In a central plaza in Charata, Argentina, community members mill about a sunny marketplace, visiting with neighbors and eating fresh sandwiches and empanadas. A street singer strums his guitar nearby. People dance in the heat of the day.
And Senaa Debela was in the middle of it all.
As an 18-year-old soldier of the Decatur, Ill., Corps, Senaa spent six weeks in Argentina as part of the Central Summer Mission Team, partnering in ministry with Salvationists in the South America East Territory.
“I loved it,” Senaa said. “Once in their life, everyone should travel to a different country.”
The team served not only in Charata but in Posadas and Buenos Aires. Along with Senaa, 21-year-old Elizabeth McCormick of the Mason City, Iowa, Corps, and 19-year-old Levi Mowers of the Royal Oak, Mich., Corps, made up the team. They were assisted by translator Zoe Araya of Patricios Corps.
“We were pretty much always together, living together and working together,” Elizabeth, the team’s leader, recalled.
The group worked its ministry in a range of activities like planning events for youth night at a corps; painting student residences; discussing faith at a camp; and helping repair/paint a health clinic and chapel.
Painting the clinic, both inside and outside, was especially memorable for Elizabeth.
“I was painting in the pediatric room there—and I decided to paint flowers in the room, to make it more personal,” she recalled fondly.
“We were painting together all day out in the heat,” Senaa remembered. “It was hard work of course. Our bodies were tired. But it was all worth it.”
Levi learned about his late grandparents’ ministry while visiting the training college in Buenos Aires.
“My grandparents were directors of the school in 2008-2010. I met some of the former cadets, and they told me stories of my grandpa and grandma and about what good teachers they were,” he said. “They left a huge impression on this territory for the better.”
Team members only knew one another by name when they first met at orientation, but soon became close as they served in Argentina.
“I was happy to share my summer with the team,” Levi said of Elizabeth and Senaa. “It makes you a little vulnerable to share some hard things together, talking about grief, about God, about struggles. We shared life with each other.”
Many of the children in Argentina were inspirational to Senaa.
“God was truly working there,” she said. “The kids were not afraid to get out of their chairs and jump and sing. Hearing them give testimonies and not being afraid to speak up about how much God is doing in their lives—we, as a team, got to be a part of that.”
There was time for relaxation too. The team met various corps officers through their travels and were also able to sample new foods and do a bit of sightseeing too.
“In Posadas we got to go to the beach with some of the officers’ kids,” Senaa said. “We played cards, played volleyball and looked at the water.”
Elizabeth was particularly touched by a visit to the Iguazu Falls.
“Oh, seeing the waterfalls was of course a super-memorable experience. Seeing something like that, God’s creation, drives home how amazing God really is,” she said.
Levi remembers an evening at a camp in Charata with youth from four different corps.
“It was so cool to be able to help with that, sitting and observing how the Lord was working on the youth of that division,” Levi said. “The Lord saved kids’ lives that night. It was an amazing experience, seeing how He can move and what He can do.”
Senaa added, “It really opened my eyes, getting to see people worshipping God in a different place. The people in Argentina were on fire for God.”