Our Abante family can plainly sense the pain of the people in Puerto Rico due to the devastation caused by both hurricane Irma and hurricane Maria. Beloved friends and family are still on the island with little to no communication and a small amount of resources. Former colleague and Puerto Rico native, Stephanie Rodriguez was in contact with us the Saturday after the hurricane to let us know that she and her family made it through. We have yet to hear from her since then and do not know the status of her living conditions or safety. Due to the lack of working cell towers, she and many others are without the ability to communicate with loved ones at such an overwhelming time. The following is a reflection Stephanie shared during her Abante journey. Though this was written last year, we feel it is fitting to share her story with you during this time of prayer for her and many others on the island.
Abante has been a place of growth for me. The hardest part of the journey has been leaving my home. When my team and I went back for our holiday break, I came home to my beautiful island in Puerto Rico. This was during our Christmas break –It is the best season! We take the entire month to celebrate the holidays. Puerto Ricans love to get together, dance, as well as eat good food and traditional desserts with friends. During the break, I got to see my brother (who was on leave from the Army), my parents, grandparents, baby cousins, my boyfriend, and friends from church. Though I was only home for three weeks, I reconnected deeply, and leaving became difficult.
Once I was back with my Abante team –this time in Germany for the last five months of the program–it all felt like a blur. I ached to be home with all of the wonderful people I had left behind. I found myself talking to friends and family in Puerto Rico more than I did with my team in Europe. Going back home rooted me back into my comfort zone. I got used to my routines, and my involvement in my church. I found myself unmotivated to be fully present and involved in the program. Thoughts came to my mind: being without my family, not seeing my long-term boyfriend of 6 years, saying goodbye to lifelong friends, and my growing baby cousins. Because of this, I realized that I lost much confidence in what I was capable of doing in ministry. I wasn’t in a healthy place with my attitude towards the team and with God. All these thoughts tempted me to change my mind and return home until one day, one of my leaders spoke to me honestly and gave me the option to go back to Puerto Rico the next day, to go back to what I was doing before and remain in my comfort zone. This opened my eyes to the possibilities Europe had in store for me. I realized that I didn’t want to leave, because I wanted all that God had to offer me. I wanted to change and continue growing in all areas of my life. Even though my heart hurt for my home, I chose to follow the leading of the Lord. The reward was too great to lose.
A couple weeks later, I was asked to give an encouraging word to a youth group in Kiel, Germany. What I shared was the truth I was challenged with, which brought me back to focus on my purpose in Europe. In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus speaks about people who hear the words of God and take action; they are like a lighthouse built on the rock. While the rain came and the wind blew, and beat on the house, it did not fall because it was founded on a firm foundation. My mind raged with doubts, and my heart hurt for home, but one thing remained the same – my foundation in Jesus Christ. I told this youth group that I knew God called me to be here, to experience all these things, both the good and the bad. Even when I wanted to go home, I was reminded of my purpose in this life. I may not understand all things at the moment, and it may not always feel the most comfortable, but I trust that God will see me through this process, and I know it will be better on the other side. He’s a faithful God and He’s in control of everything. Even when the storms rage, we can trust Him.
Would you be willing to trust Him, as I have?
To read more from Stephanie, visit http://www.abante.team/m/fefita/