Eighteen years after her adoption in Guatemala, Jewell Strock, a second year international studies student, returned to her homeland on a mission trip with Cedarville’s Global Outreach program. Not only did she connect with her past, but she also found her future.
In 2002, Dario and Jewell Strock were born one day apart in a Guatemalan hospital. The Strock family of Wadsworth, Ohio, decided to adopt the two children, and they began the nine-month process of bringing their son and daughter home.
For years, Strock and his family wanted to return to Guatemala. In 2019, the summer before his final year of high school, the Strocks joined a group of other parents and foster children for a week-long trip.
They have partnered with Advancing Local Government through Empowerment and Action (ALDEA), which works in Mayan villages to provide education and advocacy, and Suffer the Children (STC) Guatemala, an organization that focuses on providing food and job creation in indigenous Guatemalan villages.
For years before the trip, Strock had been committed to pursuing criminal justice. His participation in the local Wadsworth Explorers program, a high school organization for students interested in law enforcement as a career, had stimulated his interest in police work. It wasn’t until he met a young girl named Cindy on her trip to Guatemala that Strock felt the pull of missions.
âCindy told me she wanted to be a police officer,â Strock said, âso I gave her some of my Explorer stuff like stickers and patches. I was struck by how these people have nothing and yet they are so happy.
Leaving Guatemala for the first time radically changed the course of Strock’s life. After being accepted to Cedarville, Strock changed her major in international studies with a minor in missions to pursue nonprofit work in Guatemala.
Yet in a difficult first year, Strock questioned his decision.
âI was desperate to return to Guatemala, to confirm my call to missions and to know if I was continuing the path that God had called me to.
When Cedarville’s global outreach team offered a summer trip with AMG International, Strock jumped at the chance. His second experience in Guatemala was not what Strock had expected.
âI struggled to find my place in the team. Everyone seemed to fit a niche – photography, babysitting – I just didn’t know where I belonged. Strock says. “But over the course of the week, I found out that I love the backstage work. I love cleaning and cooking and serving people for basic needs.
While Strock originally viewed missions as relational work, her appeal to the rescue services arose from the fact that she witnessed a real need in Guatemala.
âI believe that as Jesus called us to serve others with action, my hope of providing basic necessities to people through nonprofit organizations can open the door to relationships and evangelism. . “
Global Outreach’s journey was particularly emotional for Strock as it fell on âTrigger Dayâ (when she and her brother Dario were officially adopted) and Mother’s Day.
âFor my family, these two days are bittersweet,â Strock said. “It is difficult to describe the feeling of knowing that you have been chosen for someone’s family, while still grappling with traditional expectations of family and mothers.”
The struggle with identity is a familiar battle for Strock. âWhen I’m in the United States I’m not white, but when I’m in Guatemala I’m American. The last few years with all that surrounds race and immigration and what it means to be American has really made me think for myself. ”
Strock recalled other experiences in which she reflected on her identity. âWhen I was younger I had the blonde McKenna American Girl doll. A family friend gave me a traditional Guatemalan dress for her – I only had little reminders of Guatemalan culture when all my memories are from my life in the United States.
Even the name of Strock is an ode to his two houses. âMy parents had to name us while we were still in the hospital, so they could put a name on the birth certificate,â Strock said. âJewell was my mother’s maiden name. They chose my middle name, Isabella, because it is more traditionally Guatemalan.
Yet in recent years Strock has learned to find his identity in God’s call for his life. “I’ve learned more and more about the gospel in recent years, and I’m really learning to really trust God.”
Whether Guatemalan or American, Jewell’s complex identity is always centered on her relationship with God. And now she has a purpose that encompasses all that she is.
Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered Baptist institution with an enrollment of 4,715 undergraduate, graduate and online students in more than 150 fields of study. ‘studies. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is one of Ohio’s largest private universities, nationally recognized for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs including the Bachelor of Arts in International Studies program, strong graduation and retention rate, its accredited professionals and the health sciences. offers and a high ranking of student engagement. For more information about the University, visit cedarville.edu.