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Jamaica on my mind

For the last two years I’ve participated on FOCUS mission trips, and this year I will be going on my last one as an undergrad. But the next time I go on one, I will be a missionary myself! AH. So crazy. I can’t wait.

I get so much life from being on mission. I live and breathe for them. They have radically changed my life, and I love them because……

  • They affirm your baptism. Through our baptism, we are all called to be missionaries; we are all the Church. I’ve always kind of hated saying that I was going “on a mission trip” because it probably gave off mental pictures of going to a third world country and helping them build a school, or something like that. Not that that’s wrong per sey, but I’ve always just felt uneasy about that whole stereotype for mission trips. This is why I love FOCUS missions; these people know we can’t do anything for them. They don’t need us to come in as dazed Americans gasping in horror at witnessing some of the most profound physical poverty we’ve ever seen to do something about it.

We go because they have dignity too. They are our brothers and sisters in the Church, needing to be built up, encouraged, walked alongside. They become powerful witnesses for us in the faith just like we become for them.

It’s not about giving them money or material goods. It’s about upholding the truth that they are beloved. That they are good and worthy of love. But that this doesn’t come from our doing. We are all unworthy and undeserving but Jesus makes the free gift of his life to all. We learn the truth that we are all called to evangelize, and that it’s not a piece of paper you hand someone to read; it’s living life with them in light of the gospel, just like Jesus did with his disciples. And it’s bringing that truth back home to your own life. Because you are always on mission !!

  • They help you discover your own belovedness. They help to strip you from all of the gunk filling your life for just enough time so that you might see, or begin to see, that you are precious and wanted and loved by your Father. Because our culture back home is toxic. The spiritual poverty is real. We’ve become a throwaway culture that values personal pleasure over everything. Although they might be experiencing physical poverty, they are so open, eager and ready to receive all that God wants to give them because they aren’t filled to the brim with distractions and material possessions. Their childlike dependency on the Father never fails to strike me to the core. They remind me that I too am called to rest and trust completely in His love.
  • They make me fall in love with the richness and beauty of my faith. One of my favorite things on mission is getting together to pray night prayer. The sense of community is so powerful. We just get to be with one another, no distractions, no worries, no agenda.

I still get weekly emails from the group leader I met in Honduras, and she has no idea how often she is Jesus’ words and wisdom to my soul. She wrote to me once telling me, “lucha por ser una gran santa”, fight to become a great saint. Because this life, the Christian life, it’s a battle. And I’ve seen too many give up even before they’ve begun to fight.

But that’s the very reason I adore mission. It was here that I saw people living and striving to be their faith, not just to proclaim to be a Catholic. Growing up, I was pretty disheartened with own my religion. Everywhere I looked, I saw zombies. People just going through the motions. People who said they were Catholic but weren’t living in that identity.

I began to question why I was even a Catholic. Why I chose to wear that “label” if I didn’t know a thing about my faith. Wouldn’t it be silly to go to a physician that said he was a doctor but never bothered to open a medical text book? Learn about the body?

And then my heart was broken open through a radical encounter with Jesus and his love, and I finally got it. I saw people embracing their faith and saying yes. And through relationships with people who knew their truest identity and were willing to be counter cultural, my heart began to be transformed.

And all the examples of the zombies were made null by people who were striving to become saints. And that was enough. I got to see what it looked like. And it was beautiful. To see people living in true freedom and authenticity. And I said, me too.

This year I will be spending a week in Kingston, Jamaica, working with The Mustard Seed community. This is an organization who assists adults and children with disabilities, mothers in crisis, and children with HIV/AIDS.

[Here is a link if you’d like to know more about their ministry https://www.mustardseed.com 🙂 ]

Around the time I was about 14 or 15, I remember getting home and laying in my bed at night, begging for God to plant a seed in my heart. I don’t remember why I used that phrase, but I distinctly remember praying this prayer. I think we had just heart the parable of the sower in Mass or something. I recognized that I was the seed that quickly withered away. The soil that was choked and did not produce fruits. So I begged God to make me good earth.

I call these little moments my “God speaks” moments. The second I heard what we would be doing in Jamaica, and that we’d be volunteering at a place called Mustard Seed, my heart did a little flutter and I was brought back to that moment in prayer. And I just sat back in awe at the faithfulness of my Father. The seed had been planted, unnoticed. And it was only now that it was starting to bear what little fruit it could. He had heard my petition, and answered in the most beautiful of ways, all the while I was oblivious to Him and his workings.

The mustard seed has always been a prominent image in my spiritual life (I even bought every single girl in my bible study a necklace with one in it; yes I am extra I know). And I just laughed and smiled at this little God speak moment.

Our Newman house does this thing where we all draw a saint of the year. I was reaaalllyy hoping to get someone like Mother Teresa or Saint Gianna, but to my surprise, I pulled out Saint Patrick’s card. I have still yet to really grow in my knowledge of this man, but we will be departing for Jamaica on his feast day!

All I know is that, if you can convert a whole country, you’re a baller. So St. Patrick, thanks for your baller legacy. ☘️

May some of your epic evangelization skills rub off on me.

A year ago today I was pretty broken and lost. But grace is so real. I am headed to Miami once more, and I have never stopped feeling the peace and joy I first felt once I decided to surrender everything and rip up the picture in my head of what my life was meant to look like.

I keep waiting for that moment to hit me so I can realize that it’s all fake, that it’s an act and that these people are truly not fulfilled.

Hasn’t happened yet.

The breaks that we take are actually meant to give life to our real lives” – Fr. Mike Schmitz

I cannot wait to grow in deeper love for the cross. Jesus, what an

a b u n d a n t life you give.

Izel

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