective. I had no ideas what I was going to see. You don’t know until you are in other people’s shoes. They provided us food and shelter for the whole week so we got to experience their hospitality,” said Mathis. “But just brushing my teeth through the faucet was something I couldn’t do there because of parasites in the water. We take hot water for granted. One day I couldn’t take a shower because I thought I was going to pass out from the cold. They didn’t have hot water.”
Mathis paid for her trip by selling paintings she did of Bible verses and quotations. Her church, Bates Hill Cumberland Presbyterian, also raised money by making home-cooked meals available to the public for donations.
“The money I raised and fundraisers we had are what allowed us to have food distributions,” said Mathis. “We showed up at a church and the pastor had already preselected families who needed the food the most. When we got there, the people were sitting around waiting for us. I’m not a Spanish speaking person at all so I didn’t know what they were saying to us. But, just seeing the looks on their faces was amazing and they were in tears. I’m about to cry now thinking about it. We went up in the mountains to the poorest of the poor. Those people are barely getting by. We were just trying to make sure they had food for a month.”
Mathis said the missionaries held two VBS classes on two different night. “We had a full house the first night, probably 150 people, and it doubled the second night. Everyone heard about it and came,” she said.
She said her plans after graduation are not set in stone but she hopes to work with children. “I always wanted to be in education, be a teacher. I know I want to do something with kids that’s going to make an impact in some way, maybe social work. I want to do something kid oriented. I still want to do mission work. I definitely like mission work,” she said.
Mathis does not want to stop at just one mission trip and is already planning a trip to Haiti for April. She is in the process of collecting gently worn shoes to be sent to Haiti.
“The shoes will provide jobs for people in Haiti. The people will repair the shoes if they need repairing and then they can sell them on the open market,” she said.
To donate shoes, email her at
Mathis does take time to travel for recreation and will get to spend Thanksgiving in New York City after performing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Thursday morning.
Mathis is the lone representative from WCHS performing this year. She earned her berth as a dancer for the Pioneerettes while attending Universal Dance Association camp this summer. She is no longer a Pioneerette, but does dance for Paula’s Dance Academy on their senior dance team. She has danced since fourth grade.
Mathis traveled to New York Saturday with her mother, sister, and a family friend to begin practice with the United Dance Association and over 700 cheerleading and dance team members representing Varsity Spirit who will learn a choreographed routine to be broadcast live on WSMV Channel 4 Thursday, Nov. 28 beginning at 8 a.m.
“I had to watch two hours of videos to learn part of the routine. When we get there, they will put us in groups,” said Mathis. “I am excited for my first trip to the Big Apple and am excited to be able to dance there. I have watched the parade for years on TV. To really get to go and be in it, I’m excited! I might just get my 10 seconds of fame. I hope everyone watches for me.”