When Monserrat Santiago (she goes by Monse) was a student at Latin America’s largest university, she joined an English club to improve her language skills. Nine years later, Monse now speaks English fluently, but that’s far from the only reason she is glad she joined the club.
“I joined at a point in my life when I was basically going insane,” Monse recalls, “confused, lonely, and hurt by my own, fears and family circumstances.”
The English club that Monse joined was part of a campus ministry program at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). As she formed friendships with other club members, she began attending Bible studies and other campus ministry events with her friends.
“God used them to show me genuine love and grace in ways that transformed my heart” says Monse. “My life was changed entirely and my new Christian friends grew in me a passion to share the Gospel.”
As Monse grew in her faith and involvement in the ministry, she met Dave and Blanca Gifford, missionaries who serve with Christian Reformed World Missions in Mexico City. Dave taught a Bible study series for the campus ministry and the Giffords sometimes host UNAM students at their home for games, movies, and other fellowship events. They also serve as informal mentors for students like Monse.
“As pretty much everyone does,” said Dave, “We fell in love with her immediately.”
Over time, the Giffords got to know Monse on a more personal level. When she had questions about her future plans or about her faith, she sought their advice. They also began praying for and encouraging one another in their ministries.
“Dave and Blanca have adopted me as a daughter,” said Monse, adding that this comes with the additional perk of being able to do her laundry in their home.
When Monse graduated, she stayed connected to the campus ministry program, serving two years as an intern leader. In 2013, Monse received a scholarship to attend a leadership conference in the United States and she was hosted by members of a CRC church that support the Gifford’s ministry.
As Monse was studying for her master’s degree back in Mexico, she made regular trips down the road to the Giffords house to talk and pray about how God would use her in the future. Then, not long ago, she received her answer.
Monse’s good friend and director of the campus ministry program was stepping down, and Monse was asked to take over this position.
“God has been training me to take this position through the years,” said Monse. “He was preparing me in getting to know the ministry and connecting with people.”
In her new role, Monse will organize Bible studies and English clubs like the one she joined nine years ago. She will also train and encourage other ministry leaders in their roles.
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