“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.” – St. Francis of Assisi
One day you might find yourself asking “what is it like to be a missionary?” In fact, that might even be why you’re reading this blog right now, to get a glimpse into the life. If you know a little bit already from various stories of the great missionary saints or maybe even the average people you encounter that have been “on the road”, your question might be something more like “What is life like constantly on the move, meeting new people everyday and proclaiming the Gospel?” Or, perhaps, you were just curious in general.
Luckily, you’ve came to the right place to get an answer to all these questions. Our team has been on the road for 47 days and even though some people spend their whole lives in this type of ministry, I’m sure their answers would closely match ours.
Being a missionary is waking up every morning and having to trust fall into God’s arms, trying over and over and over again to love and serve the people around you in every situation you’re in. When you’re in a new place everyday and the only constants in your life are a 15 passenger van, 10 people you just met, and prayer, you have to fight for that love and those relationships. Being a missionary is about love, loving Christ, loving others, and being able to pour everything out for that love. You never know when a situation will arise where you have to show and share that love. For our team, it happens in host homes, hair salons, doctors offices and everywhere in between.
Being a missionary is about realizing that you aren’t in control, that even when you think you have the whole thing figured out, you probably don’t. Every time you fail (which happens often, because we’re human) you have to get right back up and offer it to Christ in your smallness, even when your legs are tired and your heart is worn, trusting that He will give you exactly what you need to get through the day. One of our team members put it best when she described a host home that ended up ministering to her instead of the other way around. She said: “It’s humbling to realize that we need to hear God’s truth again and again just as much as youth and their families do. God is using us to spread His word but He is also sending people to speak to us, too.”
Being a missionary, it turns out, isn’t really about us at all. It’s about God working through us. It’s having the prayer of St. Francis echoing in your soul 24/7. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that when we try to do it all on our own we fail, like a wobbly 1 year old trying to take his first steps without holding onto anything. Ultimately, we end up reaching up to God from where we are and asking Him to carry us in His arms. Joe on our team said that there have been a lot of days where he isn’t “feeling it”, and then God sends him grace. It’s on these days when we feel completely empty that we end up with stories from retreatants like Jennifer, who shared with us this experience: “The NET retreat impacted me by the prayers we did at the end. I came here today hoping to just have a good time. I had that and I discovered a relationship with God. I have always loved God but today I loved Him so much more, I asked Him to move into my heart and into the center of me.”
It’s on these days when our constant cry is “Lord make me an instrument of your peace” that we have encounters like one our team member Joseph had. He encountered a very disruptive youth on retreat, who during our time of prayer was making dirty jokes and distracting his neighbors. Joseph sat in front of him hoping that being “at listening distance would discourage him.” But the young man continued. Even though Joseph was frustrated he turned to him calmly and said “Hey, I’m Joseph, nice to meet you. Can you do me a favor? Can you be more respectful to the people around you?” The young man said, “Sure,” and then didn’t say another word for the rest of the time of prayer. Not only that, but he even knelt down on his knees so the young men around him would focus.
So I guess that being a missionary is about doing amazing things every day but never truly being responsible for any of them. It’s about looking at those little miracles and exclaiming a loud “Praise you, Jesus!” It’s about learning to love God first, and then seeing Him in every single person you meet.
Until next time,