Florencia del Valle, a young Seventh-day Adventist from Argentina, spent most of 2020 in Ecuador as part of the church’s “One Year in Mission” (OYIM) project. Though separated from family and friends at home and facing a COVID-19 infection, del Valle persevered and completed eight months of service to others. Here, he speaks with Adventist News Network’s South American service about his experiences—and what they meant.
How did you come to be part of the project A Year in South American Mission?
During 2019 I was participating in A Year in National Mission in the city of San Juan, Argentina, as part of a project involving 52 young people in different areas of the country. There, I worked on local church projects, giving Bible studies and participating in youth worship, Pathfinders, and other activities. From that group, I was selected for the OYIM 2020 in Ecuador.
What were the plans in Ecuador for the project?
We would be 18 young people from different countries in South America working together to establish two centers of influence in the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador. None of us had experience in this type of missionary work, so we were going to learn by doing.
On February 4, 2020, I arrived in Guayaquil. After 10 days of training at the Adventist School in Ecuador, we settled in the house where we would live with a pastor and his wife who were the leaders. There were only rumors of the pandemic. But soon after it arrived in Ecuador and Guayaquil was the most affected city in the country. There was a curfew. So it was necessary to rethink everything that had been projected.
How did you carry out the mission during the pandemic in Ecuador?
We did not leave the house for the first 5 months. At first, there were rumors that the project might be canceled. They were moments of great uncertainty. But given that the borders were closed, and we could not return to our home countries, we continued to see how to move forward, adapting our work to online efforts. We couldn't stay the whole year doing nothing!
The projected centers of influence were in the full construction phase. It was then decided that the project would continue online with courses, workshops, preaching, evangelism weeks, and other activities. The challenge was how to invite non-Adventists to participate. So, we began to advertise on Facebook, on WhatsApp, so that many can sign up. When 600 people signed up, our problem changed from how to reach prospects to how to serve them. We were overwhelmed with requests. It was a great blessing!
We ran nine different courses for the people, Monday through Friday. I oversaw the English workshop, something I had never done. On Saturdays, we supported the online activities of the local church: Sabbath School, the weekly sermon, and Youth Service; and on Sundays we participated in the Pathfinder Club. In addition, we joined in the weeks of prayer and evangelism. If the course participants had needs, we tried to be attentive to assist them with food, clothing or whatever we had, when the quarantine began to be relaxed.
In the final 3 months of the project, we were able to do face-to-face activities in the center of influence that could be completed, where a student of my English courses participated. He also joined other courses and became friends with the boys. He also started Bible studies together with his wife and continues to advance. Even when the Impact Hope (Impacto Esperanza) project was developed, he distributed books. This is one of many activities that were integrated into the face-to-face projects.
What did all this life experience mean to you?
The children of God are not exempt from suffering problems. But He guided us in everything, and my spiritual life was greatly strengthened. Several of us got COVID-19. I was the one with the worst symptoms, which lasted for three weeks. Although my parents are not Adventists, they supported me so that I could continue and they were aware of how I was doing, trusting in the care I received from my leaders.
OYIM made me grow as a person, I strengthened my relationship with God and I also learned to value all the things that one has.
Readers can find more information about the OYIM project, in Spanish, here: https://www.adventistas.org/es/jovenes/proyecto/un-ano-en-mision/.