I can’t believe I’m writing the final blog post of this year. It’s all flown by so quickly. I knew it would, but still! We’ve traveled over 21,000 miles, put on 110 retreats, and and we have about a month left of ministry. As I reflect on all this adventure has brought, I’m amazed. I’m amazed by what God has done through my team, the lessons I’ve learned, and the ways the Lord has changed me through this ministry.
My team and I have had the privilege of being instruments of God’s love to over 6,000 youth. We’ve given him a mere year of our lives and He’s done so much with it. He’s allowed us to be vessels of His love, and this love has done more than we could have imagined. It has allowed us to laugh with people who haven’t laughed in awhile, let us listen as young people cry who don’t have anyone to cry to, and let us inspire youth to actually embrace their faith and experience the love of God. Seeing God work through my imperfections and my teammate’s imperfections makes me understand the profound humility of God. He reveals His glorious, powerful, perfect love to His precious children through us. He sees our brokenness, our selfishness, our inability to remember drama lines (me), and still chooses to let us be His instruments and makes it all so beautiful and powerful.
We have stacks of papers written by retreatants telling us of how they were impacted by their retreat. Here are quotes from a few of them:
“The NET Retreat changed my life, thank you so much for helping me grow in my faith and prayer life!”
“I feel closer to God than ever before. I know that God loves me and I never thought He did. I found out that no matter what, He is there and he will always be. I feel loved and everyone at the retreat was amazing. I got to know people and find connections I never thought I could have. I will never forget this moment.”
“It really opened my eyes. I have always been Catholic, but never explored my faith very much. After this I want to.”
“This really made me realize that my connection with God is beyond describing because He loves me so much. No matter what. Thank you.”
“I feel not only closer to God, but closer to others around me.”
I just did the math and estimated that I’ve met had conversations with around 4,500 new people on the road so far. This has taught me to never judge a book by its cover. It’s shown me that you really can find common ground with anyone. In all of these people, a deep desire for God (who is love) is in them – even those who are furthest from Him. Some of us have tried to bury this desire further down than others, but it never disappears. Another lesson I’ve learned is how your heart can actually break for someone you only met moments ago. I’ve become more aware of my littleness and more aware of the vastness of the power that is given to me by the Holy Spirit. I’ve learned that any conflict can be resolved if the desire to love is present. I’ve learned that your heart can stretch more than you imagined when you ask Jesus, who’s love is infinite, to love through you.
How I’ve changed this year:
Hmmm. I’m a morning person. That’s definitely new. It sounds kinda hippie, but I found myself. I guess a better way to phrase it is, I know who I am. I know now what the title ‘Daughter of God’ actually means for me and for my future. I know that it means I am completely loved, wholly wanted, and I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13). I have a new courage, a new deep love for life, Jesus and the Catholic Church, and a desire to share that love. I’ve spent quite a few months being taken care of by strangers. I’ve seen authentic generosity, I’ve been given so much by hundreds of people who I probably won’t ever see again in this life. That kind of love is bound to change you. I’ve become increasingly aware of my imperfections, and I’ve encountered the Lord’s vast mercy in them.
Jesus has done so much throughout this year. He’s revealed His love to so many retreatants through my team, He’s taught me a lot of lessons and He’s changed me in ways that I never expected. We’ve trusted in the Lord and he has provided. I’m grateful for every high and every low. It’s made the view pretty spectacular. Being responsible for this blog has given me the opportunity to process things that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. Thank you for reading this and please keep my team in your prayers! God Bless.