Witnessing God's Love: Dominican Republic

Written by: Rosanna Sainez

The Woman Behind the Story

I had the privilege to sit down with Angelique Low on a beautiful sunny Thursday afternoon. With patience, gratitude, and passion, she began to tell me her story: Who she is, how she got to going on an Action Team, and her experience in the Dominican Republic (DR). People know Angelique by the nickname “AJ”. She is from Pleasanton, California, and going to be a graduating senior in May with a degree in Physical Education. On her own time she loves to exercise, eat pasta, and is a coach for girls basketball and volleyball teams in Covina.

The Tug That Turned Into Reality

AJ brought this confidence to the table as we talked about her experience in the DR. I was curious about how she got connected to Action Teams in the first place, so I asked her how she got connected to being part of such an amazing experience. She told me she heard about Action Teams in chapel as a Freshman, but did not pursue the interest the first time. Her Sophomore year she heard the announcement during chapel again and knew there was a distinct tugging on her heart to find out more information. So she did, and summer after Sophomore year she went on her first Action Team to Moldova. The following year (this past summer), she went to the DR.

When it comes to cross-cultural experiences it is hard to put into words what one encounters in the day to day; the emotions that come with it, and all the moments in between. Forgetting to keep this in mind, I simply asked AJ, “So tell me about the DR.” She responded by asking, “What do you want to know?” I laughed forgetting to consider asking specific questions so I asked, “Okay, what was the overview of your trip, the people who impacted you the most, how you encountered God in the DR, and your favorite meal you ate?”

As soon as I got down to specifics, AJ’s face lit up as she began to explain her trip in great detail, with joy and passion.  AJ responded by saying: “I went to the Dominican Republic on an Action Team this past May and helped out with physical labor projects. My team consisted of all girls and we didn't know each other at the beginning. But by the end of the trip, we learned about each other on a more deeper level. My team encouraged each other throughout the trip and affirmed each other’s purpose while serving together in the DR. My leaders reminded me of God’s intentional love for His children and truly accepting it in my own life. I learned through this experience that community is everything that God calls His people to live daily.  This specific Action Team isn't through an organization but a man named Manolo who has the biggest heart to serve the LORD and pastor in his community. Manolo says the most and least thing that we can do for someone is pray. I've never met someone who is so intentional about knowing his community and desire to want to know how to pray for someone specifically. God overwhelmed me in the DR by fulfilling all my hopes and bringing them beyond my expectations. God spoke to me through other people on my team during debriefs, devotionals, and conversations while we were doing the physical labor projects. My favorite moments of the trip were when Manolo's wife cooked us homemade Dominican food everyday for lunch. We usually ate plantains and rice, lots and lots of rice! This allowed us to connect well with Manolo’s family and listen to his story about his ministry, his calling in life, and life lessons.”  

Challenge and Fear

Of course with every experience there are aspects that keep us from saying yes. Challenges and fears are just a couple but AJ did not realize God put these aspects in front of her for a reason. She was challenged by living out the motto her youth pastor taught her, “Being vulnerable makes you authentic.” I asked her how she lived by this, and she explained to me how she was the first to set an example for her team by being vulnerable and sharing her testimony.

AJ: “I wasn't expecting to cry so much but hearing other people's testimonies and their responses during debrief makes me sentimental. I used this opportunity with people that I trusted to let them know my story and who I am. It was through everyone’s vulnerability that we were able to relate, encourage, support, and speak life into their past, present, and future. I saw God transforming their hearts for the people in the DR and their emotions that they expressed. However, I wasn’t externally processing it like the rest of my team but rather internally processing it through journaling.”

In addition, I asked her if she ever had fears prior to the trip. Some of her fears included:

  1. Fear of cliques and exclusion

  2. Fear of having a spiritual high from missions and settling back to typical routine.

  3. Fear of lack of support from leaders and other members

  4. Fear of the language barrier (Spanish)

Life Before

AJ’s life before going to the DR was rushed, busy, and always on a fixed timely schedule. Finishing finals, moving out of her apartment, and getting ready to leave to the DR all within three days made it even more hectic, but would she change a thing about that? No. It was humbling to see how open she was with me just within talking to her for an hour. She opened up to me saying how she was struggling by feeling disconnected with God, lacking confidence, and not feeling valued by her peers. However, her leaders helped her by walking alongside her and affirming her of her self-worth. God reminded her of His unfailing love through the encouragement, love, and support of her leaders and members before and during the Action Team.

