Pope Benedict XVI said, in his message for World Youth Day in 2009, “If Jesus has become your hope, communicate this to others with your joy and your spiritual, apostolic and social engagement. Let Christ dwell within you, and having placed all your faith and trust in Him, spread this hope around you. Make choices that demonstrate your faith.” Belize gave me this chance.
Just a few days ago I arrived back in the country after a Spring Break mission trip with
18 other students and Fr. Shawn Roberson to Benque Viejo in Belize. It was incredible. It was difficult and challenging and exhausting and all kinds of wonderful. This mission trip, for me, was a true chance to communicate the joy of Christ in a way that I never had before. The Belize Mission is focused primarily on Theology of the Body, evangelizing about authentic love and the true meaning and purpose of sexuality in God’s plan. Largely, we accomplish this by sharing our own testimonies of healing along with teaching the religion classes in some of the High Schools in Belize, and then at the end of the week hosting a huge Festival of Praise for all the kids where we sing Praise and Worship, offer to pray with them, and have confessions available. Amidst all the brokenness in their families and communities, we come to them for a week to be with them, love them, and show them how Christ has transformed our brokenness so that they might take the risk of letting God into their hearts.
You can’t walk away from something like that unchanged. My heart has been forever altered by my experience in Belize, because of the things I saw and did, because of the kids that I met and their willingness to open their whole hearts to us, and in a big way, because of every member of our mission team.
On the second full day of our time in Belize, our whole team went with some of the kids to Xunantunich, some of the biggest Mayan Ruins close to Benque Viejo, and climbed to the very top. The view from up there was unreal. But getting to see that view was the struggle, because I’m terribly afraid of heights. Finally, with the coaxing and help of my friends, I was able to climb the tiny stone staircases all the way to the top and actually take in the glorious sight. And even though at first I was shaking all over, overcome by my fear, once I beheld the view of the Belezian mountains in the distance and took a few breaths, I was able to let my anxiety go and place myself in the fullness of the experience, taking it all in and recognizing the goodness of God in it all.
The next day, which was our first day heading into the classrooms to actually teach, I found myself bearing a nervousness and fear just like I had the day prior. As I was sharing about these frustrating feelings on our long morning walk to the bus stop, one of my mission team partners turned to me and said, “Corinne. This is just like the Ruins. Look at how God took your fear and overcame it with His glory. You don’t have to be afraid.” This was just one of many moments when my friends on mission bore incredible witness of Christ to me. And, he was right! All my anxiety and fear about not being good enough or prepared enough was soon to be overcome by the glory of what it meant to be so vulnerable for the sake of evangelization, and the beauty of all of the students I encountered at Sacred Heart High School. In my uncertainty, I was looking to myself. But when I stopped to gaze out before me, I recognized the goodness of God in it all, just like the view from the top of Xunantunich.
I had the time of my life in Belize, even when it was difficult, and challenging, and demanded me to face my fears. Or more realistically, I had the time of my life in Belize because of these things. I entered into this Mission Territory thinking I would be the one doing lots of work, but the truth is that everything that was accomplished was all by the grace of God in the hearts of the kids, of the team, and especially within me personally. Nothing is the same after Belize.
Ad Majoram Dei Gloriam.
All of my travels so far have been enlightening, teaching me things about the world and myself, both of which I am so grateful for. And as much as what I’ve experienced so far has exceeded my expectations, I did set off on this trip to Austria prepared for adventure. I was kind of ready for it, or at least ready for the unknown that it was to be. But it’s what I wasn’t expecting, the hidden treasures of life in the Kartause, that have turned out to be some of the greatest gifts so far. That’s what I want to share with you today: the unexpected gifts that I have received already from the Franciscan Austria Program. And hopefully in so doing, I’ll be able to give you a little taste of what Austria’s like for me.