For PLNU alumna Rachel Hudlow (11), God’s faithfulness isn’t just a source of comfort — it’s a call to action. Hudlow, the director for the discipleship school at All People’s Church Tijuana, wanted her ministry to help the community in practical new ways during the pandemic. Partnering with PLNU’s Department of Mathematical, Information, and Computer Science (MICS), All People’s Church was able to distribute 650 face shields to several medical facilities throughout Tijuana when personal protective equipment was desperately needed.

Throughout her life, Hudlow has had a heart for developing nations, especially Spanish-speaking and Latin American countries. Her parents were missionaries, and she lived in El Salvador for the first ten years of her life, followed by Cameroon, Africa. She moved back to the United States to attend PLNU, where she was a math major with a Spanish minor. Hudlow explained that professors in the MICS department like Ryan Botts, Ph.D. who passed away in September, Maria Zack, PhD., and Greg Crow, Ph.D. helped “guide and direct the calling of God” in her college life.” They would also serve as key connections in her outreach during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

After graduating from PLNU, Hudlow earned her teaching credential and began working at Soille San Diego Hebrew day school, where she taught for six years.

“I always wanted to teach,” she said. “I loved Soille and had so much fun there. But I always knew I wanted to end up somewhere outside of the United States.”

During her time at Soille, she became plugged into All People’s Church San Diego, and began making regular trips down to Tijuana for All People’s outreach program. When the church started discussing opening a discipleship school in Tijuana, she enthusiastically volunteered to move there. In fall 2018, she began directing the discipleship ministries, as well as performing vital translation and administrative work for All People’s Church Tijuana.

A church gathers outside to worship.
All People’s Church Tijuana holds an outdoor service.

Just as the church began to thrive, the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020. Although Hudlow considers the goals of her ministry unchanged, the modes of community have had to change. Many of the discipleship groups and ministries had to shift to online meetings.  

“There’s something so unique and powerful about human presence that isn’t fully captured over technology,” she said of her ministry.

Although human presence has been ill-advised during the pandemic, the need for hope in Tijuana is palpable. Hudlow explained that life during the pandemic has been different in Tijuana than San Diego and the rest of the United States. Access to healthcare is less consistent in Mexico, and the ability to self-quarantine or take time off from work has been difficult during the pandemic.

“In Tijuana, there are a lot of people that depend on their day-by-day income,” she said. “Not just a paycheck once a month — their livelihood and their families depend on their little taco stand that’s at the corner, or if they sell used clothes on the street.”

Hudlow also emphasized that less wealthy communities would have less access to COVID testing — and that many would be unable to afford it.

“There isn’t free testing for COVID,” she explained, “and if someone’s salary is $10 a day, the likelihood of them taking a $150 test is low.”

In April 2020, as All People’s adjusted to the pandemic, Hudlow and her church family tried to pinpoint ways to help their community.

“We were trying to find out what some of the needs were,” Hudlow recounts. “I remember talking to a friend, saying, ‘we could help with food needs, but there’s such a need for medical supplies, and I can’t do anything about it.’ If hospitals couldn’t find N-95 masks, how could I find them?”

Initially, it didn’t seem to Hudlow that All People’s Church could help with medical supplies. Then, in mid-April, she received an email from Ryan Botts, Ph.D., of PLNU’s MICS department. He said that the department’s 3D printers were “sitting idle,” and began to print face shields.

“[Botts] knew there was a shortage,” Hudlow said. “They had the resources and the technology that could help with it.

“The shields were slow to print, but they started doing this project and reached out. Doctors Janet and Greg Crow and Dr. Maria Zach all knew I was in Mexico, and were thinking about the community there. They knew there was a lack of supplies in San Diego, and they thought there might be a lack in Tijuana as well.”

The professors printed out the visor portions of the face shield and Hudlow drove the 3D-printed supplies from San Diego to Tijuana. Church members hole-punched the plastic face coverings so they could attach to the visors. Then, Hudlow and her ministry helped to distribute them to medical facilities.

“There are two doctors in our church family that we were able to connect with,” Hudlow recounted. “Both Dr. Abby and Dr. Yvette had connections with hospitals and clinics. They were able to bring these supplies into them. It was incredible to see God’s faithfulness and see how He invites us through these connections to bring blessings to others.”

“Dr. Yvette said when [her clinic] first started treating COVID patients, they didn’t have any protective gear. At that point mid-April, there were already six or seven of her coworkers that had gotten COVID. Within an hour she was sending me pictures of her coworkers putting on the equipment.”

Certain smaller clinics in rural areas were especially in need of personal protective equipment. All People’s Church Tijuana especially wanted to provide resources for those facilities.

“Dr. Abby went to a clinic that was more remote and gave them 10 face-shields,” Hudlow said. “They expressed to her, ‘Thank you so much; we felt forgotten.’

“For her to show up in this remote neighborhood and say, ‘you are not forgotten, God sees you and is providing for you,’ I think it was a huge encouragement.”

“It was incredible to see God’s faithfulness and see how He invites us through these connections to bring blessings to others.”

Hudlow bookmarked Ryan Botts’ email following the donation, and believes it sums up the well-coordinated blessing beautifully:

“It’s a wonderful display of how God works and how each of us is positioned uniquely to contribute something different as part of our calling. And I’m blessed to be in a community where we can make connections, and figured out what seemed like was impossible.”

Hudlow is continuing with her ministry in Tijuana and is excitedly searching for other meaningful ways to express God’s faithfulness to her community.

Rachel Hudlow has also been honored with a 2021 PLNU Homecoming Alumni Award. To learn more, visit the PLNU Homecoming website.

Toby Franklin is a reader and writer of speculative fiction and comic books. He loves alluring stories, especially if they come from unexpected places. "Mask of the Sentinels," the graphic novel he co-created with his twin brother, is available now on ComiXology.