Maranatha Volunteers International’s annual mission trip for high-school teenagers, Ultimate Workout, recently finished its 28th generation in the Cochabama Department, or state, of Bolivia. A total of 167 teens and adults served at four locations in the Entre Ríos area from July 18-30. Every day, volunteer teams spread out to four different sites, each almost an hour away.
In Entre Ríos, volunteers laid block and excavated for new buildings at the Entre Ríos Adventist School. They also conducted a Vacation Bible School (VBS) children’s program at the Belen Seventh-day Adventist Church.
At the Río Blanco Seventh-day Adventist Church, volunteers painted, constructed a property retaining wall, facilitated VBS for local children, and participated in community outreach. In Manco Copak, volunteers led VBS and conducted community outreach. Throughout the trip, the medical team rotated through each site, providing health screenings, dental care, and reading glasses to over 550 patients.
Beyond daily service projects, teens were challenged to pursue a deeper connection to God. Pastor Brandon Westgate was tasked with the spiritual leadership of almost 100 teenagers. “Leading a trip with that many teens is energizing for me,” says Westgate. “I can see the talents and passion they possess, and it is fun for me to help them discover how to channel that.”
Adult staff also helped create an environment of mentorship and spiritual growth. Dina Ramirez has been on three Ultimate Workout trips and has a passion for working with teenagers. “I want to see them grow spiritually and be a mentor,” says Ramirez. “I saw them grow spiritually through the course of the trip when they would read their Bibles, even when it wasn’t worship time.”
Participants pointed to the final Thursday evening as the spiritual climax of the trip. “Pastor Brandon made an altar call for baptism and teens started going forward,” recalls lead trip organizer, International Volunteer Manager, Rebekah Shephard. “We were done with worship at that point. But we didn’t stop. Our music leader continued to play music and for another 45 minutes we just sang as people came forward, supported the ones who had made their decisions or sat with each other singing. I stood in the back thinking to myself, ‘This is why I do Ultimate Workout. We were successful–people met Jesus.’”
In all, 18 youth were baptized, and it was clear teens were taking ownership of their faith. “People were recognizing this was their belief and not anyone else’s,” explains teen Elyssa Proulx, a three-time Ultimate Workout veteran. “Being away from home, being in a new environment, you’re making your own decisions. Instead of being influenced by others, you’re deciding things for yourself.”
As the volunteers left Bolivia, they found they had not only impacted those they served, but were changed themselves. “This year I saw how God orchestrates the best things for us even before we know we need them,” says Shephard. “Even though this trip is all about the teens, it continues to impact me each and every year.”
“I would highly recommend teens go on an Ultimate Workout mission trip, because it’s an experience like none other,” says Ramirez. “They grow closer to God, experience the joy of serving others, and have bonding experiences that create life-long friendships.”
Ultimate Workout is an annual mission trip designed for high school teenagers. More than 3,800 volunteers have participated since 1990. Each project allows teenagers to experience construction service, community outreach, and spiritual engagement.
More information on the Adventist-supporting organization can be found at http://www.maranatha.org.