CORRALES, N.M. – Twenty-two Sandia View Academy (SVA) students arrived in San Juan on March 12 on a humid Wednesday afternoon. The plan was to preach a nine-day evangelistic series to nine churches, conduct a Week of Prayer at the Adventist academy and enjoy some island recreation. But then COVID-19 changed all of that.
Lodging accommodations for the Mission Team were at the conference youth camp located in the El Yunque Rainforest. The mission team included eight student speakers, four sponsors (who were also speakers), twelve student Week of Prayer participants, and two musicians. On Thursday and Friday, the preachers diligently practiced their sermons, complete with PowerPoint slides on topics like Prophecy and End Time events. Week of Prayer leaders focused on teen issues, preparing skits that portrayed emotions and how best to manage them. They created object lessons about the importance of managing emotions using Biblical illustrations.
As the Friday night opening meeting approached, local conference officers met to discuss plans and protocols for COVID-19. By Sunday, all church and school activities were shut down across the island. Even though there were no more church meetings, on Sunday night the students held one more meeting on Facebook Live, hoping to connect with their audience. Viewership was low as the people had much more on their minds. On Monday, the team spent time at Fajardo Beach and at the El Yunque River. God’s nature was intact, and it was refreshing their deflated spirits. Although they were originally scheduled to return on March 24, flight arrangements were made to fly home. The change of plans brought disappointment, but the students were not discouraged.
The team was able to reach the lives of more than 100 people in one weekend of sermons and songs. They also provided over 200 pounds of high school textbooks and classroom materials. In the end, there were joyful hearts and blessings to be counted as they reflected on this amazing experience to share the love of Jesus with people in Puerto Rico. COVID-19 may have shortened the mission trip, but there is little doubt about how much can be accomplished in just a short time!
By Chanda C. Castañeda, Principal