Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the FRUIT of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

While in a small village in Kenya, Africa called Chepnyal with the Vincentian Lay Missionaries (VLM) for the month of August, I had many opportunities to grow closer to God through meeting Him face to face and through prayer. My VLM experience as a whole was life changing and it lead me to better understand the fruit of Mary’s womb, Jesus.

For starters, fruit alone is so favorable. It begins as a seed and grows patiently into something beautiful, something fulfilling, and something that is a treat to most. Fruit comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, and tastes. Fruit is accessible and desirable. Jesus is all of these things and more. Jesus is favorable, promising, fulfilling, sweet, lovable, a treat, accessible, desirable, trustworthy, and beautiful. His love reaches us in unique ways from wherever we are and He plants seeds within us that grow.

Every day while I was in Chepnyal, I had time to reflectively pray the rosary without distraction. As I prayed each Hail Mary, that word “fruit” stood out to me over and over again. It became a staple in my experience because I came to gather that Jesus planted in me the seed of serving alongside the poor in Chepnyal and that seed grew into the most delicious fruit I have ever tasted. In fact, it is a flavor that I have been so hungry for my whole life that I cannot part from the taste.

While in Kenya, I lived in a community with 3 other VLM and 3 Daughters of Charity. In those 6 women alone, I saw God’s beauty over and over again through their patience, humor, commitment, love, generosity, flexibility, authenticity, friendship, and joy. In them alone, I was satisfied with my Kenya experience. Still, God continued to reveal to me just how ever faithful He is and how He is in everyone, especially the poor. Whether it had been through running day camps in nearby villages, or teaching business classes to women, or doing whatever the Daughters of Charity needed of us, I met Christ directly. Christ was welcoming, simple, warm, jubilant, loving, genuine, happy, gratified, accepting, and fruitful. Christ was all the smiles, curiosity, handshakes, hugs, games, and runny noses. Christ was the sound of rain, laughter, language barriers, prayer, singing, and clapping. Christ was the taste of Eucharist, chapati, water, tea, soda, coffee, rice with beans, peanut butter, and fruit. Christ made me feel the most at peace and the most joyful I have every felt. Being a member of VLM and meeting the people in Chepnyal has changed the ways I think, feel, view the world around me, act, am at service to others, and am served.

Jesus calls each of us to carry on His work and Vincentians around the world are doing just that. VLM is an amazing opportunity for men and women to grow deeper in their relationship with God through meeting Christ in the poor in Africa and through allowing their own personal poverties to be served by those whom they came to “serve.” The fruit of Mary’s womb, Jesus, is an irresistible taste that feeds every life. I will never be able to thank God enough for feeding me with His fruit my whole life but, in a new, heart fulfilling way while I was in Kenya. It has sparked in me a deep desire to discern how to never lose the sweet taste of Mary’s most blessed fruit in my daily life.

“To serve those who are poor is to go to God, and you should see God in them.” – St. Vincent de Paul

Isabella Davila is an alumna of the 2016 Vincentian Lay Missionaries.


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