My Experience As An Intern With I Am Second
During my college years one summer I was offered a paid internship through I Am Second Orlando – a Christian Non-Profit Organization whose mission is to put God first and yourself second. Through this internship, I created small groups and spread the Gospel during Bible studies. Not long after, I was blessed with the opportunity to go on my first mission trip to Tarija, Bolivia with one of the I Am Second Expeditions. One of the missionaries was not able to go due to a family emergency and she decided to donate all the money she raised for me to go. This was such a blessing! I had never traveled outside of the United States by myself before, but I knew this was from God. I was the only one in our group who spoke Spanish. On top of that, I had 5 years of experience working as an eye-wear specialist and it turned out that the evangelistic campaign during the trip involved eye-wear. I was able to serve as a translator, fit and dispense glasses, and spread the Gospel through the church services. We also evangelized door-to-door through the community of Valle la Concepción. Everything fit perfectly as part of God's plan!
I was very nervous and excited to travel by myself and with people I had just met. We were a big group from all over the states who loved Jesus and collaborated with the I Am Second movement. I remember taking two planes in order to get to Tarija, Bolivia. There were plazas and a lot of traffic, which reminded me a bit of Puerto Rico. We stayed in a hostel. It was very nice and clean. Every morning we had breakfast, prayer, and worship. The big group was divided into smaller groups and we were all assigned to different neighborhood areas in Tarija. My missionary group had 3 missionaries and 3 translators. We were assigned to el Valle La Concepción. It was a small town with very nice people. The altitude affected my breathing a bit, but then I got used to it. It was very cold. I had to wear layers, a jacket, gloves, and boots. The pastor of the church welcomed us with his wife and his twin sons. It was a beautiful little church in front of the town’s plaza. It was interesting to see how well the church was taken care of. It was very nice with tile floors, wooden doors, wooden benches, an altar with instruments, and a covered roof. The church had two floors, and the bathrooms were clean with white toilets. Once I made it to the back of the church, I quickly realized that it was also the pastor’s home. The section they lived in, however, had dirt floors and no doors. They used curtains to divide the spaces in their home. They lived humbly. They cooked for us and served us their best dishes. While sharing a meal, they told us how the previous pastor had died in a flood and the current pastor had just taken his place. The church members were sad and discouraged to attend, influenced by superstition and indigenous cultural traditions. They asked for our help to reach out to the community and encourage them to go to church and not be separated from God.
We went door-to-door to invite the community to the church service and the evangelistic event we were going to have. I remember walking with a Jesus cube for the first time in my life, showing it to the children who walked next to me curious and excited to find out what it was all about. One of the kids wanted to walk with us, but he was not behaving. I then gave him some tasks, and he became a huge help. The neighborhood kids were so excited to see us and wanted to help. As we walked around the neighborhood, we learned that many people were hesitant to come to the church because they were Catholic. We were told about how the Catholic Church in Tarija only existed for the people of power and money. We lovingly encouraged them to come and showed the story of Jesus through the Jesus cube. We were able to get some of the women in the community to join us for a Bible study. We brainstormed and came up with ways to reach out to the community with the youth. We had the eye-wear event and many people came including some who had heard about the I Am Second Movement in Spanish, “Yo Soy Segundo,” and wanted to get involved.
At one of the services, each of us shared our testimony and were able to connect to some of the people. We ate a lot of their delicious typical food, visited the market where we saw a lot of indigenous people selling their handmade items, got to participate in their neighborhood parade, and were taken to a beautiful sight by a river on our last day. Saying goodbye was the most difficult. The kids did not want us to go. I remember giving a Spider-Man toothbrush to the kid that helped me with the tasks. When I gave it to him, he started crying of happiness and thankfulness. He had never been given one before. He grabbed onto my leg and did not want to let me go when we were saying bye. The children were so sad. That was the hardest part, but I am thankful that I am still in touch with some of them through social media. This mission trip was an amazing experience. I was away from family for eight days and I learned so much. Coming back, I had a bit of culture shock. It was hard for me to adjust and live a spoiled life knowing the poverty and humble lifestyle most people lived in Bolivia. However, this experience encouraged me to continue seeking and serving the Lord, and I am thankful that my husband and I can make a small difference to communities such as this one through Panem, with your help!