How to Change the World (Without Becoming a Missionary to Africa)

18-year-old Katie went on a mission trip to Uganda to minister to the poor there. Five years later, she has made Uganda her permanent residence. She runs a ministry that provides medical care and feeds 1200 children a day, which allows them to attend school rather than working in the fields or begging. She established a program for the women of the community to encourage them to support their families in their quest to become self-sustaining. Katie herself has adopted orphans from her village, and is now the 23-year-old mother of 13 little girls. As I listened to her talk about her ministry and her 13 daughters, my heart was filled with respect and amazement at this beautiful young woman, so devoted to her mission.

Hearing about others who have sacrificed their entire lives to minister to others is heartwarming and humbling. There is a true need in our world for faithful souls to give food and hope to the poor, and to bring Christ to them. They are doing spectacular and heroic work, and giving up so many comforts! God has placed a special call on their hearts, and they resonate with joy as they describe their struggles. Listening to their stories is, more than anything else, inspiring. It ignites a fire in our hearts; WE want to do these things too – more than anything else, we want to go out and make a difference in the world!

As mothers of small children, college students, working professionals, there can be a strong temptation to feel inferior, or to think that whatever we are doing now is holding us back from greater service to others. We feel as though we should be like Mother Teresa, dedicating our lives to others. Caring for the sick, comforting abandoned children, digging a well for a village that has no water supply. And yet, here we sit, in our temperature-controlled houses with our full refrigerators, taking care of our children and working unfulfilling jobs, and feel guilty for not doing all these other, so much more important things.

But what we are doing IS important. What you are doing is important, and it is changing the world.

We are all missionaries – we all have a mission from God that He has specifically planned for us. We are all called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and be a blessing to others. But not all of us are called to do it in Uganda or India. We are called to minister, first, to those in our own home. We may not be able to preach the Gospel to the orphans in Africa, but we must preach the Gospel to our own children. To cook dinner for our family. To wash the dishes, night after night. To snuggle our sick baby and change his diapers. To do a puzzle with our preschooler; to take him to church and introduce him to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. To hug our teenagers; to look into their eyes and converse with them. To smile and greet our husband when he walks in the door. To call our mother; to write a letter to our grandmother.

We must also reach out to our community. For some of us, that means volunteering in the food kitchen – getting to intimately know and serve the poor in our town. For others, even that is out of reach at this time; for them, it may mean simply donating canned goods to the food pantry. Buying an extra package of diapers for the crisis pregnancy center with the already-stretched grocery budget. Praying the rosary outside the abortion clinic. Bringing dinner to a new mother. Visiting residents in a nursing home. Being a listening ear and a compassionate shoulder to cry on for a coworker. Smiling warmly at a stranger in the grocery store. All very small acts of kindness, little ways to grow in charity – but if we all seek to do these little acts of grace, they will have a profound impact upon our little corner of the world. We can cheerfully spread the peace of Christ to our neighbor, and love him. And that is what God is calling us to do, right now.

We often think of courageous Mother Teresa’s great works of charity towards the poor and wish we could imitate them, and yet we sometimes forget sweet St. Therese, who lived much of her life locked away in a cloister, hidden from the troubles of the world, and yet who said, “To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul.” Great graces can spring from our humble deeds.

That passion that we so admire in those who have dedicated their lives to helping the less fortunate? Let us mirror that same passion in our own lives. Let us realize that while we may be called in a different way, we are all called to have a deep love for Christ and to express our love through our deeds. We, too, are called to change the world. It may not mean traveling to a foreign country; it may mean staying right where we are, and pouring ourselves wholeheartedly into our humble vocation. This is what God is calling us to do. Let us answer the call generously!

“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” ~ Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

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