When we experience the love of God, we almost cannot help but share it with others. I was struck by this when a local Catholic school teacher wrote to ask if I could deliver the money that her students had raised during Lent to the Maryknoll Little Sprouts program in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Little Sprouts program cares for children that have lost both parents to AIDS and have no relatives available or willing to take them in. What struck me is how this donation came about: the teacher had served in Cambodia five years ago, and had met the Maryknollers heading this program. She was so inspired by what she saw that, as a teacher in the Seattle area, she shared these experiences with her students. Every year since her return from Cambodia, the school has raised money to support this work. The project is headed by the student council.
In stepping outside of herself and crossing borders, this teacher was exposed to her brothers and sisters in Christ across the globe. Her experience continues to change the lives not only of those brothers and sisters, but of the students and families whose hearts are being opened here at home. It reminds me of a diocesan priest and friend of Maryknoll who spent five years as a Maryknoll Associate Priest, also in Cambodia (as well as in Vietnam). When he came back to the states, he could not keep this experience to himself, either, and instead began to organize trips for his parishioners to witness the mission work being done where he served.
One of those parishioners, future Maryknoll Affiliate Veronica Holland, added four weeks to one such trip to serve in Vietnam. Eventually, she spent five months working with aspiring nuns and seminarians who were trying to learn English. After her return, she soon left again, this time for Bolivia. She spent 6 weeks at the Maryknoll Language Institute and spent the next eight months volunteering with orphans, at after school programs, and offering massage therapy (a previous occupation of hers) to indigenous seniors with the Sisters of Calcutta. Currently, she is applying for a 3.5 year commitment as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner.
Like the teacher and priest mentioned before, Veronica shares her response to God's call with us in the United States. Soon after she returned from Bolivia, she spoke to a class at a high school near our Seattle Mission House. In April, she will speak at the house itself at one of our monthly mission forums. It is people like these that encourage us to listen to and answer God's call to grow in love of Christ and neighbor. We are thankful not only for what they do for our family overseas, but also in inspiring the people in their own communities to do the same!