Maryknoll Sister Darlene Jacobs reflects on the call of a missioner to witness to the God of love.
“… [Jesus] appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive” (Acts 1:3).
“[Jesus said to the apostles]… you will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
What else is the life of a missioner but to be a witness to the fact that God is alive and operative in our life and in the lives of the people among whom we live? God is love, and our job is to witness to that in each and every place and at all times.
As missioners, we are often met with great curiosity when we go to a new place. How natural that is! After all, we look different, we speak differently, we probably live somewhat differently, we might act differently and even strangely in the eyes of the people to whom we’re sent. So what is the witness that we show? How do we live so that we can prove that God is alive?
I was in mission for many years in Tanzania, almost all of them as an educator. During those years I was a subject teacher in many different schools and situations, a founder of a school, an administrator, a director, a supporter. My secret aim during all those years was to have the girls with whom I worked say of me, as I heard them say of a Maryknoll Sister who preceded me, “Oh, Sister Fulani, how she loved us!”
How Sister Fulani showed that she loved those students, I don’t know. I suppose she was kind, patient, a dedicated teacher – all of those attributes we associate with love from 1 Corinthians. And these are good guideposts for how to show love.
And then I think of other little ways to show love, not only for each other but for the Earth. In the past Tanzanians used biodegradable containers like woven baskets to carry things to and from the market or wherever they were going. Then flimsy plastic bags became available all over and were given out freely in the market and, after having been reused one or two times, tossed out. These soon became entangled in brush along the side of paths and blown around the countryside freely. They even caused the death of some animals when they were ingested. And so that became my witness of love for the Earth: collecting tossed out bags while walking, never going to the market without my woven basket, encouraging the children I spent time with to be mindful of the beauty and care of Mother Earth.
Through our everyday lives, we can choose small things, small witnesses, to prove in many ways that God is truly alive and that we are witnesses to that life.
Photo courtesy of Sr. Darlene Jacobs.