World Youth Day Panama 2019

by Olivia Martin
olivia.martin@theleaven.org

“No te preocupes!” 

Translation: Go with it, Olivia, and don’t worry.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this phrase this week — either from others or from myself in a sort of jumbled internal dialogue — well, I’d be able to take myself to a series of nice dinners, that’s for sure!

On Sunday, January 13, I arrived in Panama City, Panama, to begin working both as a volunteer reporter for World Youth Day (WYD) and as a Leaven reporter.

While some of the bumps have included getting reassigned lodging three times, confusion about my volunteer role, lots of waiting and my volunteer and press credentials being delayed, I have been completely taken care of.

“No te preocupes.”

Go with it, Olivia, and don’t worry.

It turns out that instead of staying on a gym floor as I had been planning, I am in a half-way remodeled apartment with a radio host from Honduras, a photographer from Nicaragua and two journalists — one from Puerto Rico and the other from Mexico.

I was a bit nervous at the fact that they all are at least 9 years older than me and essentially WYD VIPs — and I am anything but.

Would they accept me? Would it be awkward? Would we have anything to talk about?

“No te preocupes.”

Go with it, Olivia, and don’t worry.

Serendipitously, our rag-tag group has somehow become a family — and quickly!

And I, of course, have been designated as the baby.

Because of them, I’ve tried a Nicaraguan staple for the first time, sweet cornmeal snacks called “rosquillas” and “tustacas.”

And, as it turns out, they’ve run into some of the same WYD bumps as I have, which has fused us together even more.

But yesterday, I had to separate from my little familia to join the English communications team for the volunteers’ welcome Mass.

“No te preocupes.”

Go with it, Olivia, and don’t worry.

There are thousands of volunteers helping with WYD, and I believe I’ve been introduced to the best of them.

When the English team and I attended the Mass celebrated by Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa Mendieta of the Archdiocese of Panama, we and all of the volunteers were welcomed by an incredible choir and enthusiastic words of welcome from Archbishop Ulloa.

It was clear to me during the Mass, under the stars surrounded by thousands who have followed Christ to Panama as I had, that World Youth Day is for the volunteers.

While it has certainly had its bumps — and undoubtedly will deliver more — the experience has been an invitation to welcome what happens, whether it was anticipated or not.

 “No te preocupes.”

Go with it, Olivia, and don’t worry.

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