Life After

Life after the DR still held its challenges. AJ expressed how she would catch herself being a hypocrite sometimes, especially with intentionality. One of the most important things she learned was intentionality and relationships with others. At APU we get caught up in the community and think we are being intentional with each other but are we really? Moving forward AJ is making it a goal to be intentional with her friends and going past the surface level. Whether that means praying for someone in person rather than saying I’ll pray for you later. Or even having a 1 on 1 coffee hangout to catch up with friends. To her it does not mean knowing everyone's life story but having more intentional conversations.

AJ explains her trip as a continual growing process. Her faith is still growing, and she does not hear God speak to her everyday, but she knows He’s working in her life through the people she encounters, and ways she cannot see right away. She is grateful for this experience because it has reminded her of her privileges of living in the U.S, how to limit materialism, and letting God into all aspects of life.

What Next?

Moving forward AJ continues to strive for servant leadership, authenticity, selflessness, and experiencing new cultures. She is currently a coach for 7th grade girls basketball and volleyball teams in Covina, is a senior class mentor through the discipleship office, and is going to be leading an Action Team to Guatemala this upcoming summer. She continues to live life with a grateful heart and approachable smile that gives people warmth and welcome. She is willing to share more about her experience with Action Teams and get to know anyone in her community.

*If you would like to check out a recap video AJ made of her Action Team to the DR, click here

The Importance of Storytelling

Written by: Rosanna Sainez

Why Storytelling?  


What comes to mind when you think of storytelling? Is it the funny story your friend told you the other day? Is it a TED talk you listened to? Was it a short novel you read? Or is it reading a blog post, like this one? When thinking about what storytelling means, I had to simplify some reasons to why it is important to humanity. Here are my reasons:

  1. Lets us connect with human beings

  2. Our brains become more engaged and active

  3. Opens our minds to different perspectives

  4. Illustrates an individual's character, personality, and passions

  5. Lets us relate to one of our existing experiences (We are all searching for meaning am I right?)

I love storytelling. I love storytelling specifically because it can depict someone's personality just the way they tell it. Each person can tell it differently either theatrical, comical, philosophical, reserved, or in extreme detail. Everyone has a story so let me start off by telling you mine.

The Storyteller: Who am I?

My name is Rosanna Sainez, I am 21 years old, from San Francisco, California. I am a senior at APU studying Psychology. Other than serving, I am very passionate about holistic living and how food is thy medicine. Some of my favorite things include whipping up new healthy recipes, running, plants, museums, the beach, and investing in friendships.  

When I was little my mom read to me a children's storybook called, “Love You Forever.” In case you are not familiar, it is about a mother's unending love and care for her son as he grows up. However when the mother gets old and is unable to care for herself, the roles reverse and the son cares for his mom. So why is a children's storybook so significant to this topic? It is because it gives meaning. In one way or another a story gives meaning. It can reflect on a person's experience, relate with an existing experience, or inspire a person in what they want to experience. As being a part of the Center for Student Action (CSA) we believe in sharing stories. I currently work in the CSA as a marketing intern where I have the privilege to not only listen but write about people's stories.

Even as a student leader there are still many doubts, fears and setbacks. Spring of 2017, I was doubtful in going on a Mexico Outreach trip. I was sitting with my discipleship group leader at the time outside of Cougar Walk and I remember contemplating whether I should go on the trip or be with my family. She simply just told me to risk it, “What's the harm in going! is there going to be a negative outcome?” The answer was no. What fills the brain with doubt is being uncomfortable with the unknown. Well guess what, I decided to go to Mexico, on the Women's Prison team and that's when my heart first cracked. I imagine it like this. Each time I get involved with service I am reminded how much I love knowing people's stories. My heart breaks but mends back together with each new experience, which opens up my eyes to what God sees. This trip opened the door to my passion for serving, which lead me to future CSA opportunities.


