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You are where you are meant to be!

Candice waiting for cow traffic to pass in Shambo
I remember being in college when I first felt a little nudge followed by a joyful desire to serve the poor. I freaked out and told God: "I don't want to be a nun!" He eventually showed me that he was calling me to go deeper in my love for Him and to say "yes" to serving Him in others. The Lord in his great mercy has called me time and time again to share the Good News with the poor in near and distant places to the young and old alike. I have loved every adventure he has taken me on and feel honored that he has chosen me despite my many weaknesses and imperfections. The scripture that has become my motto and has given me courage in times of doubt is from 2 Cor. 12:9. "MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR YOU, FOR MY POWER IS MADE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS."

When I look back and see what the Lord has done through me I am amazed because I know that there is no possible way I could have been able to serve anyone by relying on my own strength and natural gifts. Truly it has been his grace and divine help that have carried me through some of the biggest challenges that missionaries face such as illness, depression, loneliness, financial strain, home sickness, fatigue, discouragement and feeling helpless in the face of the great suffering that the poor must endure. I have learned so much from each experience and the last one taught me that suffering helps a soul to grow in holy wisdom. My last missionary adventure was the most challenging of all, the longest and the most beautiful of all because it required the most sacrifice and I believe that was necessary for it to bear great fruit.
     
It has been a year and seven months since I came back from my time spent in missions in Peru which was a year and half to be exact. In some ways it feels like just yesterday that I arrived from the jungle and in other ways it feels like years have passed since I have seen the people I love who became my family so quickly. Somehow being in a foreign country while still serving as a missionary made blogging seem much more important at the time and now that I have been back I have struggled with writer's block and did not know where to begin or how to pick up from where I left off. And honestly, I did not know if these simple words could help anyone in some small way. I have held memories of my time in missions so tightly as if they were sacred treasures that I did not want to lose or ever forget. But today I felt inspired to open up and share some of that beauty in hopes that it will help someone along in their spiritual journey. When I first imagined myself as a Catholic missionary in a foreign country, I thought it would be glorious and that I would be evangelizing and sharing the Good News with the multitudes on a mountain top. But boy was I wrong! When I arrived in Peru, the Lord showed me that in order for Him to use me, I had to be small, humble and obedient. So I was tried in every possible way emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. I was paired up with an amazing missionary that was my complete opposite in every way personality wise and that is exactly what the ministry needed! She was in her 20's and had trekked through the jungles of Ecuador the year prior and now had the task of leading and teaching a rookie that was old enough to be her mother (but young at heart) what it meant to live as a missionary. I was blessed to have such a great example in my mission partner Candice! Her dedication to the poor, faithfulness to prayer, inner strength and perseverance where some of the qualities that made her such a great missionary for the Lord!

Candice and I exploring Shamboyacu

Children in Shambo having fun!
Being a missionary can be a very purifying and sanctifying process if you allow God to transform you. I remember vividly one hot, day when I cried out to God in my desperation. I was sitting on a rock overlooking a river during my personal prayer time. I was frustrated and told Him all the reasons I was not a good missionary. I was so annoyed and scratching all the itchy, bloody mosquito bites on my legs. I felt that I tried so hard to be a good missionary but I just kept failing. I was late to prayer, couldn't keep up well on the long walks to seek out the poor and in my mind it seemed that I had failed. I had a serious conversation with God that day and told him I wanted to pack my bags and just go home. In my heart he whispered: "Look over there!" I looked across the river and saw our little friends from the village. These beautiful children were playing in a tree and they smiled and waved at me. My heart melted and I realized that I was sent to Shamboyacu, Peru at that time to share the good news of Jesus with those little children who would carry the faith to others someday. I wiped my tears and lost sight of them and started reading my bible until I saw them running full speed towards me. They asked me what I was doing and I mentioned I was praying and they made their away into the river. I watched them jump in the muddy river and play as if it were the beach and in that moment of joy I was distracted and God reminded me that all would be just fine. I love nature and anything that reminds me of it. I had picked up some rocks and had collected a little pile next to me and the kids noticed that so they went to the river and got some good ones for me but rinsed them first because they knew I liked clean things and they kept coming back to add more to my pile. In my heart God revealed to me that these rocks represented the virtues that he was developing in my soul. Some came more naturally and others were a huge struggle for me. The children stayed with me until I finished praying and we were all ready to head back. They walked me home surrounding me with their love, hugs, smiles and laughter. God knew exactly how to show me his love and encouragement. I still wonder sometimes if I'm really making a difference right where I am and I think back on that experience. It taught me to trust that if I am striving to be faithful to God that he will use me even if it's in some small way and to believe the words of St.Teresa of Avila:

"TRUST God that you are exactly where you are meant to be!" 

My view of Shamboyacu river during personal prayer



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