Three brothers from our team were staying with a host family which included two parents and an 18 year old daughter who lived at home (she was going to college remotely due to Covid-19). On the surface, we couldn’t tell that this family was any different than any other we had stayed with. The mother and father were nice and welcoming. Late on the first night we met their daughter (for confidentiality purposes, we will refer to her as Jackie). Jackie was blunt. We never for a second doubted that she wasn’t sharing what she truly thought. Regardless of what the popular opinion was, she was bold in sharing hers.
That immediately intrigued us. Typically as missionaries, we have conversations with people who politely share common agreeances about the faith. Jackie did not. She would only share what she truly thought, which gave us the sense that we had known Jackie for much longer than the few hours we had spent with her and her family.
In the short bit of time we stayed with the family, we found out that Jackie and her father had a rocky past. She got into drinking and drugs in her early years of high school and her friends have not always been the greatest of influences. Quite frankly, I don’t even know if Jackie is a good influence. But she has something different. She knows that she doesn’t want to continue living in her old ways, but as the familiar saying goes, “old habits die hard”.
Despite her worldly tendencies, she plainly communicated her genuine desire to live out the Catholic faith. She shared that she is striving to grow closer to the Lord and follow His commands. There are two reasons for this: She met the Lord in reading His Word and she encountered an individual who not only knew the Lord, but had the Lord dwelling within her.
We’ll begin with how Jackie met the Lord in reading His Word:
She was living a life of recklessness and knew that she couldn’t carry on in that manner anymore. Jackie decided to go home after partying one night and look into Sacred Scripture – not because she was being forced. She was on a quest to find the truth herself.
Jackie stayed home for two days simply reading the Bible. She shared that during those two days her eyes were rarely dry – she was overwhelmed with the truth and love the Lord was providing her. This was the beginning of Jackie’s conversion.
Then the encounter:
Jackie later found herself on a NET retreat. She shared that she was wary at first – who were these goofy NETers? Jackie ended up in a small group with an enthusiastic NETer (surprising, huh? 🙂 ). Jackie thought, “What the heck, if my small group leader is getting into it why not join her? There’s got to be some reason why she is so enthusiastic.” Jackie went all in during that retreat and found herself closer to the Lord and understanding what it means to have joy from God. She shared that she went up to her small group leader after the retreat and said, “Great job, thank you.” That was the extent of their post-retreat conversation.
Jackie never talked to her small group leader again. She shared that she wished she would’ve gotten the NET team member’s phone number, because she remembers the NETer’s light which we know was the Holy Spirit shining through. This joy and enthusiasm is magnetic to those who are open to the Lord.
This made us wonder: How often do we have this happen as NETers?
We might leave a retreat and have a handful of our small group members come up to thank us and never hear from them again. And you know what? They may remember seeing the light of the Lord and wanting to have that. It might happen that day. It might happen the next week. It might happen 10 years down the line. It might never happen.
As missionaries we are called to bear fruit, not see the fruit. We come in to plant seeds where they have not yet been planted, water seeds that have been planted, and to pray for and provide encouragement to those who will continue to minister to the youth.
Again, the Lord asks that we bear fruit, not that we see the fruit. We did not fully realize the beauty of this truth until we heard Jackie’s story – we were able to see the fruit that was born through the efforts of a NET sister from a previous year. Fruit that she may never see. Fruit that is ultimately born by the Lord. We don’t need to see the fruit, all we need to do is ask the Lord to use us to bear the fruit.