CHICO -- A team of Chico State University and Butte College students reached the United States Wednesday after flooded roadways in Mexico left them unable to travel home earlier this week.

The group of 40 students and 10 leaders traveled to build houses in Vicente Guerrero, a town about 175 miles south of the United States border in Baja California.

They were expected to return to Chico on Saturday, but rain storms closed several roadways and washed out two bridges in the region where the students were working.

Until the roadways were re-opened, the students, who are affiliated with Bidwell Presbyterian Church, stayed at a missionary training facility and had sufficient food and water.

They had sporadic cell phone and Internet service and were able to communicate with church staff, providing updates on their situation.

Wednesday afternoon, the group was gathered in the San Diego airport waiting for a plane to Sacramento.

The chatter heard over the telephone was lively, with college pastor Greg Cootsona saying the delay did little to hinder the team's morale.

"The students were just amazing," Cootsona said. "They had an amazing spirit and were hopeful, flexible and creative."

Cootsona said despite the weather, the team was still able to complete construction on five homes.

Chico State junior Melanie McBroom was one of the students who helped build the houses and said even though the rain compromised the group's return trip, she still enjoyed the trip.

"It's been amazing," McBroom said. "It was exciting and a huge adventure."

A kinesiology major, McBroom said her biggest concern about the closed roadways was missing work and classes, but said the extra time spent in Mexico was undoubtedly educational.

"Our group grew so much as individuals and as a community," McBroom said. "It forced us to open to each other."

In addition to the students missing the first few days of school, the closed roadways also prevented Chico State Professor Jeff Livingston from reaching his classrooms.

Livingston teaches American history and said the chair of his department informed his three classes about his predicament.

Although he has previously vacationed in Mexico, Livingston said he had never been on a mission trip in the country. Even with the rain, he said the experience was rewarding.

He said the delay taught him patience and helped him realize the strength of his team and the human spirit.

"They are a fantastic bunch of people," Livingston said. "People just remained positive."

The team was expected to reach Chico by 9 p.m. Wednesday and Cootsona, McBroom and Livingston all said they hope to travel back to Vicente Guerrero next year.

Still, Livingston did admit next year's journey won't likely be as eventful.

"I don't know if I can top this trip," Livingston said.

Staff writer Toni Scott can be reached at 896-7767 or tscott@chicoer.com.