Category Archives: Campus Ministries

PUC, A Beach Town?

By: Dana Negro

When you think of the Napa Valley, surrounded by beautiful vineyards and majestic forest beds, you don’t immediately think of the beach but you might be surprised. 

As someone born and raised in a beach town, the thought of spending my college years away from easy access to sand and waves was enough to give me pause. But what I came to find is PUC is in the PERFECT location—whether you love to hike the forest, ski the slopes, or yes, catch a wave—you’re just a short road trip away. And because I’m kind, I’ll spare you the googling and tell you five of the best beaches near PUC. You’re welcome!

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Dillon Beach (1 hour and 25 minutes from PUC)

Would you like to know the absolute best thing about Dillon Beach? It’s a dog beach! That’s right, there are puppies everywhere. Pack up your car with some blankets and friends, swing by Giugni’s for some sandwiches, and head off for an afternoon of relaxing and puppy-petting. Pro-tip: Official beach parking is $10 so unless you want to park in town and take a nice walk, you’ll need to bring some cash. Have everyone in the car chip in! 

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Goat Rock Beach (1 hour and 30 minutes from PUC)

Goat Rock is probably the beach most frequented by PUC students. Every year the Student Association, as well as multiple student clubs, have both church and vespers services here. Pro-tip: The area is a harbor seal birthing place between March and July so during those months we wouldn’t necessarily recommend going for a swim, BUT it’s a great spot to view incredible sea life and maybe catch a cute seal pup on camera. 

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Fort Point Beach (1 hour and 51 minutes from PUC)

Surfs up! While Fort Point isn’t the closest beach in the San Francisco area, it’s worth the extra drive simply for its beautiful location. Fort Point Beach lives right under the famous Golden Gate Bridge which guarantees a great view and great photo opportunities! Head towards the city, grab a board, and hang ten. Pro-tip: If you’re not from around here, it’s important to note: you’ll want to bring a jacket and if you’re surfing, a wetsuit! 

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Capitola Beach (2 hours and 49 minutes from PUC)

Located in the heart of the quintessential beach in Santa Cruz County, Capitola is by far not only my favorite beach but also my favorite place on earth. Take a break from the ocean by wandering in and out of the cute little village shops, grab a slice from the famous Pizza My Heart’s original location, or treat yourself to some local ice cream. You really can’t go wrong. And if you’re looking for that perfect photo opportunity, you don’t have to look far, with a row of brightly colored buildings locals refer to as “The Venetians” right on the water’s edge, you really can’t take a bad shot. Pro-tip: Wait till sunset for even more stunning photos.

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Glass Beach (2 hours and 50 minutes from PUC)

Do love collecting sea glass? Spending time looking for that bright cobalt blue color? Or maybe just looking at and taking photos of it? Glass Beach is pretty famous for its coastline covered in colorful glass pieces smoothed from years in the sea. The glass makes up about half the shore and mixed with the dark-colored sand, is a pretty remarkable sight. Pro-tip: It’s actually illegal to remove any cultural or natural features from a state beach so be sure to take lots of photos and selfies! 

Well, there you have it, folks! Five fantastic beaches for when you really need some ocean therapy and time away from campus. For more information about life in Northern California, visit our NorCal page on the PUC website! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Look at PUC’s Mission Trip to Kenya

This past spring break, March 22 through April 1, a group of 30 students from PUC went to serve in Kenya on a mission trip, along with several faculty and staff. The group helped with the construction of a secondary school for women and painting a new non-denominational Bible training center, along with teaching Vacation Bible School at a primary school and assisting in a nearby health clinic.

“It was a spectacular trip! I’m pleased PUC provides many opportunities for students to travel to distant destinations, learn about diverse environments and cultures, serve developing communities, and share their love of God with others,” says Dr. Floyd Hayes, professor of biology, and one of the faculty who went on the trip.

What made this mission trip particularly unique was students could also receive academic credit for either Field Biology or Vertebrate Biology, taught by Dr. Hayes, as the African environment offered a wealth of learning opportunities of organisms, species, and ecosystems, quite different from what students were used to studying in Northern California.  

