Daisy Santiago didn’t know what to expect out of her first mission trip.
“I had never talked about the Lord to anyone before,” she said.
Still, the Worcester State University student was the first collegian to sign up for a spring break mission trip to serve hurricane victims in Puerto Rico with Send Relief, a branch of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.
Santiago’s family is originally from Puerto Rico, and having the opportunity to go back to the place where her family originated meant the world to her.
“This was a chance for me to give back and share about God,” Santiago said.
But the trip got off to a rocky start. Santiago was late getting to the airport, met with students and leaders that she had not connected deeply with prior to the trip and eventually was stuck in the San Juan airport for nearly twelve hours. Her small team of five was partnered with half of the Naval Academy’s Baptist Collegiate Ministries. She did not have high hopes.
“I didn’t think we would get along,” she laughed, adding that by the end of the trip, the team felt like family.
Though Puerto Rico is a US territory, Spanish is the primary language, so for many students and leaders not speaking the language was a challenge. Santiago was prepared because she is bilingual.
“It made me nervous at first, but I am glad I was able to speak the language and communicate with the families,” she said.
Being fluent in Spanish allowed Santiago to share God’s love with a couple named Lourdes and Luis. The family qualified for services to repair their home after the hurricane made landfall on the island. Send Relief stepped in to make those repairs and modifications. Upon sharing the love of God with them, Lourdes and Luis thanked the team for not forgetting them.
Walking through the neighborhood near her work site, Santiago and other students handed out pre-packaged food and shared the Gospel with families and children. Not only were the families impacted, the students were, too.
Prior to the trip, Santiago had never shared the Gospel, but by the end of the trip she was able to say that she had successfully done so.
“I feel like I can share about God to people here [in Worcester] now,” she added.
Coming home from her first mission trip, Santiago feels encouraged, strengthened and ready to share the love of God with the people that she sees everyday. She feels the challenges throughout the trip brought her closer to God.
Emily Greer is the communications intern at the Baptist Convention of New England. She also serves as a collegiate ministry associate in Worcester, MA.