Transitioning to life on the road has been an adventure, but we have grown so much as a team and as individuals and experienced the Lord working in amazing ways! So far we’ve traveled around Minnesota and Wisconsin, where we have conducted over a dozen retreats and stayed with many host families. If this is where God wants us, there is no better place for us to be. All the experiences have been good, but here are two that stand out.
Conversion is Always Possible
One of our first retreats went well, but while talking to the youth minister afterwards, we discovered that it had had even more impact than we had thought. Joan, who had been working at the parish for a few years, told us the story of one of her confirmation students. This student, who wishes to remain anonymous, had been going to confirmation classes, but decided she didn’t want to continue going. When she told her mom this, her mom said the decision was up to her. After coming to the NET retreat, however, she told Joan, the RCP, that she is going to keep going to the classes and wants to be confirmed. On her end-of-retreat survey, the student said, “NET helped me rekindle my faith with God and I was able to meet so many new amazing people.” She’ll be confirmed at the end of next May!
Whenever our team does ministry at a parish, the missionaries stay at the homes of local parishioners – host families – overnight. While there, we do our best to serve them and get to know them. This was particularly fruitful when Bridget and I stayed with a woman named Diane in Weyauwega, Wisconsin. Diane hadn’t been planning on hosting anyone from the NET team, but she agreed to do it just a few hours before we arrived in town. Diane, Bridget, and I drove to her house in the country, where we ate dinner and talked for hours.
Diane opened up to us about her story and family, and we were able to encourage her and pray with her. When we left the following morning, Diane told us that she was so glad that she hosted us and that she got so much out of our visit. We all agreed that it was God’s providence that we ended up at her house that day and encouraged Diane to keep hosting NET teams in the future.
Every retreat and host family is different from all the others, even if we have multiple retreats at the same location. It has been exciting to witness the similarities and differences between young people and their families in the midwest. Not all the retreats have gone the way we’ve planned, but we have quickly learned that they go exactly the way that God intends them to, and that’s the best we can ask for!
Speaking of Things Not Going as Planned…
We are currently quarantined! One of the sisters on the team tested positive for COVID a few days ago. This is the classic example of things not going the way we want them to go, but we have already seen so much fruit come out of it. Because of where we were, we are able to be quarantined at one of our teammate’s house in Mankato, MN. Hanging out as a team and with his family has already been such a blessing to us. At first, going into quarantine was a stressful and frustrating experience, because everything that we had planned and hoped for in this week went completely out the window. But we are quickly learning that, as always, God has so much more in store for us than we could have imagined!
God Works in All Things
Being in quarantine has given us some unique opportunities. First, it has allowed us to grow closer together as a team. COVID is a topic that tends to divide people whenever it is brought up, but through the leadership of our team leaders and second years, we have challenged ourselves to stay united and even grow closer together. We’ve also grown in servitude as we care for those teammates who are feeling under the weather.
Secondly, being here means we can take some additional time to rest. Life on the road is a non-stop adventure. Between doing retreats and ministering to host families, we are in ministry for long hours every day. This has helped us develop a mindset of continual self-giving, which is so important for the Christian life, but it also means we appreciate any extra sleep that we can get!
Thirdly, quarantine makes it possible to do large amounts of ministry prep that would have been feasible if we were on the road and in normal active ministry. In the few days we’ve been here, we have used time to improve our music skills, get dramas approved, work on talks, and make preparations for all the other things that are necessary to do good ministry. Consequently, we know that we will come out of this time better equipped to serve the Lord and the teens that we will encounter on future retreats.
Let Go and Let God
Finally, it is always difficult to let go of our personal plans and ideas and let God work. This is true in the little things but is especially evident when things get completely turned upside-down. Being in quarantine has challenged us to surrender and trust God more, a skill and mindset that will serve us well in the future. Sirach 2:1,4-6 reminds us of the difficulty of living the Christian life and offers some advice that we can all take to heart.
Sirach tells us, “When you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials… Accept whatever happens to you; in periods of humiliation be patient. For in fire gold is tested, and the chosen in the crucible of humiliation. Trust in God, and He will help you.” We have seen first hand the importance of surrendering our plans and trusting in God’s and the fruit that comes from letting God test us and make us stronger. Again, if this is where God wants us, there is no better place for us to be.
In the peace of Christ,
NET Team 8
Jack, Elizabeth, Grace, Justin, Bridget, Lizzie, Charlie, Isabella, Veronica, Katherine, and Daniel