Below, Dr. Hayes shares a few highlights of the trip.

It was a grueling overnight journey by plane, with a brief stop in Istanbul, Turkey. However, we were all excited to be traveling to Africa, which would be a new continent for most of the participants.

After arriving in Nairobi, we traveled on paved and unpaved roads for about eight hours to Mara West Camp, which overlooks the world famous Maasai Mara National Reserve, and enjoyed seeing a lot of wildlife along the way. We stayed in comfortable tents surrounded by wildlife and enjoyed tasty meals in a dining room.

On our first day of mission work, we visited a primary school where the Maasai children cheerfully greeted us with songs. The Maasai people were traditionally semi-nomadic cattle herders, but in the past few decades, they have settled into permanent communities and are still building new schools to properly educate their children for life in a modern world.

We brought along with us some books we donated to the sparsely stocked libraries of a primary school and a new secondary school. They need many more books, which we hope to supply more of during future trips.

During the next four days, we assisted in the construction of a building at a secondary school for women that had just opened in January. The new building would include administrative offices, science labs, and a computer lab. We hope to help them stock their new labs with equipment.

We also assisted with the painting of a new non-denominational Bible training center.

A small crew dug a ditch for water lines. I was proud of how hard the students worked each day while working construction and painting.

Each day a small group of students taught Vacation Bible School to a different group of students in the primary school. Students also assisted in a nearby clinic and a few were especially thrilled to help a woman give birth to a new baby. We all enjoyed making new friends with the Maasai people.

Each evening we enjoyed a campfire and an inspirational worship service led by Pastor Vuong Tran.

We spent two full days on a safari in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, observing Africa’s iconic wildlife including elephants, giraffes, zebras, gazelles, rhinos, hippos, hyenas, jackals, crocodiles, and ostriches. The highlights were a cheetah and a leopard, which are difficult to find.

Interested in getting involved with World Missions at PUC? Stop by the chaplain’s office to talk with Fabio Maia, service and missions coordinator, or you can call (707) 965-7190 or email fmaia@puc.edu to learn more.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Fostering your relationship with God is a priceless reason to choose PUC. You will find yourself studying, living, and serving with Adventist professors and peers who share your faith and values. Not only will you receive a Christian education, but you will also develop relationships that will last for eternity. Every member of the Pioneers family cares about each student’s individual spiritual journey, and campus leaders are committed to meeting students where they are on their walk with Christ.

We asked several campus leaders to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the spiritual life at PUC. Here’s what they said.

What worship activities are there at PUC?

There is the Friday night worship program at 8 p.m., which we call vespers. Then on Sabbath, we have the student-led worship service that goes by The Twelve (held at 12 noon in Dauphinee Chapel), in addition to the more traditional college church service at the PUC Church at 11:15 a.m.

During the week there are residence hall worships, where each residence hall will host a smaller, more casual service once a week. Within the residence halls themselves, there are hall worships, where the resident assistants for each floor host weekly worships as well. One such worship is Men-istry, where the men’s residence halls get together and have a collaborative worship experience once a week on Thursday nights. All are welcome and there are games/snacks incorporated into the program.

In addition to all of these, there are smaller, unofficial groups which regularly meet, such as prayer, Bible study, or other outreach groups. Student-led clubs include the Ignite Club, which is comprised primarily of students who have had a history of working in more traditional outreach ministries such as Youth Rush. The Thaumatrope club is a one that focuses primarily on community impact outreach, organizing events such as community clean-ups to promote local involvement.

What service or ministry activities can I get involved with at PUC?

There is a Campus Ministries office, under which the Missions office operates, as well as other ministries such as Homeless Ministries. At PUC you can, if you’re service-oriented, get involved within our local community throughout the Bay Area, feeding the homeless in Clearlake or Berkeley, which regularly happens on the weekends.

For ministry activities, there are plenty of ways to get involved. The Twelve church service is student-run, if you would like to be a part of that, you have ways to do so. If there is a Bible study you would like to start, you have the Campus Ministries office as your guide to help you get that running.

