Our Youth Ambassadors have wound up their memorable mission trip to Bolivia, and have great reflections on what the trip has meant to them. Here are five great stories from our youths transforming the world:
Friday February 19, 2016
Chad Jacob writes:
As our trips is starting to come to an end, I think everyone is kind of coming to a sensible reality and now is just trying to soak up all the last days that we have left in the country and with everyone on the trip. On our way to our last day of work, everyone seemed to be just thinking heavily on what the rest of the days will bring and what they have learned since we left. Today we got to see the big Jesus Christ Statute. They journey was pretty interesting especially the little road on steep hills we had to drive. It was actually fun and was a great once in a lifetime opportunity which I really enjoyed. The second half of our day we got to shop in one of the malls which had very different things to buy that I just wanted to buy everything. It’s sad to think about how soon we’ll be on a flight back home to New York. I’m going to miss everyone from this trip and all the activities I just began getting use to. I wish we could stay longer.
Elise Arndtsen writes:
When I arrived, I felt out of place. My version of faith does not include reading the bible or praying unless there’s a pop quiz. I didn’t know many of the kids around me. I didn’t know their lives or why they were here. At the airport, when the community met us with hugs, joy, banners and flowers, I was afraid. Because these people expected us to be something that I didn’t feel like I could be. I didn’t know what their expectations were. I didn’t know how they celebrate Christianity. I didn’t know how to communicate and they were all talking so fast and excited and I had been up for so long and everyone around me looked as though they were capable and calm and welcomed. And I’m pretty sure that feeling has completely faded. Honestly, I still don’t know if they pray before they sleep or if they believe in evolution. But they didn’t care if we did that. The community expected friends, even family that would try to connect and help out. They weren’t disappointed. Members of our trip were crying at the goodbye ceremony. Half of us at least expect to come and visit. We didn’t say goodbye – we said see you later. I’m not sure how realistic that goal is but I can tell you one thing, this trip strengthened my faith in humans. This community has tirelessly volunteered their time to build a church. They take care of each other’s children without a second thought. They deserve more than we could give them. The only way to move forward from this experience is to try to be like them. Try to be grateful even if the shower’s freezing or the bus is bumpy. That sounds really difficult to me.
Jonathan Kim writes:
Love is only a word until a moment or experience altars the meaning. I could not have made a better decision to go on this trip. The people, both from the NYAC and the Bolivians, have truly save my life. The generosity, hospitality, forgiveness, reception, and LOVE is indescribable. Today was the first time I was able to open up to someone other than God. After another wonderful dinner, (Amen) we sat outside and talked for maybe two hours. I felt comfortable talking about my personal experience (and tragedies) for the first time in a while. I felt comfortable talking about things I couldn’t even express to my own father. It was a short period of time, only two hours, but will stick with me for years to come. She is truly an incredible person with so much compassion and love that I think of the same way my mother was. There was sadness, laughter, silence, and a banana. There was faith and joy. There was the emotion that had been so present and clear for months. We are awake when we are not sleeping, but sometimes, even in alertness and open eyes, we still fail to wake up. I had realized that all this time, I had been asleep. Yes. I was asleep on the bus but even in work, eating, and playing the charango, I had failed to open my eyes and see the beautiful life that God has and will continue to provide me.
This experience has been a life changing one. It made me realize that richness is not defined by the possessions you have, but by the richness in your heart. Not only were the Bolivians, they were richer than all of us. I will never squander another moment in my life again. The dictionary defines the term to cry as “to shed tears, especially as an expression of distress or pain.” I do not cry often, even if I had experienced distress or pain, both physically and emotionally, but that day I did. Reflecting on it, I realized that I didn’t cry because I was sad, but because I was HAPPY. One of the last times I cried was during my mother’s funeral. I am now calling that moment, that experience, that tragedy, the last time in my life that I cried because I was sad, lonely, or depressed. This experience in Bolivia has me believing that if I can have the same compassion as the locals, I will always see the bright side of things and be with God. As I leave this country and say goodbye, I say hello and welcome a new chapter in my life. Because of this experience I have found God. I have found love. I have found HOPE. And it only cost two and half thousand dollars. :) As I continue on the journey into adulthood, and journey through Christ, I only ask for one thing; for God to lay me down, because I have finally found myself.
