Mission Trip Conclusion
Jul 15, 2019
We are all home safe and sound after a wonderful, life-changing, week of service, prayer, and fun! I want to take a moment and thank everyone for following this blog and for your support! We needed your prayers as many small miracles did occur during this week. The harsher side of misfortune was dulled and our opportunities to do great good were multiplied! I wanted to share with everyone some of my own reflections of the past week while they are still fresh in my mind.
What does it mean to be a Catholic in the modern world? What is the power of something like Catholic Heart Workcamp? Is it a miracle machine that takes normal kids and in 6 days removes all vice, replaces it with intense virtue, and hands them a custom halo? Just like the adults in their world every one of the kids on this trip carry virtues and vices and they are holy at times and sinful in others. Our faith does not make freedom vanish, it does not remove temptation, it gives us a daily test that helps us to determine what we love most (selfish things or loving things). Is it our cell phone, like it is for many kids? Is it God? Is it friends? Is it popularity? Knowledge? Why is a mission trip of service, prayer, and fun so important for our youth?
I saw a group of kids form friendships this week based on the foundation of their shared faith. I listened as our adult leaders nurtured the importance of faithful friendship to one another as means to deepening that faithful relationship with Christ. I watched as our young people experienced Eucharistic Adoration (some for the first time) and was deeply moved to see them so prayerful. I watched them work hard at dirty, heavy, and sometimes unappealing jobs, all with a joyful heart. I watched the young sing praise and worship to their God and dance "The twist" in the same night. I saw the young people smiling and greeting kids from other groups in the hall. I watched them play, pray, and serve. All of these things combine into a strong message for this generation of youth in this culture today:
1) You don't have to do bad things to have a good time - In fact, the greater joy of doing good for others spilled over from work time to free time as kids were very generous with one another.
2) A life of faith is not to make everything we do ABOUT Christ, but to do all things IN Christ (and his Holy Name). They can play cards, football, soccer, go white water rafting, visit monuments, and even go to the Mall of America without losing a drop of holiness. Their joy is God's joy when they share even the secular experiences of life with Jesus. They were not alone, they did everything as a community of faith. This type of doing things together IN Christ is a foreshadowing of heaven for them.
3) Prayer is an expression of including God in all things (their life, activities, thoughts, and struggles), it is not a chore that is bound to set schedules or a play in which we require the recital and memorization of exact words. We learned that prayer can be as spontaneous as life itself but that the habit is one that provides continual nourishment to the soul. So when we prayed together, as we did countless times last week, it was never burdensome, it was very easy-going. When I lose something, I can pray. When I'm tired, I can pray. When I'm happy, I can pray. When I want to sing, I can pray. Even my work itself, can be transformed into a prayer that needs no words.
4) Our faith is a journey, not a preset condition. Just as characters develop in a book, so our faith develops in our soul. Some of our youth were on chapter 1 and this experience writes the story of a first step. Some of youth are several chapters deep and this experience acts as a springboard to a new chapter. The camp as well as the chaperones are very respectful of each person, wherever they are, to always invite them to the deep and abiding love of Christ, but never to push, pull, or coerce in any way. We trust God to call them forward and we respect the response the young person gives to that call.
In conclusion a service trip like this is an invitation to share in the Divine Life of Jesus Christ. It builds in the routines of a loving life. For most they don't have time to give a full work week, each week, to strangers in need, but we do serve our families by working hard at our own jobs all week. The camp environment helps youth break away from cliques and be more open and inclusive to others, it is a practice I hope they always maintain. By serving in this way, it unveils the eyes of the youth to see God where previously they might have simply seen a poor person. A trip like this is an invitation but it can also be likened to the pragmatic parable of the sower and the seed. In choosing to come they have approached the sower who generously throws his seeds. For some the seed will fall and never really take root. For others the seed may grow up fast and strong but not have enough to nourish it and so it will wither. And for some the seed will find fertile ground and grow producing a yield of over 100 fold. It is now our job to nurture those seeds that have taken root, in rich soil or stony ground, and cultivate that young spiritual life as best we can in those who have said yes to the Lord. I hope our youth ministry and outreach this year is enough to serve that goal.
Thanks again for all of your support!