By Melia West
Don Bosco taught his Salesian Family to seek holiness in a life of prayer and by accompanying young people on a shared journey toward Jesus. A Salesian Lay Missioner serving at Hogar Sagrado Corazón in Montero, Bolivia, reflects on how she has been accompanying the young since September 2010.
It hit me the other day that I am starting the last quarter of my year in Bolivia. How do I feel I am doing? Are there any things that I feel I have made significant progress on, or things I feel I need to pick up in these last three-four months?
I do have one fear that stems from my core, a fear I need to gain peace with: Have I wasted precious time here at the Hogar? Have I given Him my all? Will I go home and regret not having loved more?
When preparing for mission, I tried very hard not to imagine my situation, any responsibilities or surroundings. I had heard, and could imagine, that all would fall short, and many expectations could go unfulfilled. For the most part, I feel I did a good job. However, there was one expectation that I couldn’t help but form—a wish that bubbled out my very being (the wish for which this blog [“Un corazón que escucha”] is named). I hoped to listen.
Each one of us is granted gifts of the Holy Spirit … and I feel that my ability to listen is something which bears fruit for Him and of Him. I felt it was something that I could abundantly offer, a gift that would be so beautifully used, living at an orphanage of unwanted and unloved children. Listening is something that gives me great joy, as I see it helps someone else; it can fill me with Life (with Him).
Yet the gift of opportunities to listen, or girls opening up to me, is a grace that God has continued not to grant me in my time in Bolivia.
I used to tell myself that it was the language barrier, or perhaps that the girls just didn’t feel like they knew me. Yet, as these challenges are passing, I feel as though I keep vigilance in silence, hoping that I might be able to love someone using my “gift” … that I might listen to something besides silence.
Perhaps God is asking me to grow in other ways on mission, to stretch my abilities as a person, and even develop new skills or realize another gift that He wants to grant me. Yet it does not seem fair, especially when I hear stories about girls who are living at my side here at the Hogar, who are suffering from such emotional pain. Lord, why won’t You grant me the moments when I could listen to one of them, and help her carry her cross?
Another part of me is wondering whether He is challenging me to “let go” to another level … as this is not my mission but His, and He will make it what it is supposed to be. I don’t want to force something on mission that is not there. No matter how much I know of a girl’s story, or how much suffering I see in her eyes—especially the older ones—you cannot force a friendship, the needed level of trust. It pains me to see it, to know some of those emotions and dark places where the girls reside; yet I feel so helpless. I am here, living with the poor in Bolivia, so willing to love, and still I cannot.
Along with the older ones not letting me in, I constantly feel all the 5-10-year-olds are running up to me, swarming around me, yelling for my attention. I have been trying to be present to each moment that I am granted: to serve, love, and minister to that next one in my path. So it seems, that my mission has been most focused on the children under 10.
I do not want to be ungrateful for the blessings I am granted through this age group: the love they are able to show me, the way He loves me through them, the progress we have made in some of the attitudes and behaviors, the amount of fighting and hitting, the growth of patience and love in me… Yet I can’t help but ask myself: should I be trying harder to break down walls in the older girls’ hearts? Am I supposed to make extra time for the older girls, or exclude the younger girls in hopes of creating a “stable” environment for conversation? Am I missing any opportunities that God is granting me? … Will I go home and regret not having loved more?