Saturday February 20, 2016
Katie Euting writes:
Today was very emotional for everyone. But before we had our goodbye ceremony with the locals we were able to spend the entire of the morning with many of them at a picnic in the mountains at Inka Chaka. We went on a gorgeous hike down to a river, passing waterfalls and plateaus with astonishingly beautiful views. It was amazing to experience and share with everyone around us. Then after opening our eyes to a world we had never seen before, we got to have lunch and share with our hermanos. This then led to going up to a small field and playing soccer together. Whether you were playing or matching everyone was able to laugh together. Due to the rain earlier in the morning, the field was extremely muddy, slippery, and fun. We all had an amazing time running around and laughing at each other when we fell. I did. After we finished at Inka Chaka, we went back to Lava Lava one last time to say goodbye to all of our new brothers and sisters. We all said some heartwarming and inspiring words to each other, and prayed together. Then they offered us gifts, handmade hats, a bracelet, and a Bolivia keychain. They all showed their everlasting love, and everyone was very emotional. We all wanted to stay forever. As we reflect on this experience, we realize that by connecting with these wonderful people this culture, and God, we have all become better people and will continue this growth for the rest of our lives. The world need more people like our new family, and am so blessed to be able to live this love.
As I sit here in Santa Crus, with a 7 hour wait ahead of us, I have ample time to reflect on this past week. Before traveling to Bolivia, I had never been to South America and I was very apprehensive. I was so unsettled that I waited until 10 pm the night before we left to begin packing. This trip has honestly been an eye opener for me that sometimes feeling anxious isn’t always bad because it can lead you to amazing memories. One of my favorite moments was when we were able to meet the youth from Cochabamba because they so much fun to hangout with and even though we didn’t have a common language, we all had young spirits which brought us together. Another small moment that I will remember forever was holding one of the cutest puppies I’ve ever seen. The grouped named him “Cliff” and by the end of the week, we were all obsessed. Through this experience, I have also learned that it is okay to be uncomfortable and try things you may not have previously enjoyed. For example, on the last day, we rode up to a large mountain and went on an hour hike. Now, for those of you who don’t know me, I am not the biggest fan of hiking. Although it pushed my comfort zone and was exhausted, it was worth it. It wasn’t about how fast you could go, or how many breaks you had to take. No. It was about building a community and enjoying an experience with our Bolivian family. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and I will cherish these memories, lessons, and relationships for as long as I can remember. P.S. see you again soon Bolivia !
Today was our first day at the worksite. So far so good. We were able to see more of Cochabamba on our way there. Once we arrived, we separated into our work groups. Some of us did VBS (vacation bible school) and the other did construction work. My group did VBS and the children loved it. They were very happy. Everyone introduced themselves and began to work. A bible verse was read in Spanish about Noah’s Arc and the children were asked to draw a picture based on those verses. They drew their favorite animal. Some drew alligators, chicken and much more. Their drawings were very beautiful, some better than what I can do. We helped them to hang their drawing up in the form of an arc. The young children did the same. Also they made hats and fortune teller’s out of paper. They were very creative and excited. They enjoyed the activities that they did today. Once everyone was finished, we helped to give out snacks and prepared to leave. We sung “Jesus Loves Me” to them and with the help of our leaders, they were able to sing it in English. We also learned how to sing “Jesus Loves Me” in Spanish. We all took a walk into the community to see their houses and how the neighborhood looked. It was really nice to see the children happy. They love to take pictures too !!! Even though we couldn’t understand most of the Spanish, we were still able to bond and help each other.
February 17, 2016
Aryana Fernandez writes:
Today I woke up homesick. I really miss the smell of my house, my mom and my cats. But my sad moment went away as soon as I went downstairs for breakfast. We had pancakes!! It was the most filling pancakes I ever had. After that we had devotion (hosted by Chris’ family). Everyone starts off their day the same. We all do construction in the morning and lunch at 12:30 – 1:00 pm. At the construction site we tied rebar to create the structure of the second floor. I saw the blueprint for the church. It looks really nice. I am so proud of how much our team has accomplished in just 3 days. The workers wives surprised us with freshly boiled potatoes and lima beans. The food was provided by a nearby farm. It was so good, it reminds me that not all food needs to be seasoned to be good. After lunch, my family group (Jill) hosted VBS. Today our theme was God’s Creation.” We sang songs and cut out paper hands as the creative activity. Tomorrow we plan to surprise them for their last day of VBS. We are going to form a cross from the cut-out hands. I can’t wait to see the look on their faces. Later that evening we went to youth group with other teens from local churches in Cochabamba. We taught them an American game and they taught us a game they play in Cochabamba. It was a lot of fun!! I can’t wait for what we are going to do tomorrow.
February 18, 2016
Annie Blay writes:
Today was a very emotional day. Working on construction was not fun at all, but working with the children was great. Baby Nicole has stolen my heart. She is amazing. I love her. She is the cutest baby every! To night was an unforgettable night. We got to see the pop culture from the Bolivian youth. How they dance and they music they listen to. It was so amazing to see how language ceased to be a barrier when music intervened. Everyone was completely immersed in the experience. At one point we were all outside running around in a circle and I just couldn’t help but give myself in to the entire experience. I’ve never experienced anything so raw and neat. It all felt so natural and exciting. It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes by Stephen Clebosky and I really did feel that … “In this moment we are infinite.”
