Luca Fenalson paints an orphanage wall

Seven Azusa Pacific University students traveled to Chiapas, Mexico, for two weeks over their summer breaks to serve at an orphanage. The Chiapas Global Engagement trip aimed to cultivate supportive relationships with the children, but junior nursing major Luca Fenlason also learned how to translate his faith into his actions.

“I was keeping up with my faith by reading the Bible and going to church, but I had been making excuses to not actively serve,” Fenlason said. “I wanted to take that step to give my time and effort for others, so I signed up for a Global Engagement trip. Since I love working with kids, the Chiapas trip spoke to me.” 

Fenlason compared the orphanage to a foster care system. The children had all been taken from abusive households or unsafe environments. “Sometimes it felt like a summer camp, and other times it would hit me just how much the kids are struggling,” Fenlason said. “Despite the trauma they had been through, they were so excited to see us everyday, and it felt good to be a sense of joy in the midst of their pain.”

APU students ate, played, and did schoolwork with the children. Fenlason said that he was most impacted by the relationships he formed with the kids. On the first day, APU students were tasked with preparing and teaching a lesson to the children. “I don’t speak Spanish, so it was challenging yet exciting when we were told that we would have to teach a lesson to the kids,” Fenlason said. “Despite the language barrier, our team of students had a positive and encouraging mindset.” 

Some APU students were fluent in Spanish while a handful of the children they served knew a bit of English. “I learned more about putting my faith into action as my relationship with God grew on the trip,” Fenlason said. “I couldn’t tell the kids directly about Jesus because of the language barrier, but I told myself that if He could be seen through my actions, He would speak to the children for me.” 

Fenlason’s personal goal on the trip was to read the book of Luke. “I noticed how Jesus would respond when the people around Him were hurting, and it inspired me to be a source of hope for others,” he said. “I couldn’t fix all of the kids’ problems, but I could be a light for them as they moved forward. Reading Luke taught me to give to others because God will provide for you.”

The APU students formed friendships amongst themselves as well. “It’s pretty special to serve with other believers in faith who are growing and struggling alongside you,” Fenlason said. He is finding ways to include his passion for community and connection into his future. “I could see myself opening a Christian based community center or coffee shop as an outlet for homelessness where we could dive deeper into ministry,” he said. 

Fenlason thought that the culture and scenery were incredible. He believes that experiencing other cultures is an important part of growing in faith. “I learned about the simplicity of life. These children didn’t have much, yet they were so joyful and grateful,” he said. “Coming back home, I was struck by our consumer culture. I decided I wanted to be someone who gives generously instead. I’m not going to be perfect right away, but I will learn and grow from my experiences.”

Fenlason encourages other students to grow in their faith through active service as well. “Definitely go on a Global Engagement trip no matter where you are in your faith. They’re for everyone because they incite growth from experiencing a new culture and way of life.”