Can I be a student missionary while I’m a student at PUC?

Yes! Students can serve as a missionary for a full school year, or for a few weeks at a time on a mission trip. Usually, there are mission trips held during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring breaks. Talk with the Missions office for more information.

What is Connect Ministry and where might I see them?

Connect Ministry is PUC’s opportunity to share with the community what sets us apart from other schools, our student-led worship experience. Connect Ministries functions more or less out of the Admissions office, sending out student (and sometimes faculty and staff!) worship groups to churches and schools across California. We are always on the go! The mission is to have PUC students, faculty, and staff dynamically serve churches and schools through ministry, such as leading worship, having a PUC guest speaker, and providing youth-oriented spiritual involvement.

Wherever you are in your spiritual walk, you’re guaranteed to find the support and encouragement you’ll need here at PUC.

A Hot Meal & A Prayer: Students Serve the Homeless

Homeless Ministries at People’s Park in Berkeley.

By Becky St. Clair

One Friday night business administration major George Grigsby was serving food for AfterLite, a post-vespers event designed to encourage student fellowship, he was approached by fellow student John Roberts, asking for any leftovers.

“I asked him what he needed them for, and that’s when I learned about the Clearlake Ministry,” Grigsby says.

Roberts was the leader of the ministry at that time, and he encouraged Grigsby to accompany them. The ministry, run by PUC students, provides both hot and nonperishable food, hygiene items, clothing, and prayer to persons experiencing homelessness on the streets of Clearlake, California. This year, Grigsby is the ministry leader, taking around five fellow students with him every other week to connect with anyone they can find.

“It’s getting harder to reach them because the local law enforcement is stepping up their efforts to disperse the city’s homeless,” Grigsby explains. “So instead of the 75-100 we used to serve there, we now see only 15-30 each time, and we have to drive around to various locations to find them.”

When they do connect with someone, Grigsby and his team make sure to inquire about needs they might be able to fill the next time they come. The top three requested items, especially this time of year when it’s chilly, are sweaters, sleeping bags, and socks.

Howell Mountain Market contributes groceries for the Clearlake Ministry team, and Grigsby spends a bit of time each day putting the bags together so it doesn’t add up to one long night of doing it all. Then he and his student team get together and cook hot food, as well.

“This ministry gives me a chance to put myself in a situation where I can make things better,” Grigsby explains. Growing up in West Africa, he felt very deeply the tragedy that occurred when Ebola broke out there in 2014.

“The people I grew up with were suffering, and I couldn’t do anything about it,” he recalls. “If I can’t make a difference there, I will help the people around me. Clearlake gives me a chance to do that.”

As a sophomore, Kevin Martins, junior biology and pre-med major, had seen Homeless Ministries listed in the “This Week at PUC” emails many times, and when he happened to meet the student director of the Berkeley Ministry to the homeless, he decided to give it a try.

“I really enjoyed the experience of preparing and serving food for others,” he says. “They’re usually just there alone and really enjoy having someone notice them and listen to what they have to say.”

When the ministry leader graduated, Martins stepped up and took over. Every other Sabbath the team of around 15 pile into a large van and attend church and eat potluck with the Adventist church in Berkeley. After potluck, they prepare food in the church’s kitchen to serve the homeless in a place called People’s Park. They serve food, talk with the people, find out their needs and make lists for next time they come, and pray with those who are willing.

“When we’re at the church I organize the group to make sure everyone has a role,” Martins explains. “Everyone has their skills and strengths, and we work together well, making sure everything happens that needs to.”

The group typically serves around 50 homeless, but recently new tents appeared at the park, and Martins made notes to prepare food for 70 the next time they came. Once they serve within the main part of the park, they carry plates around to other areas of the park to serve those who didn’t make it to the table.

Martins has participated in an Amen Clinic previously, and it sparked his interest in serving others. He intends to continue doing so even once he starts his career.

“I want to be a doctor because I want to help people in their healing,” he says. “This ministry has helped me see this is, in fact, what I want to do with my life.”

