Written by Father Michael
Waking up in Morehead, Kentucky wiping the sleep from my eyes and realizing the fogginess was not only clouding my eyes but also the windows and distant hills took a moment to get use to. The air conditioning in the Spartan dorm room of the University was no match for the high humidity. Everything we touched for the next four days was damp. At six o’clock in the morning even the heavy Appalachian dew did not dampen the high spirits of the seventeen eager missionary. One of our members was at least a third the age of the rest of us and it was fun to watch his awakening enthusiasm that cheered and jeered us on as we worked through the soaking heat. We were ready.
There were four teams on this mission trip: the construction crew, the nurse crew, the do-over crew, and the support crew. But the greatest was the whole crew. Although each of us had specific jobs and goals working in Kentucky what was really mattered was to work for the Kingdom of God. We found an intimacy in sharing the joy and hardships of working and living together if only for a few days. The intimacy was heightened by knowing we wee sharing God’s love in a special way.
We came to Morehead to build wheelchair ramps, do medical assessments, blood pressure checks, cut hair and do make-overs, and feed each other both body and soul. Jewel, a wheelchair bound avid reader, is now free to leave her home on her own, no long being carried. Many men, women and children received health assessments and recommendations. My favorite story is one that I think bests illustrate doing the Lord’s work is from the makeover crew. A woman hesitantly came in. She definitely looked older than her years and was missing two front teeth (dental care being a luxury item for the poor). For one hour she was special, being lovingly cared for. Her husband and children came for her one hour later and stood awestruck and exclaimed: “You’re beautiful!” That was our experience. We finally saw with God’s eye and saw the world the way God wants us to. It’s a beautiful world when we choose to see it as God created it. The support crew cooked for us, delivered our lunches to the worksites and listened to our needs.
Resting after lunch I walked down the road and looked over a lush green field and saw millions blades of grass, each different, each unique, creating a landscape as enchanting as any in Tuscany or Bali. I was overwhelmed with this foretaste of seeing God face to face. This world is the foretaste of heaven, but not heaven. In Kentucky we worked for temporary things that will fade with time. But the love we shared becomes eternal.
Each evening we celebrated the Eucharist together around a table. I have celebrated Mass around ancient ruins in Turkey and Greece, in cathedrals in Italy, in sacred places in the Holy Land, and with family and friends in homes, but the communion we had around a black top table, simply, and prayerful is what mission is all about.