Today, six missionaries fly from Vienna to Moscow and hopefully all six will arrive. There are only two of us here at the gate writing this blog post, so whether or not the other four arrive at their Russian destinations is in the hands of God and various regional airlines of dubious credibility.
But we can't tell you the future; so you're going to have to settle for the past. And what a past we've had! This last week has been an amazing one. All six of us met in Vienna and travelled to Gaming, Austria for a week. We spent our time learning how to teach ESL, learning more of the Russian language, studying culture and cultural norms, and growing closer together as a team in prayer and fun. It was a wonderful time of preparation and we are feeling fired up to continue on to Russia.
We learned some important lessons this past week and can't possibly share all of them here. But the two biggest takeaways we have both involve humility (classic).
1.) Sometimes the Lord calls us to be served instead of to serve. Let me tell you, we were all feeling pretty puffed up and prideful on our way over. He we are: young, brilliant, holy, and devilishly good-looking on our way to do some serious service. But when we got to Gaming, we were met by people who just wanted to serve us. We had professors, religious, and international students who taught us so much, families who were so excited to spend their time and open their homes to us, and others who cooked, cleaned, and prepared every other conceivable thing for us. At first this made some of us feel rather foolish; it felt like we were starting mission with vacation. But as the week progressed, the truth became clear: these people weren't helping us because they were bored or because we were helpless. Instead, they were helping because this was their mission too. The Church is missionary by her very nature; this week made that often-used phrase come alive.
2.) It's not about you. It's so easy (especially in the spiritual life) to focus on yourself. We chase after our own growth in holiness, worry about our own progress, and note our own contributions and failures. It's easy to fall into an oxymoronic (emphasis on moronic) "pious narcissism." Throughout the week, different priests and our other mentors kept reminding us to "Let go of our I." Mission is not about us; it's about the people we are serving and the One we are serving them for. We are instruments of the Lord. We want to get out of the way so that it is Jesus, through us, pouring His mercy upon the people we meet. What a privilege it is when we cooperate and have the opportunity to behold God at work. Of course, it would be lying to insist that we're not going to grow and that a rich spiritual life is not important. However, it's ridiculous to pretend to ourselves that the secret to the conversion of Russia lies in how consoled I felt during my holy hour and not in God's grace and loving providence.
Well, you wanted an inspirational blog post and hopefully you got it! We are about to board our plane in a few minutes, so we must be going. Here is a series of photos to hold you over until next week's post.