Lake Union members of Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI) along with a group of 27 students and staff members from Wisconsin Adventist Academy (WA) organized a mission trip to Santiago, Chile, Mar. 10–23. Their plans included building a church, conducting an evangelistic series, and teaching English and Bible lessons.
The group was challenged before one member of the team even stepped onto the plane. Karen Gonzalez, a WA student from Columbia, was stopped at check-in. Due to governmental policies and the type of visa she carried, Karen was not allowed to enter Canada, one stop on the flight schedule to Chile. After much prayer and urgent phone calls to other airlines, the once inflexible ticket agent found a flight directly from the United States. The team was comprised of students who chose this mission as their senior class trip, two physicians, a nurse, a nurse practitioner, construction professionals, a pastor, willing faculty and friends. The team sensed that each one was there by God’s design. Karen had a natural ability to interpret for the group, and God miraculously intervened on her behalf.
After a long red-eye flight, the team arrived in Chile, the long coastal South American country with a population of 16 million. The WA students had the opportunity to teach 100 sixth through eighth graders at Talca Adventist Academy. The students there, the majority of whom are not affiliated with the Adventist Church, were eager to learn practical English and Christian songs. Their openness and eagerness to learn made it easy to connect and form instant friendships despite the language barrier.
The facility where the team stayed was equipped with a small staff and the necessities for food preparation. The chef was intrigued with the group’s commitment to a vegetarian lifestyle, and did an amazing job serving vegetarian meals. Carmelo Mercado, general vice president of the Lake Union Conference, says, “It was thrilling to see some of the employees eagerly respond to our visit through their willingness to take Bible studies. They are now continuing to study the Bible with the local pastor, and they are responding well.”
Jose Luis Tapia Salgado, one of the servers currently in Bible studies, e-mailed the following, “I now understand that God never stops speaking to us, His chosen ones. I hope to one day be baptized soon and be able to share with the world the message of Christ.”
Prior to the team’s arrival, arrangements were made to hire a Bible worker to work for two months in preparation for evangelistic meetings and then to work another two months as a follow-up. The meetings were held in a large, old theater in San Clemente. Mercado spoke each night while students and adults provided childcare and health evangelism as well. Several in attendance had specific health issues, for which physicians Manuel and Esther Alva provided counsel. At the conclusion of the series, 14 people took their stand for Jesus in baptism.
One of the team’s projects was to build a new church. The small church that was on the site had been torn down, and the foundation was poured and ready for us to build a new, larger church. The crew worked very hard in The mission group (ASI members, Wisconsin Adventist Academy youth and staff and other Lake Union members) stand in front of the newly-constructed church on the final Sabbath in San Clemente, Chile.
The site was picturesque where 14 new believers were baptized and welcomed by the family of God. the heat of the day to get this project done in time for the first Sabbath service. They had enough time and energy left that they built new pews as well. Mercado reflects, “It was a thrilling experience to see the broad smiles of the San Clemente Church members as they witnessed not only the acquiring of new members but also to worship for the first time in their new sanctuary. On the first Sabbath in the new building we had an overflow attendance, an indication that the church had made a positive impact in the community.”
Following the service, a bus transported the team to a beautiful river where the baptisms were scheduled. Just as the bus was about to enter a busy road, people in nearby cars and passersby persistently pointed at the bus. The problem was a broken tie rod. The team safely switched to available buses nearby and were reminded of Isaiah 65:24, “It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer and while they are still speaking, I will hear.”
Sandy Miller, the team coordinator, kindly invited this growing church to celebrate with the team at a special spaghetti dinner following the baptisms. The small number rapidly grew to more than 100 guests. Tables were set and food was cooked as more and more people streamed in. Realizing the potential for a problem, the team asked God to bless and multiply the food and began to serve the guests then numbering 200. God worked a miracle similar to the one found in 2 Kings 4:42–44 where He multiplied the 20 loaves of barley bread.
As the team enjoyed their last meal with their friends at this humble facility, prayers, gifts and tears were shared with the staff. Although the group went there to be a blessing, they came back forever changed, feeling a part of that once foreign land called Chile, and personally experiencing God’s power at work.
Mercado states, “The trip certainly was a blessing to me, because it confirmed my conviction that we have a precious message to share and many people are anxious to receive it. God only needs people who are willing to share it. I am certainly thankful for the role our Lake Union ASI chapter had in providing time, resources and effort to help many people in Chile know God. In the end, I feel we who went on this trip received the greater blessing because we saw God answer our prayers.”
Kerry Mattson, member, Lake Union Chapter, Adventist-laymen’s Services & Industries