Interview with Angel Santiago
I hear you took some people on a Mission trip- please tell me more
Yes, a group went to Mexico from March 6th-13th. Nine students from Lansing, Ann Arbor and Pittsburgh joined four S/W lifelong brothers and two in formation.
We flew into McAllen close to the Mexican border where a couple of S/W brothers from Monterrey picked us up then took us across the border into Monterrey. There, some of the brothers joined us for various parts of the trip.
What was the goal/vision behind this trip?
We had a set of goals and expectations for the trip: helping the participants grow in their relationship with God and encouraging them to take further steps as disciples. We also aimed at giving them exposure to another Sword of the Spirit community, in this case Jesed in Monterrey. Since they were going to be with Servants of the Word brothers for the week, it was obvious that we would present consecrated life as a real option for young men. And they should get a chance to work in an ecumenical environment.
Since we had to cancel such events because of COVID for the last two years, we wanted to organize an event aimed at encouraging students to make radical decisions. Part of that was for them to get out of their comfort zone by working in a poor environment. Given my connections back home, and the fact that I am currently living in Ann Arbor, Monterrey was the obvious destination.
So what did you do concretely during those 7 days?
Our group had exposure to students in our outreach in Monterrey, including a men’s night with worship, sharing and building friendships. One evening we organized a “discipleship night” where we talked openly about Living Single for the Lord.
For a few days, we served a priest who runs a food bank. He needed help cleaning up his property, and we also did some painting. For another few days, we helped the pastor of a New Life Church with practical needs, such as fixing his roof, cutting down trees, moving walls and pouring a floor. We also had times of giving out food to poor people. We also organized a program for children and their moms, since none of them go to school and thus have nothing else to do.
Was it not a challenge for an American group to interact in a Spanish-speaking environment?
Our whole group was comprised of twenty-five men between those who went there and the brothers from Monterrey who joined us. But we had enough Mexicans who spoke English well and so could serve as translators. In the end every team had one bilingual brother in it. But of course, being in an environment where people do not speak your mother tongue is a challenge.
Did you have a sharing time- what did people experience
In our closing time, we received a lot of positive feedback. Many of the students were encouraged, but also our brothers in formation were blessed. At the same time, it was a great opportunity for the lifelong brothers to serve together, something we don’t get to do all that often. So looking back, I can say that all the objectives for the trip were accomplished.
Going somewhere else gives you a broader vision of the Sword of the Spirit as an international and ecumenical community. For some of the Mexican brothers it was their first opportunity to work with Protestants, and many of the Americans on the trip had never been outside Michigan.
Have you had time to evaluate? Will you do this again?
We think the trip went very well, especially given that this was our first one. It truly was a team effort. However, we only started planning this trip in January, we didn’t have that much time to plan, but next time we want to have most of the details nailed down in October; that way, we have ample time for fundraising, purchasing of materials and preparation.
Will you do this again?
It was costly to organize the trip in the midst of all the “normal” day to day activities. Also, since Spring break falls during Lent, it means all of us are traveling during this special season. But we think it was worth it. So we would certainly like to repeat this experience and are currently submitting proposals in favor of that.
Thank you for doing this, and thanks for sharing your experiences.