We were meeting in the Houston Airport and gathering for the Life Teen Summer Staff and Friends mission trip to General Cepeda, Mexico with Family Missions Company. It was great to look around the airport and see the missionaries already reaching out. One of the missionaries was speaking to a man in a wheelchair, I then watched him go and purchase a newspaper for the man. God was already moving in little acts of love and obedience.
Two of the missionaries bags didn’t make their connection flights and were not there when they arrived. At what first looked like an inconvenience would turn out to be God’s blessing. We drove up to The Woodlands and went to the vigil mass at St Anthony of Padua. There we were welcomed with open arms by our Life Teen family at St Anthony’s. After mass the radical hospitality continued at the home of one of our summer staff in The Woodlands where they prepared a feast for King’s and Queen’s. We were so loved!
After dinner and a time of prayer we got back on the road headed to the airport to pick up the bags and then on to Mexico. When we arrived at the airport we found one of the lost bags, but we were told the other bag was shipped back to Boston. Two hours later, after a lot of prayer, speaking to just about every employee, and a small miracle the bag was found and we were on our way to Mexico. It was now 12:00am, we still needed to top off our gas and get some coffee for our drivers. We were looking for cheap gas, so we passed several gas stations, we finally just ended up stopping at the last gas station before our exit to the next freeway. There we were met with another delay, the gas station was temporarily closed for cleaning purposes. We decided to wait it out, and in doing so had some blessed conversations with several people like Noah, who we found out was Jewish but not practicing because as he exclaimed “have you tasted a pork chop?”and was having a “good night but not quite a black-eyed peas kind of night”. As we shared with him what we were doing the other missionaries helped out a homeless man by giving him the 75 cents he needed to get a warm shower and comfortable bed in a hotel room and were able to pray with him. Again God was moving in the small acts of love.
The gas station opened back up, we got our gas and our coffee and were back on the road. We arrived in San Antonio about 3:00am all the missionaries were asleep except the drivers and the co-pilots. Again we passed several gas stations in order to find some cheaper gas, we finally stopped, gassed up, hit a quick bathroom break, and were almost on our way out when the missionaries began to wake up one by one and come inside to go to the bathroom. Again what appeared as another delay and slight inconvenience was another of God’s blessings.
As we were waiting for the missionaries to finish we were congregating in the gas station when a young girl named Cheyenne approached us and asked, “Are you all on some kind of retreat?” “Not really,” I responded, “Why do you ask?” “Well I just saw some of you wearing crosses and some of your shirts looked like you might be on a retreat. I was on a retreat once and I really liked it, I’m trying to get back into my faith, but I’m not sure whether to be Protestant or Catholic.” With tears in her eyes, Cheyenne then went on to tell us how she had been struggling with her addiction to drugs and cutting herself. I then shared with her my own testimony of how I struggled with my decision to be Protestant or Catholic. After sharing this with her we asked if we could pray with her before we left and she agreed. All the missionaries came out of the bathroom by this point, we gathered around Cheyenne in this gas station and then began praying and crying out to the Lord to heal His child.
Tears were rolling down her cheeks, the presence of the Lords spirit was so strong. After praying with her, we shared with her how it was no coincidence that we were there, all the delays on our trip, all the gas stations we passed were for a purpose, they were for her. She shared with us how it was no coincidence that her parents just moved within walking distance to a Catholic Church. We encouraged her to go and receive God’s love in the sacraments, especially confession. We said our goodbyes and then as we were walking out it dawned on us that we had a priest with us. I ran back inside and asked her if she wanted to speak with a priest and have her confession heard now, and she enthusiastically said yes. I ran back outside and some of the missionaries had already woke up Father, he came out and at 3:30am in the back of a gas station in San Antonio Father, a vessel of God’s love and mercy, heard Cheyenne’s confession as we all sat in the van and prayed for her.
After we all got in the van and got back on the road, we couldn’t believe what just happened. We thought of all the little “setbacks” and delays that set up this divine appointment, the lost bags, the closed gas station, God’s timing is always perfect. I thought about my own life, and all the little “inconveniences” that happen to me, do I see them as the hand of God at work? Throughout the rest of the week and our mission I continued to reflect on the encounter with Cheyenne. Isaiah 61:1 was burning in my heart, “The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners”.
I reflected all week on the power of these words, and how I felt them like I never have before while praying with Cheyenne. I also thought about how many more Cheyenne’s are out there. Pope John Paul II shouts of the urgency of missionary activity throughout his encyclical, Mission of the Redeemer. God wants to use us to heal the broken hearted and to set the captives free, there are many that are hurting and enslaved to their addictions and destructive behavior. This encounter has placed an even stronger burning desire in my heart to go out “To Set All Afire” and be used by God. I will share with you all how God moved while in Mexico in future blogs, God bless you all and thank you for your prayers, they are working! I LOVE LIFE AS A MISSIONARY!!!