Put On Your Missionary Glasses
By Susanna de A.
The first time I met an FMC missionary in 2007, I asked him, “What do missionaries DO?” I think that it still is one of the biggest questions in people’s minds when they think about missions or when they meet full-time missionaries. Do we preach on the streets? Hold signs saying ‘Turn or burn?’ Look for people to bash with a Bible? Jump into a theological argument whenever possible? How does evangelizing work?
Over my past three years as an FMC missionary, I’ve come to realize that my mission is not hugely different from the mission of any lay Catholic. We are ALL called to evangelize. Still, what does that mean? Evangelization basically means giving the good news of Jesus and the new life He offers to the world. It aims at conversion, but conversion is a process, not a one-time experience. I am not the one who ‘converts’ people… the Holy Spirit is. I am merely His instrument. Knowing that takes a huge load off my back. I don’t have to convince every person I meet to pray the ‘sinner’s prayer’. What HAVE I to do then?
Put on my missionary glasses, and see the world through them. Put up my sails*, so the Holy Spirit can blow me in the right direction. I saw this in action a couple of months ago.
I was at a funeral along with my parents, and a large number of people who I knew from my parish and city. I hate funerals, not because they are sad occasions, but because they are awkward occasions (to me). I keep seeing people I kind of know, and have to figure out whether or not I know them well enough to greet them, and if I do, how much to say, and with what degree of familiarity. Then I see family members of the deceased person, and I try to think of what I should say, what words would be appropriate to show my concern, without sounding stilted and formal- (‘My condolences’? Who uses the word ‘condolences’ in real life?) Yup, as you can see, I have some social anxiety issues.
At this funeral, I was feeling awkward as usual, but trying to look composed, when I saw my mother talking to the seven-year-old grandson of the lady who had passed away. She had seen him staring at the body, looking scared. No one else noticed, so she took him aside, and gently explained that his grandma wasn’t in that body anymore, that his real grandma (her soul) had gone to God, and was still alive. The little boy’s expression lightened, and he ran off with his little brother to chase the peacocks in the cemetery (yay, India!).
While I had been over-analyzing the social dynamics at the funeral, my mum had put on her missionary glasses, allowed the Holy Spirit to nudge her in the right direction, and boom—evangelization!
Evangelization can look different each time—talking to a seven year old about life after death, patiently listening to someone share a long-winded story about their past, gently and clearly answering someone’s question about the Catholic faith, praying with someone in the parking lot of a coffee shop, asking someone how they’re doing, and really listening to the answer, encouraging someone who is struggling, smiling at a stranger, or speaking a loving word of truth into a difficult situation. You will only know in heaven how God used your small and seemingly insignificant words or actions.
So here it is, your missionary tip of the day—put on your missionary glasses, turn on your spiritual radar, put up your sails. Stop looking inwards, and see the world through God’s eyes, and the Holy Spirit will show you whom to evangelize, and where, and how, and with which words.
*”God provides the wind, but man must raise the sails.” Quote attributed to Saint Augustine