Looking back at the timeline of our life, there are certain events that stand out as life-changing. These events changed something about us; we became more aware of who we were; we gained new confidence in our gifts and talents; we fostered a new relationship that completely transformed our perspective on life.
When I accepted the position to be a Summer Missionary at Camp Covecrest in Tiger, Georgia for six weeks of Catholic youth summer camp during the summer of 2010, I had no idea that it was going to be one of those events on my timeline.
It was a normal day for me at the University of Florida as I walked down the front steps of Saint Augustine Catholic Church and Student Center on my way out of daily Mass. The invitation that I would receive on those steps during what seemed to be just another day of surviving my classes would be one that would alter the course of my life. Scratch that . . . Let me rephrase. By accepting the invitation I was offered on that morning, I allowed my deepest desires to rise to the surface and my true potential to shine.
An acquaintance of mine approached me and said, “Hey, I think you’d make a really great Summer Missionary. You should apply.” We talked a bit about what she meant by “Summer Missionary” and I was intrigued. I was going to be taking classes for half of the summer but the other half I had free. This sounded like a great adventure, so I looked into the possibility.
I am a very impulsive person and so without over thinking it, I just started to apply. The application process became a sort of discernment for me. The questions in the application helped me see that I was well fit for this position. I had desires to help teenagers and I wanted to serve God and grow in relationship with Him through community and prayer. Later, as I had my phone interview with one of the Covecrest staff, I grew in excitement for this opportunity. The desire was certainly there.
No more than two weeks later, I was invited to serve as a Summer Missionary for the second half of the summer. I accepted without hesitance.
This part is difficult to portray. Those 6 weeks of my life had more of an impact on my life than the other 23 years and 46 weeks. My life was changed. Let me try to explain it . . .
It wasn’t really that I was a horrible person and then after 6 weeks I stopped doing horrible things and started being good. I didn’t leave these 6 weeks as a Saint with no more temptations or struggles. The change that happened was very much internal and foundational. It was a new starting point.
The environment of Summer Camp allowed my deepest desires to rise to the surface. All of the gifts and talents that God had given me began to show themselves. The purpose of life which is written on my heart, to be in union with God, didn’t suddenly appear in front of me, but rather rose up from inside of me.
Blessed John Paul II wrote an encyclical (a letter to the Church) called Redemptoris Missio (Mission of the Redeemer) and in it he said, “It is precisely because he is “sent” that the missionary experiences the consoling presence of Christ . . . who awaits him in the heart of every person” (no. 88). The word missionary comes from the root latin word missio which means “to be sent.”
I longed to be with Christ, this was present even during my early college years of parties and impure relationships. It was hidden deep inside and clouded by shallow relationships and unfulfilling worldly pleasures. As I turned my life around during my Sophomore year, this true longing became clearer. When I entered into the life of a missionary rooted in daily prayer, surrounded by a faith community and focused on serving, I encountered the “consoling presence of Christ” in a way that can only be experienced as one who has been “sent.”
Later, through listening to God in quiet prayer and the help of my friends and family, I would discern a call to full-time missions. I currently serve in Houston and spend much of my time sharing what God has done, and is continuing to do in my life. There is no greater life. I feel the Lord continuing to call me on in missions even after this year is through.
The Game Changer
Being a Summer Missionary was a game changer for me. If God is calling you, I promise the experience will wreck your life, for the better. Why? Because when we encounter Christ hidden in the hearts of his children while on mission, we are changed.
If you feel your heart moving or your curiosity growing, that might be God moving you to apply. We still need men who are willing to serve this summer. I invite you to apply and let that be your discernment like it was for me. Don’t over think it, follow your heart.
Note: Though the deadline has officially passed we are still accepting applications for men until we fill all available spots. Please invite men you know to read this blog and apply. Thank you!