“I don’t always knew where this life is going. I can’t see the end of the road, but here is the great part: Courage is not about knowing the path. It is about taking the first step. It is about Peter getting out of the boat, stepping out onto the water with complete faith that Jesus will not let him drown,” Katie Davis says in my all time favorite book Kisses from Katie.
This final blog post is about courage. It’s about conquering fears, about conquering doubts. It’s about trusting in God’s divine providence. Despite the fact that I’ve been writing this for over a month, I have to warn you it is going to be less than eloquent.
Finding the words to articulate my time as a fellow has proven to be close to impossible. It was so deeply a personal experience that it is extremely difficult to talk about it in a way that others can understand. If you know me, you know I’m bad at explaining things normally so you can imagine how this is gonna go…
Alright, so I left off at the end of my trip to the Solomon Islands. I learned countless valuable lessons from various people I got to know.
In the beginning, I was astonished by the abundance of trash scattered throughout the streets, and I was honestly upset by the state of education. I wrote about this before but the educators are not educated enough themselves, so it is hard for them to be confident, knowledgeable teachers for their students. I had some intriguing conversations with headmasters and teachers about this issue. The teachers who are dedicated to their jobs are the ones making conscious efforts to improve in their fields and in their English. Though I was troubled by the current state of affairs and the Islanders’ history as a nation, I was in awe at the innate beauty of their culture. The Solomon Islands may be materially poor; however, they are rich in spirit and possess the gift of faith. We, on the other hand, suffer from spiritual poverty in our broken society which abounds in earthly goods.
The Solomon Islands are not secularized like the United States is. And it is absolutely gorgeous. God’s love for His people of these islands is undeniable. Vocations are not lacking like they are in the States. Priests act like normal guys with special calls from God. Praise and worship is part of everyday life. It is quite literally a lifestyle. To me, praise and worship was an hour I set aside each week in the PC chapel. How removed from reality was I?! Faith is ingrained in the culture. For example, when my friends sang me songs of farewell, they revolved around us meeting again in heaven. And my friends meant it. Their faiths are so strong that there was no hesitation while talking about joining the Lord again. To Everesto and Peter and Chuck, everything we do, every move we make should be done to bring us closer to getting into heaven. That’s how we should all strive to live. Heaven is, of course, the end goal but I falter in making it a part of my mundane daily routines and I often allow fleeting moments of worldly pleasure (not real happiness) to triumph over spending eternity with God… Grace? Get it together. But for real, I was hit in the face over and over again with the reality that my duty on this earth is to live for God, not for myself. The Solomon boys and girls reminded me of that daily in the ways they live their lives.
Another way I learned from my Solomon brothers and sisters was in their simple way of life. Their mannerisms, language, the way they act, and the way they explain things are just simpler than what I was used to. It’s not a secret that we live in a society that puts so much pressure on basically everyone, especially the youth, and leads people to overthink things, wear masks, and ultimately leads to the perversion of man’s priorities. What I mean by that is these days everything needs to be explained and justified and politicized. In the Solomons, there’s no BS. It’s simple. Just live like you’re trying to encounter Jesus in everything you do. Like I said, everyone wants to go to heaven. But they make it obvious. They humbly do every little thing for His glory.
As I reached the end of my two weeks in the Solomon Islands, I became increasingly aware of how much I had grown as a person. It wasn’t until I got to the airport in Honiara that I came to understand that I had changed. I am different because of this experience. Not in a bad way. But I am not the same and it would be naive for me to pretend that I am. I was greeted at the airport by Archbishop Chris and Sam Rosengarden, whom I hadn’t seen since I met him upon my arrival two weeks prior (PC graduate who spent months teaching science in a remote village alone – pretty insane. Also one of the coolest, most intelligent guys with more depth to him than I can put into words).
He told me almost immediately, before I shared anything about my experience, “I didn’t recognize you. You look different… You’re different – in a good way. You look freer.” He paused, then continued, “Solomon girl now.”
I was taken back at first. He said these things with conviction. As if he was just stating objective truth. In that moment I realized he was right. I was freer – whatever that means. I had some sun, my hair was a mess from 14 days of extreme humidity, and I was at peace. I wasn’t my normal ADHD self with excitement of stories I wanted to tell the world. I was more reserved. I was at peace, and I was content. I was happy God brought me to the Solomons to experience all those stories that I can’t quite explain to you, at least not yet. I think He brought me there to prepare me for whatever is to come in my future. He showed me things that I will probably never see again and he introduced me to a side of myself I didn’t quite know before. I met a vulnerable girl who was humbled to her knees within moments of arriving in Auki. This girl’s self-made image was shattered as she realized she was not as independent as she thought she was. But these realizations were necessary for me to grow any closer to the Father. If He didn’t challenge me like He did, I wouldn’t have realized how bad I need Him, how bad I yearn for Him, how much I love Him. And that’s all he wants from us. He breaks us down to fill us back up. That’s where courage comes in. Courage is stepping out onto the water with complete faith that Jesus will not let me drown. Courage is admitting I cannot do everything myself. Courage is acknowledging my smallness while simultaneously professing His greatness.
On the 30 minute plane ride from Auki to Honiara at the end of my trip, Archbishop Chris shared with me something I will never forget. I first worked up the courage to admit my fears to him. I told him that when I am away, when I am a missionary, when I am traveling, when I am experiencing and learning new things, when I am with strangers, it is so easy for me to live by faith. I embrace it and share it proudly. But when I am in the States in a routine of monotony, it is easy for me to keep my faith to myself in a way that reduces not only myself as a daughter of Christ but reduces Christ Himself in the eyes of those I interact with. I told him that it is harder for me to keep my faith at the forefront of everything. I find it difficult to communicate Christ’s love to the people closest to me.
He replied simply, “Be John the Baptist.”
He explained that, besides Mary, John the Baptist was Jesus’ most dedicated disciple. He never made anything about himself, but always about Christ. And that is how I should model the way I live my life upon returning home. And if God took me all the way to the Solomon Islands just for Bishop to give me that piece of advice, I believe it would be worth it in His eyes.
THANK YOU to my family, friends, and donors who supported me with love and prayers throughout my application and proposal processes, my fellowship itself, and my transition back home. Thank you to the donors who made my Fr. Smith Fellowship possible. Thank you Archbishop Chris Cardone and Sister Rose Mary Kinne. I am forever grateful for these experiences. I miss my 8 boys from St. Lucy’s like CRAZY and don’t go a day without thinking about all I learned with and from them. I will never forget the memories I made living with the Randalls in Ashfield, NSW. I most definitely will never forget the two weeks I called a Dominican convent home. Sisters Loretta, Clausina, and Rebecca have a special place in my heart.
I am so incredibly blessed to have had this opportunity and all I can really say is God is so good.
Thank you for reading my rambling thoughts and if you have questions / would like to hear more about my fellowship, please reach out 🙂