I received a cross at our Intake 2021 Commissioning Mass in December. At this Mass we became “official missionaries of Family Missions Company.” The crosses were handcrafted by our formators. The simplicity attracted me immediately, and the fact that they were handcrafted for us made it all the more special. We were encouraged to wear them in the field.
Considering I wasn’t leaving for Peru until February, I didn’t wear mine immediately.
You could say I was a little worried what my friends back home would think of me wearing this big, plain wooden cross. It’s not your ordinary, small, gorgeous silver or gold crucifix that is ordinarily worn among Christians. It’s big. And it’s bold. Would I be labeled as one of those weird “Jesus Freaks?”
I was a little worried what my friends would think of me wearing this big, plain wooden cross. Would I be labeled as one of those weird “Jesus Freaks?”
In my daily examen, I began to realize how absurd these fears were. The truth is, I AM a Jesus Freak. I’ve decided to “sell all” and follow Him into the foreign mission field. How much more “Jesus Freak” could I be?! I realized it was time to own that identity and be not afraid of any ridicule I would receive. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Matthew 5:11).
During Christmas break, I began wearing it daily. If I forgot to put it on in the morning, I’d find myself returning home to retrieve it. It was becoming a part of me and I felt naked without it. Little did I know how important this cross would become for me in my first two months transitioning and serving in Cajaruro, Peru.
Upon my first week of arriving at my new home, I got a parasite. I was the sickest I’ve ever felt in my entire life. I was scared. What are the doctors like here in Peru? If I get worse, will they be able to help me?
At this point, I only had preconceived notions of medical care in third world countries. We didn’t have running water. I didn’t know how to bucket flush yet or wash my hands. I felt perpetually dirty which only contributed to my anxiety that I would never recover from this illness. I spent the first few days in my new “home” in bed, running to the bathroom every 30 minutes, eating only crackers and drinking very small amounts of water and gatorade. I was incredibly weak and scared.
To my surprise, I found myself reflecting on a talk given during Intake about praising and thanking the Lord in EVERY circumstance. This is new for me. I’m good at thanking the Lord when things are going well. But definitely not when I’m miserable. However, that’s all I could do in this situation.
I grasped and kissed that wooden cross and thanked and praised Jesus over and over and over. I knew and believed deep down, Jesus wanted me here, in Peru. He MUST be willing my good in some way through this suffering. It was the first time in my life I was actually uniting my suffering with His. This gave me great relief amidst this suffering, and—dare I say—joy.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so close to Jesus than in these moments–some of the worst physical and mental suffering I have ever endured. Not once did I feel the temptation to pack my bags and get on the next flight out of here. That could only be grace.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so close to Jesus than in these moments–some of the worst physical and mental suffering I have ever endured.
I wish I could say this was my last experience of pain and suffering here in Peru. In the short month and a half of being here, I’ve had to visit our local clinic several times for different reasons. I’ve experienced temptations that are all consuming. I still can’t understand what people are saying to me in Spanish. I’m questioning my “gifts” as a missionary. However, through all of these struggles, I am finding myself clenching my wooden cross, kissing it, thanking Jesus for these experiences, because I trust and believe He’s teaching me something important through these encounters.
This wooden cross appears to be just a simple symbol I wear around my neck signifying that I am a Christian Missionary. But it is so much more to me than that. It is a sign for me to cling to and grasp onto Jesus in EVERY circumstance.
By choosing this cross, Jesus is transforming my heart.
This has been a true source of my joy here in Peru, even though from the outside it may appear that I’ve only encountered misery during this transition. I am grateful for these experiences Jesus is allowing me to endure. I am able to feel a closeness with Him that I’ve never felt before. I am able to put my trust in Him, knowing that He only wills what is good for me. I am most grateful He is teaching me humility. I now have a deeper appreciation of what it means that Jesus left his riches to become poor. I’m learning what it means to sacrifice and accompany my poor neighbor. By choosing this cross, Jesus is transforming my heart. And I’ve never known greater joy.
Mallory was commissioned as a missionary as part of Intake 2021. Learn more about her on her mission page below