“You look like Mother Mary,” Rob told me as my long hair peeked out from my hood. I didn’t feel at all like Mary. I had only gone on this street walk because I was forced to. My “yes” was cold and begrudging, unlike Mary’s.
We were visiting San Antonio for the SEEK conference and doing street ministry while there. I had been cold all day, and it was now five o’clock, freezing, and getting dark. I reluctantly headed out with my street partner, Trey, and two volunteers; we found Rob, who I had met earlier that day. We started talking to Rob and the conversation turned to our Blessed Mother.
I never had a close relationship with Mary. Maybe it was feminine competition, but I thought she probably judged me and disliked me because I am so imperfect. If she had never sinned, how could she relate to me? Why would she like me?
Several months ago after a friend’s recommendation, I began to spend ten minutes each day speaking with her. These ten minutes usually seemed to drag on. But gradually I started to speak to her spontaneously throughout the day. I started going to her when things happened in my life even before I went to my earthly mother. She was becoming someone I knew.
“Why do Catholics like Mary so much?” Rob asked. We explained that just like a mother knows their child best, so Jesus’ mom knew Him best. Wheels started turning in Rob’s head. “So it was really Mary who defeated the devil,” Rob said in a moment of realization. “I want to know her better!”
We prayed together and Rob humbly begged God for the opportunity to get to know his heavenly mother better. I asked him before we left if he’d ever had a rosary. “No,” he replied, “What is a rosary?” As we fumbled through our pockets, Trey pulled out his old, worn wooden rosary.
This wasn’t just any rosary. Every missionary gets one at the start of their year, and it’s made from a special rose-colored Brazilian wood that slowly darkens with each use as the oils from skin stain the wood. He had also attached his own crucifix that had been touched to the Jordan river and other holy places in Israel. The beads glistened a dark mahogany after three years of prayers.
I wanted to cry out, “No, don’t do it Trey!” I knew how special this rosary was for him. But he carefully placed it in Rob’s hands and explained gently the significance of the cross and all of the holy places it had been. Our fingers barely worked due to the cold, but we wrote down the words to the Hail Mary and practiced it with him, preparing him for this special encounter with his long-lost mom.
We left the city the day after, so I don’t know how Rob’s new friendship with our mother is going. But I’m grateful for Mary reaching out to me so that I feel more confident leading others to her.
Makena is a second-year missionary from Denver, CO. This Denver native enjoys wiener dogs, kombucha tea, painting, and rolling down hills.
By society’s standards, right now, I’m not doing so hot. I left school before getting my degree, I have no income, and I spend every day walking around downtown Denver talking to homeless people.
If we were to back up a year, society would have said I was surpassing all expectations. I graduated high school top of my class as an academic all-state runner and an all-conference speaker, I had an amazingly supportive and proud family, and I had my choice of almost any college in the country. Everyone thought I was on the fast-track to succeeding in the medical world, myself included. That is, until I came on a mission trip to Christ in the City during the spring semester of my freshman year of college. That was when I had a brief, but powerful encounter with the one thing I had been missing for 18 years- a living relationship with God.
I had been on this straight and narrow path for my entire life, doing everything that society, my family, and my teachers had told me I needed to do to be successful. Fortunately, God reached out His hand and showed me that He had other plans for my life. And in all honesty, it has been the most freeing, empowering, and exciting decision I have ever made. Everything I had going for me doesn’t come close to the richness that my relationship with God brings to my life. However, I am not completely free of societal pressures.
On a recent holiday break at home, I was really caught up with some of the questions I have been asked a million times, “Have you already graduated college?” “So are you going back next year?” “What are you studying?” “What do you want to do with that degree?” Until I had a close friend tell me, “You’re not on earth to fulfill society’s standards.” That’s when it hit me: my goal is to get to heaven. No human is going to be the judge. At that moment, I made the conscious decision to start doing my best to ignore what others think I should be doing and instead put my effort towards living up to God’s standard for me. God’s never going to ask me why I didn’t pick a more lucrative career; He’s not going to be disappointed in me for putting my education on pause for a year to serve the homeless. On the other hand, He is going to be concerned with the way that I’ve treated and loved His many beautiful, unique creations and gifts.
The definition of success is “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” As humans, our aim and purpose is to strive for holiness so that we can have eternal life with our Father in heaven. Society’s view of success isn’t true success, it’s human success, and human success isn’t going to get us very far in God’s eyes. “In the twilight of life, God will not judge our earthly possessions and human success, but rather how much we have loved.” –St. John of the Cross.
Lord, let me strive each day to not let my mind be occupied by earthly possessions, but help me to do my best to care for and to love others as You love me. Amen.
Shannah is a first-year missionary from Pierce, Nebraska. She studied biophysics before taking a year off to be a CIC missionary, she ran 8 half marathons, going on 9, enjoys Dr. Seuss, and has a lot of trust and love for her friends.
“My first impression was, “Wow… This man is definitely homeless.” His shoes were falling apart, his pants had huge holes, his sweatshirt was dirty, and his face was worn and old. He looked like your stereotypical homeless man.
After talking to him for a little while, I slowly began to see past his ragged exterior and realize how incredibly beautiful he is despite his appearance. Dan is a delightful, joyful person. He’s been on the streets now for seven years, but because of his faith, he isn’t angry with God. He’s actually quite the opposite. “They took everything from me, but they couldn’t take away my faith.”
There is so much I learned from this incredible man. Despite the sufferings and hardships, I know I can turn to the Lord for guidance. Always trusting in Him is something I learned before coming to Christ in the City. I had no idea what I was doing with my life. I left college, I didn’t have a job, I lived 8 hours from my family, and I was struggling with anxiety and depression. Finally, one day, I realized that He had always been there for me, but I had to make a decision to say “yes” to let Him help me. And after 19 years, I laid my past and my struggles at His feet. I said “yes” to God. Dan inspired me to renew my “yes” and realize that no matter the circumstances, I can always turn to God and place myself at His feet. By placing my trust in Him, I know I can overcome anything.
Claire is a first-year missionary from Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. She loves Mama Mary, photography, and going to Target. Her goals include: to make a movie about the homeless population and become a Saint.