How God Got Me to Go to Honduras for a Year
I’ve always been envious of people who hear the voice of God. Stories in the Bible, stories of saints, and fellow Christians who are able to tell me what God told them have made me feel like I’m doing something wrong.
I felt like I wasn’t holy enough to hear God’s voice (this may still be part of it). But at the same time, I feel blessed that at several pivotal moments in my life, I have had absolute certainty as to the right choice to make. I never doubted when I switched from engineering to youth ministry as a career path or when my wife and I got married. Nor did I have any doubt when I decided to go to Honduras for a year.
So, was God speaking to me?
In 2002, I went on a trip to the March for Life with my diocese. We rode on a bus from Indiana to Washington, DC to pray for the end of abortion with hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life.
The highlight of the trip for me was a Mass at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. For starters, the Basilica is beautiful. We got there early to have time to look around and pray, and I kept taking pictures of all the mosaics and paintings. Then, as Mass began, every square inch of marble flooring was covered with people.
The entrance hymn began and it seemed like it took 30 minutes for all the Cardinals, Bishops, and priests to process in, two by two. To some, this may sound like torture, but I loved it!
I had never seen that many priests in one place! As I watched them all come in, I noticed a few guys with some awesome beards and shaved heads. But more than the beards, something about them seemed different, they seemed to have a joy about them – but perhaps I was just projecting this on them on account of the beards and the other priests were just as joyful.
I happened to notice a group of these priests and brothers during the March wearing gray habits, big beards, and what I began to think was a trademark smile. After going home, I regretted not talking to them. I wondered what order of brothers they were and if God might be calling me to that life.
I made a promise to myself that I would go to the next March for Life, and if I saw those brothers again, I would talk to them and learn more about them.
Sure enough, one year later, I was at the March for Life. I saw the bearded smiles at the Mass and again amidst hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of DC. I talked to them and found out they were the CFRs, the Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. I knew I was going to look them up when I got home. There was something so attractive about their lifestyle — I had to look into it.
I got home and kind of forgot about them. I was a single guy who had dated, but at the moment was trying to figure out if God was calling me to be married or to enter the religious life. I was reading the Bible one day and a verse I had heard many times jumped out at me. It was the story of the rich young man that is talking with Jesus who tells him to sell everything he has and give it to the poor and to come and follow Him (Mark 10: 17-31).
There was something about that verse that made me feel like Jesus was talking directly to me. I had become attached to many possessions and Jesus was calling me away from all that to follow Him. I thought this would give me clarity in my vocation. I would sell everything or give it away and go do mission work somewhere – to follow and serve Jesus.
We had a priest, Fr. Jim, who had spent half of his life in Honduras and El Salvador so I thought I could use his connections and would end up in one of those two places and learn Spanish while I was at it. (I studied German in high school, so there was a lot to learn. My ability to say, “Wo ist dein klavier,” and “Herr Kartoffelkopf,” wasn’t going to come in handy.)
As Fr. Jim was contacting his connections in Latin America, something reminded me of the Franciscans and I looked up their website. At about the same time that Fr. Jim’s contacts were coming up with no opportunities, I saw the CFRs had a friary in Honduras, with a phone number. Since I didn’t know any Spanish, I called the New York friary instead.
They assured me that the friars in Honduras spoke English and would be able to answer my questions.
A month passed before I figured out how to make international phone calls (or maybe I was just putting it off). When I called Honduras, everything was falling into place perfectly. They were just about to take their first group of long-term lay missionaries to work alongside the friars for one year. That was it, I knew I had to go.
Being in Honduras for a year with the CFRs changed my life. It was where I experienced my best Lent ever. I was able to discern my call to marriage, spend much time in prayer, grow closer to God, meet some amazing people, and even learn a little Spanish.
I still can’t say that I have ever heard the “Voice of God.” Heck, if it were up to me, I would prefer it in writing, like text or email, so I don’t mess it up.
But I can say, without a doubt, that God has spoken to me through opportunities, open doors, and other people.
I am sure God is speaking to you. Are you inviting Him to do so, and are are open to it?