Meet Santiago and Margarita, two volunteers who have come to be part of the Magdala project as volunteers for more than 9 months. Hear about their story and how they got to leave their footprint in Magdala.
Interview #1 – Santiago
1) Who are you?
2) Where are you from?
3) When did you come to Magdala?
4) What is the outcome of your experience? What did you like best about your experience?
5) Why did you decide to come?
6) How do you feel Magdala has influenced you/ or impacted your life?
Hello, my name is Santiago and I´m 21 years old. My hometown is Aguascalientes, Mexico.
I got to know this project through my good friend Diego who is also from Aguascalientes and who also had the amazing luck to be a volunteer in this amazing project last year. He told me about the project when we ran into each other outside of church a few days before Christmas. He recounted his experience and told me it was possible to apply. I loved the idea and I filed out my application right away. I was super excited when I got accepted as a volunteer.
Being a volunteer is a very enriching experience in both a spiritual sense and also at a personal level.
It’s spiritual in the sense that you get to not only visit the Holy land but instead you get to live in it. You can join mass everyday, visit the holy sites, see the very places where Jesus´ public life took place and as each day passes you get to understand more about how life was back then.
I have the great luck to have had the opportunity to be here for more than nine months and I´ve been able to visit most of the sites more than once. It is truly beautiful to know that these are the same sites in which Jesus preached and taught and it hits me even more when I realize that I am here walking on that same ground. It’s truly a blessing that alongside other people from all over the world I can come and pray, walk, and enjoy together these very same sites.
You also get to see the devotion that people have and I think this helps me appreciate my faith even more. Moreover, you get to see and meet people from other faiths and branches of Christianity and I can say it’s been a really enriching experience that I´ve taken away through sharing, talking and learning with them.
I also feel I´ve grown a lot as a person. I´ve done things I would have never done back home. It´s been a bit of everything from taking care of the animals in the Gospel farm, to cleaning Duc in Altum-the spirituality center of Magdala- to cleaning washrooms, giving visitor tours, working in the coffee shop, building furniture, fixing various things and tools, and just all around having the experience of meeting people from all faith backgrounds.
To live and work alongside people who you´ve never met and who after a few days become like your family, while you learn about their customs, is an experience I recommend to all. I feel this has helped me a lot and is something everyone should do. You become more responsible for your actions, you become more grounded, both, in your spiritual life and in your personal life. You start wanting to be more helpful and welcoming, especially with visitors, and you have a great sense of reward when you give a tour and you see the smile on people´s faces. You feel a unique joy seeing the visitors enjoy the site and this motivates you even more to work hard and want see the project through.
I decided to participate in the project because it would bring me an opportunity to get to know the Holy Land and also because I was searching for a good project to work in and donate my time to.
I would say the project has definitely changed me. I used to be a person with a very strong character and I feel I have now become much more calm and serene. I feel the project helped center me. It helped open my mind through my interaction with people from other religions and it helped me appreciate them, understand them, and respect them. I hope that from now on I will never look again at another person and feel they are beneath me, as well as respect other people´s decisions that I may not agree on and really, really give 100 % everyday.
Interview #2 – Margarita
Hello! My name is Margarita Garcia Sarrat and I´m 74 years old. I am from Barcelona Spain and I´ve been a volunteer in Magdala twice. The first was for 2 months in 2013 and the time in which I fell in love with the project which made me want to return a second time for a year.
I first came to Magdala with a group of volunteers who came here on pilgrimage. We helped primarily with the archaeological excavations but we were also able to visit all the holy places. When the time was approaching for us to leave I asked if it was possible that I stay back for a month. The father in charge of the volunteer program at the time, Fr. Arturo Diaz LC agreed but asked if I would be able help with some of the upkeep of the general areas and with some of the cooking for the rest of the volunteers. I wanted to stay that additional month since being in the Holy Land for only a few weeks was not enough. I wanted to know the Holy Land better and be able to pray more. Upon completing my second month it was time to leave but again I had the desire to return and thanks to God´s will I was able to do so for a full year. I felt good being in Magdala.
During my second stay in Magdala I´ve been taking care of the sacristy of Duc In Altum, where most pilgrimage groups hold their prayer and worship and where they celebrate mass. I helped with the set up of each individual groups needs and also I helped take care of the priests on site.
For me the experience of being in Magdala is truly living the presence of Jesus everyday… it’s as if Jesus our Lord is by my side at every moment. Our Lord gave me the strength and energy to finish all the tasks and work I had to do everyday. One of my favorite amongst this was cleaning the boat altar of Duc In Altum. I loved doing this because I felt especially close to our Lord. Many times I felt a little overwhelmed with all the work I had to complete but with God everything is possible. Also… seeing the Sea of Galilee everyday left a lasting impact in my memory. It was always impressive.
My time spent in Magdala has definitively changed me. It has helped me clear up many things about my faith and I have been able to discern and understand better how one lives like Jesus. I have learned that I need to respect others, accept that they are different than me and to see things from other people´s point of view. I have also seen how God has taken care of my family. While I have been here through the year many difficult situations my family was facing have been solved and cleared. I know that through prayer everything is possible.