We came to give, just give. We were not expecting anything in return. However, we experienced one of the most beautiful lessons of this journey– How our presence affects others.Antoine Michel
At the beginning of the Abante team’s journey in Puerto Rico, we visited South Hills Puerto Rican Campus Church (formerly known as Center Church PR). This is a vibrant, contemporary congregation led by Pastor Efren Peña. The church meets in downtown Dorado, and it is an English-speaking congregation, whose membership is mainly composed of military families, seasonal hotel and resort workers, and some locals in transition from the States.
Because they are a transient congregation, often there is need for support in different areas, like children’s and youth services, and praise and worship. Every year that the Abante team has had a presence in the island, they have served this congregation in various needs. This year, the main area of need was supporting Mrs. Cynthia Sanabria, who leads the youth group. Brian, the Director of Abante, gave colleagues Antoine and Louisiana Michel the task of leading and coordinating Abante’s involvement with South Hills, and they did not disappoint. Read the account of their experience here:
The goal for us was to help Cindy in her ministry with the youth group as she felt overwhelmed and in need of inspiration and new ideas. We were there for almost every Tuesday evening for the youth group services. Almost every time we went we led one or several parts of the service with the precious help of our team Abante (ice-breaker games, worship, share the word, etc.).
At the beginning, we noticed two main points on which we should try to improve:
• The overflowing energy of these young people, even during the preaching. The goal for us was to channel this energy to and for God.
• More unity within the group. The goal here was to make them understand the importance of going all in the same direction, loving and building each other.
At these last meetings, we realized how much our encouragement had borne fruit, and how much our presence had positively affected this group of young people. We can say that our two objectives have been achieved successfully. We saw a more than notable difference in their energy, with better listening and concentration in the serious moments of the services. Some of them even took the initiative to prepare a moment of worship as an introduction to the preaching!
As for unity, it is also with great joy that we realized by observing that there was a lot of progress. Cindy told us that she had greatly appreciated all our help, encouragement, and work for the youth group. She told us that it had enabled her to take a break with God and that he had restored her where she needed it. This has greatly encouraged us because it was our first experience of leadership and God mightily intervened.
This experience allowed us to work as a team with God, Louisiana and myself, bearing fruit that was clearly visible. I thank God with all my heart for this first experience that brought me so much spiritually and personally and allows me to be in peace by thinking of my next leadership mission.
We will keep a wonderful memory of this incredible experience at South Hills. We came to give, just give. We were not expecting anything in return. However, we experienced one of the most beautiful lessons of this journey– How does our presence affect others?
When we said good-bye, this group of young people gave us so much. We did not expect anything from them, because the simple fact of seeing them grow and seeing God acting in each of them was already our reward.
For information about the South Hills Campus PR, their hours of service, and events go to: https://www.facebook.com/SouthHillsPR/
When Jesus enters the room, he displaces the darkness, and creates his own space.John Strong
Do you remember the first day you rode a bike without the training wheels? That feeling of fright mixed with excitement; that sense of accomplishment mixed with a certain uncertainty about how long you were going to be able to ride without falling and hurting yourself on the hard pavement? Probably even as you remember, you can relate to the rawness of that moment, and how epic it felt to you. That memory can sum up a colleague’s first day of their nine-month journey with Abante.
The days leading into “D-day” are stressful and messy, filled with sad goodbyes, tedious packing, last minute runs to the store for items on the “how to pack for your trip” list, and then, there are all these crazy emotions and fears creeping in late at night, robbing you of your sleep. As the stress amounts, and the excitement grows; one question usually surfaces above the noise: Why am I doing this? Life is good as it is now. Friends are always available, and family is nearby. If a craving comes up, there is a quick fix for that; you get on your car and drive to the nearest fast food joint, and fill up the void quickly and cheaply. So, why the unnecessary stress?
On Sunday, August 14, 2016 the 2017 Abante International colleagues faced the realization, that the comforts of their routine have been stripped by their decision to join this crazy and amazing adventure called Abante International. The loss of moving freely as they wish, is now capped by a rigorous agenda, and a structured daily calendar. There are new relationships to be made, and guidelines, lessons, instructors, cross-cultural experiences awaiting, etc. It goes without saying, that emotions were off the charts on Sunday the 14th, however, once everyone put on their uniforms, and came together to pray in preparation for the commissioning service, a strange sense of peace came over the team. A sense of arrival, and a challenge to face the unknown not fearfully, but eagerly and positively, knowing that God has been, and is completely involved in the process.
The first days following that initial “shock and awe” of the first day, were nothing short of inspirational, and emotional. Guest speaker, Roger Daniel (lovingly named “Mr. Most-Tweetable-One-Liners”) inspired the team not to be enmeshed or disconnected but to be differentiated. He also talked about Spiritual Formation, and how to share one’s story. The information was good, and helpful, but Roger’s inspiring personal story, and his honest desire to pour into the team, gave the colleagues a very special sacred moment, and the best advice for the journey ahead: “Is not wrong, is just different!”
There were several guests who came to share their story with the colleagues, among them were Greg Baird, Tom Hennigan, and John Strong –all had powerful and relational stories for the 2017 world changers, encouraging them to be rooted not in fear, but in sound teachings, community, and strong faith. The first days’ sessions helped the colleagues with their initial jitters, and by the end of the week, the unknown began to look less intimidating, as they rest in the knowledge that God understands where they are today, because he designed where they will be tomorrow.