One of two central purposes of College Missions Company is to exclusively give college students the opportunity to go on a mission trip. The call or desire to go on a mission trip—or desire to serve in a more radical and new way—can rise up in the hearts of people in many ways. We know that people called to go on mission can range anywhere from a devout cradle Catholic to a recent convert; from a missionary veteran to someone who has never even left the South before! No matter where they are coming from in their spiritual life, a desire to go on mission is surely a sign of one’s heart converting more to Jesus Christ.
However, just as quickly as someone may have the desire to go on mission, they can be beset by questions and doubts over this call or if they are even “qualified” to go. The worldly spirit is full of achievement expectations and standards, and the notion of needing to earn all things. Within these worldly principles, we forget that they do not apply to God’s grace, the Holy Spirit, Who is freely given. If one is given the grace of desire to serve their brothers and sisters, to spreading the Gospel, then it’s not a matter of earning the right or attaining qualifications; it is a matter of God stirring up love in our hearts, spurring us out of ourselves, that we may be His instruments out in the world.
During the months that led up to the first mission trip I went on, I would occasionally wonder if I had what it took to go on mission. Was I praying enough? Did I really have the capacity to love and serve as the Lord calls us to? Would I be able to live with all the people on the trip, or I would be annoyed or awkward the entire time?
(That last question comes from my melancholic-choleric temperament. For those of you with the more sanguine style, the question here would be “Is everyone else going to be annoyed with me?”)
The first answer to all those questions is fundamentally “NO”. We do not pray as we ought, nor do we usually serve with the real capacity of charity that we’re capable of, and lastly we almost never mesh perfectly with everyone around us. All of this is the struggle of becoming a saint and adhering to Jesus. If we were born perfect at all these things, we wouldn’t be striving for salvation through Him. However, lacking perfection should never deter us from following the Lord closely, especially when He is calling us to serve, where we grow in charity. Our weaknesses and concerns shouldn’t paralyze us into a position of never reaching out to serve.
Humility is required in so many ways when going on mission. One must remember that he is the “hands and feet of Christ” as St. Catherine of Siena said, and not Christ Himself. One must foresee, that with any endeavor, it will not go as planned. One must remain docile and willing to take what comes and trust that the Lord uses the circumstances to His advantage.
Basically, being unprepared for mission is a given.
But being unqualified for mission is not.
Let’s go way back to the infant Church. Before ascending into Heaven, Jesus gave His Apostles the great commission to go out to all the nations and preach His Name and the salvation that He has won for us. They wait until they receive the Holy Spirit and then they are off. With St. Paul’s conversion, he is also baptized, receives his commission, and immediately begins spreading the Christian faith as well. From what we know through Scripture and history, Christianity spread rapidly despite the difficulties that the Apostles and St. Paul faced.
It spread quickly not just because of the Apostles though. Christianity gained momentum through the lives of those who were converted in the years after. There were the Priscillas and Aquilas, Timothys and Tituses, and many others who are known and unknown saints now, who lived out the faith that the Apostles preached, and who also became missionaries themselves, at home or abroad.
And when you think about these two groups of people: the Apostles and those they preached to, what are their qualifications? Baptism, confirmation, the Mass and the Eucharist, holy orders, marriage. Living life in their church community and with the Sacraments. Everything we have too.
These people did nothing more than what we do today to be “qualified” for mission: receive Jesus Christ and abide in Him. That they would love Jesus and those around them to the best of their ability. Missionary life flowed from this.
For those of us going to Alaska, while the scenery will certainly be different from Louisiana, the Christian way of life that we are helping spread won’t be. (There’s also erosion danger, hunting and fishing, giant mosquitos, marshy land, and a big ole river delta there, so really, how different will it be?) Anyhow, we’ll be meeting people where they’re at, much how our own conversions began. We’ll be teaching them about Jesus Christ and the salvation He has won for us. We’ll be bringing them the Sacraments and helping them learn to confidently pray each day. Nothing new. Nothing reinvented. And no new qualifications. Just a desire to serve.