February 18, 2016
Mackenzie Henris writes:
Wow can you imagine it has been 5 days. Finally we got our phones back!!! I was waiting for today for 2 reasons. One was because today was the last day of VBS. It was so cute to see all of their faces, and seeing them having so much fun with such little toys. Of course today I had to do construction work. It was actually fun today. We taught Louis (one of the workers) to say “come on man, Let’s go” it was so funny. After work the construction group went to VBS for the last time. I was dancing with the little boys and girls. When we took the group picture two kids sat on my lap. Everyone was laughing and having fun. Seeing the smiles on their faces are so priceless, it is such a beautiful moment. So after the last VBS we went on the bus and the kids were running after us. I want to say here longer. It’s beautiful and very sunny! Well can’t wait for more experiences to come! See all of ya’ll on Monday!
February 18, 2016
Shaneil Webley Roberts writes:
Today has been such a good day so far. As usual, we started the day off with breakfast and then headed over to the work site. For the whole morning I’ve been tying rebar. It’s not a heard job, but it does get a little repetitive. Also, since we were on the top floor with no roof it was getting really hot It was so hot, that I’m pretty sure that my neck is as dark as the night sky (slight exaggeration but you know what I mean). However, despite these complaints, it was pretty relaxing and a great way to make progress on the construction of the church. After lunch, it was time for my group (Chris’ family) to run VBS. We had quite a few complications that made VBS so stressful. For the first hour or so we did not have translator present. This made it very difficult to communicate with the children. It was so hard that we decided to scratch out one of our activities we had and replaced it with more songs and time for the children to draw and color. When the translator finally arrived we were able to prepare and distribute T-shirts to the children. When the children put on their T-shirts they were so happy. We took a group picture and played around with the children afterwards. Today has officially become my favorite day because of the children and I’m going to miss them so much.
The day started with an early morning breakfast at 7:30 am. After another beautiful and plentiful meal, Jill’s family group led our morning devotion. Naomi started the devotion by asking everybody to pass the peace. Following the peace with a verse from Deuteronomy 15:7-11, which sparked a conversation about the meaning of poor in the bible vs. how we define money in terms of income and resources. Rev. Joseph left us with the object to reflect and focus on what the community of Sacaba has, instead of what we believe they lack. After spraying enough bug spray and sunscreen, (which didn’t help and still burned) we headed towards the bus that brings us to the site.
The ride is about 40 minutes but we have such an amazing opportunity to see the growing and always expanding community of Cochabamba. Once at the site, we send prayers with the local construction workers for safety during the day’s activities. We started working again with rebar, the same one the girls helped straighten the day before. At first, the language barrier was difficult to overcome very much when figuring out how to tie the rebar together but after watching the man about multiple times, everybody started to pick it up fairly quickly. We took water break and got back to work. Next talk was to put up the rebar we just tied. The bust arrived around 12;30 pm to take us back to the hostel for lunch.
After our delicious lunch and re- application of sunscreen we headed back to the site for VBS and more construction work. Chris’ family ran VBS and taught the story of creation. Jill’s group worked on the rebar and solidifying the rebar with cement. After 4:30 pm we headed to Luz de Vida Church to purchase some of their hand crafts to support their ministry. I purchased a fit for my mother that I hope she likes. Once back at the hostel, everyone took a quick shower and headed to the main building for another wonderful dinner before a worship service at the Lava Lava Church.
Around 7:30 pm we headed back to Lava Lava for a worship service. The service was beautiful with lots of music and speaking in English, Spanish, and Quechua (the local language). Rev. Ewoodzie gave a great sermon about the common thread of Christianity that binds all of us, despite our differences of language, location, and culture. The serviced ended around 9:45 pm. Once back at the hostel we had a quick debriefing about the day’s activities and the plans for tomorrow. Everyone is very tired so we all went to bed instantly.
Today I saw the power of faith in bringing different people together and it was a sight to be hold to say the least.
After a long day, it’s finally morning. We had breakfast around 9:30am. It was amazing. To be honest I wish I could take some Coffee home! After breakfast, we had time for worship and orientation. I’m so excited of all the things we had ahead of us. But we just figured out we are running a vacation bible school. I’m very nervous! Nevertheless, I just want to point out how many supplies we collected. It’s simply insane. Oh Wow! the smell of the food they are cooking right now is making me hungry. Okay they are coming out with the food, gotta go!
After lunch we all jumped on the bus and led to the church we are building. It was a long ride but I got to take wonderful pictures and we got to see a statue of Jesus on top a huge hill. Once we got to our destination all the kids were waiting for us. They hugged us like we knew each other forever. Half of the group actually started working on building the Church and the other half including myself led Vacation Bible School. We asked them all of their names, I read a bible verse in Spanish and had them draw their favorite animal. Then we took a walk around the area.
