Megan Wilson, Senior Anchor Intern – Compass
The metal gate creaks in the same distinct way it always does as I step outside the towering fence and begin a walk that has become comfortingly familiar–the vast expanse of mountains and trees adorned by dozens of clouds in a clear blue sky to my left, and the barbed wire fence protecting my second grade classroom shaded by a gorgeous flowering tree to my right. I can still hear the sound of gravel crunching beneath my sandals along the path and feel the repetitive tap of my water bottle against my thigh as I walk up a small hill in front of the entrance to the nearby village church. I am welcomed by the rancid stench of a large pile of horse manure on the cement floor nestled alongside the wooden planks resting atop stacks of cinder blocks that serve as pews for the congregation. Large sheets of tin and a tarp serve as temporary roofing, and papel picado affixed to a white bed sheet hanging behind the wooden altar. The church itself looks and smells nothing like any church I had ever been in before coming to Honduras, but it is exactly in the humility, poverty, and simplicity that is so explicitly represented by the structure itself where I was able to encounter Christ in incredible ways this summer.
I spent my summer serving as a missionary at a children’s home and school in rural Honduras through the Center for Social Concerns’ (CSC) International Summer Service Learning Program (ISSLP). When explaining my experience of serving as a summer missionary in Honduras, I often find myself describing my experience as both the most difficult thing I’ve done in my entire life while also simultaneously the most wonderful and rewarding thing I have ever done. The hardest, most heartbreaking moments were always so full and abundantly anointed by the presence of Christ in that suffering, and I found myself time and time again surprised by joy and beauty when in my own weakness I was tempted to lose hope. I was constantly gifted with glimpses of God–in the children, in intentional conversations, in moments of learning, and in the natural beauty of sunsets and the sound of rolling ocean waves. My heart was brought closer to Christ’s suffering heart when hearing stories of great hardship and trial, or in the more taxing moments of living in community or in the detachment required to live out a radically simplistic lifestyle. Above all else, my daily experiences and encounters drew me closer to the humble heart of Christ, leading to a transformation within my own human heart.
Jesus humbled me to trust through the child-like hope of the smallest student attending the school where I taught classes, who couldn’t sleep at night because her bed was infested with biting ants. Jesus humbled me to trust through the judgment-free love extended by a 12-year-old to her absent mother, or from a pair of siblings to their negligent family. Jesus humbled me to trust in His divine plan and deliverance through the vocation story of a religious sister and through the examples of the seven long-term missionaries who had put their lives on hold to serve at the children’s home and give up all worldly comforts. Jesus humbled me to trust through the radical hospitality of members of the neighboring village who repeatedly opened their homes and what little they had to us with no hesitation.
The poverty and experiences of true suffering of each of these people, (and many more who I encountered and shared life with over the course of my 10 weeks abroad) allowed them to connect with Christ in a way I couldn’t, with true humility and through sharing in His humble state. These people know intimately the suffering and pain of the Cross, but they instead choose to live in trust and in the hope of the Resurrection and new life beyond the Crucifixion. My comfortable reality was effectively flipped–suddenly I was face to face with my own spiritual poverty of heart in the light of the material poverty right in front of me. In what ways was I the poorest one among us all?
When comparing my own life and spirituality to that of the people I met this summer, in many moments I came away feeling poor in new ways. These Honduran disciples have experienced so much loss, pain, and suffering on TOP of significant material poverty and still cling to God and to their faith above all else in their lives. I found the Church and the hope of Christ’s Resurrection incarnate in the stories and lives of the poor when I oftentimes could at first only find hopelessness. I was called deeper and deeper into trust through the example of humility and faith exhibited by so many people around me and in places where I always least expected to be drawn closer to Christ.
In Honduras, Jesus taught me to grow in humility and in appreciation of the virtue of humility through the power of encounter with others and in the example of the poor who I served and lived within Honduras. Jesus drew me even closer in love and understanding of His own holy and humble heart through the example of the humble hearts of the people I grew to love during my time as a missionary. In my experience, encountering humility, learning to trust amidst great uncertainty, and facing feelings of hopelessness can all be incredibly scary and uncomfortable things.
But, it’s important to recognize that at the same time, God is always gifting us with so much to learn and new ways to grow when faced with these feelings and difficulties. It is only through running towards these feelings and ultimately to Christ in the feelings and moments when we encounter difficulties which humble us (and not running away in fear) where we can allow Him to transform our hearts to become more like His. I’m grateful to have learned this summer that whether I’m serving as a missionary in Honduras, spending time at home in the Philadelphia suburbs, or attending classes and working in Campus Ministry in South Bend, the same God of the universe calls me to true humility and desires for all of us to know the poor and to know how we are poor and humble ourselves.