by Blair Bailey | Costa Rica
Our family joined Family Missions Company last year at Intake 2013. Donovan was interested in being a missionary at the time we married 12 years ago, but I would not even consider it. In the course of about a year before Intake, God worked on my heart and prepared me for missions without me realizing it. After visiting Big Woods for the first time in August 2013, I finally heard God’s call loud and clear. Our family, including our four daughters (Hannah – 11, Catherine – 9, Grace – 6 & Felicity – 3), sold or gave most of our things away and joined Intake just four weeks later! Only by the Grace of God was this even possible. We saw so many blessings and confirmations of our call to Catholic Foreign Missions through those four weeks. It was in this surrender to the Lord in a way we had never done before that He was able to bless our family in so many ways.
We were sent to Malaybalay, Philippines last January and lived there for five months. We thought that we would be there longer, but returned to welcome our first baby boy Gabriel Elijah, born in October.
Our time in the Philippines was greatly blessed and we wanted to take this opportunity to share those blessings with you. For those going into missions for the first time, and their families, there can be an apprehension and fear of the “what ifs.” I know all about this because I myself struggled greatly with fear and anxiety before missions. As a missionary now God has really released me from fear and allowed me a freedom I have never experienced before. Of course, I sometimes have concerns for my family, but I am no longer paralyzed by fear and anxiety in my daily life. Not only is this a blessing for me but also for my entire family.
As a missionary family we were able to learn more about Gospel Poverty. We are always challenged by this but have seen the beauty of being able to live with less and be willing to give away what we have (even from our need and not just our surplus). Living among the poor and becoming friends with them opens our eyes to God’s love for the poor in a new way. In seeing the poverty of the people we were able to see their amazing generosity. When they have so little they are willing to give it away; yet in the U.S. where we have so much we realized how much we had held onto, unwilling to share with those in greater need. It has been a very humbling experience to have our perspective about need vs. want dramatically challenged.
Along with the willingness to give away our things comes the deeper trust that God really will provide all that we need. We had a reminder of this one day while shopping in the open market where we did our weekly produce shopping. Money was tight, we had spent much of our stipend on unexpected things and only had a certain amount to buy our food for the week. I knew that if I gave any of our money away in Alms then it would be taken from our families’ food money. A poor woman approached me asking for rice (a common experience when out shopping). I took her over to the table and bought her rice and then noticed that her flip flops were falling apart and had large holes in them. I took her to another table and purchased a new pair of shoes for her. That same day after returning from the market three people (who had no idea of my earlier shopping experience) brought food to our house. I knew that God was blessing us for our generosity and showing me that if I just trust in Him He will always provide for us.
As a family in missions we were able to spend a lot of time together as a family, doing a majority of our ministry together. We were so blessed and strengthened as a family by our time together. We weren’t separated by work or age-segregated activities, but were able to serve, pray and play together more than we have ever been able to do in the past. We were also able to travel together as a family and experience new places, food, culture and people. We even took a one week family vacation to another island.
Not only did our family grow stronger but so did our marriage. Donovan and I feel more united and close than we had in the past 11 years of marriage. Now, I won’t say that it was always easy, but through the challenges and blessings of a missionary life we were brought together and grew in love and respect for one another.
I feel like being a missionary family has allowed us to see with the eyes of the Gospel. Scripture became so much more real and relatable in missions. Our eyes were opened to so much that God wants all of us to see and experience, but in our American life is so much harder to see. We realized how much we were constantly entertained and distracted in our life here. It was challenging to step outside the comfort zone we had built for ourselves in our life in the United States. But sometimes God wants us to be uncomfortable. He wants us to weep with the suffering, abandoned and weak. He wants us to see with His eyes, serve with His hands, pray with His Holy Spirit, walk with His feet, and suffer alongside Him on the cross. There is an intimacy and beauty that exists with God if we allow ourselves to surrender to Him in these ways and to die to our self.
Over and over in missions we were able to witness miracles. We saw people hungry for God and have amazing conversions. People wanted to know who Jesus is, they wanted to read their Bible and understand it, they wanted to learn how to pray and teach their children. We also witnessed healing miracles in the community around us. We saw the power of prayer and that God does listen to us and speak to us all the time. We were able to see Him more clearly and hear Him more clearly than ever before. There was a woman whose abdominal growth disappeared, a young man who had a horrible head injury and was healed, a nine year old girl who walked out of the hospital after being hit by a bus while riding a motorcycle… and more.
One of the greatest blessings in all of this is that our children were able to witness these blessings along with us. They grew in their understanding and love for their faith. They experienced life outside the American bubble and know that there are people who need our prayers and support, but most of all needed to know the love that God has for them.
We were able to live out Jesus’ last command that He gave before ascending to the Father, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Matthew 28: 19-20.
And we truly experienced what He says in Matthew 11: 28-30, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”