Many have said when describing how they have been affected by their experience of mission work or any extreme altruistic endeavor: “It has changed my life”! It is difficult to describe just how, or to what end, or what degree. I am sure it is different for everyone, and the result even tends to vacillate regularly within most. We have profound moments of awareness, and then bounce back to “business as usual”. For me, I can truly say I have had a Spiritual Awakening. This transformation has taken hold and settled in for the long haul. Although prior to my connection with The Congregational Church, and my trip to La Romana, I was previously on an indeterminate Spiritual Journey of self-discovery, things seemed relatively consistent with my attitude, personality and perspective.
During the blustery autumn months of 2000, Pastor Gordon Rankin invited me to participate in what has now become the single most defining undertaking of my life. At the time, I was ignorant of what was to come, and even though the effect was immediate upon my return, it has taken several years for the magnificence of the transformation to become clear and mature. I guess you could say I was both “Hit with a brick” yet it crept up on me. I find dichotomy in most aspects of spiritual truth.
When on a mission trip, you can never avoid the lively discussion surrounding whether we are “doing this for THEM “, or if the action is solely selfish and meant for us to “get something” out of it. I was very vocal, and very opinionated on just that topic. Prior to this trip I had never put pen to paper in any creative way, nor had I ever attempted to deliver words and sentiment that originated from the sacred place from which all encompassing, unconditional love emanates. Having experienced a personal transformation of boundless proportion, I can confidently say that all actions are meant to be self- serving, though disguised as selfless. When we change ourselves, we change the world. It is true that we can only change ourselves, which is the divine dichotomy.
What I found while going well beyond my comfort zone, putting my life and well being in the hands of strangers that by all outward sign were backward according to my life experience, and trusting only in our intent to make a difference, was the profound truth of Being. It took extreme contrast, and dire need, the pain of poverty and the joy of unconditional love, the powerlessness and futility of the individual, coupled with the limitedness of collective collaboration, to introduce me to MYSELF! I capitalize that as I mean my “Higher Self”.
I have discovered that within the depths of our soul, the Spirit of The Divine Creator resides. WE are all expressions of God. Life as we know it as individuals is the extension of the Hand of “The Almighty” The Alpha & Omega unfolding in form to collectively express joy. For me,,,this is the meaning of “Life”: (TO COLLECTIVELY USE OUR GIFTS TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE INFINITE UNFOLDING OF THE JOY OF BEING).
You see, on a daily basis we work, provide for our family and ourselves, interact with friends and strangers, oblivious to what is occurring. When we encounter the far end of our comfort zone, the broader spectrum, riddled with pain, sorrow, need and tragedy, we put ourselves aside and truly use our talents to make a difference. In this light we are making a selfless contribution to the well being of the common good. With any ego or self-serving agenda obscured, we feel the bittersweet joy of compassion, and the Spiritual perfection of our soul connecting with others as no physical material condition is running interference. This is why the tears come to our eyes, the lump forms in our throat, and we feel the raw, cutting edge reality of Joy. With our illusory concerns, petty agendas, and misdirected perspectives aside, the Divinity within can spread its “ANGEL WINGS” and fly! This is the point where have “found ourselves”. What we have actually uncovered is the Spark of Divinity, which is at the core of all being.
I am willing to bet that many have experienced the same change in perspective but are not able to find words to pin it down .As the years have passed, I have been sufficiently blessed to recognize how every action, word, deed, is a contribution to the collective experience of the Divine unfolding of Grace in form. Whether we fix plumbing, build bridges, fill cavities, or write comic strips, our actions are meant to be selfless contributions toward the “Common Good”. A perfect scriptural reference would be 1st Corinthians 12 (Spiritual Gifts).
On that life affirming day in La Romana, when I saw wings on all my fellow travelers, and light shining from within them, I knew truth. I now understand that we live to serve, and by serving, we are served. I can see that every act is a collaborative inclusion in the dance of the cosmos. It is apparent to me that our purpose is that we each add a patch to the quilt, or a tile to the mosaic of what is. You have to give away love to keep it, and forget yourself to find your true identity. This is what is meant by dying, to awaken to eternal life.
I returned from that trip with a poem in my heart. “Where Are All The Angels” came through me drenched with tears of joy and self-discovery. Since then, I have written scores of poems, worship components, reflections, blogs and articles, all with the underlying message mentioned above. So for this reason, I can truly say my life has taken a different direction.
My greatest joy in life is expressing the depths of my soul through word & poem. My new vision on life is one of unity and togetherness. WE are all in this show as One, expressing the potential of The Almighty through our individual and collective creations. For this, I am profoundly grateful to Gordon Rankin, The Congregational Church, Good Samaritan Mission, and the people of the La Romana Bateys, Barrios, and hospital.
Only in heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor
for helping us to love God better because of them. ~
~ Mother Teresa
EPIPHANY; : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure.
John Rodgers; 2011.