Allison Dethlefs, Cochabamba, Bolivia 2016-present Allison: I am learning more and more how to walk alongside without being able to change people’s situations or the systems they are trapped in. This can often be frustrating or disheartening, but nevertheless helps me to better understand people’s realities. When faced with immeasurable suffering, unjust systems, or hopeless situations, I have been forced to turn to my faith and trust that God can turn all brokenness into beauty, all darkness into light, and all pain into peace.
Catherine Sullivan, Cochabamba, Bolivia 2016-presentCatherine: Presence is everything. Being present to people is the most powerful expression of love. That has been made clear here time and time again…. Four days a week (sometimes five times) I go into the women’s prison and spend time with the same women. They are used to people (especially white people) coming and going and coming and going and they are not used to white faces coming and staying. Sitting patiently, and always being there, has made all of the difference, and it is a clear one. Saint Francis knew what he was talking about.
Amanda Ceraldi, Guatemala 2016-present Amanda: I found that this quarter I was affirmed in the Franciscan charism through story telling. Having the opportunity to hear stories of the people I work with and to her the stories of some of my students I was reignited in that action of sharing as a part of ministry. I grew in my faith through these stories, remembering that we are able to walk alongside others in their journey by sharing stories.
Maeve Gallagher, Guatemala (2015-2016)Maeve: One of my students took me aside and said, ‘I’ve learned to really love your classes. I know you hold us to a higher standard because you believe in us.’ It meant so much for her to acknowledge that I expressed my love by believing in all my students and pushing them to do better academically.
Jeff Sved, Bolivia (2013-2016) Jeff: People in prison are being told by society at large that you are worth less than everyone else. You have done something wrong gets translated into you are less valuable. My presence in prison ministry was a very intentional way to affirm people’s dignity and self-worth. And four years of telling people through my actions that they’re worth coming to visit does make a difference.
Katie (Eberhard) Mulembe, Zambia (2004-2006)Katie: My mission experience opened my eyes and my heart to so many things I had never known before. After walking with the poor and experiencing the presence of God so vividly among them, I can no longer overlook injustice in the world. I have to do something about it, I have to be a vessel for God’s peace and justice.
Debbie Ludwick, Sacabia, Bolivia (1999-2006)Debbie: While in Bolivia, I taught English in the jail of Scaba and the Wasinchej girls home that is run by an Italian sister. I also taught two English classes of Karate (in Sacaba and Villa Busch). It made it less strict with religion practices, but more appreciative of God. It increased my awareness of politics (local and world). I have learned to use individuality instead of groups and stereotypical words like Bolivians, North Americans, them and us.
Doug Garofalo, Brazil (2003-2004) Doug: As we hear in the Gospels, faith and trust in our loving God is paramount to living out our Gospel call. The people I encountered during my time in Brazil, whether rich or poor, in good health or not, always had strong faith. This strengthened my faith and enabled me to overcome the struggles of mission life.
Judith Caraballo, El Salvador (2001-2003)Judith: I had a calling from God and a desire to live among the poor. To live simply and humble. To want to give of myself to a God who has given so much of Himself. Throughout my stay, I was coordinator of the pastoral program and coordinator of home building projects. The impact it made on my life was that I have discovered leadership and management skills in myself. My personal relationship with God has deepened.