By: Angélica Ortiz Blanco
It is almost noon on a hot summer day.As the cousins are spending their vacation at their grandparent’s house, one of them decides to go pick mangoes at the backyard.
They run as fast as they can as the wind plays with their hair and the sound of their laughter complements with the singing of the birds.
“Let’s climb the tree!” says one of the girls looking at the higher mango.
“No, it’s too tall and dangerous,” responds the taller girl as she begins to jump to reach for the fruit.
“I can’t even reach them, they are too high!” yells the third girl as she slips and fall in a well, in which an outhouse is under construction.
“Help me, I’m going to die in here, I can’t swim” screams the scared girl that also suffers of asthma, as her cousins struggle and try to pull her out of the water.
“Don’t panic! Take my hand and pull!” says one of the worried girls as they finally rescue her.
This traumatic event was just one of many adventures Edna Rivera lived as a child when she used to spend her summer vacation at Fajardo, Puerto Rico. Miss Rivera, as she is known at Luis Negrón López high school, is a United States history teacher who likes to spend her summer vacation doing missionary work in different countries.
Edna is a 5 feet 5 inches tall, brunette woman with dark eyes and black straight hair. Her sweet and low toned voice surely can calm even the angriest of youngsters.
“Who does not live to serve is not good to live” she emphasizes. “Our abundance meets the needs of the less fortunate, we need to share what God has given to us” says with happiness. “The reward is seeing the smiles on their faces and how grateful they are.”
Edna has been doing missionary work around the world all of her life. Natural from Naguabo, Puerto Rico, she moved to the west and began studies on medical technology at the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez campus. How did she end up being a teacher?
“I always liked the service area, I wanted to be a nurse but when I failed math course it frustrated me, so I started studying history and found a way to serve others in the education field” she says with a twinkle in her eyes.
Edna works five days a week as a teacher; she gets up early in the morning and gets ready for the day ahead. She finds her strength in God and although she has tribulations, you will always see her calm. “I can’t imagine my life without God in it” she explains. “I was born and raised in a christian environment…my life would be meaningless without serving God.”
When vacations arrive, unlike others, Edna does not go to the beach or to a fancy hotel, she just travels. But her trips are not for pleasure; even on vacations she spends her time helping and fulfilling the needs of people around the world.
“It’s a unique, beautiful and enriching experience…God puts everything in order because I liked it (missionary work) but I never imagined I could be where I am right now” she confides. “I got interested on missionary work because I attended a missionary congress where they explained what their job was about and I enrolled with an organization called “Operación Movilización”…My first trip was to Spain, I worked as a social worker at a port in Málaga, with the Muslims.”
“She is a very devoted woman of prayer” says Evalyn Lugo, one of Edna’s co-workers. “She faithfully believes in defending her faith and beliefs in every time and place” adds the woman who is an English teacher.
Edna’s interest on serving, helping, and spreading God’s word, has given her many opportunities in life. “She’s not limited to her territory, her spirituality has led her to different parts of the world…God rewards those who devote their lives to help others” adds Lugo.
Every summer Edna Rivera packs her stuff and departs to remote territories to work with unknown people. Her only reward is to be able to see their happy faces, yet every year she’s eager for more. “Every trip is different, the work we realize it’s different in every place…in Haití we built a dining, in Panamá we taught the Indians how to write and read”.
And after many years of doing missionary work, Edna doesn’t get tired of it. “When I was young I felt a calling from God…after I retire I want to reach my goal to do missionary work in Indonesia to finally respond to that calling” she says smiling at the thought of it.
Miss Rivera, to so many students, goes home from work each day at 3 p.m. Her role as a teacher ends, but her role as a God’s servant goes on. Each morning, young men and women come to her to find an encouraging word and a smile, at the same time that they get an exceptional education.
“It was funny having her as a teacher” said Ilene Rivera, Edna’s niece. “She would review the test in the morning and I never realized it was the questions from it…she is very professional and even I’m her family I had to work hard for my grade because inside the class room everyone was a student for her.”