It’s the stories that affect Martins most. One week he met a woman in a wheelchair who had spent many years living in Brazil, Martins’ home. They began speaking in Portuguese, and she shared her struggles with him.

“She explained to me how being disabled makes being homeless even harder,” he says. “Sometimes she is harassed by other homeless people, and once she and her wheelchair were even set on fire. The things she tells me inspire me to keep going back.”

Martins, like Grigsby, says a majority of the requests they receive from those they serve are for basic hygiene items such as toothbrushes and shaving cream, as well as warm clothing such as socks and jackets.

Both ministries accept donations toward supplies as well as donations of time to prepare and/or serve. Since not everyone has cooking skills, they invite those who do to contribute their skills to serve others. Whether it’s helping prepare the food or delivering pre-cooked meals, both ministries welcome contributions.

“These ministries give us a chance to see beyond ourselves,” he says. “The present need of others isn’t someone else’s problem, it’s everyone’s problem. And if we don’t know what’s going on around us, we can’t help.”

Hygiene kits or supplies for them, clothes—especially socks, gloves, hats, and coats—and money toward gas and food are always appreciated. Anyone who wishes to accompany the groups to Berkeley or Clearlake can reach out to Grigsby and Martins for a schedule and instructions. Drivers are also needed, as two current drivers are graduating this spring. Although worship credit is available for this ministry, both Grigsby and Martins encourage student participants to focus on the serving rather than the credit.

“The purpose is to take a look at your life and realize all you have and how you can give from that to those who don’t have,” Grigsby says. “If you can help make a difference for someone not doing as well, you should. It’s the selflessness of giving and what you learn from the experience that is most important.”

A new part of this ministry that Martins would like to start is bringing musicians to provide live music for the people as they eat. If you play an instrument and are interested in being part of ministry in this way, let Martins know. If you are interested in contributing to either of these ministries in any way, contact Grigsby at gggrigsby@puc.edu or Martins at knmartins@puc.edu.

“We’re so fortunate, and we need to give whenever we get the chance,” Martins comments. “This is that chance.”

Editor’s note: The following is a list of items needed the most by Homeless Ministries. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, shaving cream, shaving razors, sanitary pads, soap bars, deodorant, tissues, wet wipes, towels, and other personal hygiene items. Food, clothes, and cash donations are always greatly needed and appreciated. 

Get to Know Pastor Rufo, PUC’s New Chaplain

Joining Pastor Rufo in ministry to the PUC community is wife Anna, daughter Madison, and son Jadon.

By Becky St. Clair

Pastor Kent Rufo has accepted the call to be PUC’s new chaplain. He will be moving his family from Illinois over Christmas break and will begin serving the campus in January. During his 13 years of experience as a pastor, Rufo has served as lead, youth, and associate pastor, chaplain, Bible teacher, collegiate ministries director, and missionary. He received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Southern Adventist University in 2000 and then completed his MDiv at Andrews University in 2004. Rufo has experience leading prayer and Bible study groups, visitation, counseling, and outreach, among other ministry activities. He is currently serving as lead pastor at Downers Grove Adventist Church in Illinois, where he has been since January 2017.

We caught up with him as he begins figuring out the logistics of their cross-country move and says goodbye to his current church family, and now introduce to you: PUC chaplain Kent Rufo!

Tell us about your childhood. Where did you grow up, and what was life like there?

I grew up in northwest Ohio, in suburbs south of Toledo. My father is from the Philippines, yet the town we moved to was predominantly white. Originally the neighbors weren’t so sure about having an Asian next door, but as the years went by we made some really good friends in that neighborhood. So I’m excited to be moving to a place known for its friendly community and look forward to getting to know our new neighbors.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was a kid I wanted to be an NBA player. Being that my father is 5’6” and my mother is 5’4” my odds of becoming a professional basketball player were small. Growing up it was assumed I would go into the medical field, preferably a doctor of medicine. I had thoughts of medicine until college.

When did you first feel the call to become a pastor?

