Accepting the Small Challenges By Noemi Beltran Jara

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When I think about HLI, I think about how it has been one of the most intense and important experiences in my life. It's incredible how much God can make you grow, learn and stretch in nine months when you are intentional about your spiritual growth. HLI was a challenge for me, not only because I had to move away from my family and friends, but also because it took me completely out of my comfort zone.

During these life-changing months, I learned so many things about myself and what God has for me. He taught me new ways of connecting with Him and how to take care of my life both physically and spiritually. This has helped me so much as a leader because it taught me how to take better care of others and handle life when it gets tough while also not losing the joy of serving God. I grew more into the person God created me to be, and more confident in myself to walk in God's way and in being who I am. This confidence gave me the strength to accept small challenges like simply talking to people, giving a word of encouragement, or praying for a stranger, and these small challenges have helped me to accept and say yes to bigger challenges in the future.

Another thing God brought through HLI was a healthy community of friends and what that could look like in my life even after HLI. A community that loved, took care of, honored and was always willing to be with and pray for me. They were there when I was having a difficult week because I missed home, when God was working on hard stuff in me, and in all the fun moments. I also learned how to be a better friend in my own relationships, and met the people that would become some of my closest friends.

God also opened the door to start the process of healing in some of the areas of my life I needed healing from. He helped me to grow as a person, leader and servant. He started reinforcing my identity and helping me discover my strengths, weaknesses, gifts, and talents.

Knowing myself and more about the truth that God had to say about me allowed me to feel more comfortable serving my community and people around me because I knew the things I was good at it and what I had to work on. Knowing this, I was able to bring what I had learned and grown in and apply it, both in my local church and everyday life back home.

A year after I graduated, I was invited to be a part of the new class but this time as an intern. Being an intern has been a whole new experience, totally different from being a student, but at the same time it's been a blessing to my life. To be a part of the spiritual growth of the students and to see the way God works in their lives, has inspired me to go deeper in my relationship with God and my relationship with others. Through this experience, I have grown in other areas of my life, and God has taught me how to serve with a different attitude. God once asked me, “Noemi, would you serve me and love others the way you did if I was the only one that saw and valued you?” This caused me to think about what my motivations were when serving others, and I decided that the life I want to live is a life where God is my center, my source of energy, and my motivation. I wanted to live my life for God and only for Him.

These things I have learned through my internship and experience of going through HLI are just an example of what God can do when we say yes to His plans for us. I am so thankful for the experiences, the speakers, the books, the people in HLI that God has used to shape, grow and stretch me, and for the ways He has continued to do this throughout my life afterward.

Mary McKellick