apu students smiling in Guatemala

Maia (MJ) Sanchez ’26, a liberal studies major with a concentration in psychology, spent two weeks serving in Belize and Guatemala on a Global Engagement trip through the Office of Service and Discipleship this summer. She learned about the value of connecting with others through listening and sharing one’s story, as well as relinquishing preconceived expectations.

Why did you choose Belize and Guatemala for your global engagement trip?

I had planned to go to Ireland but there weren’t enough team members going, so when I was faced with making a new choice, I talked about it with my parents. They encouraged me toward deciding on Belize and Guatemala because of the locations’ safety, and the ministry was closest to what I would have been doing in Ireland.

How did you serve on the trip?

We visited people’s homes, providing water filters to ensure clean drinking water. Additionally, we related the Gospel to the water filter to teach about how Christ purifies lives.

What were a few highlights of the trip?

One of them was definitely meeting people who truly embodied their cultures. Two women we met had experienced church hurt, but they were still willing to open their homes to us and share their stories. It was especially rewarding to meet people who had never heard who God was, and to spread His love with them. They didn’t know they were loved by their creator. Some came to tears at the idea that God wants a relationship with them.

What was the dynamic like on your team?

At first it was a bit awkward. There were only four of us, and we all came from various backgrounds. I’d never met any of them before being on the team, but by the time we got to the airport we started to bond more. We’re all really close now and have stayed in touch. 

How did you see God move on the trip?

Watching people come to Christ was one way, but I especially learned to open my eyes both to the people of those countries and the ones on my team, in a more loving aspect. One of the Bible verses we read together as a team encouraged us to pray that God would give us His eyes to see others through. That was cultivated most on this trip.

How did you grow personally and spiritually?

I learned to be more vocal with my story. When you’re put in a position to walk into what could be a challenging in-home visit, turning it into sharing the Gospel can be tough if you don’t know your story. I discovered how to express my story openly with others. 

Would you recommend Global Engagement trips to other students? What advice would you give them?

I would absolutely recommend it! I would advise people not to approach mission trips with expectations. If they’re given an opportunity, I’d encourage students to pick a team that doesn’t relate to their major. This is the time to try new things. It’s easy to pick a Global Engagement trip that aligns with your vocation, but if you step out of your box and pick something you’re not comfortable with you can grow so much more. 

Service is one of APU’s four cornerstones. What does service mean to you?

Service means doing something without expecting rewards. It’s doing something because you have the ability to help someone else. Often, it’s driven by a feeling God places on your heart.

All APU undergraduate students serve 120 hours over the course of four years. There are many opportunities during the school year and during the summer to serve both locally and globally. Learn more about Global Engagement trips here or by emailing [email protected] .