June 3rd, 2019, was the beginning of an unforgettable journey. A group of college students from Washington Adventist University were minutes away from embarking on a mission trip that would change their lives forever. Our little island which rested on the limpid blue oceans, surrounded by palm trees, patiently waited for our arrival. The sound of the coquís and the cry of the roosters would soon resonate into our ears. Keep in mind, most of us hadn’t met one another; however, each soul vigorously conveyed a radiant smile. Waiting for our flight was the least of our worries. We began to converse with one another by sharing stories, while others gracefully braided long strands of luscious thick hair. A beautiful moment indeed. At last, our plane arrived, and in a couple of hours, we’d meet our beloved island of Puerto Rico.
When we stepped off the plane, a sweltering summer’s breeze welcomed us with open arms. At last, we had encountered our beloved island. Our mission trip would consist of two weeks, and we had two primary goals: provide health fairs for the community and restore a home damaged by Hurricane Maria. (Other projects such as organizing clothes for charity were also accomplished in the first week.) In the health fairs, the team divided into different stations that corresponded to their topics. For instance, one table took blood pressures or glucose levels, while others provided vital health information regarding the importance of dental and hygiene care. Just as flowers bloom in the spring, each station began to blossom as the days progressed. The radiant smiles of people—of all ages—suffused the room — what a joyous moment, a moment worth living.
Our main project took place in Luquillo, Puerto Rico, in the home of Mr. Hector Suarez. When we arrived, there stood a tiny brown house. The roof was practically gone, and the rough edges of the old wood were hanging on by a thread. From a distance, we could see a man—small in stature, back slightly bent, and his hair white as snow. The closer we got, the more precise the image of the man became. Although he was timid, his spirit remained positive. His light brown eyes lit in excitement, yet I could sense pain in his eyes. “You all seem like good girls,” he’d say in a gentle tone. His smile, sweet and genuine, is an image that I can see whenever I close my eyes.
It was time to take a look inside his home. The living room area was unrecognizable. Piles of garbage were everywhere, and his belongings were scattered all over the place. Walking alone was difficult, for space was limited. I recall the crackling sound of objects, each time I took a new step. At first sight, the task may have seemed impossible. It would require a group to work together as a team and allowing God to lead the way. That entire day, we spent hours taking everything out of the home. From the smallest belongings to the largest, it was eventually taken out.
The cleaning process began to take place. While the floors were being swept, more garbage was taken out. From afar, Mr. Hector leaned against the old wooden door as he gazed at the group. “You all are my friends,” he said with a grin on his face. We weren’t merely helping a stranger but helping out a friend, our dear friend. Before the day was over, the group had a splendid surprise for their friend: a new mattress. The old mattress had been taken out throughout the cleaning process, and he desperately needed a new one. With tears in his eyes, he said, “I’m going to have a new bed; it’s my bed.” He was genuinely happy, and the sadness from his eyes vanished.
We spent the next days painting the entire house and remodeling the floors. Initially, the walls were merely wood —no color whatsoever. By painting, we were able to bring life into his home. The newly polished floors and the roof were slowly coming together. One of the final details the group completed was to power wash the entire home. By doing so, all the dirt, mud, or mold were eradicated. As the days passed, the house was slowly transforming into a whole new atmosphere. It was starting to look like home.
Of course, the transformation of the house and the aesthetic were all of great significance. However, the primary take away from our mission trip was the impact we were leaving in someone’s life. Matthew 5:14 states, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”
Our light and testimony play a tremendous role in someone’s life. Whether it be a simple gesture such as opening the door or smiling at a neighbor, it all matters. Our light can shine in the darkest regions; it just takes someone to have the courage to say, I will go, Lord; I will shine your light. Our last day in Luquillo, Puerto Rico was sad; where tears shed as we said our goodbyes to our dear friend. Despite the sadness we felt, our spirits remained positive. Jesus was working in his life and the lives of our group. The light of Jesus attracts the world, just as a magnet attracts another magnet. No other force can take separate us from the love of God. As the coquís sang their last song to us, I looked up to the skies and thanked God for His goodness and mercy.
by Estephanie Sequeira