Oh I forgot! We sung with the children and they taught us how to make a hat out of paper, pretty creative. Also, many of the girls drew better them me. I had to take pictures of their drawing. Also, I was amused how many of the kids wanted us to take pictures of them. They posed and everything. Nevertheless, I also noticed there’s a lot of poverty in Cochabamba. Most people make everything from scratch which I find amazing. They make their own clothe and grow their own food.
Okay, dinner time. The food was …… I can’t even find the right word for it. All was simply delicious. I’m just grateful for everything.
Tuesday February 16, 2016
Karicia Murray writes:
This morning was crazy. I woke up early to start my day. While I was coming down the stairs, I fell down the stairs, and my head hurt a little bit, and my back was giving me problems, but that did not stop me from what I came to do in Cochabamba, Bolivia. I was shocked that I didn’t cry, but usually I’m not a cry baby. I really like when we were at the work site, just working together and giving Bolivia a helping hand. I love doing construction work because I’m working a lot on my upper body. It’s fun to do that and I’m not really a girly, girly type. Getting to know people that live in Bolivia was great. They are friendly people and they are grateful that we have come and welcomed us to come back to Cochabamba.
It has been 16 hours since I said goodbye to my family in New York. I managed to not cry at the sight of them leaving. Which is a good sign for me. Once we checked in our luggage and, successfully, passed through security bag check, we had 4 hours to kill before our departure flight arrived. I spent that time mostly reading, since I LOVE to read. When our departure flight finally arrived and we were seated, I had a feeling I was going to be very annoyed during this flight. Why you may ask? Well that was because a little kid was sitting in the seat behind me and he repeatedly kicked the back of my chair. With that being said, my flight experience was not the best, however, I did sleep like a baby. Once we landed in Lima, Peru we had a mini church service to keep in mind all the people who are praying for us and cheering us on from the side lines while we go on this journey to spread God’s word and love. As I am writing this, we are waiting for our departure flight to Santa Cruz. Overall, the journey so far has been a tiring, yet fulfilling experience and I can’t wait till we reach Bolivia.
Sunday February 14,2016
Anthony Vicari writes:
Wow what a day!!!! Oh wait it has only been 15 hours. We started right by a Mucus Man set up at JFK, what a sight. Emotions were flying and everyone was scared, nervous, and happy. Once we left our immediate families, we all became looser and more talkative. We made our way through customs, and just my luck, I get randomly selected and they search my bag. Of course they find nothing, but I was very suspicious because I was laughing, which didn’t help. Once the nice customs lady gave me my bag back, I went to the restrooms, I drank a full liter of water before customs. We then went down to the terminal where Chris (our chaperon) told us that we have around 3 hours to do whatever we want, I was sooooo hungry by then and I was happy that we have 3 hours to hang around. We had only met each other 2 times before and so it was a great time to get to know everyone more in depth. We spent all 3 hours sitting around at a pizzeria. We talked about everything, our schools, politics, Trump and tons more. Then we finally got to board our first flight. I was very nervous, but I was next to Katie and Mackenzie so I was calm. The flight was good except for the really bumpy start, a hard landing and only two hours of sleep during an 8 hours flight. Finally we made it to Peru.
All airports are rip-offs, but in Peru I bought a cup of coffee at one of the vendors for 4 US dollars. That is already extremely pricy. The best part is that the coffee is the size of my palm. I got very dehydrated from the coffee too. Since I didn’t learn my lesson the first time, I bought 2 liters of water to drink. I downed one and half liters in less than an hour. It’s finally time to board our next plane. I had an elderly lady and her daughter next to me and I went to the bathroom about 3 times in an hour span. We also were handed these forms to get into Bolivia. These forms made absolutely no sense. Reverend Ewoodzie and Jill saved me and helped me through the forms. It started to rain now and our flight is delayed, hopefully we get going soon.
This year’s Youth Ambassadors are traveling to Cochabamaba, Bolivia. There are seven teen youth aged 16-18 years old from the six districts representing the New York Conference. The dedication of these youth are remarkable because they have committed themselves to serve others. Here are some of their responses to the question: Why do you want to participate in the YAM ministry? “to help others; to get closer to God; to strengthen our faith; to share God’s love around the globe; to take a journey of faith; to share my love of Christ; to find a deeper faith in Christ’; etc.
Each youth was carefully selected by their Church and partially supported by their church and the district. I am very excited about this year’s mission journey to Bolivia because this is the first time our youth and the indigenous ‘Quechua‘ community of Bolivia will be working together. Our host church is the Emmanuel Iglesia Evangelica Metodista in Cochabamba. However we are assigned to work in solidarity with the Lava Lava community to build a new church called “Rios de Agua Viva.” Our work will include some construction work, vacation bible school, and various children ministry. Please keep us in your prayers as we depart from JFK on Saturday February 13, 2016. Follow us on facebook.