Brooke Nagel isn’t your typical 25 year old.
Yes, she did graduate from college (Azusa Pacific University, but that is about the only thing normal about her path, which includes eating crickets, sleeping on dirt and spending extended periods of time away from her family.
The Murrieta resident is about to embark on a five-year mission to Spain, where she will work with connecting youths and spreading her religious message in a country she says has about 1 percent evangelical Christians.
Brooke Nagel, seen in Spain when she was 14, the age when she knew she wanted to someday live in Spain. (Courtesy of Brooke Nagel)
Brooke Nagel speaks to high school youths from the local Church Cristo Vive. (Courtesy of Brooke Nagel)
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“I have these passions and these gifts and I’m pursuing them in ways that bring me joy and I get more joy because I’m serving God,” Nagel said at her home church, Rancho Community Church in Temecula. “But I’m doing something that everyone told me was crazy.”
It only seems crazy.
Nagel, at 14, spent a month with 30 other student on a nonreligious trip to France, Italy and Spain the summer before her freshman year of high school at Linfield Christian School in Temecula.
“’Great, honey. Sure, whatever,’” Nagel said with a laugh as she recalled her parents Joel and Susan’s reaction when she returned home and told them she wanted to live in Spain someday.
During her junior year, a small group of high school students spent spring break in Mexico on a mission that also introduced her to a gap-year program. It took some convincing — including a creative campaign of signs directed at her parents around the house — but after graduating from Linfield in 2011, Nagel took the gap year and headed for Ensenada, Mexico, on another mission where she said she “thrived” in conditions many would deem adverse, including eating crickets and sleeping on dirt.
Thoroughly convinced that type of work was something she wanted to do, Nagel headed for Azusa Pacific, majoring in Spanish and taking a double minor of Christian ministries and teaching English to speakers of other languages. In junior year she became connected with the missionary agency SEND, which served in Spain.
Upon graduating from college, Nagel was lined up through SEND to do a short-term mission in Madrid. Her love for Spain blossomed and she ended up spending 14 months away from home. She returned in July, but knew Southern California would only be a respite on her journey. Nagel was already thinking of a long-term commitment as a missionary in Spain.
While she is home, she has worked on reconnecting with family as well as doing some of her favorite things, like visiting Disneyland, SeaWorld and Knott’s Berry Farm.
“People in Spain make fun of me for how much I love Disneyland,” Nagel said with a laugh.
Nagel said spending time away from family is difficult. She and her three siblings — Andrew, 22, Gina Lee, 21, and Emma, 17 — stay in touch with text and video messages. In particular, Nagel is spending extra time with Emma as she has missed formative events in her sister’s life before again leaving for Spain in August.
“It’s hard because there are days that I’m like, ‘Wow, all I really want to do is sit on the couch with my mom and my sisters and eat soup,’” Nagel said. “You miss things, but at the same time, they have been so supportive of me the whole time and they are always telling me how proud they are and honestly, technology makes it way easier because I can talk to them all the time.”
She is also raising money to cover her mission.
“Whether you’re younger or older, I’m just about people following their passions and where God is calling them and just pursuing that, no matter what age,” Nagel said. “This whole cycle of get a job, provide money, which works for some people, but for me, I like the idea of enjoying life and making the world a better place and love everyone. Sometimes that means taking risks and it can be scary, but like to go for it. I also like roller coasters.”
So, while others her age are settling into a new profession and looking to start a family, Nagel is more than happy with her journey.
“A big question I get all the time is, ‘Well, you’re single and 25, aren’t you concerned?’” Nagel said. “But I love what I’m doing and I’m pursuing that and I’m perfectly happy that way. And in Spain, they don’t get married until they’re older anyways.”
Information about Nagel and her missionary work is online at www.brookebagel.com and www.send.org/nagel-b.