Dr. Y’shua Yisrael
Matthew 25:31-36: “The King will say to those on his right, come blessed of my Father! Take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world, for I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me into your house. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to see me.”
The words spoken by Jesus in this passage propose to tell us what we must do to be saved they are not intended to give us an accurate account of how the judgment will take place. As depicted in the above scripture, heaven is prepared for those who serve the poor. The fruit of baptism causes a steady growth and flowering of love in our hearts as we grow in grace. As the love of God swells in our hearts, it invariably starts to pulsate and beat in sympathy with all of the disadvantaged, oppressed, and marginalized people, especially the unborn. Jesus was born poor into an undignified, impoverished condition, in a cold stable with wild beast. His conception, by modern standards would constitute a teenage pregnancy. If Jesus was born poor, perhaps paradoxically it is a grace to be born as such. Millions of children are born into similar conditions to those of our Lord. The fact that Jesus chose to be born poor is the clear demonstration of the priority that he gives to the poor. Choosing to live with, and serve the poor is in my view, is one of the more noble vocations because it is the perfect model of Jesus to emulate.
My journey to become a Salesian Lay Missioner was long and circuitous. For years, I was distracted by more glittery theologies that appealed to my selfishness. Whereas I love the idea of having a savior I was not keen on the idea of suffering, I did not have enough courage to take up the cross. Moreover, I was honestly, frighten by the Cross. I did not know that the cross was a symbol of infinite love and the gateway to heaven. I thought it was a symbol of death, an emblem of suffering and shame.
In 2008, continuing to heed the inner call to Mission, I joined Don Bosco Salesians, and committed to one year in India. I was placed in a school for deaf that also housed a population of children with a plethora of other handicapping conditions. Initially the environment was challenging, but after a brief adjustment period, I integrated smoothly into the ways of the culture, and began having a rich fulfilling Christ-centered experience. It has now been six months since I completed my year commitment, and it is still too early for me to determine the total impact of my experience. I am still in the process of assimilating and realizing the consequences of such an intense experience. One thing however is clear to me, and that is that I want to continue working in the mission field. The experience of working with the Children in India was a shower of blessings.
One of our most enlightening and exhilarating experience occurred when Imani and I worked at the Divine Retreat Center, the largest Catholic Charismatic praise center in the world which is located in South of India, in the state of Kerala. We experienced the laying on of hands by spirit-filled anointed Priests and received a fresh empowerment of the Holy Spirit. We received new charasims and spiritual gifts. On one occasion, the host asked me to lead the Eucharistic praise and worship. I sang and played the piano, and Imani did Liturgical dances before thousands. Witnessing to the lepers at Mother Therese’s Sister of Charity Leper Colony in Northeastern India was the second highlight of my SLM experience.
I emerged from my SLM experience with a renewed sense of purpose and spiritual direction. My Salesian lay missioner experience was a journey into the world of the Church, Priest and religious. Living in a Eucharistic community was transformative; the experience of love, and silence structured an environment that forced me to confront Jesus in much deeper ways.
In my Mission experience, I received twice as much as I gave. I was deluged with love from the children that I served. They were kindhearted, respectful, and eager to learn more about Americans. Not surprising, not all of the Children that I served were Catholic, India has a population of more than 1.5 billion people. Christianity thrives there precariously in a sensitive ecumenical balance.
The tools for my survival were actually provided during my orientation but I would not discover them until I was alone in country, and seeking for answers that would help make the most of my SLM opportunity. The slogan “Finding Christ in the face of every child” was on an SLM shirt given to me in orientation. These seven words became one of the master keys to ensuring that I would have a successful SLM adventure. My second key to survival I found in the Salesian motto, “Da Mihi Animas Caetera Tolle”. Loosely translated, it means, “Give me souls, and take away all the rest”. God had provided Don Bosco with the souls of street children, and he left everything else. What a committed, such apostolic zeal, if only I could to the same. I payer often to saint Don Bosco and keep these two slogans at the forefront of my mind because I found them to be laden with the spiritual ingredients necessary to ignite and enflamed my heart with love for the poor and a desire to follow Jesus, and helped me focus on what was most important, the mission.
I would not characterize my SLM experience as easy because, I do not think that it is suppose to be. However, my outlook on religious life, holiness, and evangelization were broadened. In addition, it gave me the opportunity to experience Christ-centered community living and the vicissitudes of emotions that occur in community living. In retrospect, I see SLM as a pivotal milestone, it was the spark needed to spiritually activate and transform my interior spirit. The results of being an SLM opened my life up to a more intimate experience of Jesus, and fostered compassion and a renewed my sense of solidarity with the poor.