Cancun, Miami and the Bahamas are all typical spring break destinations. The desolate mountains of Chile, where there is no Wi-Fi and more goats than people, are not. Last week, 10 students from Palm Beach Atlantic University spent their spring break unplugged, doing missions work in La Serena, Chile.
The team partnered with Children’s Impact Network, an organization dedicated to establishing orphanages and improving the quality of life in countries such as Bolivia, Honduras, and Chile.
Shannon Ripp, a freshman at PBA who went on the trip, said seeing the orphans and living conditions in Chile showed her how fortunate people are in America.
“We take a lot of things for granted,” Ripp said.
The team spent the week with a host family who looks after the mountain property which CIN has plans to turn into an orphanage. They worked with the family to plant trees which will grow into a fence and act as security for the children.
“It wasn’t like we went, did a project and left,” said Ariana Fernandez, a PBA student who went on the trip. “We got to encourage the missionary family who was there.”
They also worked with local churches in the nearby city. The team met the orphans who will eventually stay with CIN, put on a church service for the neighborhood, and spent a day going door-to-door to invite people to a new church in the small city of Hurtado.
For Junior Chad Ainlay, this was his second year in a row going to Chile with PBA. The work he has done on the trips has instilled in him a love for the country and its people. His dream is to move to Chile after he graduates to start a mission-based business.
“Just being able to see how much God is working down there definitely makes me want to go back so much more,” Ainlay said.
Fernandez’s favorite moment was when her group was invited into a home and got to pray for an ailing woman and her husband.
“She was crying and kept thanking the Lord for bringing us there,” Fernandez said. “It was really cool to see in that moment how encouraging it was to her that we were there and that we were praying for her.”
The students were a diverse group, ranging from freshmen to seniors. Some had been on mission trips before, while others had never been out of the country. But after returning to America, every member of the group agreed on one thing: the week they spent Chile left an impact.
Ripp expressed frustration that returning to her routine of classes and homework makes life in America seem unimportant compared to the work she was doing in Chile.
“I prayed to God, ‘Help me find some ounce of motivation to finish this semester,’” Ripp said.
Ainlay agreed with the difference in the pace of American life. He said he really valued “being able to connect to nature around me and really be in the moment.”
Ripp’s experience in Chile made her consider somehow integrating missions work into her planned career as a nurse, perhaps working with an organization like CIN.
But Ripp also said that her time spent in Chile taught her to “speak through my actions, not just my words.”
Fernandez said that the trip inspired her to spread the same love that the people of Chile showed to her. She will resume her volunteer work tutoring refugees at Bridges Learning Academy, but also hopes to one day return to Chile.
“I want to be more intentional about serving,” Fernandez said. “I’m more willing to step out of my comfort zone in a sense because it’s love that is dictating those actions.”