Story 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:
Fear of cliques and exclusion
Fear of having a spiritual high from missions and settling back to typical routine.
Fear of lack of support from leaders and other members
Fear of the language barrier (Spanish)
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 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.
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