By Nicole Chuey
My name is Nicole Chuey Mendoza, and I am 22 years of age. I came to Magdala with the purpose of volunteering and putting into practice some of my professional knowledge from my studies in Gastronomy. I am originally from Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico where I´m currently studying in Le Cordon Bleu IEST Anahuac.
The opportunity to join Magdala´s volunteer program was truly unexpected. I didn’t plan it nor think about it too much, and the process took place so fast that it seemed surreal. Excited to go abroad and live an international experience I said, “yes,” without looking back and resolving each obstacle that came up.
On my arrival, I encountered a completely different culture. I discovered that Israel is a converging center of different languages, ideologies, customs and traditions. While English was my second language, for many locals it was already their third having Hebrew and Arabic as their base languages. Furthermore, on my arrival I had the opportunity to develop myself in an area that I personally never thought I could. I began my volunteer experience assisting in the welcoming and orientation of pilgrims to Magdala´s guesthouse.
As the COVID 19 situation developed and worsened and the country began to close down I was forced to face a new reality. I needed to take a decision, return home, or complete my volunteer service during the quarantine with the uncertainty of not knowing what would happen. The solution came to me clearly. I felt called to stay for my purpose in the Holy Land was not yet done.
It was a few years back when I had faced some discernment in my faith. I had fallen into agnosticism, but my soul continued searching for God. My first encounter with Him was precisely in prayer where I found a refuge to my worries in the most difficult moments and of anxiety. It was He who filled me with peace, who planted a deep thirst in me to know Him. Various professors and friends helped me in my way and prepared me to encounter Him face to face. It was here, where I planted my roots and launched into the deep. Just like the Samaritan woman, Jesus offered me water of eternal life and quenched my thirst. In His love I was able to see how blessed I am to be part of the creation of God and how my life had been planned with so much detail since the beginning of times. God had planned this quarantine to know him and love him. Through Him, I was able to find me and define who I am, His daughter.
In these three months of quarantine I experimented three essential things. Firstly, I was able to discover and grow in my spirituality. For the first time in my life I lived Holy Week, I was blessed to participate in a Healing course and as if I hadn’t yet received so much, God allowed me to walk in his footsteps in a Holy Land pilgrimage. On the other hand, I was surrounded by priests, consecrated women, and incredible volunteers who fostered an environment of love without limits to Jesus. Meeting other youth who professed their faith without fear or embarrassment, inspired me to see that I too was selected to share His words with others and give them the opportunity to be transformed just as I had been. Together with them, I had the great joy of forming a small choir and through song develop a special way to worship. Finally, I experienced a total change in me. The quarantine was a moment to look within and to value each of the gifts and graces which God granted me and see how I could put these to the service of others, as well as to see those areas in me that I still need to work on and put my faith in.
I look back and see with clarity each time that Jesus showed me my path. At no previous time had I thought of coming to the Holy land, but I have discovered that my journey here had always been in His plans. Magdala is a place of encounter, healing and transformation led by the hand of Jesus. We arrive here to see how loved each one of us is by him and when we go back home to share with those who surround us the love that our transformed selves found in Him.