In the summer of 2016, Hannah Loechelt, along with two other interns from the U.S., served with Serge in Granada, Nicaragua, at a mission hub known as “El Puente.” Founded in 2006, El Puente—which means “The Bridge” in Spanish—is a base of ministry operations for the impoverished neighborhoods that lie on the outskirts of Granada. From El Puente, a team led by Serge missionaries operates a number of ministries, including a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, Young Life, a pre-school, a sports ministry, and a community business development project called Jicaro.
Hannah stepped into a lot of different roles during her time at El Puente. It was an exciting challenge.
“Serge missionaries told me it was going to be like building a plane while flying it,” she says, “and what they said was true.”
Hannah is a senior economics major at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Going into the internship, she hoped she would be able to put her economics knowledge to work for business development through the Jicaro Project. But God had other plans.
“I was super excited about how I could use skills that the Lord has given me,” Hannah says. “My expectation going in was: ‘I’m going to work on the Jicaro Project, and we’re going to scale it, and it’s going to be booming at the end of two months…’ which is an unrealistic expectation for any business.”
When Hannah arrived in Granada, she realized there was not enough capacity locally to rapidly expand the project. With that discovery, she also began to see that she might be there to learn as much as to teach others.
“I think that what the Lord wanted from my time there was relational,” Hannah says. “I just spent time with one woman who worked at the Jicaro Project. It was more about listening to another person’s story than trying to write my own.”
The women Hannah got to know was Maria de Jesus. She spoke only Spanish. Hannah, though a Spanish minor in college, was not fluent, and she spent her first day at Jicaro mostly in silence, trying to muster up the courage to speak. It was sink or swim—either learn Spanish, or not communicate all summer.
“When I came back to Jicaro the second time, I was determined to get to know Maria,” Hannah says. “As soon as I asked her about her life—her family, her husband, her ministry at church, and where she grew up—she opened up almost right away, somehow placing her trust in a young American girl.
“That’s what started our friendship—asking her a simple question about her life rather than worrying about how well I could speak Spanish,” Hannah continues. “She probably doesn’t care how well I spoke, but that I made the effort to get to know her.”
As Hannah and Maria got to be better friends, Maria shared about the hardships she faced, especially at home trying to raise four children ranging from ages four to 18. As Hannah watched Maria look to the Lord in faith for help, she sensed her own faith being strengthened.
“One day, I came in feeling very discouraged because other ministry areas were wearing me down,” Hannah says. “As soon as I walked in, Maria wanted to know about my Bible study that morning. She and I ended up talking about Exodus, the plagues, and how the Lord is faithful to rescue His children from whatever circumstances we may be facing. I learned many lessons that day through my friend Maria—how to be strong in vulnerability, how the Lord grants us unlikely friendships by His grace, and how the Kingdom is moving in His people in all places.”
Though the language barrier continued to be a challenge, Hannah’s Spanish improved over the months in Granada. Hannah says she and the other interns not only improved their language skills, but they also grew in a deeper knowledge of the Lord, intentionally seeking out His will for their lives. They learned important lessons about themselves, about living in community, and about the Lord’s faithfulness.
“Now that I’m back in the States, I’m being intentional about creating relationships with people that are impactful and deep,” Hannah says. “That’s something I learned—not to shy away from vulnerability but rather to dig deep into human relationships, because that is a gift that the Lord has given us.”
Serge summer internships open a door to eight weeks serving overseas under the guidance a Serge mission team. Discover where you can go here. Early decision for internship placement is November 13, 2017, and regular decision is January 8, 2018.