yay! yesterday, i got to listen to my radio interview for World Missions Sunday on the station of the Diocese, and so, i thought i would reflect and write down a few things that i have learned during my years on mission – mostly as a personal reminder for me, as i continue and persevere…it was interesting to hear myself talk. i think i should follow my own advice more often. and so, here’s my list and lengthy explanations (oops.)!
1) Listen to your heart: while i have found that spending time with people, reading spiritual books and seeking the advice from others is something that really helps me (anyone, really!), i have also learned that at the end of the day, listening to my heart and following my heart is my best counselor. seeking to be inspired by the holy spirit, speaking through my heart – this “heart” check-in is usually the best deal-maker/deal-breaker/indicator of next steps…
2) Take a time out: there have been many times on mission when i just get burnt out. or i get easily stressed out, or better yet (unfortunate for those around me), i get easily irritated. there is a four-letter acronym that was introduced to me at a seminar during my mission year in new york, and that is H.A.L.T. – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. this has stayed with me because it helps me identify with myself as to why i am feeling the way i am feeling: am i hungry? angry? lonely? tired? or is it something else? BUT, of course, to reach these conclusions, i need to take a time out. sometimes i take time outs daily, or multiple times in a day just for this check-in. it is so important to check-in with myself and then be honest with healthy steps to continue keeping on! of course, during my time-outs, journaling is one of the best tools for me. pretty sure i’m on my 3rd journal already from life here in baguio. it is a good and healthy discipline.
3) Pray: too bad this was not the first thing that came to my mind as i started to compile this list, but i suppose it goes hand-in-hand with listening to my heart and taking time out. prayer is the best medicine – sometimes it is hard for me to have faith in simply talking to God, but really, i have found that THIS (prayer) is KEY. when i am walking on session road, when i am sitting on a jeepney, when i am in my room, or in front of the blessed sacrament, prayer is the best. while i may not see these prayers answered immediately (sometimes i do!), this constant conversation with God is something that i very much value. / sr. t and i teach catechism in an area where there is hardly any taxi activity and sometimes we are waiting for an hour, just to get some transportation back to town. well, sometimes, when i throw out a prayer, usually to mother cabrini or st. anthony (to find us a taxi!), within five minutes, the taxi comes down the road, empty, and waiting for us. one time the taxi was called, “faithful love” (they name taxis here), and i KNEW it was a gift and the fruit of prayer after a long day of teaching catechism! prayer is conversation. with a heart of faith, it’s as easy as that!
4) Remember your intention for mission: some times on mission are more challenging than others. sometimes it may be easy to just throw in the towel and say, the HECK with it! and the next thing you know, you leave the office because you need to scream and you need a change in scenery, so you take a walk around the block, and then when you are calmed down, you are able to return to the office. yup, let’s interchange “you” with ME. cause that has definitely happened to me more than once. 🙂 when moments of frustration happen, challenging moments or at any time when i think to myself, “crystal, you know you don’t HAVE to be here,” i remind myself of what my intentions are for mission. i ask myself, “crystal, why did you want to be on mission in the first place?” i remember during international service orientation, that we wrote down an “intention” statement. that way, during tough times, this is something that we can keep going back to, in moments of desolation, doubt, and/or confusion. after time of reflection on my intention, i am brought back to my heart once again, and while it is tough to sometimes get back on my feet, the grace is given to continue.
5) Be open: openness. be open to learning and accepting that you do not know everything about the new culture, about the ways of living, about the language, and understand that your western ways may not necessarily translate the same in this new culture in which you are serving. just when you may think that you got a hold of it, you don’t. be resilient and be ready to get back up! be open to understanding that yes, there are some things that you may do that are offensive, and be able to identify these moments so that you can try your hardest next time, not to repeat them. be open to being challenged, to having your patience be tested, and be open to constant change and an un-ending series of “learning moments.” sometimes it’s frustrating, really frustrating, but openness is essential.
6) Identify your network: identify key people – geographically close and technologically close that can serve as your network of support. it is so important to have key people that you can talk to, and trust with your thoughts and feelings. while technology (facebook, skype, twitter, etc…) have made it easy to stay in contact and have check-ins with our friends and family from back home, it is also important to make sure we do not depend solely on staring at our webcam, in moments of trial. i have found how it important it is to identify certain individuals from within this culture, that i may include in my network. why? to be able to have some of my questions answered freely and honestly, and to be told what is right/wrong within the culture, and to also be able to LEARN. having this connection from within the local culture is important. of course, these people should be individuals that you wholeheartedly trust and feel comfortable with being “called out” by. and perhaps, even someone who understands you and your intentions on mission. that helps also.
