Q&A: Lessons from Serving in Chile
Jenny has lived in Chile now for more than five years. In that time, she has been a top volunteer and advocate for the Health and Wellness program here. Now, we are happy to welcome her officially to the Kingdom Workers team as our full-time Chile Wellness Circle Coordinator.
This interview explores what led Jenny to live and serve in a foreign country, her volunteer experience with Kingdom Workers, and advice for anyone considering serving in international ministry.
Elise: Jenny, what led you to live and serve in Chile?
Jenny: I believe you can do ministry wherever you are and whoever you are. Whatever you are doing, you can do ministry and serve the Lord! For me, I have always loved Latin America and am attracted to the language, the culture, and the people. I just knew that Latin America was somewhere that I wanted to be.
Elise: What motivates you to volunteer in the Health and Wellness Support program?
Jenny: I love education and I love that we are able to approach health and wellness from a holistic perspective including the physical, spiritual, cognitive, and emotional. All components of wellness are important! I feel like this program is a way that God is letting me use my abilities, experiences, and education to serve people in a different way. Additionally, I have been on my own health journey, so I love to connect with others on this topic. I personally continue to learn and get to share knowledge. Knowledge is power. You cannot improve your health if you don't know where to begin or how.
Jenny leading a Wellness Circle session in late 2019.
Elise: As the Wellness Circle Coordinator, a great part of your work centers on creating our curriculum together with community healthcare professionals. How do you do this?
Jenny: We certainly wouldn't have the curriculum that we use without healthcare experts who serve as volunteers with us. Initially a group of experts in the States shared with us a great foundational curriculum. Using this as a base, I work together with Chilean healthcare experts to adapt the content so that it complies with standards of culture here. I am personally not a healthcare expert, but I do have expertise in teaching and knowing how to filter information. For that reason, we make a good team creating meaningful evidence-based sessions that are also engaging and easy for the common person to understand and apply to their lives.
Elise: In addition, you also work closely with our Wellness Circle Coaches. How do you encourage them and equip them for their roles as leaders of small groups?
We are in the early states of our program! So right now, especially, it is important to work together with the coaches to analyze what is working and what isn't so that we can make positive changes. We as a Kingdom Workers Chile team work to train and to support coaches by supplying the materials needed for their sessions, guiding them in how to speak with participants, listening and learning their strengths, etc. in addition to teaching skills specific to their needs like technology training. We encourage them spiritually and plan get-togethers that are fun and rejuvenating! We care a lot about making sure that their basic needs are met so that they are able to serve and serve well.
Jenny: You love to say the phrase, "Grace changes everything." Why?
Many people don't know what grace means so I love talking about this word and what's behind it. I remember when I was in grade school and a teacher taught me the meaning of the word grace as underserved love and I just thought it was so beautiful. As you experience more life, you can easily see that God is the only one that can perfectly show grace, but how beautiful it is when people show grace too. It is easy to love some but also a struggle to show love to others that you feel might not deserve it. And yet, that is what God does unconditionally! With that in mind, it changes everything. It changes how you see people and how you see yourself. It changes your perspective on love and the strength that love has. It inspires you to live for and like God.
Jenny (pictured left) participates in the December 2020 Advent celebration in Chile.
Elise: What advice would you give to someone considering serving in an international ministry?
Jenny: No matter where you are, you might be in an "international ministry." You could have one in your own backyard if you live or work in a neighborhood that is different from the culture in which you grew up or are used to. If you find yourself in a situation like that, or in a new country, remember grace and empathy. If we are called to love others, we have to be empathetic and understand their perspective. Don't get too caught up or lost in the cultural differences. There is a time and place to analyze culture and to apply how to use it, but in general, people are people. And as God's people it's our job to love others no matter the food, the dress, the home, or the language. We are all brothers and sisters.
Elise Gross is the Chile Program Coordinator. She grew up on the island of Antigua with missionary parents and studied social science and culture in college. After spending four years in Milwaukee working with city ministry, an opportunity to serve in Chile opened up and she and her husband jumped at the chance to serve in another country. Elise hopes that the program in Chile will continue to impact lives and change people’s hearts as they grow closer to their Savior through conversations about healthy living.