Cayla Sanderlin, SP staff in San José, shares how Ana, a local teenager, encountered God’s call to return to her community after longing to leave it
When Ana was ten years old, her father was detained and deported to Mexico. Overnight, her family structure and stable home environment was disrupted. No longer supported by her father’s income, her mother and teenage brothers had to find employment to make ends meet.
Shortly after, Ana’s brother began exhibiting mental health needs which made her life unpredictable and, at times, dangerous. And to top it off, her apartment sat right on the corner of a gang hotspot. Ana remembers counting down the years until she would graduate from high school, confident that she would leave it all behind and find safety and stability elsewhere.
Through a neighbor, Ana’s mother was invited to attend a prayer gathering at SP staff Jairo and Lourdes Sarmiento’s house. Eventually, she dragged Ana along with her. It was from this prayer gathering that our church, Shalom Iglesia, was formed, and Ana and her mom became some of its first members.
Ana too became curious about Jesus and was drawn to Christian community. Upon graduating high school, a friend in the neighborhood encouraged her to consider doing a Discipleship Training School in Australia with YWAM (Youth With a Mission). This was it, Ana thought—the ticket she needed to leave for good.
As Ana packed her bags, her mother was packing her bags to return to Mexico. If Ana did return, she would not return to the same home—life would be different in ways she didn’t look forward to. Her time overseas was transformational. She saw God work in mysterious and profound ways. Toward the end of her six months abroad, she began feeling a yearning to move back to San José and a desire to grow her faith in her community. The church set her up with a place to stay and she began volunteering in the youth group as a leader.
Through her leadership, Ana’s stories of Gospel transformation and hope penetrated the hearts of the students, many of whom came from family backgrounds just like her own. Her storytelling inspired the youth and leaders alike. It was clear that she had a gift. Around this time, the church began praying that God would bring up leaders from our congregation to lead the community. What an answer to prayer!
It was in this season that Ana heard a call from God to obtain a degree in ministry in order to pastor the youth at Shalom Iglesia. Ana shifted her focus from nursing and began preparing to transfer to a Christian college for a degree in Christian Ministries with a focus on Youth Pastoring. She now attends Biola University and plans to return to San José when she graduates. God called Ana to return and serve her community, and she continues to be faithful to that calling every day.