So the title says it all – there’s nothing more to say in this post!
Okay, I’m kidding. There is a lot to say here. Not going to leave you hanging like that!
You’re probably asking why Panama, because let’s be honest, it’s not really a first destination of choice when it comes to travelling. Or maybe it is, and I’m just biased or have no idea what I’m talking about.
Come January 2019 – which is just a few short months away! – I will be hopping on a few planes to make my way out to Panama City for two weeks as part of a Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) mission. During this mission, we (the mission team and I) will have the opportunity to take part in World Youth Day as pilgrims and take in the entire experience that World Youth Day is. From what I’ve heard, it sounds like a life-changing and all around amazing time.
Beyond taking in World Youth Day, we will also have the opportunity to serve the universal church in a radical way. We will be able to share our faith with other pilgrims that we will meet from around the world. Millions of youth and young adults are expected to be at this event, and it is an incredible way to step out in faith and share it with so many others. We will be challenged to pray with other, tell our own story, and invite people into a deeper relationship with Christ.
But how did you even decide to go to Panama?
I think in many ways, I didn’t choose or decide. It wasn’t something that I casually decided to do for the sake of going or for travelling. To some extent, I think that this opportunity really chose me. God chose me.
Here’s why I think that:
Any Catholic will tell you that an event like World Youth Day is life-changing and a must-do at some point in your life. It was started in 1985 by St. Pope John Paul II, and from there a movement was born. It became the event to go to.
So naturally, as a young person I had always wanted to go to WYD but I was always too young, or later one when I was of age, I didn’t have the time or the funds to go. As well, I came to a point in my life where I was really questioning whether there was a meaning to my life and if I had any faith in me. Despite this doubt inside of me, I still felt a strong desire to go to WYD at some point.
2016 was a key year for me. This was the year of the most recent WYD, in Krakow, Poland. After that WYD, it was announced that the next World Youth Day. That same year, I found out that I could graduate in two years, and actually be available for the odd time that it was going to take place – January 2019. Usually, WYDs happen during the summer months, and it made it extra peculiar, especially since in January I would typically be in school.
But also in 2016, I had hit a rock bottom in my life. That all changed when, at the very end of the year, my life was (quite literally) saved by going to CCO’s national conference, Rise Up (and you can read more about that here). Rise Up renewed me in so many different ways, and ultimately challenged me to really begin to live out my faith.
You can live out your faith in a variety of ways, but WYD definitely rested on my mind.
Let’s fast-forward to one year later. I had just been to an information session for anyone from Vancouver interested in going to WYD. I had also just found out that CCO was sending a mission team to Panama. While I waited to see if I would get into the CCO mission team, all the arrangements were happening at my home parish to send a group. Things were falling into place for them, but I was still patiently waiting in limbo.
At the same time, I received further confirmation that I could indeed graduate in time and still go. This was also the time I decided “what the heck, let’s do an honours thesis” – and that’s a story for another time.
The biggest reason why I think God chose me was because of my feeling of calm towards the whole thing.
For literally anything – scholarships, getting into programs, even relationships – I hold onto things tightly and take things seriously. I get worked up and extremely anxious over things and the waiting to hear a decision back is anxiety inducing for me.
But with Panama, there was a great sense of calm. I had put a lot of thought into my application and actually took the time to slow down and pray about it. Even though it is such a great opportunity and event for any young Catholic, it didn’t necessarily mean that it was the right time for me to go. And as I waited, of course there was general nervousness and a hope that I would get accepted. But there was also great calm and a sense of indifference.
This isn’t to say that I didn’t care at all about the decision, but I felt detached from it. I felt that either way, there would be a reason for that decision, and that it would be the right decision that God makes on my behalf. And I was at peace with that.
He blessed me in July and called me to join other students from across the country to go to Panama.
And so here we are, just under 4 months away to go. My flights are booked and the accommodations are pretty much put together. I am nervous and slightly stressed, but also extremely excited. I’m excited to be there, to meet the team I will be spending two weeks with, and ultimately excited to be surrounded by millions of other members of the universal church.
The theme of the 2019 WYD is a beautiful quote from our Virgin Mother in the Gospel of Luke: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38). What a great reminder of who we are all called to be: Throughout everything in our lives, we are called to be witnesses of His love and to be docile to His will!
This is an opportunity for me to live that call out in a new and radical way, in a brand new environment and far outside of my comfort zone. This also gives me a chance to bring along with me those people who are not able to go due to the timing of this year’s event, school/work, and other reasons.
So that’s my story – and now, I humbly ask for your help!
The biggest thing I ask for is your prayers and good thoughts. Ever since 2016 I’ve been on a personal journey of recovery, and this past summer, I have to admit that I have taken a bit of a detour from that path. If you could offer up a small prayer for my own preparations for Panama as well as that of the rest of the mission team, my mental health, as well as the wellbeing of my family, that would be great!
One of the ways that I am preparing for this mission is praying for the intentions of people in my life. Whatever it might be that you need prayers for in your life, I invite you to share them with me either by a personal message. Everything will be kept between you and me, and it gives me the opportunity to pray for you by name.
Finally, I have a financial goal that I need to meet for this mission. My goal is to raise $3100 by January 4, and I have an upcoming deadline to raise $2500 by October 30. If you, or someone you know, can support me in my support-raising, I would greatly appreciate it! Everything is greatly appreciated.
From the very bottom of my heart, I wanted to thank you for reading this all the way through and for supporting me in any way that you feel called to do. Whatever it might be, I hope that you also will feel the peace and joy that God has destined for you too.
If you have any questions about my mission, how you can support me, or want to share any prayer intentions that you have, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me!
I’ll be away in Panama from January 17 to February 1! Please pray for us, and I will absolutely pray for you too.