One student’s ‘simple yes’ leads to life-changing service mission

Ritzcel Miguel’s mission trip to Saint Lucia opened her eyes to third-world poverty

Aaron Young
Staff Writer

Remember in school years ago, when you were asked, “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?” Some would say Japan or France or maybe even Australia.

Personally, I always wanted to go Africa, specifically Ethiopia. Maybe that’s because I did a project on it in eighth grade. Well, for one individual, her question was answered and it changed her life for the better.

MNSU junior Ritzcel Miguel traveled to Saint Lucia over spring break on a mission trip. Saint Lucia is a tiny country in the Caribbean, home to almost 180,000 people. When looking for it on a map, it is south of Dominica, east of Barbados, and northeast of Trinidad and Tobago.

Miguel, alongside 19 others, from Texas to Pennsylvania, took a trip down south to the tiny country. There, they spent a week expressing their faith to those in Saint Lucia, specifically Castries. Castries is a region in Saint Lucia with about 20,000 people.

The group kicked off the trip with an adventure to Canaries, which ended up being a team building activity.

“My group went hiking up a waterfall which was awesome. We all made it to the top which was [nice] because it was the first thing we conquered. If we could conquer that, we could conquer the whole trip,” Miguel said.

And conquered they did.

From bare-handing—a form of one-on-one evangelization—to playing with the children at school, the group certainly made a lasting impact on the region. Individually, she was also given the opportunity to practice her CNA training, helping the elderly at St. Lucy’s with their chores. The junior is seeking to get a degree in Nursing from MNSU.

“I was able to be a leader and teach them and be able to walk with them for that short amount of time,” Miguel said about her impact on the trip.

While in Castries, Miguel saw a lot of suffering among the people, but at the same time was taken aback by their joy.

“A lot of them were disabled and couldn’t talk or couldn’t walk,” said Miguel. “Even though they had so little that they were struggling, it was so humbling to see them happy. They were living in the moment.”

When comparing her lifestyle with theirs, it definitely put things into perspective. In addition, Miguel explained that the people were so grateful and how much she wanted to bring that peace back to America but knew it would be difficult.

“It was a humbling experience especially living in America and having so many luxuries,” she said. “There were so many beautiful people and their hearts were so pure and I wanted to bring that back here but… there are so many distractions and this world is so loud.”

Coming back to America, where the lifestyle is vastly different and the pace much faster, it would be easy to understand the challenges of not only spreading the faith, but also experiencing peace and comfort as well.

As for her favorite memory, without hesitation, she said the children. During the time she spent there, the children stood out for a variety of reasons. The most important being how much potential they had, yet the obstacles that prevented them from reaching it.

“The kids were awesome and talented. If they were here, they could go anywhere. It’s awesome to see so much potential but it’s also sad because it’s getting wasted,” she said. “These children deserve so much and they are barely getting by.”

Perhaps one memory that will stay with her forever is when the children called her Moana. Miguel found it cute and funny of this remark and it further cemented why she loved the children so much.

After reflecting on how much this impacted her and seeing the passion and happiness in the people’s eyes, she recalls exactly how this trip came about. There was little preparation in her decision to say yes.

“I just walked into Newman one day and [Ashley] said, ‘Do you want to Saint Lucia?’ I didn’t know where it was, how much it [costs]. I didn’t know anything,” she said.

Ashley Soukup is a missionary at the St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center. The building is located right across the clock tower and is welcome to anyone, whether you’re religious or not. Through fundraising and with the assistance of the community, Miguel found a way to board the planes to Saint Lucia.

As for why she went, the answer was simple.

“I went because it was God’s plan. That simple yes made a huge impact on me and was wild,” she said.

Her advice to those who are on the fence about going overseas, whether it is a mission trip or studying abroad is to “be open to it.”

“I don’t know what your faith is or what you rely on, but if it’s God’s will, its God’s will. Saying a simple yes to something so crazy has potential to change your life,” she said.

Funny how one serendipitous encounter led to a life-changing experience. You never know when the opportunity to do make a difference in the world can happen and when the answer at the beginning will finally come true.

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