January 26, 2011
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – (www.lasierra.edu) His experience in Peru last year helping build churches and lead worship services proved life changing for communications and pre-law major Keith Ybanez. As a result, his broadened views will one day lead to improved lives for those in difficult and vulnerable circumstances.
Ybanez, a La Sierra University student and the campus’s recruiting director for missions, spent more than nine months in Peru on a long-term missions trip through La Sierra. He is now planning to focus on international law aiding underserved populations. “I never considered the ways my career [in law] can help others,” he said, until he observed the plight of the impoverished in Peru.
As a missions recruiting director, Ybanez hopes to inspire other students to embark on such a journey of broadened discovery. He and other missions department staff stepped up their efforts during the annual Missions Rush Week of activities held Jan. 10 -13, and through various activities aimed to bolster the spiritual lives of La Sierra’s students and inspire interest in serving God through missions work.
The week’s offerings included nightly worships, a missions village where students could hear the inspiring stories of student missionaries and a prayer labyrinth where walkers could pass through a maze carrying CD players recorded with spiritual messages. The labyrinth, a 40-minute or so walk through twisting brown fabric walls included stops along the way for spiritual activities such as tossing a pebble into a pool of water to symbolically cast cares upon God.
“I liked the prayer labyrinth,” said Laura Naranjo, a freshman biology and pre-med major. “I took an hour there …it was a peaceful experience.” A walk through the labyrinth can remind students not to worry or be afraid of separation from family and friends, she said.
The week capped off with an inspiring message at La Sierra University Church by José Vicente Rojas, director of volunteer ministries for the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists and an alumnus of La Sierra University.
Rojas, a pastor, author and accomplished musician, has received state and national awards and honors for his work aiding humanitarian causes. He holds bachelors and masters degrees in religion from Loma Linda University and serves as a member of the U.S. national organization, The Alliance for Youth, founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell. He has also worked with the White House over several years, assisting two Presidents of the United States with domestic policy initiatives for humanitarian leadership in the U.S.
Rojas delivered a powerful sermon on the meaning of mission as depicted in the life of Jesus at the time of John the Baptist’s death. Access an audio file of his talk by clicking here (right-click and save to your computer).
With great detail, Rojas painted a verbal picture of the story of the Baptist’s death and Jesus’ efforts to acquire time alone to grieve for his cousin. “When family dies it's tough stuff. Life shifts for you,” Rojas said. “…the human in Him had to grieve like all the rest of us.”
He described Jesus’ loss of that desired time of mourning to the gathering throng and Jesus’ answer to the call to serve the anxious people with miraculous healing first, and then with life-changing words.
With a bit of humor mixed in, Rojas took listeners through the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes that fed thousands gathered around Him. He described Jesus’ nighttime walk on a stormy sea and command over the elements in a final miraculous act that topped off an amazing and exhausting day.
“Mission is not what you do. Mission is what God does through you for the blessing of others,” said Rojas. He repeated the theme throughout his talk. “Jesus, the most eloquent communicator that has ever walked this planet, was not known for His mouth, He was known for His hands because wherever He went His hands went into it first,” Rojas said.
“Sooner or later mission needs to occur in your life as well,” he said, calling for at least 50 students to apply for missions service at La Sierra.
“Guess where I learned about missions? Right here on this campus,” Rojas continued, describing his work in communities that has included helping gang members and the homeless. “Guess where I learned about community? At La Sierra. …When the White House called and I became an advisor to the President of the United States, guess what my emphasis was? Community.”
“La Sierra changed my life. I don’t know how else to say it. Let it change yours as well,” Rojas said. “Get out there and show us what you mean. Impact this world. The greatest leaders in the nation’s history were men and women who were not known for what they said, they were known for what they did.”