My name is Daviana Hernandez, I´m 22 years old and a student of Gastronomy in Le Cordon Bleu IEST Anahuac University. I´m Mexican and from the state of Tamaulipas which I hold dear in my heart. I came to the Holy Land to volunteer in Magdala. I can say that my experience has been enriched by many surprises.
As a student of gastronomy, I came with my mindset ready to serve in whatever capacity my skills would be useful. When I began, I delved right into my role. Nonetheless, with each passing day I began to discover that my volunteer experience was more than just about service but also included learning more about my spirituality and encountering God. As I adjusted to the local culture and serving side by side with other local team members, I was able to find the great meaning of Magdala; a place where people from the three major monotheistic religions can work and live together harmoniously.
By God´s will, those beautiful first months ended swiftly and so began the COVID-19 season where we lived with much uncertainty. Who knew what would happened the next day, or what changes, requirements, protocols, would be put in place? My head began to spin with many questions, “Should I go? Should I stay? If I go back home what are the consequences? Will I get sick? Would I make others sick?” In the end God took the decision for me. He wanted me to spend these difficult months here and this presented me with the opportunity to live a wonderful community life with the Magdala family.
Living with other volunteers, consecrated and priests strengthened my faith and love for Christ. To experience Holy Week during the time we were in lockdown was something extremely special, intense and beautiful and unlike anything I had ever experienced in my 22 years of life. It was an atmosphere of joy, everyone was happy, and the religious communities (priests and consecrated) knew and understood how to transmit to us, volunteers, the true meaning of the Passion. I could see how each priest and consecrated lived Holy Week with such intensity that I was deeply moved. It was this time which allowed me to know, learn and grow closer to God´s word and led me to ask to receive the sacrament of confirmation.
As I began this process, I thought it would be something fast, but I also learned that everything takes its own time and started to prepare myself with the guidance of Celine Kelly, a consecrated woman who I admire very much for her spirituality. Part of her preparation for my confirmation included learning Lectio Divina, completing a pilgrimage in Jerusalem and participating in a spiritual retreat.
It was during Lectio Divina, that I was able to grow closer to, and understand much more God´s word. Completing the pilgrimage allowed me to know more about Jesus´ life, walk in his footsteps and reaffirm my faith. I was literally following and stepping in the same places where he was! Being surrounded by volunteers who became my family, also allowed me to feel freer in how I expressed myself in regards to my religion, without fear of being judged or rejected, without fear of thinking “what will they say?” For they too, like me, were also in their own paths finding Christ, and sharing my day with them was the best experience I had.
The Holy Land is a mixture of unique places, sites that tell the story of the world. This has been a very important period in my life, one which I leave with many lessons learned, great friends and above all Christ in my heart. My parents are proud of this growth, they sense me being calmer, and happier, for indeed, that is what I received in Magdala, joy, love and faith.