We continue to share a series of reflections made by Vincentian Lay Missionaries and Vincentian Mission Corps participants about their experience serving, how it has impacted their lives and how they continue to live the Vincentian Charism today.
“I come in peace and will leave in peace” were the words my Vincentian Lay Missionary (VLM) community and I said in 2016 as we threw rocks with our left hands over the edge of the mountain range that began the West Pokot Region, entering into Chepnyal, Kenya. This is a Pokot tradition for all who are first time visitors. As I threw my rock, I was sure that I was not coming to Chepnyal to cause harm in anyway, therefore the promise of coming in peace and leaving in peace appeared easy. However, looking back, I now realize that I was mistaken by the type of peace the locals were inviting us to share with them. At the time, I was a soon to be senior at Niagara University, who was a worried mess about life post college. When I met the poor in Chepnyal, my concerns slowly began to turn away due to being in the presence and love of God in the poor, especially in the children. The children we provided camps for in Chepnyal were so free, simple, and overjoyed by life itself. They made everything fun and they reflected the beauty of God so effortlessly. Many of them had knees wider than their thighs and smiles wider than their knees. They laughed with ease, shared the little they had, lived in true communion with one another, and focused so maturely on their faith. They were a constant reminder to me of the childlike spirit we are called to live in. I left Kenya that summer with a very real love and gratitude to the West Pokot tribe and to the Daughters of Charity that we lived with for inviting me into their type of peace.
Since being a VLM, I have spent many hours in prayer and reflection asking God to show me where to throw my next rock and begin another mission of coming in peace, and eventually leaving in peace. God lead me to St. Louis, Missouri where I first did a year of service with the Vincentian Mission Corps and now continue to live as a Pre-Postulant with the Daughters of Charity. My ministry here is to serve alongside adults with developmental disabilities in a L’Arche community. The adults with developmental disabilities that I share life with at L’Arche have taken the reminder the children in Chepnyal gave me in our call to be childlike in spirit and have showed me how adults can fulfill that call in very practical, human ways. They have taught me how to just be, how to love without conditions, how to live in mutuality with all people, and what a gift being our truest self is to those around us and to our own freedom of heart.
Falling in love with the poor in Chepnyal, Kenya left me with a deep inner peace, that has been beautifully accompanied by a true joy. I thank God that although time has been the furthest distance between Kenya and Missouri, the peace and joy I have been given through my Vincentian experiences have been steady and unshakable. Giving me the endurance to remain in love of serving alongside whichever poor the good Lord is calling me too.
Tags: Vincentian Lay Missionaries USA, Vincentian Mission Corps