By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer– Burroughs graduate Bryce Hill recently returned from two years in Colombia, where he was on a mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The News Review first talked with Hill in March 2021 when he anticipated returning to in-person school at Burroughs. We spoke to him again two months later to see how post-pandemic education was going.
He had been looking forward to seeing his friends, participating in athletics, and eventually graduating and going on a mission to Barranquilla, Colombia Mission in South America. He had already studied Spanish for two years and was independently studying Spanish using online Apps and other courses to refresh his memory and prepare.
Today, Hill shares some of his memories from the past two years. “It was a great experience. (There was) lots of learning Spanish. Now I can say I’m actually fluent in Spanish. The two years of high school helped a little with the basics, but for really talking, it didn’t.”
While in Colombia, Hill lived primarily in three cities, Cartagena, Santa Marta, and Turbaco. It wasn’t quite living out of a suitcase because he would unpack everything into a dresser and make himself feel at home as much as possible. He never knew when a new assignment would come. “We had a mission leader and he would receive revelation from the Lord as to where we should be sent.” He spent three months in one area, six months in another, and so on. “It was constant pack up and go and settle down as much as you could, pack up and go another few months later and meeting new people in new areas. It was really cool.”
In the United States, we are accustomed to seeing young men riding bicycles wearing black slacks, white shirts, and black ties. Bicycles didn’t fit where he was, so he walked everywhere. As a cross-country runner, this was not a challenge. He wasn’t able to continue his running discipline; however, he tells us, “Every morning, we would have a set 30 minutes or an hour of exercise. I had a couple of companions who would run with me, but not a lot.”
Colombia is attached to Panama with a coastline on both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Hill spent his time on the Atlantic side. For safety reasons, missionaries are not allowed to swim in the ocean or even get their feet wet. Hill says a lot of his time was spent in touristy areas, recommending Cartagena for its old castles and museums.
However, he did engage with those in deep poverty. “It’s really sad in some parts,” he says. “They only build with bricks. It’s hard. They live day by day. They barely have enough food to get by.” One household he saw “literally didn’t have a roof. It was just some walls in an old building. There are some really fortunate people there, but not all of them live like that. But just in general, even their medium-level lifestyle (middle class) we would call a really low-level lifestyle. Our medium-level is like you’re rich over there. A normal (American) person is extremely rich.
“It helps me know now how fortunate we are here. It was sad to see and I couldn’t really do much except to share the gospel with them. I couldn’t go and just give them money, but I could share that with them. And I saw lots of people, through us teaching them, get jobs. They had been working for six months, looking for a job. We started teaching them and they grew closer to God and the next week or two, they got a job.
“There’s a huge influence between religion and our lives. And I feel like a lot of times we separate too much and it really needs to be a lot more interlinked.
“There definitely is that poverty level. I saw a lot of what the real world is over there instead of just what people might do for their vacations. It gave me a
better perspective on life and how fortunate we are and how we really need to tie God to our lives.
“I believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the true church, but I also saw it with other people. You are going to get the blessings because you worship God. He’s looking at that like you are trying to better your life and focus yourself more on the deity, which will just naturally make you a better person. I also have the belief that God will bless you for that effort.”
Hill’s favorite city was Santa Marta. “Because it is a mix of the beach, mountains, and a bit of desert. There was one really cool hike we went on, where we went up, and over a couple of ridges and the bottom of each ridge went down into the beach. We went up and over a ridge and found this little aquarium there that they want you to pay more money to take a boat around. We found it and there were dolphins and all these fish that we stumbled across and we had no clue.”
Now Hill is home. “I have been taking this time at home to spend time with family and get back into a normal life. I guess you would say, because during the mission are totally apart from the world. We don’t have our normal phones, we don’t listen to normal music or news, and are solely focused on serving others. Now I’m back and I’m studying again, getting refreshed for college, and getting back into training. I’m planning within the next couple of weeks to go up to Logan, Utah, to attend Utah State University, where I’m going to be studying computer engineering.
“I have thought a lot about coming back (to Ridgecrest after college) because most of my family is here. I grew up here. I love the small desert town feeling. And the Base is always hiring engineers. I could get some sort of internship or job right out of college. It would definitely be a high option. I’m not sure if I would come back and go on Base or look somewhere else in Utah or in other places in some other engineering company. It will probably just depend on where life goes at that point; where I’m at, what’s best for my family, and everything.”
Hill wanted to end our conversation with his testimony. “I know God loves us; there is a God and He is watching over us.
“I saw a lot in Colombia and a lot here, just in everyday life. There are miracles all around us. There are angels watching out for us. It’s definitely tied in with our lives. If you believe it or not. I testify that Jesus Christ also is our Savior and Redeemer and he loves us and through Him, we can really find that joy in our lives. I’d like to share that and my testimony in the name of Jesus Christ.”