I’ve always been super cute. When I was born, I was a tiny peanut, weighing 7 lbs. 8 oz. and had so much dark hair that I wore a clip-on bow in my hospital pictures. I grew into a stubborn, independent girl who loved danger and pushing the limits. I was very set on being a missionary when I grew up. I wanted to go to China or South America or to the darkest slums of India. I wanted my life to be this amazing adventure where I went to dangerous places and brought people to the Lord under dire circumstances. But notice the problem. The last four sentences begin with the word “I”. The Lord had much better plans, and I found myself at the University of Central Florida, bringing Christ to college students. Not the missionary life I had in mind. And I’ll admit, growing up in Minnesota, I often feel trapped in Florida. In Minnesota, if you drive west, you’ll eventually hit the Pacific Ocean, and if you drive east (ferrying over the Great Lakes) you’ll hit the Atlantic. I’m currently living on a peninsula that is surrounded by water. I feel trapped. Or at least I did.
In November 2017, I read a book about St. Teresa of Kolkata that changed my life. I’ve always had a huge girl crush on her. She shows up everywhere in my life and has helped me grow closer to the Lord. I often wish I had one-sixteenth of her mercy and compassion. This book focuses on Mother Teresa’s recognition of the Lord’s thirst for her and each person around her. This is her secret of love. If we look at the person next to us and recognize that the Lord thirsts for them, our only response will be love.
Now, I have never been to a 3rd world country, much less the slums of India. But the Lord opened my eyes to the brokenness and inner poverty around me. Instead of picking dying people off the streets, I am picking up people who are interiorly dying. I have met students at UCF who are emotionally broken, mentally scarred, and spiritually dead. And my heart breaks for them because they don’t recognize that the Lord thirsts for them. The Lord has entrusted these “dying” people to me; he has chosen UCF as my mission field. This is my Kolkata. This is the Kolkata the Lord has given me. No, it is not in India, but it is the place the Lord has prepared for me from the beginning. It is where I love best. It is where I love well. This is where I make time for the people who are often pushed aside, where I listen to those whose voices are quiet, and where I tell those in shame that they are worthy. This is where I count silverware to make sure each person is provided for and where I stack chairs so people have a place to rest. It’s where I show up two hours early for events so I can lead music and stay up until midnight cleaning up from the same events. My work is not to worry about how well I’m doing, but to focus on how well I am loving. “This is your Kolkata.” The Lord reminds me of this daily. This is my mission field. This is the place where the tiny baby with the pink bow in her hair is finally learning to love well.