Imagine being a college student and turning down a two-week vacation so that you could peel 75 pounds of potatoes, crack 50-75 dozen eggs, and make 40 boxes' worth of pancakes in a small Panamanian town.
This is exactly what Lana Fiess, senior liberal studies major at Pacific Union College, did with her spring break. Fiess was asked by Maranatha Volunteers International to go to La Chorrera, Panama, as a cook for 80 people for a building project on two churches and a school.
Marantha Volunteers International provides willing volunteers with opportunities to spread the Gospel and contribute their time and talent to construct urgently needed buildings.
Fiess accepted the offer, ready for the challenge the job would bring. She was in charge of shopping and ordering food, planning menus, organizing kitchen help, and cooking and serving three meals a day. Her kitchen facilities consisted of three burners and a small oven. Despite her meager equipment, Fiess was determined to cook more than rice and beans. "I made pizza buns, french toast, and even some authentic German potato pancakes," Fiess said.
This is not Fiess' first mission experience: her missionary work has taken her to the Dominican Republic and Mexico during high school, as well as to Costa Rica for nine months as a student missionary teaching in that country. Fiess said her experience as a student missionary from Pacific Union College helped her prepare for her Panama mission. "Going to Costa Rica helped me acquire an adventurous spirit, flexibility and the desire to serve others. These qualities all helped me to be a more successful cook!"
Fiess' trip was full of adventure, including a bumpy off-roading experience through the jungle to avoid the delay of a roadblock on their way to La Chorrera. She also became the group's translator-at-large because of her Spanish speaking abilities.
Fiess felt her mission experience was rewarding. "I was in the kitchen a lot, but I made many friends from the community as well as in our crew," she said. "They were excellent sources of advice, support, spiritual inspiration, and help in the kitchen."
Fiess advises others to seize any opportunity for mission service. "The work may not be easy, but the blessing and growth can't be measured," Fiess said.
An upcoming Maranatha Collegiate-Youth Adult Mission Project will be held from August 1-10 in Huizachal, Chiapas, Mexico, where volunteers around the world will come to build a school. "If the opportunity arises to serve in another country, take it!" Fiess said.