I don’t know if I really “felt” the call to ministry at first. I knew I wasn’t going to medical school but wasn’t sure what was next. I prayed for a “fleece” and 3 people said I should go to the Seminary … all in the same day. I went. I never interviewed with a conference yet one person from Mountain View Conference called me to ask if I’d like to teach and preach. They were looking for a bi-vocational pastor who could teach full time and minister part-time in a college town. Until this day, I have no clue how he got my name. Since I accepted that call, the Lord has clearly opened up ministries for me and my family.

You served as a missionary in Korea for two years; what was something significant you learned during that experience?

Easy question: The importance of studying the Word! My Korean counterpart had just graduated from the Seminary and shared Bible study tools. I will forever be grateful. I also had the chance to read the Great Controversy and the Desire of Ages (twice). It transformed my life. I also learned about the power of prayer.

So how much Korean did you learn?

“Chogum.” That means ‘a little.’ Every day I remember less. I was never fluent but I could get around.

Your passion in ministry seems to be young people. What inspired that?

Actually, I feel the way God created me was with “strengths” in relationships. I’m not a big-show personality and I believe in authentic relationships. I think I’ve just felt I can be honest with young people and that seems to connect. This drives me. I also believe we have not challenged our young people enough. When I was growing up it was enough to just “keep our kids Adventist.” Obviously, that wasn’t enough. I have a passion to see a group of young people study the Word, pray with huge results, and change their worlds.

Speaking of keeping young people in the church, tell us how you plan to be a part of that effort by working with the young people at PUC.

Jesus was not about keeping people in the church. In John 6 he actually says something he knew would make many leave his side: He wants to challenge people, young and old, to commit to his cause. It means sacrifice, but it also means to expect God to do powerful things through them. I’d really love to see how students take hold of a vision and run with it. If the Spirit is leading, it CANNOT fail.

What made you decide to accept this position and come out here to California?

My wife is still asking me this question. She said she would NEVER move to California. Seriously, though, it is the calling to minister to collegiate-age students. Empowering students to start impacting their community now, rather than after graduation, is one of my main passions.

What are some methods you use to stay in tune with what young people need and want in their spiritual lives, even as times change?

Listening. That’s really it. I can’t keep up with everything new: methods, pop culture, media. The principles of scripture transcend time and changes. Most of what I can do is listen. Oh, I do like to read about ministry models, too, but they are not my “gospel.”

What is one of your favorite spiritual quotes and why is it meaningful to you?

One of my favorite Bible verses is John 16:33 which states, “I have told you these things so that in me you might have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I love this verse because it reminds me that no matter what my world looks like he’s already won!

Outside of scripture, one of my favorite authors is Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. He states, “God is either of no importance, or of supreme importance.” I think the world is looking for authentic Christians. The reason people are turned off by Christianity is that there is a lot of hypocrisy and mediocrity.

What are some books you recommend to young people?

Outside of the Bible, I’m a believer in “The Desire of Ages.” I love that view of Jesus. As for the power of prayer, I recommend “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson.

Tell us about an important spiritual mentor you had as a young person, and how their mentorship has influenced your own.

To be honest, when I first became a Christian, my biggest spiritual mentors were other college students: Chris Bullock and Teofilo Matos. They prayed for me. They showed me how to walk with Jesus. This all stemmed from our friendship and desire to change the world around us. I think that is why my heart is in Christian community and challenging the status quo.

How can the community you serve (that’s us!) support you and your family as you strive to support our students?

Gift certificates for a local massage therapist. Ha! Just kidding.

I think my family is just looking to be part of the community. Oh, both my wife and I worked as baristas at a coffee shop so we do like some good coffee every once in a while. (Hint, hint!)

Tell us more about your family!

My wife, Anna, is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan. She graduated with an elementary education degree but doesn’t feel full-time teaching as her calling. She’s been a teacher, teacher’s aide, administrative assistant, assistant community service coordinator, and a rockin’ wife. It’s important to her to be involved, but only behind the scenes.

