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Combined Good Works and Youth Corps Project in Chile

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Combined Good Works and Youth Corps Project in Chile

The project was coordinated by Lewis and Lena VanAusdle from the U.S. and Jaime Gallardo and Jaime Diaz from Chile. Also participating were international volunteers who collaborated with the Chilean youth to organize and deliver the program. These internationals were Linda Merrick and Steve Orosz from the U.S. and myself, Shana Heslin, from Australia.

United Church of God has two congregations in Chile. The largest is located in Santiago, the capital city, and is pastored by Mr. Gallardo. This congregation has been blessed with an excellent venue, which was once a shoe factory. It contains a large hall used for services and events, and office spaces. The complex is ideal in many ways, and the congregation recognizes it as a tremendous blessing.

The other congregation is in Temuco, in the south of Chile. This is now pastored by Mr. Diaz, and consists of about 18 members. The church meets in a hotel function room, which is usually more than adequate in size, and still manageable with an inundation of visitors.

Our project began in Santiago. There, we met the young people who were already based in the area, as well as those who had travelled up expressly from Temuco. During the first week, we engaged in activities with the young people, getting to know them and having fun. Midway through this first week, we took the eight-hour road trip from Santiago to rainy Temuco. Our party included all coordinators, volunteers, and young people from Santiago involved in the project.

We stayed in Temuco, with the immediate task of building an insulated ceiling for a Church family’s farmhouse, located outside the city. Volunteer Steve Orosz, who is in construction by trade, managed this part of the project. We were all gathered together in the farmhouse over a few days, each participating as we were able, which included peripheral roles like entertaining little children. We enjoyed traditional rainy day treats of fried bread—sopaipillas—and mulled wine. The builders worked hard and finished the construction on time. While in Temuco, we met the congregation and were welcomed into members’ homes. After completing our work on the farmhouse, we returned to Santiago for the final stage of the project.

In the capital once more, we resumed our work with the young people. This time, the Church had undertaken promotional work to welcome youth from outside the Church, and the focus shifted from introductions to building leadership. One girl from outside the Church responded to promotions, and joined us for the remaining days. We engaged in a variety of different activities together, which were broken up by breaks for tea and completos (hotdogs with everything).

The project was a huge success. It brought an exciting change for the Church in Chile, where the Church is working hard to build an engaged new generation. It put Chile on the map for outsiders. Dedication from bilingual speakers of English and Spanish helped to keep us all on the same page and able to collaborate in the face of varying linguistic competencies. We built strong connections transcending the cultural, linguistic and geographic boundaries that are inevitably present in a Church family that spans accross the earth. Our brothers and sisters in Chile opened their doors and welcomed us into their homes. We were privileged to experience an authentic insight into a loving and inclusive culture.

By running these programs, our Church is embarking on a crucial mission to become united across the earth. These projects open eyes and hearts to further strengthen our international family. When we send a volunteer from one country to another, their path leaves a bridge and opens new doors for both communities. More and more young people are inspired each time, and realize that they can also make a difference. May our Church continue supporting and participating in these projects, transcending the barriers, and seeking to heal the gaps, until all God’s people are one day truly united. 

by Shana Heslin

United Youth Corps is currently seeking volunteers for this year’s project in Chile. For more information check out the website: