It wasn’t until I left Christ in the City that I realized the extent of Mother Teresa’s invitation to “love until it hurts”.

The past two years were some of the most formative years of my life, filled with laughter, Chinese fire drills, cleaning bathrooms, lip-synching, almost driving into ditches, literally going through multiple pairs of shoes, and so much more.

I met more people, from the streets, from other states, even from other countries, than I could count. I learned the value of every encounter as I never knew when my friends on the streets would end up in the hospital, jail, or some other place.

I accompanied them through grief, joy, depression, celebration, even death. I realized that I could not pray adequately for the crosses my family, friends on the streets, and community bore so I went to others, asking for their intercession.

I found a relationship with Mother Mary as she helped me through the worst of my pain. I cried for the suffering that my friends and family went through.

I cheered for their victories against their addictions and weaknesses and likewise depended on them when my own battles and grief got too heavy.

I learned big lessons in sanctity, humility, and surrender. Most parts were good, some were bad, and a rare few were ugly, but they were, as a whole, great.

I realized that I loved Christ in the City, its ministry, its community, its spirituality so much that leaving it was the most painful part of being a missionary.

When the future appears uncertain, do we have the hope to keep walking forward? When we lose people we love, those who impacted our lives so strongly, are we open to expanding our hearts and loving more?

Do we draw closer to Him when we struggle, or do we, as I did those first couple of weeks, succumb to anxiety, depression, and heartbreak?

Do we “love until it hurts”?

Joe is from Rancho Cordova, CA. He served with Christ in the City from 2016-2018 and is now studying at the Augustine Institute. He enjoys puppies, babies, oxford commas and irony.