Summer of 2018,  I decided to apply to an Action Team where I got placed on a team to Senegal, Africa. Would you believe after a year of leadership in the CSA office that I went through the same pattern of doubt and fear. Yup, I did. However, I had to remind myself of God's provision through those past experiences which helped me trust him more with this new opportunity. I would love to explain my whole trip in detail, but then this blog would be ten pages long. However, if I were to describe to you what I learned through my experience, I would tell you that God showed me what it means to be valued, through the people of Senegal and his own earthly creation.

Myths of Storytelling

When it comes to trips overseas, or mission trips in general people typically think they have to be “called” by God, or that “the call” is for the experienced. Wrong! I was sitting with my coworker Jack Struiksma on a Friday afternoon and I asked him if there was a significant moment where he felt “called” to lead an action team. With words of wisdom he simply just said, “It wasn't a matter of calling for me, it was just a matter of God capturing my heart and through that he developed my passion to serve His kingdom.” Wow, you could not have said it any better Jack.

In my experience I was exposed to ministry before I knew God was leading me to serve. Each experience is a risk, but it is just another opportunity to create another story. Think about it as developing your own storybook. When you look back at your life, what would you have wanted it to be filled with?

The reason why I tell my story is because I believe that even leaders are broken, have doubts, and are still fearful when it comes to getting involved in ministry. Those human instincts will not always go away in life, but it is opportunities like these that let you trust in God, and stretch you away from the uncomfortable. Ask any one of us in the CSA, we will tell you the truth. Stay tuned to hear more transforming stories that happen through our office.

Our Core Values

Written by: Matt Browning

The Center for Student Action at APU takes seriously the challenge to motivate and activate every student to be a part of an international or intercultural experience before they graduate.  The people, programs, policies, and services within the Center have a clear purpose: To help students understand and ACT on the claims of Christ that we believe we can change the world.  The guiding principles that drive the Center serve to ensure that the mission, vision, and purpose of the Center continue to be lofty, responsible, challenging, and God-honoring. The following is a list of 12 Core Values that we hold as a branch of the university, and as Christ followers. May these help you to understand us as we embrace the people of God both locally and globally.

  • We are educators. We have a responsibility to educate students. We do this generally outside the classroom, but nevertheless, we see ourselves as helping students ask good questions and find the truth about God and His world. This is our responsibility as people of the Cross.

  • We know that nobody wins until we all win. The core of the Center for Student Action is that we are stronger together than separate. Our programs vary some but our mission to challenge students to responsible action is the same. We will do what it takes to make every person and part of the Center better together.

  • We adopt a with not for mission mentality. We do not enter other cultures as North Americans that have answers that can “fix” situations. We are learners first and seek to enter new opportunities as learners, as servants, and as partners.

  • We will be relentless in challenging students to be a part of the programs in the Center. We will always work to get as many undergraduate students as possible to have an intercultural experience before they graduate.

  • We believe in creating responsible disequilabration. We will challenge students to think new and differently about themselves, God, culture, and the world, but we will always point them back to the truth of Scripture.

  • We value the seed as much as the bouquet. We value thoughtful, ongoing reflection as much as we do measurable “outcomes” as part of the experiences we challenge our students with. We will not know, this side of eternity, what the experiences we offer students will do and we are comfortable not knowing.

  • We believe that Everyone Matters. Our world would be a better place if we really believed everyone matters and acted on that belief. We commit to practicing the Royal Law of “Love your neighbor as yourself,” (James 2:8) and will seek to never commit the sin of partiality. We acknowledge that everyone is our neighbor.

  • We believe that creating a “Responsible Revolution” is one of our ultimate dreams within the Center. We desire to create such a sense of faith in action that, as a community, we will “revolt” against what the world says is success and replace those ideas with thoughts more aligned with Christ.

  • We believe that People of the Cross must have an active faith. We will constantly look for ways to challenge our students to not just hear the Word but act on what the Word says (James 1:22).

  • We hold the value that everyone has something to contribute to God’s work around the corner and around the world. We will take responsible chances on anyone that shows a desire to take the challenge to serve. No one is too messed up to serve.

  • We value cultural competence. We will look for ways to help students understand the hallmarks of a culturally competent person and put those values into practice daily.We are an office and a team of people that will, within reason, always look for ways to make a good idea or program happen. We want to empower students and staff to dream out loud and do our best to make those dreams come true. We will do our best to say “how can we make this work” rather than “this will never work”.