Return to mission

During our preparation time back in Chicago in 2009, a wise missionary, the dear Sr. Madge, told us that Mission is “to help others to see the seeds of God in their lives, how God is already acting within them.” As Maggie and I begin this part two of our missionary service, I have been reflecting much in these first days back in Ethiopia on my need to reflect – especially on why I am here, what I am doing each day, and what is mission.

Without reflection, you can end up just flailing around and bouncing off the walls in a flurry of activity with not many real fruits other than the flurry itself. So I am pondering Sr. Madge’s words these days.

I just spent much of my first week back listening to one thousand problems – conflicts between this and that person, projects that have fallen off the tracks, lack of finances here and there, frustration of the local Ethiopians with the approach of the foreigners, disagreement of the foreign missionaries with the actions of the Ethiopians. Maybe the visit back to Canada was so delightful that I naively put out of my mind all the challenges with living out this mission here. After this overwhelming first week, I felt like packing up and going. But somehow despite the weighty challenges lingering in the air, I see the beautiful things going on here too, and this gives me hope and motivation.

I want to help and challenge people to grow, but at the same time I need to be willing to wait so that the mystery of God’s love can unfold naturally. Jesus did this – how much he left unexplained, how patient he was with people’s (even his apostles’) gradual change and understanding of this new “Way” he was teaching. Somehow, having the patience to accept gradual change in others increases to the degree with which I recognize my own slow growth to be a more loving person.

So where does this leave me? If I am going to participate in God’s work in the world and specifically in the environment of this young Catholic Church into which I find myself placed in southern Ethiopia, then I certainly need to know God intimately. Otherwise, the mission quickly becomes my work, my agenda on my terms. And so if I am to help others see the seeds of God in their lives, then I must first be able to recognize His seeds in my own, reflect on them and discern how they are pushing me into focused and deliberate action in this, my beautiful mission.