A small group of young people recently spent 10 days of their summer vacation to help several communities in Vieques, an island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. The group of 14 young people, ages 17 to 33, were the first in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Puerto Rico to participate in a Caleb Mission Project, an evangelistic program of the Adventist Church that promotes the participation of young members in volunteer service during school vacation.
The group walked through the streets of the Vieques town area and surrounding neighborhoods praying for people, distributing copies of the Hope in the Midst of Chaos book by Mark Finley, and inviting people in restaurants and businesses to watch an evangelistic film. The group also visited the main plaza, urban center, and government offices to pray for locals and tourists.
They also cleaned up beaches and streets, removed debris from public areas, distributed meals, and painted classrooms and basketball courts at the Vieques Adventist Missionary Academy. Young volunteers also held Vacation Bible School for children in the community and led out in evangelistic meetings at the Adventist Church on the island.
The experience left a mark on the lives of group members, who had traveled on a ferry to the island and remained there for 10 days. “I’m so grateful to God for giving me this opportunity to contribute to the work with such an amazing team,” Génesis Tirado said. “I will always take this experience to heart, because I saw that amid so many needs, God provides and never forsakes us.”
“I have a new family,” Héctor Díaz, another member of the mission project, said. “It was very gratifying to help so many people. You feel so happy because you are helping others.” Alissa Rodríguez said she carries many beautiful memories from her experience in Vieques. “I’m taking with me wonderful people I met here in such a short time,” she said. “I really enjoyed helping people who really had a need of Jesus, and we were able to share the gospel with them.”
One of the purposes of Caleb Mission Project is for young people to take leadership roles, Ángel Rodríguez, outgoing youth ministries director of the East Puerto Rico Conference, said, so they can train and experience firsthand the satisfaction of being missionary leaders in the preaching of the gospel through small groups and other strategies. “When we are channels of blessings to others, we are blessed,” Rodríguez said. “Seeing the young people so involved [in this project] really brought joy to my heart.”
Project group leader Lixamari Pedraza agreed. “To see these young people work for God is so wonderful. Young people are not lost, they just simply need to be put to work and given their space. I am taking with me so much growth and a beautiful family.”
The Caleb Mission Project was organized by the youth ministries department of the Puerto Rican Union. “Our goal is to continue to mobilize young people in each local field to develop physical, mental, spiritual, and social skills, equip them with a life of service toward the church and the community, and strengthen their relationship with Christ and the values outlined in the Bible,” Puerto Rican Union youth ministries director David Sebastian said.
Puerto Rican Union president Luis Rivera congratulated the young people for their commitment and dedication to the project. “I am so happy to see how young people, university students, and professionals took their vacation time to be part of this first Caleb Mission Project,” Rivera said. “It just brings me joy.”