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4 Benefits of Going on an IJM Field Office Trip

4 Benefits of Going on an IJM Field Office Trip
Written by: Stephanie Ciccarelli
When I received an email invitation from IJM Canada to go to Bolivia, I had more questions than answers.
What would it mean to go?
Who would watch the kids?
How much would it cost?
Was I ready to do something like this, to go into the dark places where the team does their brightest and best work?

God had been knocking at the door of my heart for some time on this. He seemed to be saying, "Go! I want you to do this. There is something there I want you to see. It’s time.”
After mentioning it to my husband, he immediately said, "You should go! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.” Then, I got a personal appeal from a friend in the IJM Canada office saying that she was going on the trip and hoped I would join her. Well, what do you do after that?

Once I’d wrestled with ifs, ands and buts, I wrote back to confirm my interest and signed on to be part of this life-changing event. What I didn’t know then was how much of an impact visiting the IJM field office would have on me. Seven days of being away felt like a month, replete with rich experiences and faith building exercises that fanned a flame within me that had been flickering in recent days.

Why visit an IJM field office? Here are four reasons why I encourage you to go:

1 - Ignites Your Passion

Going to Bolivia awoke parts of myself that were sleeping. Being in a different environment surrounded by new and exciting sights, sounds and tastes did much to inspire me. I’d been meaning to read the book "Fierce Convictions” by Karen Swallow Prior and took it with me on my travels. The subject of this biography was none other than Hannah More, a role model for creatives and Christians alike. She helped abolish the slave trade, changed the British upper class and taught an entire nation how to read. More worked alongside William Wilberforce and used her pen to bring attention to the injustices of her day. There are many parallels between More’s work and the mission of IJM.
Teleferico (cable car) station in El Alto enroute to La Paz.

My experiences in Bolivia ignited creativity, lighting a fire within about a topic I feel passionate about (there’s even a podcast!). The field office visit drew me closer to God’s heart and left me feeling connected and more empowered to speak.

2 - Gives You Something to Talk About

There’s nothing like being there. I’ve told people about IJM’s work before, but never with the vivid understanding of their operations I have now. During our trip, we heard from IJM Bolivia staff about their roles and responsibilities in Legal, Aftercare, Investigations and Church Mobilization. The field office director gave an overview of IJM and the lay of the land in Bolivia. In the middle of Pastor Juan Carlos’ church mobilization presentation, a rattling noise started up outside followed by yet another and another.
What was going on? Was someone’s car acting up? No, nothing of the sort. There had been a conviction. Praise God! The sentence was thirty years. Before the week was through, there was another conviction. When you are in the field, you’re literally living and breathing what IJM does. You have actual experience to draw upon that helps you tell stories to those at home.

3 - Creates Community

One of the most amazing aspects of the trip for me was being in the company of so many wonderful women. We were of one heart and one mind, and it was beautiful. Most of us didn’t know each other before the trip and we came from all over the country.
Hannah, her mother Lorraine and Stephanie on the cable car going from El Alto to La Paz.
Why such great success in this department? Before inviting supporters, the team at IJM Canada prayerfully considered whom they would invite to visit the Bolivian field office. As sisters in Christ, we cared for one another, grew together and enjoyed the benefits of our new network of like-minded, equally passionate individuals, each believing that no one should own another human being.
Stephanie and Trifonia at The Madagascar restaurant during the women's meeting.

My hope is that I stay in touch with all of the ladies I met through this journey. Having also met the IJM Bolivia staff and heard their stories, I have a greater appreciation for the work and a special place in my heart for those in the field office as well as church women from La Paz and El Alto. Prayer emails and newsletters take on a new dimension once you’ve seen the team in action.
Lorraine, Stephanie and Paulette on the cable car.

4 - Discover a Different Culture

While I’m slightly embarrassed to admit it, my understanding of and ability to speak Spanish barely approaches "Dora the Explorer” level proficiency. Thankfully, my curiosity and desire to learn about the work IJM Canada does in Bolivia superseded my minimal language skills. Going to South America presented a number of fascinating challenges, like getting immunizations before I left (my choice, mind you), living on the edge of extreme altitudes and putting myself in situations I would not usually encounter at home.
Posing with llamas statues at a park near our hotel.

Cholita dolls sold at a market outside Iglesia de San Francisco.
On our visits to El Alto and wanderings through La Paz, we got to see cholitas and observe Alasitas, Bolivia's festival of miniatures. Before I left, I told my family that I was going to eat llama. Every night, my son would ask me via text message or FaceTime if I had achieved my goal. On the last night we were there, I did and it was so good!

If IJM sends you an email inviting you to go on a site tour or visit of one of their field offices, go!

Regrettably, I had been invited on trips like this before but always found a reason not to go. Excuses to put something like this off can come in many forms including scheduling conflicts, finances and raising small children. Just as we’re told to make time for ourselves, we need to make time for opportunities like this because they have the power to change you for the better.
You won’t regret it.
________________________________________________________________
Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Chief Brand Officer and one of the founders of Voices.com, the industry-leading website that connects businesses with professional voice talent. Voices.com has been written about in The LA Times, New York Times, Forbes Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal.
A respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie is considered one of the most connected people in the industry , and has been listed on the PROFIT Magazine 2013, 2015, and 2016 W100 lists, a ranking of Canada’s top female entrepreneurs. Stephanie is also the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.

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