Sunday, September 22, 2013

One Year Later

It’s been a year.  I’ve had three hundred sixty-five days of intimate friendships, precious moments, and sweet memories.  I’ve survived fifty-two weeks without a hug from mom or a face-to-face conversation with any of my favorite people from home.  For an entire year, I’ve worn one pair of shoes every single day and a combination of five outfits that have kept my knees and shoulders from ever meeting the South Sudanese sun.  I’ve denied comforts and foregone all the #firstworldproblems in order to have my life radically transformed by a motley gang of precious, mischievous, and affectionate African children.

If I could possibly summarize a year’s worth of life lessons and transforming experiences, it would be best done through the following quote.

The most important hour is always the present.
The most significant person is precisely 
the one sitting across from you right now.
The most necessary work is always love.
(Meister Eckhart)


People first. Life is comprised of so many choices.  In the modern world we live in, even here in the jungles of Africa, we face the daily struggle of being consumed by a cyber-world that can swallow hours of our time in what feels like just a moment.  The rule I’ve set for myself from the beginning of this mission is to always choose the person in front of me before anything else.  If I have planning or grading to do for school, but a little one wants to play, the schoolwork can be done later so that the child can be loved now.  If I want to check facebook and see what everyone did over the weekend, but I know the kids will be overjoyed for me to come greet them before the school day begins, I try to always choose my kids.  When it comes to responding to an email from home versus a meaningful conversation with one of my site partners, I try to be present to the one before me.  This started out as a mental rule for mission, but I’ve realized that this outlook will directly translate into my life back home.  I need to constantly put people first.  They're what really matter.

Fear not.  There’s something awesome about being called a “missionary”.  It’s like a mental superhero cape that you throw over your person as you step onto foreign soil.  There’s a complete trust and surrender to God, knowing that, since He’s already gotten you this far, He must want to do something wonderful through you.  It enabled me to walk into this mission ready and unafraid to do whatever He wanted of me.  In the beginning, I saw myself taking risks, entering into difficult conversations, ready to go out of my way to help someone who needed it, not hesitating to do whatever love demanded.  The results were glorious-- beautiful relationships, lots of little victories, and many visible graces.  But here’s the thing.  I’m just me, just trying to love, and without any special powers to do anything different than what I’ve been capable of doing every day for my entire life.  Back in the States, far too many times, I hesitated.  I knew the right thing to do, but what would people think?  What would the consequence be?  Aren’t I too busy right now?  And the list goes on.  As this fearless me has tackled teaching middle school classes, fostered meaningful friendships with teenage boys, and gotten a delicate handle on two foreign languages, I realize that the impossible is always possible with the help of God.  It doesn’t matter where I am or what magical wardrobe I’m donning, but what does matter is that God is beside me and ready to work through my weaknesses.  The only effort He requires is just for me to try.

Simplicity.  We need so much less to survive happily and peacefully than we can even fathom in our luxurious homes in America.  I’ve barely missed the restaurant chains, strip malls, or ten-dollar movie tickets of my past life.  I spend half my day on Saturday, every Saturday, washing my clothes by hand.  I save every scrap piece of paper, plastic, or fabric lying around in hopes of using to for a future project in school.  I don’t have any money, but neither does anyone else around me.  I eat the same food every day.  I wear the same clothes every day.  I wear my hair in the same style every day.  And you know what?  I’m still happy.  I’m happy just being me, without the fluff.  I have nothing to hide behind-- what you see is what you get.  What matters are the matters of the heart.  I’m valued for my ability to [attempt to] dance, to draw, to bandage a wound, and to love Jesus.  I’m loved because all I have to offer is Jesus, and fittingly, He is Love.  


It’s been a wild ride and a challenging, exciting adventure.  With three remaining months, I’m hoping and praying to take in and appreciate every last second with those sweet children and loving adults who have unknowingly taught me how to view the world through different eyes.  To God be the glory.


  1. Grace, I love reading your blog. You always have beautiful stories and important lessons to share with us. I can always feel God's presence working through you. Thank you for bringing the gift of love to the children and for sharing with the rest of us. Stay beautiful and may God bless you, Cait, the new SLMs, your community, your work and the children!

  2. What a terrific post, Grace! You're trying to do what we're all called to do, and you remind me of that--yes, I need the reminder (often)! May Jesus continue to bless you, Cait, and all your kids and patients, and Theresa and Ariel too.

  3. Grace, thanks for such a powerful post! God bless your goodness and love! Fr. Mark

  4. I hope you bring some of this wisdom home with you and it rubs off on all of us.

  5. Hey Grace,

    I've been reading your blog since the beginning. THANK YOU for embracing God's call, and for sharing the nuggets of wisdom and beauty that He reveals through Africa.

    I was you have an email address that you check regularly?

    Praying for you!

    1. Rebekah! Thank you so much. My email address is!

  6. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing your experiences of meeting God in the people there, and thank you for being a sign and instrument of God's presence in the lives of those young people.
    Fr. Dominic, sdb