– by Alina María García
“I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land (Ezekiel 22:30).”
It fills my heart with joy to have the honor of sharing what God has been doing in my life through the gap program. I’m 23 years old. I was born into community life and I’m convinced that God did it that way because he has a perfect plan for my life. My home community is Verbum Dei in Mexicali, Mexico.
In this adventure of discovering God’s will for my life, the Lord invited me to experience a gap year. So, here I am Lord. I decided to give one year of my life to God, from January until December of 2016.
While at the Kairos conference in Costa Rica in 2015, the Lord kindled in me a desire to give him this time. It was during a talk by David Mijares – I don’t remember the title of the talk, but I recall that he kept speaking about the importance of commitment, decision and sacrifice in a quest for discipleship. I remember perfectly what I felt in my heart: I knew it was my chance to respond to the Lord in a way that I never imagined I would. At the time I had one semester left before graduating from university, so I had little time to prepare financially and academically. But God opened up doors for me, and that was the confirmation that it was really his will that I should go.
I wasn’t expecting to be sent to any particular community, I was open to anything that God wanted from me. I really love working with teenagers so I wanted to work with them, but at the start of the Gap year I found out I would mostly be serving with a university outreach, and only a little of my time with teenagers.
In Latin America, gappers spend their first month together in training and we also take a retreat in which we learn much about prayer and spirituality. After that I was asked to spend the first three months of my gap year at the gap regional center in Monterrey, Mexico. There I lived for two months at the Jerusalem House with two celibate women from Bethany Association and with fellow sisters of the gap program. After that we opened a new women’s house, and I moved there for another month.
The new house, living with several other women proved to be a challenge for me. It was during this time that I discovered what a blessing it was to have grown up in my house with my mother and three other sisters, for now I could implement what I knew in this new environment.
After these months, in April 2016, I was invited to serve in Holy Family Community in Veracruz, Mexico. I knew from the start that this would happen, but I did not imagine how different it would be for me or what God was planning for me in this new stage of my gap year. It’s normal to spend a few months in Monterrey, Mexico, where the gap center is, and then to move to another city. Certainly, when you live with others who experience the same as you and whom you can spend time with, you hardly ever feel lonely, but now in Veracruz I have been the only gapper, and I think that is the most difficult and challenging part about the change for me.
People go to work, the young go to school, and you seem to be the only who has “free time,” so you find yourself in the company of God most of the time.
Definitely, a lot has changed in my life and my heart during these months – mainly in my desire for a prayer life. I don’t see it as a duty anymore, instead it has become a necessity. It has taken on an essential value in my daily life. My prayer time is now my time with God, my opportunity to be in his presence, the chance to grow in nearness to him. And through prayer God has revealed things about myself that I didn’t know were there, I have learned to face my own fears and my comforts. The Lord has invited me to fully trust in him. This adventure has been a great experience of love and trust, and as God is always here for me, times of solitude have become golden moments. During this time I have also had the wonderful opportunity to discern my vocation – whether to be single or married – and the Lord took this chance I gave him to show me many things and also to confirm my call to community life.
When you’re a gapper humility becomes your ally. Without it, things are much more difficult in your daily life, especially in your service, because you have a different training experience than many of those with whom you serve. You’re still a servant like those who are not gappers, and you have leaders, and you must be submissive as Jesus was to his Father.
Something very beautiful about serving in other communities is that you meet many people and you can serve with them in the same way you work with someone in your home community, since we live by exactly the same ideals and values.
I still have a few months left of my Gap year, and I’m really not sure of what will happen when I get back to my city, my home, my family and my community. I have asked the Lord to give me a good job that gives me enough time to continue serving in my community. I would also like to study for a different career than electronics engineer, which is what my degree is in, a career that will be more useful in God’s service. I don’t know with whom or when I’ll get married, but I want to do God’s will during the next stage of my life and I’m sure the Gap year has been an investment in building his kingdom. I am seeking to do God’s will.