A Day in the Life of a Missionary - by Karen

People often ask us what lay Catholic missionaries do on a day-to-day basis.  Our response is always the same, "We do whatever the Holy Spirit asks us to do."  Given the abstract nature of this response I understand why people often probe for more information.  Do we build houses?  Sometimes.  Do we pass out food to people living on the streets?  Sometimes.  Do we read people the bible?  Sometimes.  Do we visit people in their homes or mostly minister to those on the streets?  Yes.  All of the above.  It's difficult to describe what we do because every day is so different.  Today I had a beautiful experience that I want to share to shed some light on what it means to be a full-time missionary....meaning that serving others is what we do for work each and every day...and each day is different because we meet different people who need different things.

While Chris and I were out on an errand we encountered our friend, Jose, who is a very lonely, needy man that lives on the streets of Aguada.  His foot was bandaged and he had more sores on his body than normal.  We tried to engage him in conversation, but he was struggling to focus. We realize in hindsight that he expended so much energy walking in the heat that he was delirious.  Through bits and pieces of conversation we gathered that he had walked almost two miles to go to the health clinic to get help for his foot, which was visibly (very) swollen, hot to the touch, and oozing with puss.  On a good day Jose struggles to walk with the help of crutches because his right knee got destroyed in a street fight a few years ago; I can't imagine how long it took him to limp all the way to the emergency room as he endured the added pain of his horribly infected foot wound.       

As we were talking with Jose a couple different people that seemed to know him stopped to see what was wrong.  When he informed them that he needed a ride back to the pueblo they made excuses for why they couldn't help and/or shoved a couple bucks in his hand and walked away.  Jose held up a fist full of crumpled dollar bills and asked, "What am I supposed to do with this?"  In our town there are no taxis, Ubers or other means of public transport.  Jose needed to get back to the town square, but how?  He knows that we don't own a vehicle so I joked about carrying him fireman style.  He smiled and then quickly returned to his somber state.  I squatted down and told Jose that although Chris and I couldn't do much to help him, Jesus could.  We needed to pray for a truck to appear that was being driven by a faith-filled servant of God.  Moments after bowing my head a white truck pulled into the parking lot.  I ran over and began explaining Jose's situation.  The young driver was reluctant because of covid and also because of our friend's obviously fragile state.  What if something happened to Jose while this guy was driving him back to the pueblo?  Would it be his fault?  I humbly begged him to reconsider, which he did.

Here's a photo of our plaza that I 
found on the Internet.  It looks a bit 
different now, but I figured it would help
you to visualize where we were sitting.

Chris lifted Jose into the bed of the truck and sat next to him to ensure his safety.  I quickly rode back to the pueblo and met them in the town square right in front of the Catholic church.  Chris bought Jose a Gatorade and a bag of chips to give him a little energy boost, but then returned to prepare lunch and check on our kids.   

For the next two hours I sat with Jose.  I held his hand and rubbed his back as he laid on a cement bench mumbling with his eyes rolled back into his head.  When he drank the Gatorade he got painful air bubbles in his chest and asked if I would pat his back to release the pressure.  A couple times he rolled over to spit...on my feet, and vomited so violently that it splashed all over my legs....but I didn't even care.  At one point Jose asked if I was an angel sent by God to take him to heaven.  He began murmuring about being ready to die and thanked me for being with him so that he didn't have to die alone.  I wasn't really sure what was going to happen, but thanked God for the chance to love Him as Jesus teaches us to.    

We learned today that Jose is 60 years old.  Orphaned at the age of 10 months, he has had a hard life and was bounced between caretakers throughout his childhood.  These last 35 years have been spent here in the little town of Aguada, so many of the locals know him.  As various people passed through the town plaza they offered to give Jose money, to call 9-1-1, or even take him back to the little house by his cousin's where he's allowed to sleep....but nobody was interested in just spending time with Jose.  At one point he leaned into my shoulder and thanked me for loving him.  He said that he didn't want to go to the hospital/clinic anymore because the doctors can't give him the only thing he desperately needs - loving friendship.  As Jose faded in and out we talked about life and death, about the Lord's love for him, and the fear he has of dying alone.  He asked if I would take him back to his house.  He wanted the rest of my family to meet us there so that he could die in his own bed with people around that really love him.  Overhearing our conversation, a man standing nearby insisted on calling an ambulance.  When the medic arrived he assessed Jose's overall state and recommended he be admitted to the nearby hospital.  Jose begged me to go with him, but I assured him that he wasn't alone because Jesus was right there with him.  Reluctantly, he agreed to go and was lifted into the ambulance.  

I'm not sure if our friend will live to see another day, but I have peace knowing that Jose experienced Jesus' love in a very real way today.

As lay Catholic missionaries, our day-to-day work is to love the people we encounter and to serve them in whatever way the Holy Spirit knows is best.  Since this is our full-time gig we have time to just be with people like Jose.  We can give them our full attention because there isn't anything else that we're supposed to be doing.  Ministering to the people we encounter isn't somehow an interruption to our work... it is our work - thank you Jesus! 

NOTE: Our friend's name is not Jose, but I don't feel comfortable using his real name.  I hope you understand!

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Thank you and may God bless you and your family!

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