Editor’s note: During Hispanic Heritage Month, the IMB is highlighting the contribution of Hispanics to global missions and celebrating the growing number of Hispanic churches committed to reaching the nations. Resources about Hispanic church missions efforts are available through the IMB.
Who is Jesus?
Why did He come to earth?
Is eternal life guaranteed?
Is a believer truly transformed through Christ?
Who is the Holy Spirit?
Are we guaranteed a life without suffering if we follow Christ?
Standing in front of believers in Asia, in a village off the beaten path, 19-year-old Jaelin opened her Bible. Speaking through a translator, she answered those questions and more. Often bombarded with false teachings, the church thirsted for the truth of Scripture.
The second generation Hispanic American trekked through mountains and sought out remote villages with the heart to make sure these isolated churches not only know the gospel but also grow into healthy, multiplying churches.
Jaelin was the youngest on her four-member team. She’s only been on one other overseas mission trip. Still, she embarked on an eight-week mission to be on the frontlines of the missionary task through discipleship.
Three other women accompanied Jaelin. Two were Quechua Indian students from the Rio Grande Biblical Institute who only speak Spanish and Quechua, and one was a Uruguayan believer. Jaelin acknowledged God’s hand on the trip, from bringing together bilingual people for translators to providing funds for the group to cover the cost of the mission trip.
Jaelin’s upbringing prepared her for navigating the cultural nuances, she shared. She’s half Mexican and half Salvadorian. While many people assume all Hispanic cultures are the same, it’s not true. Even the Spanish spoken in one country can be different from another’s Spanish.
When the team spent time with their translators, sometimes there would be five languages spoken simultaneously. Even as the team navigated communication hurdles, they lightheartedly worked together.
“When you serve, you end up being blessed. We’re giving a lot, but we also receive a lot of blessing,” she said.
The national believers approached the team at every church they visited and expressed their gratitude. These churches were like nothing Jaelin experienced back home in Illinois. The villages were rudimentary, dotted with dirt paths and tiny, basic homes. But the lack of modern conveniences wasn’t their biggest need. They needed solid gospel teaching.
International Mission Board missionaries Jeff and Joy Connelly hosted Jaelin and her teammates. Jeff noted that because of the Hispanic heritage this group brought, they didn’t stick out in a crowd. When donning traditional dress, the team was barely distinguishable from nationals, until they started speaking. A member of his team is also Hispanic, and he said that she can simply go places and do “cool things” that he often cannot because of his light skin.
Jaelin’s team was connected to the Connellys through IMB team leadership. The missionary emphasized when he hosts a mission team, it’s paramount for them to join ongoing work and be active in the core missionary task. The Connellys serve in an area with around 25 million people, geographically about the size of Massachusetts, so it’s an “all hands on deck” situation.
As the volunteer mission team spent time discipling believers who live in a largely tribal context, the gospel truths they taught helped move some of the churches off milk and to the meat of the Christian life, Connelly said, referencing 1 Corinthians 3:2.
Jaelin, a graphic design student, was prepared for this trip “by the grace of God,” and through Fox Valley Baptist Association. As a member of Iglesia Bautista Vida Nueva in Elgin, Illinois, she is one of the first missionaries sent from her church. Her older sister was the first. Her sister spent the summer serving overseas and is currently in the IMB’s missionary candidate pipeline.
Both sisters are thankful their church supports them by paying the full cost of their mission trips, something Sandoval knows not every church can do. Her plane ticket was purchased by members of Iglesia Bautista Emmanuel, Illinois.
Throughout her mission, she’s been constantly encouraged by communication from her church members. “The people in the church have been incredible, from the young students to the older members of my church. Sending a Bible verse that maybe I needed in the moment, that’s very important,” she said. “I’m encouraged by them being there the way that they can, making sure I’m okay.”
They’ve both been mentored by Ivan Ballines, a member of Iglesia Bautista Emmanuel, Illinois, and encouraged by people they’ve connected with through the IMB, like Annel Robayna, IMB’s Hispanic church mobilization strategist.
“They took the time to speak to us, encourage us, and disciple us, not just to keep the knowledge that we know but to share it with somebody else, to take that risk to go overseas to take the gospel that we know so well to people who don’t know it,” Jaelin shared.
Robayna commented, “Jaelin’s story is a great example of what God is doing among second generation Hispanic young adults.”
In his role, already this year Robayna has traveled across Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Virginia and Arkansas, mobilizing young Hispanics to be a part of the missionary task. “In all these places I have encountered people connected to the heart of God and ready to go.
“Jaelin’s sacrificial obedience to the Great Commission is inspiring,” he said. “I am praying for her, and I am looking forward to her continued involvement with the IMB in addressing the greatest problem in the world – lostness.”
As she returns home, she’s excited to encourage her church to continue to plug into the mission of the IMB. Jaelin desires to lead by example.
“In Acts 1:8, there’s a process. Wherever you are in that moment, you do what God is asking you to do,” she said. “I’m here [overseas] right now, but when I go back, that’s my Jerusalem and Samaria, and that’s important as well.”