I couldn’t shake my professor’s words; they churned in my mind for weeks. “We have to be missionaries to the world,” he urged as he shared news with our theology class about the church’s mission work. His counsel touched my heart, and that day, God planted a dream there to serve Him in a distant land.
One day, I saw an advertisement requesting a Bible instructor for a mission school in Argentina. I quickly contacted the school director, and to my joy, I was accepted for the job!
On the long flight to Argentina, I meditated on how God had worked in my life to make this experience possible. I was so excited. Everything was new to me! It was my first time leaving my country. My first time traveling by plane. My first time being a missionary.
As I neared my destination, I felt the excitement of undertaking this adventure with the assurance that God would guide my steps. Ushuaia, the capital city of Tierra del Fuego province, is the southernmost city on the globe. It’s often referred to as the end of the world. I trusted Jesus would make my experience one of new beginnings as I shared His message of hope and salvation.
I found Ushuaia to be a land of raw, pristine beauty where fiery red sunsets merged with the deep blue of snow-capped mountains and the verdant, dense Patagonian forest. But its people were struggling. Many suffered a high level of addiction to cigarettes that was damaging their bodies and morale.
I wanted to help them, so I joined in organizing a community outreach program to enable people to quit smoking. I went from house to house, visiting the people and inviting them to attend our free seminar. As I did, I wrote down the names of those who expressed interest in attending.
This work wasn’t easy because of the frequent snowstorms, wind, and cold. On one occasion, after hours of plodding through the snow, I felt exhausted and sought shelter at a hospital. I rested while the heat warmed my body, but I had no strength to continue my visitations. I knew I wouldn’t have time to visit everyone, so I decided to leave a large number of invitations in the reception area.
On the opening night of the seminar, I was anxious about how many people would attend. But there was no need to worry. The hall filled up quickly, and as it did, the pungent smell of tobacco flooded the entire room. There was no doubt, these were the people we were looking for!
We had been praying day and night for the Spirit to break the nicotine chains that bound these people. Many attended consistently and experienced success. On the final day of the meetings, the presenter handed out a survey, asking the attendees whether the course had been satisfactory and whether they wanted to receive a Bible and free Bible lessons. What a beautiful response we received!
One day, while following up on a request for studies, I visited the home of a man named Jonathan. He had attended the meetings with his mother, Elena, and he and his family were eager to learn about God’s Word.
“How is it that you came to the meetings?” I asked. A big smile erupted on Elena’s face. “Some time ago, I went to the hospital, and while I was waiting, I noticed some fliers in the reception area,” she explained. “I took one out of curiosity and noticed that it was an invitation to a course on how to stop smoking that would be given in a church. I kept the flier and decided to attend the course with my son.” I couldn’t believe it. God had reached this family even when my fatigue had prevented me from continuing to walk!
When Elena started the course, she smoked 60 cigarettes a day, and almost all her money fed this addiction. She had tried everything she could think of to break free from this habit, but nothing had helped, and she had slipped into deep despair.
By the grace of God, through the course, not only she but also her entire family began to know Jesus, in whom they found the way out of their affliction.
Soon an opportunity came to give their hearts and lives to Jesus. Pastor John Thomas, then General Conference director for Adventist Volunteer Service (AVS), and Elbert Kuhn, then AVS director for the South American Division, made a special invitation to the meeting attendees. As a result, through the work and power of the Holy Spirit, Elena and her entire family decided to be baptized and prepare for the imminent return of Jesus!
At the end of my year of volunteering, 26 people had given their lives to God, and now they live happily knowing that they have a Savior to trust and for whom to live. I feel so blessed to have been part of this.
If you have felt Jesus calling you to serve as a volunteer, please tell Him without hesitation you will go wherever He leads.