World Mission Sunday: A letter from the director

Categories: Around the Diocese

Oct. 11, 2013, edition

A letter from the director

Who we ARE becomes evident by what we DO

 “We should try to live in such a way that if the Gospels were lost, they could be re-written by looking at us.”
— Metropolitan Anthony (Russian Orthodox Bishop, 1914-2003)

After hearing the theme for World Mission Sunday 2013, “Do Good on Earth,” I had to take some time to personally reflect on how I have put my faith in action in this past Year of Faith, but also in my life thus far.

bethnevilleComing from a family with a very strong faith life, good moral values, generous hearts and where we were taught from very early on to “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” it has often been easy for me to search my own heart and act in such a way that would make my parents and, most especially, my God proud. I am not saying that I always did it right, nor was it always perfect, I just came from a foundation that challenged me to be the best that I could be in all ways and always.

When I was young, my dad lost his job, and we were one of those families who didn’t have a lot of anything. We spent some time on the food stamp program, and I distinctly remember my mom trying to decide what we could afford to get for a family of five while shopping the aisles at the grocery store, and the sometimes disgusted looks of the clerks when she handed over the food stamps for our items.

I also remember the embarrassment of the situation, but inevitably the proudness and dignity that my parents expected and deserved even if we didn’t fit what society thought was of value.

Early in my marriage, we were the typical couple trying to raise a young family, with lots of bills to pay and a minimal income to even be able to buy milk and groceries some weeks.

I remember the shame I felt when we couldn’t pay a bill on time, but I also knew that we were good, honest and hardworking people who deserved respect and kindness even though we didn’t have much to show for it at the time.

Thankfully in these situations and in many others we had good neighbors, friends and family as we often had to rely on the generosity and goodness of others to help us get through. They taught us that we were important and valued no matter our circumstances, and we also knew that we had the love and support from a very generous God.

It is amazing how years later as we are raising our own family I have rather unconsciously instilled the messages learned when I was young to “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” with my own kids.

Maybe I have found that is just my way of living. I am so thankful to God that he has taught me so well to be his hands, and most especially, his heart while I am here on earth. I am also so grateful that he has helped me to know that I am also doing good on earth when my 10-year-old comes home from school and shares with me about the classmate she is helping in English and reading because their family just moved as refugees from Somalia; when my 13-year-old is helping a fellow classmate and football teammate who has disabilities learn the plays for the game; when my 17-year-old is trying to rearrange her schedule for school and work to help with Sunday School; when my 18-year-old daughter has chosen, as a freshman in college, the field of education and social justice — hoping to work in an inner-city school or Third World country one day.

try so very hard to be the person that God wants me to be in all areas of my life, and most days it comes easily, but some days it is really hard.

 I try to always see the face of God in the homeless men and women who walk through our office door and are asking for something to eat; I smile and greet the young man who is behind me in line and seems angry and frustrated with things at home and in the world; I hold, kiss and sing to the orphan who is sick with AIDS; I speak for those who are voiceless; I challenge those who ignore our many faces of Christ on the streets here in St. Cloud, those who are only seeking dignity, respect and love from us.

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said it so very well: “To show great love for God and our neighbor we need not do great things. It is how much we put in doing that makes our offering something beautiful for God.”

Though this Year of Faith is coming to a close, it has been a time for all of us to challenge ourselves to strengthen our relationship with Christ and to open our hearts to the call of God’s will for us and the expectation that he has for us to “Do Good on Earth.”

I am up for the challenge. How about you?

Elizabeth Neville
Director, St. Cloud Mission Office