Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Livin' on a Prayer

It has arrived. Today marks the half-way point of the GAP: the perfect opportunity for nostalgia and reflection. But first, a brief summary of the past month.
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          I got to visit my beloved hometown Minnesota for Christmas. Twelve full days of once again sharing life with my family and friends. The longer I stayed, the more absurd it seemed to leave this haven of fireplaces, snow-forts, and close friendships.. but in the end I was pulled back by two important things: first, the realization that every person I talked to is fighting alongside me with their very own battlefields on their campuses, in their homes, or traveling the country. and second, that I had signed a 10-month contract and was obligated to return.
           So I came back.
And I spent a lovely New Year's with one of the families of the community high up in the mountains. The next day the entire Arbol de Vida youth group was off for an international youth conference in Honduras. Witnessing over 400 youth from Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Costa Rica gathered together to grown in faith was in and of itself incredible. But that was not all that I found there. One of the other gappers and I were put in charge of caring for a few girls whose leaders were in another part of the conference. And what on earth could I offer them? Four girls, whom I knew nothing about, whose language and culture I did not share. Incapability: the bane of my GAP year. But this time, it was through the realization that I had nothing great to offer them, that I could love them more freely. And it was through loving them despite my nothingness that I saw in a more clearly the kingdom of Heaven on earth; not because I did such an excellent job caring for them, but rather because it was so clear that I had so little to do with their encounters with Christ. I was merely a tool in His precious hands. Every difficulty that I had faced in the previous few months was rendered insignificant by the love freely given that I encountered in and through these girls.

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      Now, the first 5 months. I have heard that the first half of the GAP is the hardest, but then it gets better. I dearly hope so. To say I have cried more in this first half of the GAP than in my entire collective life including infancy would be an exaggeration. But not a large one. Yet in this I have been formed, and made stronger, and maybe even less melancholic. And I have also been greatly blessed, and my eyes have been and continue to be opened to the goodness and faithfulness of God. I have witnessed a hundred acts of chivalry on city buses, a thousand acts of charity within the community. I have been daily greeted, confronted, and cared for by youth, university students, and parents: to none of whom I have given any great thing. I have been guided and supported by the wisdom of my leaders. I have been gifted with the opportunity to wake up and come home every day to an amazing family. And above all, I have daily been confronted by the mercy of Christ not only in all of these things, but much more in the stillness... But what have I done? I have washed a lot of dishes, and learned to pray and walk at the same time. And I have tried to love those around me. And I have failed in doing so. I have learned to rejoice in silence. But have I blessed or changed this community? I don't think so. Have I converted thousands of souls? No. But if I can be an instrument through which one life is brought one step closer to Christ, I will be content. Thus I have reached this half-way bridge, and thus I hope to continue. I have no idea what these next few months will hold, but I am comforted by the realization that maybe the reason for my GAP year is not purely to suffer. As always, you are in my prayers. Please keep me in yours.

In Faith,
Catherine

"Peer through the heart of the people and you will discover the truth. The common sand you tread underfoot, let it be cast into the furnace to boil and melt and it will become a crystal as splendid as that through which Galileo and Newton discovered the stars" -Victor Hugo, Les Misérables