My daughter, Madison, is 10; she loves people and wants to be around them at all time. My son, Jadon, is seven; his shell is a little harder to crack, but once he opens up—especially about superheroes—he slowly warms up to people. My wife is like my son.

What are some of your hobbies and interests? What will we find on the walls of your new office on campus?

I’m not really the biggest decorator, but I love being Filipino so you might find a Filipino flag. I do like sports and to work out. I am a Cleveland Browns fan, too. Go Cleveland! (Hey, a Cleveland fan is a loyal one, though we don’t win too often.)

The Twelve: PUC’s Student-Run Church Service

By Sarah Tanner

For over a year, PUC students have spearheaded a personalized, student-focused Sabbath worship service called The Twelve. Their mission is simple. Summarized by lead coordinator and junior English major, Leah Dopp, “Our goal is to develop an open spirit driven community that reflects the life and teaching of Jesus through discipleship.”

And, after five quarters of student-led worship services, it is clear their mission is a huge success.

Dopp, along with two of The Twelve’s veterans, heads a team of student leaders that meet weekly to create Saturday services for PUC’s student population. In a conversation with Leah over pad thai, she explained what makes The Twelve so special.

To tackle a project of this size, Dopp found it useful to delegate tasks, breaking down The Twelve into nine departments. Her team of student leaders includes coordinators for the various aspects of the service. Welcome and greetings are headed by Valerie Barraza and Hazel Labaco, respectively. Music is organized by Lydia Zebedeus. Nephta Marin heads PowerPoint slides during the service, and sound is coordinated by Nick Borchik. PR and treasury are organized by Stefaan Dick. Emily Castellanos is in charge of prayer, while Jayla Cruse directs stage management. And last, but definitely not least is the ever popular coffee ministry run by Audrey Uyemura, Kelly Kimura, and Jamie Nelson.

“Table meetings are held twice during the quarter to discuss big picture things, like speakers and any changes we want to make to the program,” Leah says. “We organize a list of students, faculty, alumni, and others who we feel would convey interesting messages during the service. Then, each student leader organizes contacts for their corresponding department and teams are formed. For example, music teams choose their songs based on the speaker’s topics so we can create continuity for the whole service.”

A typical Twelve service is fairly simple. Held at noon in Winning Hall’s Dauphinee Chapel every Saturday during the school year, visitors are greeted with coffee at the door and are then welcome to make their way to a seat. The service opens with a song followed by a brief welcome message. The worship team then performs two more songs which lead into a prayer or prayer activity that relates to the sermon. Following the message, welcome coordinators give announcements and the service is concluded.

“Our schedule is always open to changes; we want to keep things moving so we don’t get too sedentary,” says Dopp. “Right now we are playing with the idea of including a discussion time so people can reflect on the message of the service together.”

The Twelve’s name is meant to evoke a spirit of discipleship, as it calls forth the image of Jesus’ original followers. And this spirit of mentorship is present in virtually all facets of the service.

“In addition to the idea of student leaders acting as disciples through their running of the program, we also want to make sure that it is a lasting part of PUC’s legacy,” Dopp explained. “All leaders are constantly mentoring people to fill their position so that there is always someone able to step in and fill that role if needed.” She continues, “We are trying to get lots of people involved to carry on that spirit of mentorship. It doesn’t matter if they don’t have any experience; we’re here to teach.”

As The Twelve is student-run, it is also dependent on student feedback for the program’s growth and development. On this topic, Dopp made it clear, “We are always open to feedback. The Twelve is here to give the students what they want in a worship service, and to do that we need input; we strive to be an event that PUC wants to attend.”

Students looking to share ideas are encouraged to speak to any of the leaders mentioned above and can reach out via email to Leah directly at lmdopp@puc.edu or thetwelvepuc@gmail.com. The Twelve’s team is constantly looking for new speakers, contributors, and students to be involved in all aspects of the service.

“We’re really excited to see where this program will go. Our team’s dedication to creating a meaningful service is incredible.”

Dopp is right; The Twelve is something to be proud of, and it stands as a testament to the ability of students to make a meaningful impact on campus life.

