As the students begin the dreadful season of exams, papers and projects, we as missionaries have our own set of finals.
When I was a student, one of the things my colleagues and I always hated were art critiques. They were brutally raw, painful, and honest… but it was absolutely necessary for us to learn and do better next time. The same goes for our evangelistic strategies.
Every semester, we as a mission staff meet to evaluate the previous semester and prepare for the next. We also meet with the FOCUS Missionaries and staff at Our Lady of Wisdom to recap what worked and what didn’t in our evangelistic efforts together as a Parish.
Our two weeks of evaluation are intense, but critical. When we start up again in January, we’ll be well prepared from all our planning. More importantly, we’ll be equipped by the power of the Holy Spirit. We spend a good amount of time interceding for the semester, because “ministry without prayer is the highest form of arrogance” (–Katherine Kennedy) and “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (–Psalm 127).
This week being the last before finals, we wrapped up all the usual recurring Household commitments like Household dinner, morning prayer, chores and so on. For our closing Household dinner, we did something that we in SPO call “honorings.”
We live in a world that is quick to point out flaws and failures, and terribly slow to acknowledge people’s strengths and the noble actions they’ve made in spite of their natural shortcomings; so in SPO we seek to build a culture of communities that build one another up, voicing those affirmations that so seldom reach the ears of their intended recipients. One of the ways we do that is by setting aside time to intentionally “honor” one another, voicing specific qualities we’ve observed in each other. It can be a little awkward at first, but it’s so healing and has a powerful way of bringing together the community.
After dinner, I brought the girls into the living room where I had set up stockings, each containing some candy and a personalized gift. We truly felt like family as we laughed in the glow of the Christmas lights on the mantle, sharing in the joy of the Advent season. What a great way to end our semester of Household!
Last night I had my final Formation Small Group meeting of the semester. Our small groups throughout the year consisted of prayer, discussion of the biweekly Formation talk, support and accountability. This week, however, we did something a little different to close out the year and prepare for Christmas break.
First, we had a time of praise and worship just to thank the Lord for all He’s done in us this semester. After that, we sat down and shared advice for how to persevere in our daily personal prayer over the break, since it’s really easy to get comfortable at home and loose momentum. Finally, we each wrote a card of encouragement to one of the other members of our group, selected randomly, to be sent over the break for some timely support.
We had our last Formation talk shortly before Thanksgiving break. To get a taste of what our talks are like, have a listen to this one by Texas State graduate and SPO Mission Director Colleen Hadsall on Discernment.
It’s been a great semester. Thank you to my generous support team for making it all possible, and to the countless friends and family who supported me through prayer!