Posted March 31, 2010
It feels so good to be back in my own room, my own bed, and my own… well, the same bathroom I have been sharing with 20 other college girls. Yesterday at 6:00 in the morning, I had to peel myself out of the drivers seat after driving for 6 hours straight through the night. 6:00am came and I was delirious, laughing at anything and everything, hungry beyond all belief, and EXTREMELY tired! Where were we coming from, you ask? Well, please let me fill you in ☺
Last week was the week of Spring Break which meant mission trips for some, relaxing vacation for others. SonLife mission went down to Panama City, Florida to do beach and bar evangelization. A team of 20 of us students and a priest all drove down, about 20 hours (supposed to be 16 hrs…) in three rental mini vans. This was the point in the trip where we all bonded instantly! Our team was so dynamic and so different, but could not imagine a better team to serve with.
Everyday had about the same schedule: started with breakfast, morning prayer, Mass, went to the beaches, came back for dinner, got ready for the bars, had night prayer, and set out for the bars. Once we got to the beaches, the “EPs” were sent off to go and start evangelizing. Your “EP” is your Evangelization Partner—the person you are walking around with all day for the entire week, speaking to others about the love of Jesus Christ. Of course we would not just walk up to people and start talking about Jesus, but instead focused on meeting the people where they were at. We would start random conversations with people and eventually would lead to talking about God and faith. Some would laugh and say “And why are you here for Spring Break, again?” There was respect for how we lived, but not so much what we had to say about the Church. Trying to talk about Jesus to people who are set in their ways and very comfortable living their own lifestyle is extremely challenging.
Other people’s responses were absolutely beautiful. To encounter a Catholic who genuinely loves the Lord and willingly chooses to live their life for Him with joy and happiness was unfathomable to them. “There is something joyous about you. I’m assuming you’re religious…or something?!” “How do you live differently?” “Do you enjoy being manipulated by the Church?” “ Wait, tell me more about that?” “So, like…do you drink?” These were just of few of many responses we heard. There were many conversations where the person would be so caught off guard with what we had to share with them, they would begin to cry. There was a genuine curiosity many people had with what we were all about. It became obvious after talking with just a few that many people out here came for one thing only, and that one thing has left them empty for so long. They are hungry for truth and hungry for something more in life. This is what gave us the motivation to keep going. We knew there was at least one soul on the beach or in the bar that needed to feel loved and hear truth.
Despite how they reacted, our mission was simply to be real with them and to bring the love of Christ to each person we evangelized to through showing them genuine love. We were no different than any of they were. The only difference was that we knew God loved us; however, there were many that had a hard time accepting that reality due to different pains and sufferings in their lives. When the Lord calls you to touch the hearts of others by bringing His love to others, He gives you a heart that is willing to love a stranger; one that surpasses simply what the eye can see. It is only when you are able to love the other person where you find yourself caring more for their well-being and their heart rather than caring so much about their actions. I felt as though we had to strap ourselves up with armor before we walked out onto the battlefield’s each day. It was rough and discouraging at times, but how many people listened to God Himself when He was performing miracles right before their very eyes? This was a reality we had to continue to remind ourselves.
Friday, we were asked to put on a youth night for the teens in the parish who were receiving their Confirmation. The night consisted of talks, skits, adoration and Stations of the Cross. It was so beautiful and encouraging to watch the teens allow themselves to be open to whatever God had in store for them that night. I would have to say that Friday was a good breath of fresh air, despite whether the teens were forced to be there or not, they were there in hopes to get something out of it.
I would say that evangelizing in Panama City, Florida for Spring Break was much more challenging and difficult for me than serving the poor people down in Ecuador. In Ecuador, we felt so welcomed and accepted. They were willing to receive anything we had to give them, whether it was medical supplies or the sacraments. Both trips I felt tremendously loved—however, in Panama City, I felt the love was much more dramatic simply because there were many times where you felt disrespected and unloved. We knew our mission was to bring Christ to people; it was the words of the Gospel were proclaiming that equipped us enough.
We are all called to be missionaries. Some are going to be called to serve internationally some where in a foreign country. Some will be called to serve right in their very hometown to those around them: their families, friends, classmates, co-workers, etc. This trip prepared me to know how to live more in the world, but just not of the world. It was the most difficult mission I had ever been on, but the Lord made Himself so apparent to us! I cannot even begin to share with you the many “glory stories” that came from this trip. The Lord is SO GOOD and so in love with us! Thank you for allowing me to share my experience with you and I hope you too find the opportunity to share the love of Christ with others ☺
God Bless you,