Contrasts surround Cristina Kinz as she lives and works in the city of Jose C. Paz, Argentina.
Wealth on one hand; poverty on the other. Suffering next to celebration. And a work day that has Cristina dividing her time between children and older adults.
“(God) is present in this world and is suffering, living, dancing, hoping, crying and walking with and among us in each moment of our lives,” she says.
Working with those at the beginning and at the end of life spurs a journey of reflection for Cristina.
She plans and enjoys activities with older adults at Hogar Ambruster, funded through the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Argentina and Uruguay, and teaches children at Barrio Providencia, a program loosely affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.
Her experiences show her the importance of listening to the Spirit rather than external voices, she says.
“I feel ‘full’ when working step-by-step with someone to accomplish a task, whether it be learning the colors of the rainbow or walking from one side of the room to the other.”
A new understanding of vocation
Cristina has embraced life in Argentina, from her host family (“dedicated and passionate people”) to her daily walk to work highlighted with greetings from neighbors and, especially, the ritual of sharing mate, a green tea sipped with a bombilla (a straw-like filter) from a gourd.
Sharing mate (pronounced MAH-tay) is a deeply social experience, with one person pouring water into the mate-filled gourd and passing it to others.
“I love the sense of community that comes with drinking mate. I hope (my friends and family) will be open to this tradition when I get home,” she says.
In doing what she loves, Cristina has a different sense of what her vocation might be.
“My vocation is to discover the difference between who I think I should be and who I am and let that new understanding guide my everyday interactions and decisions.”
She also looks to her experience to lead her in her job search once she returns home. “I hope to find a job where I can use the gifts I have developed in this experience — working with kids or the older people, speaking Spanish and working with populations often marginalized by society.”
In preparing for her service with the ELCA, Cristina often heard: “Trust the process.” She now encourages other young adults considering the program to do just that.
“Trust the feelings of excitement, fear, loneliness, wholeness, smallness, confusion and peace,” she says. “Trust that your application, conversations, questions and prayers will be seriously, faithfully and prayerfully considered. You will be accompanied wherever life’s path leads you.”