Service: A Lifestyle

By Megan Weems

Editor’s note: In July, over 200 college students and recent graduates, including many from Pacific Union College, traveled to Brazil to participate in a new volunteer program from the Adventist Development and Relief Agency to help build the Adventist Technical School of Massauari (ETAM). Below, recent PUC graduate Megan Weems shares her experience on the life-changing trip.

This summer, I was fortunate to embark on a journey along the Amazon River to a small village called Nova Jerusalem. On this boat, in the midst of nowhere, I was reminded of the attributes of service. This was not a solo mission but one that included 200 plus other college students or recent graduates, like myself, who decided to use two weeks of their summer to do something out of the norm. We were on our way to help finish building a K-9 technical school that needed a little extra tender loving care. The work included: cutting and putting up siding, laying and grouting tiles, painting, varnishing, and cleaning up the classrooms, library, and student dormitories.

I have served as a long-term missionary as a fifth and sixth-grade teacher in Fiji and also volunteered on other mission trips. On this particular excursion, I came with a sense of urgency and persistence to get the building project done. Having witnessed on countless occasions that if the project was left incomplete, it may never get done, and the children would be the ones who suffered. It was quite reassuring knowing that ADRA Brazil and ADRA Connections, a new volunteer program operated by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, had produced a flawless plan keeping everyone involved and working through the entire trip. The huge group of North Americans and Brazilians worked effectively and cohesively to do exactly what we came to do in the Amazon: provide an infrastructure for education that would offer technical skills, and most importantly educating children with eternity in mind.

Every morning, volunteers greeted each other with the phrase, “bom dia,” or good morning in Portuguese, and yelled from boat to boat that worship was starting. We’d awake from our rested slumber in our hammocks, which swung in unison on the boat’s top deck during the cool, breezy nights. Our workdays began when the sun rose and set, and later that evening, we’d end the day with worship. The work was hard, sweat was plenty, there were a few complaints about the heat, but regardless, there was nothing but smiles, singing, and laughter.

What makes me nervous with mission trips is that people are coming from many different backgrounds, which sometimes means learning to adjust to a new work ethic and understanding of the work we are required to do. However, my worries were put at ease as each boat was assigned boat leaders and interpreters who stayed with their boats from start to finish of the mission. On our boat, we were blessed to be led by an amazing couple, Julianna and Diego, who had finished their missionary work from another village in the Amazon as a nurse and boat technician. Both spoke very little English yet the interpreters from the University of Sao Paulo were so helpful to explain what they said. Even though we didn’t speak the same language, Julianna and Diego set a clear example for our group that whatever the task is, whether big or small, we do it with the love of God.

What I saw in Julianna and Diego’s leadership is the type of leadership I pray that God instills within me. They were great at recognizing the strengths of the group, while they delegated, set expectations, and exemplified hard work. I didn’t need to speak the same language to recognize a person who gives 100 percent to every task, but I was very humbled and inspired by Julianna and Diego, and the service they showed.

Another couple left an indelible impression on my heart that I will remember forever, Don and Elaine Halenz. Don and Elaine actually accompanied my group from Pacific Union College, but it would be my first time meeting them. This couple, both age 83, and married for 60 years, decided to come on this trip, very aware of the trip’s extreme destination. They have been intermittent missionaries throughout their lives and here they were with all of us 20-somethings in the field again, working hard and never asking for any modifications. Never once did I hear them utter a complaint! I was incredibly humbled and inspired by Don and Elaine because they stand for everything I hope to be and live for when I am their age. Both of these couples, however, embodied what I believe true service is.

In essence, service to me is not a single action, but a lifestyle. It is a daily choice that leads up to multiple times making an intentional decision to be the best version of yourself in order to improve someone else’s existence. It is in everything we do, whether we are in the comforts of our homes or in a land far away from anything familiar. It is intentional modeling of Christ-like love continuously and consistently from moment to moment. I was incredibly blessed by my short-term experience on the ADRA Connections trip, and was reminded of the service I hope to exemplify all the days of my life.

Read more about the Amazon trip on Adventist Today.