A young adult from Panama shares her experience as a volunteer missionary in Europe.
My name is Lidimed Torres, and I come from a Seventh-day Adventist family in Panama. Growing up, we attended church every Saturday (Sabbath), and my favorite part of the service was the mission story.
In 2015, I was a final-year student at the Universidad Peruana Unión (Peruvian Union University), earning a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering. One day, the youth ministry department presented a special program about missions. The program caught my attention, and I thought it would be a good idea to dedicate a year of my life, after my graduation, to serve God and thank Him for the way He led me during those five years in Peru.
I was busy when I returned to Panama, so I kept delaying making a move. One day, I realized that to make my dream come true, I needed to prepare myself. The first step was to learn English, so I went to the United States for four months and learned enough to “survive.” Then, I completed the Adventist Volunteer Service (AVS) forms and started looking for a suitable position. At first, I was looking for a post in my area of study. Later, while reading a volunteer’s story, I realized that I wanted to go wherever God needed me. So, I started applying to different positions that could fit with my profile and limited experience.
After a long wait, I received an email that read, “Lidi, you have been accepted to serve in Denmark.” I had mixed feelings; I was happy and scared at the same time. I was going to Denmark for one year to work as assistant dean at Vejlefjordskolen, the Danish junior college of the Adventist Church.
I had no idea how I would afford the cost of the flights and other expenses. But God provided everything I needed and in a short period. This strengthened my faith and gave me the confidence that I was doing God’s will.
Before departing, I remember that I thought, “What can I give to these people?” When I think about Scandinavian countries, I tend to imagine rich people with no needs. Many of these countries are in the top five happiest countries in the world! What could I possibly bring? But then I read an article about their challenges and their decreasing Christian population and figured God had a reason to send me there. I decided to spend more time in the presence of God to prepare me to work with teenagers showing wisdom, patience, and love.
My Life in Denmark
The first few months weren’t easy. I had to improve my English, adapt to a new culture and to the cold and dark weather during winter. But, almost immediately, we formed a great team with the other volunteers, and strong friendships too. I had the opportunity to share my faith with the students, encourage them, laugh, and cry with them. It usually started through deep conversations that they initiated as they were curious about my demeanor and culture.
One day, one of the students was sad and asked me to get her some food. When I went to her room to bring the food, I noticed she was crying. I encouraged her by sharing my personal experience with God and how He is involved in everything that happens in our lives. We did not talk about it again after that day, but she was doing better.
At the end of the school year, students wrote in my yearbook lovely messages like, “Thank you for being there for me, for being available all the time. Thank you for your ever-present smile and your willingness to help.” The girl I had found crying wrote, “Thank you for reminding me that God loves me.” It melted my heart! I am so grateful to God for using me to encourage her!
I learned many things during that year. First, you never know who is looking at you and how your way of treating people could bring them light. God has called us to be light in the middle of the darkness of the world. Second, you might think that what you are doing is nothing extraordinary, but most of the time, we are planting seeds. I can’t wait to go to heaven and hear the beautiful stories that originated in ordinary, simple acts of love.
A Second Year, Now in Norway
After I finished my year in Denmark, I moved to Norway to continue volunteering as a dean, this time at Tyrifjord videregående skole (Tyrifjord Junior College). I’ve been in Norway for two years now. I enjoy sharing my time and my experiences with the students and learning about God’s character. Every day is an opportunity to show love and patience and to share the good news.
I’m now thirty years old, and I plan to continue working as a missionary wherever and whenever God leads me. Sharing the love of Jesus with the world is my greatest privilege!
The original version of this story was posted on the Trans-European Division news site.