Meet Annie Brzezinski, Enlace’s Newest Missionary Volunteer
“Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep.” Psalm 36:5-6
“Working with Enlace has challenged me to bring [ministry] into my own life. It’s easy to have my ‘ministry hat’ on while I’m out in the field taking videos or praying for a family or encouraging the pastor, but God’s not using me solely in that way. My ministry is not just using a camera. I need to be the hands and feet of Jesus when I’m not at work. I have been encouraged by watching the leaders and pastors as they are doing the hard work. They have challenged me to ask myself, ‘How am I loving my neighbors?’”
Enlace was so blessed when earlier this year, Annie Brzezinski, joined the team. After about 7 months of preparation, including 3 months of fundraising, Annie moved to El Salvador in May of 2022 to live full-time and serve as its first ever staff videographer.
Recently, Annie sat down for an interview, letting us in on her life as she navigates living abroad while working with Enlace. She opens up about her childhood and her challenges and victories while living in El Salvador for the past 3 months.
As Deep as the Ocean, As High as the Sky
Annie was born in a small college town in Indiana. She was raised in a Christian home with an older brother. When asked about her childhood, Annie thinks of playing sports outside with her brother and his friends. She remembers the summers most of all, including a memorable moment when her face was slightly smashed by her older brother while playing wiffle ball. She laughed and said she distinctly remembers her swollen lips. Brothers!
Annie's father went to China to study and met Annie's mother while he was there. Sadly, Annie's mother passed away when she was 14 years old, but her mom continues to be an influential presence in her life. This especially rings true as she gets older. Her mother had to adjust to a new culture when she moved to the United States. Annie sees parallels to herself and her mother in this regard. As Annie adjusts to a new language and culture in El Salvador, she has a deep appreciation and admiration for her mother’s bravery and dedication. She recalled a phrase her mother used to say to her that still brings her much comfort, “As deep as the ocean, as high as the sky.”
Childhood Dreams: Far from HumDRUM
While it might seem surprising to some that Annie picked up and moved to another country to take on a creative role with Enlace, her younger life was far from humdrum. Annie laughed at the memory that one of her childhood dreams was to become a famous singer or renowned actress. But she also noted that it was due to these dreams that she learned new skills and grew as a person.
When she was 16 she taught herself to play guitar. And even though she had never sung in front of anyone before, Annie recalls participating in a high school student concert. She was supposed to sing with a group, but they all backed out. Even though Annie was extremely nervous, she was determined to do it. She sang “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac on her own!
“It was the most terrifying and the most exhilarating experience. I was proud of myself for being brave. It opened up the door to becoming more confident and able to sing in front of others which led to singing in worship bands and just being more comfortable.”
Annie continues to sing and play the piano and guitar, but is hoping to add drums to the mix one day!
Jumping Into the Unknown: From Life in Illinois to Serving in Central America
Annie was working at Eastview Church in Illinois as a videographer when she first heard about Enlace. She went on a mission trip to El Salvador as part of her work as Eastview's videographer. Annie thought this was going to be just another mission trip, but she was “quickly enamored by Enlace's powerful and effective model of ministry.”
“Even if you're not a faith-based person, the way Enlace operates and includes the community to work toward the same goal is truly sustainable and effective.”
It was during the trip in October 2021 that Annie began to feel God calling her to missions full-time. And while she wasn’t sure how it all would come together, within seven months she was on her way. Annie expressed gratitude for all the supportive people that have helped her jump into this new life. Her friends, family, and the incredible support of Eastview Church have all demonstrated God’s love for her and His desire for her to serve with Enlace.
The Beauty of Service: It’s Not Glamorous But It’s Beautiful
Although Annie’s Spanish is coming along, it hasn’t been easy. However, recently she felt a sense of victory when she was able to communicate with the security guard in her apartment building.
She’d run out of clean water and needed to get her water jug replaced. But explaining this to the guard with limited Spanish made Annie feel nervous. Even so, she knew she had to try. Annie said to herself, “It’s not going to be glamorous, but I can do this! I can stumble through it.” She achieved her goal and felt it was a huge win.
Annie recounted another recent moment while in a community playing soccer with local kids. Annie admitted that she’s not a great player, but she loves to play. A young boy kept saying something and laughing. She asked if the boy was making fun of her. And yes,... yes he was. She was being lovingly roasted by a Salvadoran child!
Stumbling through life day after day is what Annie’s life feels like right now. And while she is incredibly grateful for the help the Enlace team has provided on the ground, she says that her culture shock is “more of a culture wave,...more like a continuous rumble than a bolt of lightning. I’m learning that adjusting to a new culture is a ‘dying to self’ that I was not expecting. All the little things add up to the greater lesson: What does it look like to ‘leave your culture behind to embrace a new one?’”
For Annie, choosing to minister in a new place isn’t glamorous but it is something beautiful. It is what God did when he came into the world as the baby Jesus to save us through his love, a love “as deep as the ocean, as high as the sky.”