Maranatha’s Global Encounters program was able to send 18 students, faculty, and staff members to Argentina this summer to minister with missionaries Ron and Christine Self in Buenos Aires.
“It was an amazing trip,” graduate student Carl Conrad said of the team’s three-week stay.
Graduate student Isaiah Lewis and wife Elizabeth led the team. Dr. Monty Budahl also accompanied the team to oversee the music.
The ministry was primarily musical. The group had the opportunity to present 21 concerts in 14 churches, most in the Buenos Aires area. The team also helped at a nursing home and two youth conferences—one in Mendoza, 14 hours away.
The entire team sang hymns for the concerts, and some members were able to play instrumental numbers as well. “I was amazed at how well the team sang in Spanish,” Matthew Licht commented. Bethany Turcotte added that they would often sing in English with the Argentine congregations. “It was amazing to think that, even though we were singing in two different languages, we were all singing to the same God,” she said.
The students were able to present a short but clear gospel presentation after a concert at a public school, something the missionaries said had never happened before. Many people were invited to concerts at the churches; on one occasion, more than 20 visitors came.
Sightseeing was also part of the agenda. Stops included La Boca, a historic area of Buenos Aires, and Tigre, a popular tourist stop and shopping area. The team also had the opportunity to go sledding in the Andes Mountains, which Elizabeth and Isaiah Lewis said was probably the highlight of their sightseeing.
Ron Self suffered from a detached retina while the team was in Argentina. He told the students that he didn’t want to just accept this trial as God’s will for his life, he wanted to embrace it. Daniel Steinbach said, “This idea made me really think, ‘Am I simply acknowledging or agreeing with God’s will for my life, or am I actively running to and seizing His will for my life?’ ” Isaiah Lewis added, “I don’t think there’s been a day gone by that I haven’t thought about it.”
While the Self family did not paint missionary life as easy in any sense, their love for their work and the people among whom they serve motivated several students to consider missions. Melody Steinbart said she has thought about working in missions since age 10, but it wasn’t until last summer that she was willing to go to South America. “I wouldn’t say that I know that I should go to Argentina, but I am open and interested in going back to South America,” Steinbart said.
Many students commented on the love of the people in Argentina. “They reached out and welcomed us as if they had known us their entire lives,” Mary Kauffman said. “My favorite part of this trip was by far the people,” said Stephanie Schuler. “In Argentina the people do not have barriers that we have in the states. They are not standoffish in the church but greet you with a kiss and treat you like one of their family right away.” Licht said, “I was personally challenged by the generosity of the Argentine people. They gave and gave, even though they did not have much to give. They really showed me the true love of Christ, and that is something I never will forget.”
Schuler said she was challenged by the love the Argentines showed her as well as the love they showed for God.
“Through this trip I came to realize how much I take God for granted,” Schuler said. “The Great Commission says to ‘Go to all the world and preach the gospel.’ I must leave my comfort zone and trust God fully to use me in ways I never imagined.”
–By Brynn Fitzsimmons