Sixteen young Walla Walla University students and pastoral interns learned something life-changing through their evangelistic trip to Retalhuleu, Guatemala, during spring break, March 22–April 1. They all knew it in theory, but for the first time some of them directly experienced how eternal decisions are made when the Spirit moves.
In planning this project, César De León, North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) vice president for Hispanic ministries, set a goal of partnering these young spiritual warriors with experienced mentors. "We wanted to have them see how evangelism works in another country, to help them understand the value of allowing the Spirit to bring people to points of decisions for Christ," he says.
Eleven students and five ministerial interns joined in this effort with De León and his wife, Carolann; John Freedman, NPUC president; Doug Bing, Washington Conference president; and David Prest, Idaho Conference president. They met each morning to review their experiences and discuss important points of growth, before heading out in the evening to 20 separate meeting in surrounding communities.
The young people learned that whenever the Word of God is presented the Spirit is present, creating opportunities for decisions. They began to understand that, while salvation is a gift, receiving that gift requires a decision — "Do you really want to make this part of your life?" They learned that every sermon should give an opportunity for eternal choices.
One of the interns came into the experience discouraged, feeling they were making no difference in the life of their church or community. During their time in Guatemala, their entire view of ministry changed. They were able to see the Spirit at work and the value of intentional evangelism — sharing the gospel and inviting people to embrace the good news for now and eternity. They have returned with new vision and hope.
"Our expectations of providing a learning and empowering experience for future and current young pastors were exceeded in Guatemala," says De León. "We are so grateful that we could be part of what God is doing among the people there. We return with renewed energy to accomplish His mission here at home."