7) Mission is relationships: how important it is to build community among your mission. how important it is to build relationships with the people you come to know and meet. the way to mission is through relationships…when i worked in sales, something i was told is that “people don’t buy from people they don’t like.” now, i never directly even sold ONE thing in my life during my two and a half years in business, BUT, my director at the time did tell me that all of the clients loved me. 🙂 and for some reason, that was enough for me, and i know my co-workers appreciated kindness too, despite the fact that they would have also liked me to have a “go get em” attitude with making a big sale. but that wasn’t for me. i digress…BUT, while i am not selling anything on mission, all i can offer is myself, and my mission to serve myself to others…now, if my brothers and sisters don’t care for me, or if i have damaged relationships with them, well, they will say, “no thank you” or probably not acknowledge my existence. in other news, if i offer myself, and i have healthy rapport within my communities in which i serve, i will be welcomed, accepted, taken care of, and loved! / and perhaps, that is why one of the hardest parts of being “missioned-out” is saying good-bye to the people. it’s because of those meaningful relationships, connections, and memories with the communities.
8) Identify your priorities: i have been graced with being missioned to pretty “happenin” cities…new york city and baguio city, philippines. i don’t know if it is that these places are so “happenin'” or if it is that my nickname as, “crystala, the butterfly” (from here in the PI!) is pretty telling of the way i work. there’s just lots that i like to get involved in, lots that i like to learn about, new things are introduced to me, and lots of people to meet and get-to-know. now balancing that with my community at home, my ministry, and making sure that my own personal spiritual life does not suffer, that is when i must be sure to identify my priorities and to maintain that balance. when i identify my priorities, then it is easier to say NO to one thing, and YES to another – but also learning to be confident and honest with identifying these priorities.
9) Know your boundaries: when identifying my priorities, i always ask myself too, “crystal, what would be most loving for you and life-giving for you?” in any situations where i have to make a decision. my director always reminds me of this. she’s really good at not TELLING me what to do, but throws this question back to me as a healthy reminder. boundaries is something that i am still learning, especially my personal boundaries in different situations, and this check-in reminds me of my limits too. when identifying my boundaries, i am reminded to be gentle with myself and to accept the reality of what i am capable of, what i like and what i don’t like. / working in prison ministry, pastoral ministry, and working in the realm of different social work activities, it is so important to identify my personal boundaries – social, emotional, physical boundaries, just to name a few. especially when working in a new cultural context, these boundaries may not be the same boundaries as to what i am used to, back at home. and that’s ok. that’s more likely, even better that they are different. they definitely may change.
10) Have fun!: i’m glad i did not forget about this one, but that’s kind of funny that this was the last one that i thought of! but this is essential! yes, i said essential. it is important to make sure that you are enjoying yourself with what you’re doing. no, sometimes it is not fun when you are mid-way of shampooing your hair, soap suds in your eyes, and then the water flow stops, and you forgot of course, to fill up the bucket with water the day prior. no, that’s not fun, and there will be these moments of non-fun moments, especially when times are super busy and sometimes it may seem unbearable (yes, these dramatic moments happen too!), but make sure to find your place of “fun.” perhaps exercise like yoga, or taking a walk, or treating yourself to some delicious food, or spending some time with friends…but FUN is important! laughing is a great addition too. and smiling. make sure that happens a lot too when you’re having fun! natural and honest smiles only please. 🙂
and lastly, this is number 472927402, remember that YOU ARE NOT GOD. God sent you, but not because YOU are to take His place. NO. God was there, God IS there with you, and God will be there after you. with that being said, don’t forget that God strengthens you to do the work that you do. this strength does not come from you…BUT, God trusts that you will carry out His work, as His hands, feet, hands, and heart. and that’s pretty awesome. not to mention, doesn’t that truth lighten that weight off your shoulders a bit? it should! this is always a good reminder for me. all we gotta do is be ourselves! phew!
while this is a list of reminders for me, i also throw them out and share them with you too, with the hopes that just maybe we can learn with and from one another. thanks for reading! 🙂
some quotes from my radio interview that served as affirmation for me, as i was listening to myself speak:
Question: how would you explore your experience here in one word?
Me: grace! my experience here, has been full of grace.
Me: the same thing that i keep going back to, is listening to my heart
Me: i always receive that consolation, that affirmation, that peace, that yes, this is where i belong.