Belen Tersaghi, age 20, from the small town of Santa Fe in northern Argentina, has always wanted to help people. She is currently in her third year at university, studying genetics.
But she isn't waiting until she has a medical degree to serve God by helping people. In fact, Belen just returned from Africa Trek, a six-week mission trip with Operation Mobilisation (OM) to South Africa and Lesotho.
Belen heard about OM through Facebook. She wanted to find a Christian organisation that did something similar to Doctors Without Borders, an independent medical humanitarian organisation. When she found OM, she saw a story about a family of doctors living aboard Logos Hope. Two weeks later, she saw an announcement on Facebook about the Africa Trek, which said, “If you want to grow in your faith and learn to be a disciple of Jesus, this trip is for you.” Belen knew she was supposed to go on that trip, so she contacted OM in Argentina and asked for more information.
Three months later, she was in Africa.
Serving God through both strengths and weaknesses
While in Africa, Belen served God through a variety of ministries. The most surprising ministry opportunity came at a children's home in Kimberley, South Africa. Belen enjoyed playing with the children and sharing God's love with them, but she also used her talent to do a simple thing for the children: she made balloon animals.
In her hometown in Argentina, Belen often works at a children's hospital, where she also makes balloon animals. It's a way to brighten children’s days and share the gospel with them.
“One day in Kimberley, I was making balloon animals, and a man asked me for a balloon. I was tired and thought it was just for a child, so I made a small hat. He wanted to put the balloon on his head, but it was too small—so I made another hat for him. When I saw him later, he was still so happy with the balloon. It was so awesome for me, because I was able to do something that made him happy, and it gave me the opportunity to share the Gospel with him. It was a small thing for me, but it was a big thing for him. I never expected that,” Belen recounted.
It's very encouraging to be able to serve God from your strengths, but it is even more faith-building to do it from your weaknesses, as Belen experienced first-hand while in the small village of Troya, South Africa. “The village had a lot of witch doctors,” she said. “I'd never encountered that before. I was afraid of what could happen.”
The team did door-to-door evangelism, sharing God's love with everyone they met. After praying with her small group of five people (including one translator), the team began to walk to the end of the village, where the witch doctors lived. “I was like, 'No! I don't want to go there! I know what is there,'” Belen said. “But my leader said to me, 'Belen, you need to share the gospel with this house.'”
At that point, the female witch doctor, called a sangoma, came out to greet them. She was blind, and a few moments of conversation revealed that she had never heard of Jesus.
Belen began to share about Jesus. “That moment was amazing for me,” she described. “I was afraid something was going to happen—and it did. It was the first time I felt God with me in a physical way. I really needed God in that moment. In that kind of situation, you really need to know the Word of God and security of knowing Him.”
The sangoma said she wanted to receive Jesus, but when she tried to pray, her throat became tight, and she couldn't breathe. The team prayed for her and told her that if she accepted Jesus as her Saviour, she couldn't worship ancestors anymore. The sangoma said she wanted to receive God, but she was afraid of the spirits.
There was another woman with the sangoma named Jabulile*. The first day, she'd run at the team with a broom, saying she didn't want to hear what they had to say. On the second day, the team felt God leading them to Jabulile's home. The first thing she said when she saw them was, “I want to receive Jesus.” Jabulile asked the team how she could repent of her sins, and then accepted Jesus as her Saviour—along with her entire family! She also vowed to help her friend, the witch doctor, understand God's love for her and to stop feeling afraid of the spirits.
“It was too easy for us,” Belen said. “You always think it will be hard to share the gospel or have a person receive Jesus, but she suddenly did that. Only God can do that.”
The entire trip to Africa was a big lesson for Belen, because until then, she'd been waiting. She knew she needed to go to school to study medicine, and then six years later, she would study genetics. She didn't think she'd be able to go on a mission trip until 2028—but God called her to go in 2018. “It makes a big difference to see God working in your life,” Belen shared. “Before the trip, I knew He was there and He was at work, but I didn't feel it the way I did in Africa. I want to return in the future and visit the people I met this summer and see how God has worked in their lives.”
Why short-term mission trips are important
Belen recommends a short-term mission trip with OM to anyone: “It will give you the opportunity to see what it is like to serve God in missions and share the gospel. And if you feel you want to be a missionary, this can give you an experience before you decide that. OM was very well prepared and organized, and I felt very safe traveling with them.”
Belen promised, “If you go on a mission trip, you need to be ready to see God work in your life, because He will. The truth is, you always think you are going to give, but you will actually always receive more.”
Is God calling you to serve Him on a short-term mission trip? Visit www.om.org to find out how and where you can go!
*Name changed for security
Kate Toretti loves to tell stories about what God is doing in the world. She currently serves as the field communications facilitator for OM in Argentina.