**This blog post is part of a series of reflections by interns from the Montreal Mission Internship program, who will be serving as guest writers at The Community in the coming weeks as they wrap up their time in this program from the diocese of Montreal. The first reflection was written by intern Jaime Grennan.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55: 8-11).
My summer’s mission project has been completed, but my mission has only just begun. Over the course of 7 weeks I worked with three youth from a local Anglican church in planning a community meal. I showed up every Friday evening to spend an hour and a half doing “boot camp and yoga” (an exercise and relaxation program put on by the youth director) and then having dinner, after which I would take a half hour or so for my own lesson plan. These lesson plans all had something to do with Christ, something to do with oneself in Christ, and then we would connect that to the picnic we were planning. The highlight of my evenings was most definitely seeing how much these youth knew about the will of God. In fact, the conversations I had with them were by far the most important parts of my getting-to-know them. But, I needed more time and more opportunity to reach out to the youth, to figure out who they were, and to really talk to them. Time, however, and cooperation to allow this process is not always given.
I was faced with challenges that I now understand to be rather common in youth ministry but that I was extremely unaware of before.
My ultimate goal was to reach out to as many kids as possible and to allow them to create something in connection with their community that they would feel proud of. But the simple task of getting people to read emails let alone respond to them was near impossible. Fitting into the church’s schedule of people using their spaces was trying. Now, I point these things out specifically because in their own right they all seem harmless. We as a technological society, and it being the end of the year with plenty of school events going on, emails are at an influx and no one wants to spend time away from the sun to read them. The church is meant to be a gathering space and it is often used as such and books quickly. Summer schedules for all – parents, children, institutions etc. – are all busy and sometimes spontaneous, therefore a ten-week commitment can be daunting. So, while I wanted let a group of youth take the reins and make an event happen it was challenging to get more than a couple kids for half an hour a week. The event was pulled off by much more “doing” and planning on my end than I anticipated and this left the sense that it was just another summer picnic the youth got to attend. Or so, that was how I felt until I sat down a couple days after and really thought about it.
One of the three youth I had the pleasure of knowing worked with me from 9am to 5pm the day of the event cooking and preparing all of the food. One individual had been to every meeting up until that event and was 100% dependable. This event, I know for a fact, would not have been started on time or even finished completely without this individual. She had been so quiet through boot camp and yoga and the dinners I never took the time to appreciate the fact that she chose every Friday to come to a church and hang out with kids half her age and an adult over twice her age. Do you know how rare that is??? See, but I realized too late that I hadn’t realized just how important she was. By this I mean, I didn’t treat her with as much importance as I meant to and as I should have until the very end. I should have emailed her directly, not her mom. I should have asked her to search for recipes (though she did come up with a few on her own). And I most definitely should have tried to put her in charge of the younger two others because she could have handled it. I should have, I could have, and I would have. But, that is the beauty of this mission project, we are here to learn.
Historically and in my experience mission work often is started abruptly with the arrival of “missionaries” and then ended just as soon either with a big consequence or none at all. It is the mission work that is ongoing, lifelong, and sustaining that makes a difference and needs to happen. Coming into this summer of mission I had the mindset that regardless of what I did it needed to be something that would continue on somehow after I left. I also had the mindset that I would be gloriously happy had one person benefitted from the work done. And I realize now that I lost sight of this; as I was dealing with the struggles of church bureaucracy and parental controls I forgot what I wanted to do in the first place. I didn’t want to work with youth just to plan a party, I wanted to give them tools that weren’t taught at school, a sense of responsibility to their faith communities and a way to put this into action. WOW, I know, this was a major undertaking and way more than would have ever been possible in ten weeks even under the most agreeable of circumstances. But what it boils down to is whether anyone received any benefit from the mission. Of course I don’t know that and may never be fortunate enough to find out. Perhaps it was just a picnic and will be another summer memory for everyone, perhaps I scared that poor girl for life by making her prep food for hours on end, or perhaps the next time my sous-chef has to make Sorrel (a traditional Caribbean drink of her family’s) she will be able to make it without her parents’ help. What I do know, however, is how I can absolutely go forth and be better at fulfilling His mission through what I have learned.
God knows what he wants and what others need, I simply have to listen and use the gifts He gave me to do His will. The stumbling blocks I faced were only a representation of what really gets in our ways of doing mission and that is ourselves. Had the church, the parents, and myself been more self-aware of whether what we were doing was for us or for the youth then this project could have been much more beneficial to the youth. Though we all had the best intentions I think our own desires and wants still prevailed and ultimately got in the way. Mission is a tricky balance of planning, giving, and receiving that cannot be done without an open reflection of God’s will every step of the way. I have been blessed with the opportunity of a lifetime to take a summer to get to know myself in faith and discern the projection of my next few years. I know my mission project is coming to an end but my life’s mission is only just beginning. I know one day I will look back on this and remark on how much my life path changed from what I thought it would be this summer.
Jaime Grennan is a student of International Development at McGill University in Montreal. Jaime’s mission project focused on organizing a youth-planned community meal. Her goals were to connect with the youth at St. Thomas Anglican Church and to give them the responsibility of planning, preparing, and holding an “All Around the World Picnic” for the wider community. This project would, in Jaime’s words, “give them a sense of agency and an understanding of their strengths as well as give them a few skill sets that they will ultimately need in life that aren’t necessarily taught to them.” To read more reflections by Jaime, visit the Montreal Mission Internship blog here.