This past May, I was blessed with the opportunity to go on an immersion trip to Ecuador with Campus Ministry. I have been on service/immersion trips in the past but honestly nothing compares to the week I spent in Arbolito, Ecuador. That week was one of the most growing, reflective, and empowering weeks of my life.
The Catholic program that we spent our week with was Rostro de Cristo. This program has grown to have such a special place in my heart. Rostro de Cristo so beautifully focuses on being instead of doing. This means being present, connected, learning, and living life with the Ecuadorians. This program is not about volunteers and retreaters going down into these communities and changing things but going down and learning and being present. Part of their mission that truly touches my heart is their mission to see the face of Christ in themselves and others. Jesus tells us to step out, be willing to challenge. That is exactly what Rostro de Cristo does. The Rostro people have taught me what true presence is and that sometimes all you can give is your time and presence.
One of the most impactful things of this trip is that the Ecuadorian people challenged me in all ways possible. They challenged me to reflect within, ask myself what my gifts are and how am I best using them to serve God’s people. They challenged me to challenge my own perspectives in life and to experience the truth and learn from it. I got challenged by a strong faith-filled woman I met to not only have faith but to act on it and live it out daily. She spoke on the importance of living out our faith, that God is concerned with our actions and how we are using our gifts to help others. She encouraged us to pray to God every day, thank him, for without him we are lost and nothing.
I received some of the most beautiful, loving, supportive advice in Ecuador. I was given the advice to acknowledge the privilege and blessings in my life and to recognize my responsibility. The responsibility to go home with the same drive that pushed me to Ecuador and use that drive to help others and understand that need comes in many ways, you must open yourself to God and the community around you to view what needs you can help. When I asked an Ecuadorian neighbor how do you know your purpose and God's path for you, he gave me the purest and loving advice. He said to be open, dig into your heart, don't worry if you don't have everything figured out, God will touch your heart and tell you what to do, do what you love and put your whole heart into it, and all my answers are within.
This experience helped me grow and learn how important it is to see the face of Christ in yourself. I have learned that to truly help others spread love, and really see the face of Christ in others, you must first see the face of Christ in yourself and love yourself. I learned and saw how important vulnerability and openness is. We must be vulnerable and open because then we can connect and love so much deeper than when we are closed off and afraid of judgment. I learned how important generosity is—for when we really are generous of ourselves and give what we have, we become liberated by it.
The worst thing for human beings is the loss of hope. Hopeful for my own walk with Christ, I learned that more time I spend and more I desire to know God, the more hopeful and joyful I am and all my lost feelings, confusion, and worries drift away. If you all get one thing out of my experience, understand the true importance of hope, faith, and love, your life will be radically changed and different if you make these three things the focus of your life.
Much love and prayers,