"Then He told them: Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creation"
After our arrival in the wonderful, joyfully Catholic community of Lafayette, LA we immediately began seeking a ministry to serve in, this time, as a family. We've served the Church in various ministries in the past, but never as a married couple or a family! Excitedly, we began our search...will it be marriage prep? NFP? College ministry at our church parish of Our Lady of Wisdom? Surely, it wasn't going to be youth ministry, we have been content with youth ministry being only an expression of a previous chapter of our life. Never committing to any particular thing, our hearts were restless. Yet again, we found ourselves serving the young church, volunteering occasionally for a friend who was in need of some experienced help with her youth group. With attempt to avoid committing full-time, we decided to give an entire weekend serving at a confirmation retreat. Hesitantly, we drove our four energetic little boys to Our Lady of the Bayous Retreat Center in Abbeville, La. Ann insisted that we do this as a family, bringing all the little ones.
Away from the hustle of our new city life we came upon this old convent, excited to be extra, "full" hands and "busy" feet for our friend (we did just bring our four boys on a weekend retreat), we easily did what we've always known, youth ministry. It came natural, we introduced ourselves to the many teens on retreat, as our kids were excitedly hanging on teens whom they had just met, but already loved. We had great peace about serving the teens that weekend, as a family. It wasn't one half hour after we arrived that Chip came to me and said, "this is it, this feels right, this is what we are supposed to be doing." I said, "Hmm...ok," and we parted ways without giving any thought to what was said. We went on to talk with the beautiful young missionary family who was staffing the retreat as kitchen staff for Family Missions Company. Sammie, his expecting wife, and their two small children had just come home from serving in the Philippines. Again, our lives crossed, Sammie and Bernie had served on Service Crew for a Steubenville South Youth Conference. Our eyes and hearts were opened as we were reminded of the hundreds of thousands of people in the world who have not been afforded an opportunity to know Jesus. Their love and joy for serving the poor, was contagious. Our hearts began to burn! We have served the poor before, but our hearts were being prepared for a something more. Bernie had served on two FMC short term mission trips, organizing one of them while in college, and also at Abraham's Tent (a food pantry in Lake Charles'). Chip also has a great love for those less fortunate than him, especially the homeless. He'd often visit and help a homeless man he had met outside of a church when he lived in Jackson, MS. We've taught our boys to be generous with their things, giving away toys and clothes every year before Christmas. Seeds had been planted, and have begun to grow.
We began Lent, open, begging, and trusting that God would complete the work He had begun in us. Seeking some direction, as we prayerfully discerned the possibility of going on a a mission trip, or becoming full-time lay missionaries we began to attend Mission Formation nights (an evening of prayer, worship, fellowship, and a meal). Go! God was calling us. To which capacity, we did not know. There was an upcoming mission trip, Easter week. After doing our homework we realized that it was virtually impossible for us to get two expired passports, and four new passports plus all of the other items lined up in just a few short weeks. Instead, we decided to go on a Come and See with Family Missions Company which is a four day retreat for people discerning a life of missions, part or full-time.
We entered into the weekend with open hearts, as we had started our Lent, seeking clarity and exact direction. We were expecting God to move! Our burning hearts began to burn even stronger! We were already seeing our lives change, our hearts were full! We heard God speak to us through various people, scripture after scripture, and through the words of Blessed John Paul II's encyclical, Mission of the Redeemer. Our restless hearts were beginning to be at peace, the concerns and questions we had were being answered.
Resting, and catching up at the end of a long day of physical work and prayer, I asked Chip, "why can't it just be easy to say yes? It is such a simple little word, yet it is so difficult to say," before Chip could answer me, we heard our sweet sweet Nicholas; belt out, from across the house, at the top of his lungs, "Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord. Yes, yes, Lord." There, we had the most clear sign of all, from the mouth of babes. It is that simple! We are called, and we must go! We know the journey will be both joyful and difficult, but this is where it begins.
"I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things." ~Mother Teresa