Here are excerpts of what Sierra Ross Richer and her parents, Jane and Jerrell, shared with Waterford Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana, on the day she was baptized, Sept. 4.
I have seen God working through countless people and experiences to bring me to where I am today. Opportunities to visit different places and spend time with different kinds of people have shaped me. I have often seen my parents act outside of cultural norms in both North and South America as they seek to follow the example of Jesus. As I read through the Bible, I find that the people and cultures are very similar to the indigenous people and cultures I interact with in South America. These connections help to bring the Bible to life for me.
Here in the United States, it is easy to make statements like, “God gives us our daily bread,” and then we go buy ourselves everything we need. But in Ecuador, I spend time with people whose only option is to trust God to give them what they need.
A few months ago, my family stayed in a little community accessible only by boat. Our two-and-a-half-week trip had been prolonged by a few days and we had reached the end of our food supply. After we cooked up our last bag of noodles, we returned the propane stove we had borrowed. When it was time to eat, six kids were still hanging out at our house, so we dished up the food into bowls and cups and passed them around. The servings were meager. But the noodles would have to do until we reached the port town around noon the next day. This worried me a little, but my mom reminded us that going without food is normal for many people in the world.
Just as we were getting ready to turn in for a hungry night, a young man from the village came over to our house to tell us that he had prepared dinner for us. I have never been so happy for food in my life, and I have also never seen God work in such a tangible way. I believe that God uses experiences like these to reveal himself to us and to increase our faith. But this can only happen if we are willing to let ourselves enter situations of need and vulnerability.
Sierra Ross Richer holds a pottery pitcher that Waterford Mennonite Church gives as a remembrance of each member’s baptism. She is surrounded by her family: Naomi, Jordan, Jane, Jerrell and Teresa. Pastor Neil Amstutz stands behind Sierra. Photo by Loanne Harms.
Sierra’s parents describe her ministry
Jane: During your 17 years in the safety of your extended Christian family, you have been protected and sheltered. It was our hope that in this way you would get a taste of the love that God has for you. You also know that there are people in this world who have not received love. You have witnessed the destruction of the rainforest, and you have held children in your arms who are thirsty to be treated with kindness and love. And you have asked God hard questions, like, “Why should I eat, while my neighbors go hungry?”
I have watched you as you have made choices to witness of Christ’s love with your actions. You often choose to walk or ride bike when you could drive, knowing that how you live your life makes a difference in the lives of your neighbors around the globe. I’ve seen you share your food when I know you have not eaten yourself. I’ve watched you share your passion for running with little children, praising their efforts and helping them do their best. You have patiently taught others to knit or weave bracelets. You have been a loyal friend through distance and hardship. I have seen you freely give the love you have received.
Jerrell: Sierra has acted the part of a Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan in a Quechua-speaking community in the Andes, and has been one of the sheep in the story of the Good Shepherd in an Awajun village in the Amazon jungle. She has kicked balls and turned jump-ropes in more places than I can name. She has shown her appreciation of indigenous culture by not just drinking, but learning how to make, chicha de chonta and c’uq, beverages that form the foundation of the rainforest diet. And in every community we have visited, Sierra has held the hands of small children and shared her love with people from all walks of life, setting aside the barriers of culture and language.
Like the story of Sarah and Abraham on their journeys, Sierra’s experiences in the North, as the well as the South, have taught her that God is present everywhere: in the sparkling eyes of a grandmother, or a village elder; in the singing of a hymn, or the sound of a heavy rain; and in a bowl of blueberries, or of chicula (a banana drink).