I urge you all to read this beautifully written testimony to the power of love and humility…this young man is a lifelong member of our parish, a FOCUS missionary, and seeking to do the will of God…we must support him with our prayers and with our treasure! -Fr. Bill
This upcoming March I have the privilege of going on mission with 3 other missionaries and college students from around the country to Haiti. As many of you know of the tragedies that have occurred in Haiti as of recent. It is our mission and objective to go to Haiti, working under the missionaries of the poor, to simply love the people with everything we have, giving them Christ’s love through our words and actions. Most people attribute a mission trip with building a house or doing something of that nature which is incredibly important, but don’t understand the concept of what it means to go over to another country simply to give and receive love, to love them as Jesus would. What does that even mean to give and receive love? Why would you go to another country simply to do that? I’d like to give two examples of this from my most recent trip to Togo, Africa. Where I spent a month in the small village of Achanve. This is also incredibly long winded but I think important, especially in this Christmas season. I also didn’t edit this because it’s long so forgive me.
For me personally the month I spent over in Togo was a very hard one mentally. It was filled with constant anxiety and panic attacks. I had never experienced these before and it led me to telling God I hated him almost five times a day. This was a reoccurring cycle of me blaming my anxiety on God then apologizing for telling God I hated him knowing he is all loving then yelling at him again time over and over (not knowing what I was going through I naturally blamed it on God because that’s my go to). Every day it was my job to put on a smile and to authentically love the people with everything I had. These panic attacks and this anxiety I was experiencing almost made it impossible at times. Part of our mission was to go to different villages and to just spend time with the children and elders, playing games and breaking barriers, singing and dancing with the locals. As we approached one village during a sunny afternoon I found myself plagued with this creeping anxiety I had no control over, basking in my own pity of why is this happening to me, angry and telling God I hated him once again. This was all happening as we greeted a group of about 50 children who were all running up to us smiling and grabbing our arms and hands just wanting to get a glimpse of all these white American’s who just entered their village. To break some awkwardness of this newness each side was experiencing one of the missionaries decided to teach a child a hand clapping game in front of the whole village. The problem was no child would volunteer for a number of minutes. Finally, a brave little child approached with fear yet excitement glimmering off of his face. As he learned the game and accomplished it to perfection he was praised with cheering and clapping from the missionaries and villagers which led him to quickly retreat behind his mother in embarrassment. But as time passed I witnessed this child stick his head out from behind his mother with a really big grin. Through my anger I was experiencing of witnessing everyone else having fun and being joyful and me not experiencing any of these emotions I thought to myself how awesome and proud this child must be of accomplishing this in front of his whole village. Right as I thought this I felt this still small and peaceful voice speak to my heart which I’ve come to know as God’s say the simple words: “That’s how proud I am of you.” In that moment I received so much love and peace knowing it is God who spoke to me and he used this child as an instrument of his love. This is something that helped me come out of my anger and love the villagers with everything I had for the rest of the day. Something I will remember for the rest of my life and will help me love others when loving others is something I least want to do.
One example of how Christ used me to love the villagers was as simple as smiling and waving. We were received with open and loving arms from 99% of the villagers in Achanve but there were the few who you could clearly tell didn’t want us being there which is very understandable. Look at all these Americans coming to our village to make themselves feel good about themselves is something I would have been thinking if I were from there but that’s just me. Anyways, it was these people who I knew Jesus was asking me to love the most, but how could I do that? Every day as I passed these people I would always wave and smile at an awkward length of time to show them I wasn’t going to back down. This was my way of spreading Christ’s love to them. These were always received with blank and almost scary stares. But as the days and weeks went on I continued to wave and smile not backing down to the stares and noticed slowly but surely these villagers beginning to wave, then smile, then wave and smile. This may seem so simple but to me this was me loving the people who were hardest to love showing them that I wasn’t there to change their lives in some dramatic fashion but to love them even for me when something as a wave and smile seemed so hard at times. Something changed in these people between the beginning and end of my trip and I while I do not know what happened a piece of me believes it can be attributed by something as simple of showing someone you care through a wave and smile.
These are two examples of what it means to give and receive love. Everyone needs love and the love I have found in Christ is what propels me to go on mission, most recently to Haiti, to spread this love to others. Please pray for me and the other missionaries and students and if you don’t believe in God send me some good vibes. God Bless and I love you all.