‘Service will change your life, change your perspective, change your passions’
Instead of picking up a hobby like sewing or painting during quarantine, Indiana University, School of Education student Evelyn Eggers moved to Ensenada, Mexico to volunteer for the organization Youth With a Mission: Homes of Hope. Now a rising IU sophomore (fall 2021), Evelyn first took part in the program as a senior in high school in Fishers, Indiana, graduating a semester early to join the organization.
Volunteering abroad in a Spanish-speaking community is a familiar path for Evelyn. From the time she was 11, she has spent summers volunteering with her family at an orphanage in El Salvador.
Evelyn says she initially found Youth With a Mission through its Discipleship Training School program, when she was looking at gap year programs in high school. “I was really looking for an experience that would get me out of my comfort zone and teach me a lot about different cultures, my beliefs, my privileges, and ultimately myself.” Youth With a Mission operates thousands of schools that train and teach young adults in over 180 countries. Its programs extend across seas and include ship-based medical care, performing arts teams, Bible training programs, business coaching, sports ministries, anti-trafficking work, and many more. Students and young adults who get involved can travel and make an impact in a community that needs assistance.
Evelyn has a passion for reaching out and comforting others, volunteering, and making a change that she has seen modeled in her own family, which runs a non-profit foster care program in Marion County and went through the system as well to adopt Evelyn’s brother.
“I had always grown up around the importance of loving and giving aid to those who are experiencing broken family systems,” says Evelyn.
During Evelyn’s freshman semester of college in 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, she decided to take move back home and take classes online. After ending her housing contract, a missionary friend in Mexico asked her to come back.
“I ran with the idea and ended up making a last-minute decision to move there,” she says. “When I moved back this past semester, I was volunteering 30 hours a week in the kitchen, building houses, teaching surf lessons, and feeding the homeless alongside my responsibilities of being a 19-credit hour student, participating in IU Student Government Congress, and going through sorority recruitment.”
Evelyn is grateful for the opportunity to live in another country and build relationships with people she would have never otherwise have had the chance to know, understand, and learn from. “As well as being able to work alongside homeless families and build them a house, I got to see how much easier my life is and how grateful I should be for the things I have,” she says. “Sometimes it is hard to put into perspective the blessings and privileges you have until you experience life without them.”
Evelyn encourages anyone contemplating a service trip to question the purpose behind the trip and think about who you would be helping.
“Mission trips shouldn't be easy or comfortable. You should be just giving than expecting to receive. All my experiences through YWAM Ensenada--every outreach and mission in the community—has directly given residents in Ensenada the tools and resources to make lasting change in their lives.”
Evelyn’s history of serving with different people, organizations, cultures, and countries has altered her mindset and perspective. Life was not easy the past two years, but Evelyn did not let her pandemic-related struggles overcome her love for helping others. She is working towards making an impact overseas, at home, and in the local Bloomington community.
“Service will change your life, change your perspective, change your passions, and wake you up to the bigger problems of the world,” she says. “It will wake you up and make you want to be a world changer, a policy-maker and a fighter for justice.”
One of her most valuable takeaways from the experience was getting to know people from across the globe.
“When you are surrounded by so many different people from all over the world, you realize how special everyone’s' culture is and how it needs to be celebrated and learned by others,” she says. “From learning Spanish Costa Rican slang words to cooking cinnamon rolls from Denmark to traditions in Argentina and customs in Germany, I definitely got a larger worldview and a greater respect and love for the celebration of differences.”