Read a testimony from a young SIM intern in Bolivia to encourage anyone exploring mission.
My last few weeks in Bolivia – spent tying up loose ends of our engineering projects – were altogether hard and sweet. It included the installation of a pump for a widow, which was truly special. The community also thanked us with kind words and gifts as we said our final goodbyes.
Then together with the two other interns, I hopped on a night flight, arriving in the US on Monday morning.
Gradually, other interns arrived from all over the world and we spent the rest of the week together, talking through our experiences and sharing what we had learned with one another.
I’d love to tell you I feel called back to Bolivia; I’d love to tell you that I had a wonderful experience; I’d love to tell you that I felt the Spirit moving; I’d love to tell you that the fire in my heart was reignited – I’d love to tell you all of this and more, but I can’t.
I don’t find myself being lonely very often, but there was a lot of loneliness during that time – primarily in my relationship with God. He felt distant and I felt isolated. I woke up daily pursuing him in the Word – some days very intentionally and prayerfully, and some days out of habit or guilt.
I learned what it really felt like to trust God, when it felt like I was talking to a wall. I realised that this is what I am most grateful for.
I had seen missions work through rose-coloured glasses and as a 'spiritual high' kind of experience with missionaries as the top of the top. But now I see that they are ordinary people, who simply listened and obeyed.
My mission experiences shaped me a lot and taught me so much, but every one of them was a mountain-top experience – full of doing good things and feeling great and seeing God abundantly show up in our daily activities because they were so tangible – and all the while being surrounded by a team of people.
Back in the US, the days were primarily filled with the boring and mundane and I saw little fruit. I often felt like more of a burden than a help, and there were many days where I did nothing.
I saw a raw side of missions that I had never seen before with no mountaintop or spiritual high, but a series of day-by-day meetings in the early morning with the Lord – sometimes fully committed and sometimes half asleep, but altogether showing up.
At first, I think I chose to show up in the mornings because it felt like the right thing to do while in a cross-cultural context. I felt like I needed to be a “good Christian” – and that meant reading my Bible and journaling. But as the days and weeks ticked by, it became instinctual, habitual, and necessary. It transformed from an obligatory time to a treasured time. If I missed it, I missed out.
This whole experience was not a mountain top, but I desired – desire – to meet with God and learn from him. He gave me the gift of a foundation to build on, somewhere to go, a path to grow closer to him, instead of an experience that gave me a fire that could be extinguished, or a yearning that could dwindle or a mountain to descend.
It was not so difficult to leave Bolivia. Of course, I made friends there and cherish the people very deeply, but I was ready to leave the experience behind. But it was much more difficult for me to leave North Carolina.
The friends I made and the people there were a light and steadiness in the craziness of the summer. I did not want to leave at the end of our time because I knew what was looming on the other side when I landed – my last full semester of school, a really long internship report, a Spanish CLEP (and let me tell you, I did not learn as much Spanish as I had hoped), a job that had changed a lot, a new house, new roommates, and no bed.
I was not ready and as I said my final airport goodbyes and hopped on my plane, I couldn’t help but think about what I would do if the Lord called me abroad right now? What if this plane changed directions and I was headed somewhere completely new and maybe this experience would happen all over again in a new, unknown place?
I thought I was ready for that and wanted to go right then and there. But as I peered out the small, oval window in a plane travelling at 30,000 feet into the vastness of the most densely populated county in the US, the darkness of the night parted to the light of the 10 million inhabitants of LA and I felt the Lord nudging me, “This is your mission field right now – you’re right where I want you.”
I am grateful for this experience and for the foundation God has given me. I am grateful for what I learned in Bolivia from those with whom he surrounded me. I am grateful for the Lord’s provision and guidance. I am grateful for a good God who opens doors. I am grateful for this opportunity and for where he has me now – I am grateful.
Ariana Bertolini, 2019 SIM US intern, Bolivia
For the Lord to become more and more real to Ariana as she builds on the foundation the Lord ha given her.
- That all SIM interns would continue to learn from their experiences and for the Lord to continue to guide them and provide for them.
For SIM workers using their engineering skills in mission, to have resilience and endurance to continue this good work.