That Missionary Life

That Missionary Life

“Who is a missionary?” I asked my class, not too long ago.

They came up with a variety of answers: someone who preaches in a foreign country, someone who has very little, someone who doesn’t make money, and the list continued.

It was difficult for them to wrap it all up neatly. Several wanted to insist that you had to leave the country. I think it was because it fit their idea of a missionary better. Flying to a foreign country steeped in poverty seems far more missionary-esque than serving on a college campus.

FOCUS sends people to college campus and calls them missionaries. Are they?”
“Do they get paid?”
“They fundraise their salary.”

Many were on board with that. But for them, there had to be some type of leaving happening–going to a new place, even if they would begrudgingly accept work in the United States.

“What does a missionary do?” I asked.
“Preach the Gospel.”
“So who could be a missionary?”
They discussed for a while. One said, “You?”
“Am I a missionary?”

The whole issue of pay came up again, some saying that would disqualify me from missionary status.

Am I a missionary?

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Grace-filled Moments

 I stepped out of the humble house and into the early morning air.  Although I didn’t know what time it was, I knew that is was early despite the warm sun that was steadily filling the village with light.  Embracing the time of solitude, I walked to a hammock and prayed morning prayer, with pauses to watch the water crash on the rocky coastline.

Perfection. 

No, perfection was when I finished prayer and spotted a little boy who was creeping around, casting side-long glances at me.  After going inside to get my camera, I had a mini photo shoot with him and his friends.  They were adorable.  One moment they were posing for pictures and the next they were crowded around my camera, only to double over with delight as they saw themselves on the little screen. 

Or perhaps perfection was the feeling of being loved and acceptable absolutely as we entered a village unannounced and were immediately given food and shelter.  Each meal was the best that they could offer–we even had lobster for breakfast one time.  It was being invited to a captain’s house and hearing him explain that he would have been at Mass the night before but that he had been out in the water and didn’t know about it. 

Or perhaps it was the ride in the rickety old boat that seemed ill-suited for six people and backpacks.  It was a simple boat with a motor strapped on the back that cruised over impressive swells.  The water sprayed my face, the sun kissed my fair skin, and my excitement was mixed with silent prayers that we wouldn’t sink.  But then someone spotted a dolphin and soon after I viewed a wild dolphin racing in the water.

Or perhaps perfection was the joy of hiking through the coastal landscape–crawling over rocks, racing up steep inclines, stopping to enjoy the glories of coconut water while sweat ran down my face and back in rivulets.  The moments of pausing to dip our bottles into the cool springs so that we could filter the water to be suitable for our weak stomachs.  Walking to villages to which no cars can arrive simply to bring the best one could offer–Christ present in the Eucharist.  Watching the people unlock their churches with a sense of pride that is difficult to find in the “developed” world and then hearing them spread the word throughout the village that a priest was in their midst.   

Perhaps, in my mind, Honduras is perfection in every aspect.  I understand that the country is going through difficult times, that the homicide rate is one of the highest in the world, and that poverty is abundant.  But I experienced so much grace and perfection in Honduras.  The Lord blessed me with being able to go to Honduras twice for spring break mission trips in college.  As I saw the poverty of the people, I saw a simplicity that made my heart ache.  It made me want to return home and give all of my extra possessions away.  It made me want to become a missionary after college.  And right now it fills me with a desire to return to Honduras someday. 

Honduras has been on my mind lately because in just a few days another mission trip will be launched to that beautiful country and my heart aches to be with them.  Yet I can go back and embrace the memories and for a moment, I am in that grace-filled place again, walking through the coastal land, eating fresh seafood, celebrating Mass with people who manage to praise God in the midst of adversity. 

Heaven is indescribable.  I like to think that Heaven will be like all of the beautiful, grace-filled moments of my life linked together…and then more.  It will be the sum of beautiful adoration hours, hikes in foreign countries, the smell of incense, the feeling of a bed after a long day, the delirious joy of the Holy Spirit, the thankfulness of a student, the embrace of a cloistered sister, the glory of a sun-bathed afternoon, every delightful food, and the reunion of each beautiful friend…and more. 

In the midst of times that seem less grace-filled, it is nice to be able to go back and re-live some moments where I knew the Lord was working and present.  Yet not to get lost in them.  Simply to experience the joy and then return to the present with a renewed vigor to pray for God’s kingdom to come now…in me and in this world. 

Thy Will Be Done

Perhaps I am not alone in feeling this way, but I desire a great mission for my life.  I want to do big things and transform society.  When I look at the different passions in my life, I wonder how I will ever be able to use them all, how will God be the fulfillment of all of my desires.  Taking a look at where I am at the present moment can cause me to feel impatient and claustrophobic.  I want to travel, to live life, to have adventures, to be incandescently happy.  There are moments, like on Thursday, when I look at my life as a teacher and I wonder what in the world I am doing.  Some people are able to say that every day they go to work they are filled with a desire to go to work and that because of that, they never feel like it is work.  Unfortunately, I cannot say that the same is always true with me.  There have been several times over the past few months that I didn’t want to go to work, that the thing I wanted most was to extend the weekend.  My heart desires something grand and beautiful.  Yet when I look at where I am in my life, I begin to wonder if it is ever possible to attain that.  Am I simply missing God’s will in my life?  Will I be my own worst enemy?  Everyone desires a great love and a great adventure and too quickly I begin to wonder where mine is.  I’ve spent half of the past semester longing to live life fully and the other half praying to enter into eternal life.  At times I am filled with a passion for teaching and with gratitude that I am able to do what I wanted to do right out of college.  Nevertheless, I wonder what else there is for me and how the plan will unfold. 

Maybe much of this is natural–the transition years after college, the quest to find stable footing, the desire to be a saint, the longings to be fulfilled.  Yet some of this is perhaps the temptation of the evil one.  If he can make God’s will for me now seem to be unimportant or too little, then he is winning in a sense.  God could have a grand mission for me next year but His will for me is to be a teacher now.  If I focus on the future grandeur and fail to do my duty in the present moment, then I am effectively not doing God’s will out of a misappropriated desire to do His will in the future.  I need to learn patience without succumbing to passivity.  How will I know if God is asking me to step out in faith or if it is my own desire for the grand that will cause me to run contrary to the will of God.  I have this desire to be a saint and although I know there are many saints of the ordinary, I don’t want to be ordinary.  While I don’t want to stand out especially, I long for a great mission, something where all of my desires are fulfilled.  Maybe this is just my melancholic nature coming out and longing for the ideals that can only truly be found in Heaven.  All I know is that I long for a beautiful adventure that will be personally transforming and will transform others.  A little daisy wants to be a bouquet of roses.

What a different view of me my students would have if they read this blog.  I know they don’t think I’m perfect but I like to think I look generally put together and collected.  At times I wish I could tell them how ridiculous and confused I truly am.  The facade would be destroyed.  What does God want me to do now?  He has placed me here for a reason.  I forget that reason, though, in moments of frantic worry and a desire for my will to be done.  So, Lord, if Your desire is for me to be here now, please teach me how to do Your will in the present moment–and to love doing it.