During the early weeks and months of working on this mission initiative, my focus was on helping, doing, giving and fixing. I was convinced that we Americans had gifts and wealth which we were called by God to share with those who had very few resources. I thought I had the right ideas, approaches and attitudes.
The mission initiative was designed for missionaries to live for a few days with host families. During my first mission trip, my amazing host family opened their doors and showered me with gifts as they shared their food, gave me their bed, taught me to make tortillas and coffee over an open fire and welcomed me into their reality. My time with them was about laughter, tears, joy and grace. It was about babies and elders, family, faith and friendship. It was about joking, winking, praying, dancing and shouting. They claimed my heart and transformed me forever. Once my eyes and heart were open, I understood that the true way to do mission work was through solidarity and love. Their love helped me to see that mission involvement was first and foremost about “being” not just “doing.” It wasn’t until I was in relationship with the people of Guatemala that I understood that instead of being the giver, I was the receiver. It profoundly transformed me.
Luke uses this parable because his invitation and challenge in today’s gospel is for us to consider our own “righteousness.” I’d like to suggest that we take Luke’s challenge by looking at the word “right” rather than “righteousness.” Most of us would probably say we aren’t righteous but are there times in our lives in which we feel that we are right? Our intentions are not usually negative or malicious yet we see ourselves in certain situations as being correct. Is it possible that occasionally our belief about our own rightness actually blocks us from God and others? In my case as a mission leader, what I thought initially was the right way to be a missionary turned out to be very one-sided and could have kept me from experiencing God’s graces.
We are halfway through Lent and it is a perfect time to discern about our Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. An additional Lenten practice might be to ask this question: Are there areas of my life in which I need to be open to new insights and let go of my need to be right? Can my openness to God’s view or the wisdom of another person transform me into a world of new insights to encounter experiences of peace and love?
I now have a passport. The Guatemala mission initiative called Ixim: Spirit of Solidarity is alive and well. Countless people have been called and gifted by the experience. We have installed water systems, run medical clinics, helped the Huehuetenango, Guatemala Catholic school system and built relationships with Guatemalans who live in Omaha. As we prepare people for mission, we gently tell them that they will most likely be changed forever. When they return to tell their stories, their tears tell us that God and the people of Guatemala have touched their hearts. One mission participant while weeping through the story of his experience summarized it all: “I thought I was going there to help and instead I fell in love.” What could be more right?
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook