The Poorest of the Poor, Part One

“I heard the call to give up all and follow Christ into the slums to serve Him among the poorest of the poor. It was an order.” – Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Have you ever had that moment?  The moment that Mother Teresa speaks of, when you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that God is asking you to do something, to go somewhere, to be someone?  And have you been terrified as a result because He asks you, like He asked Peter, to go where you do not want to go?

There have been definitive moments in my life where I have been able to echo those words of Mother Teresa; and my initial response to the call is to run away, hide, ignore everything, and never ever serve where He has called me to serve.  But these times are also detectable by the incredibly distinct movement of my heart to the foot of the Cross.  This understanding is so difficult to describe; it’s an unmatched, hodgepodge feeling of human fear, divine Love and protection, the pain of the Cross, and the sweetness of the redemptive suffering that the Cross promises.  As I relayed yesterday, I’ve recently had some time to reflect on my first year of teaching, and, as promised, the purpose of this post (divided into two parts for your sake) is to record, reveal, and remember the very place to which He has brought me: a greater realization of the mission that He has chosen for me at this time and, consequently, the culture to which I must now minister.

Let this serve as your warning: we’re about to go a little deep, people, so either hang on for the ride (in which case I offer you my deepest gratitude) or bail out before the desire to bang your head against the table in boredom ensnares you (in which case I offer you my sincerest apologies).

When I was a junior in college, I was given the opportunity to serve on a medical and catechetical mission in Ecuador, South America.  The mission was comprised of a team of students, priests, religious sisters, doctors, nurses, and translators.  We would travel into the rainforest to the most remote villages of the country in order to bring them Mass and the Sacraments as well as thorough medical attention.  My experience there was nothing short of life changing and soul shattering.  There are countless stories and lessons I learned from that mission, but suffice it here to say that that particular mission and those beautiful people we served captured my heart with such ferocity and irrevocability that I was willing to quite literally lay down my life for them.

After mission, when we returned to the States, I was offered the blessing of co-leading the mission for the following year.  As flattered as I was, I was at first hesitant.  Leading the mission would mean sacrificing both time and energy during my last year of college.  Instead of taking a trip to the beach, drinking margaritas, and getting my tan on with my friends for my last spring break, I would once again spend it in the jungle, not drinking the water, and covered in bug spray and sweat.  After a lot of prayer and a lot of freaking out at the magnitude of that responsibility (cue aforementioned feeling of certitude), I agreed.  That next year of my life was almost 100% dedicated to preparing for that mission in all its various aspects.  What an extremely blessed and graced time that was.  When it was time to leave for the mission that next spring, I felt invincible.  The Lord had prepared my heart well.  Lead 30 people through the Amazon jungle when I really had no idea where we would end up?  Sure!  Sleep on concrete while surrounded by roaches and spiders the size of a small infant?  Why not?!  Reach out to people of a totally different culture and with a polar opposite experience of life, having no idea if I would be accepted by them?  YOLO.

This mission could fail, it could fail because of me; yet I knew it would not.  Why?  Because the mission was His all along.

I felt so at home in “the slums”, serving among “the poorest of the poor”.  They have nothing in the world.  But they have the most joy.  They greeted us with open arms and loved us more than we could ever deserve.  They insisted on feeding us, even if it was at the expense of a meal for themselves, they taught us by their hard work, they sang with us, played with us, prayed with us, thanked us for bringing them the Sacraments and were overwhelmed with gratitude because of the medical assistance we were able to give them.  It was the perfect illustration of the cliche but true expression that “they gave us way more than we could ever give them”.


Ecuadorian Children

Flying back to the U.S. after that final mission was surreal.  He had called me to this particular mission, I was able to respond with His grace, and He brought it to fulfillment according to His will, just like He promises.  And I realized, as this mission ended at the conclusion of my senior year, that my next mission was just beginning…

I’ve been aware for quite some time that my desire is to teach the Faith.  That call was actually the spark that began my conversion.  As time went on and I studied more and more, the specific call became clearer and clearer.  So when I was offered my current teaching position, I was revisited by that feeling I received when I was certain about the call to go back to Ecuador (I’ve noticed that my reactions to these callings always begin as such: ‘Oh s*!%.  Lord, why, why are You doing this to me?!?!‘ … Psh, and Dave says I can be dramatic…).  God was not asking, He was ordering.  He said ‘go’, so I went.

And I was excited for this new mission because He had placed in my heart such a desire for it and I was confident that He would provide, as He always does.  I knew it would be different than the tasks I had previously embarked upon; however, I was completely unaware of exactly how different, yet how miraculously similar, this particular mission would be.

Comments

  1. Hey! I’m going through the posts from the other direction now …
    I like this one! Well, all of them … but, with this one I can see a different approach to something similar I’ve been thinking about lately. It’s like looking at something (a call) in terms of how to build UP from it, instead of pushing or crashing into something that has the large potential to be confusing, at least, confusing in the present. If that makes sense.
    ~ Clara

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