ATTN: The following is my own personal experience. In no way am I attempting to offend anyone or write something considered defamatory to another person’s religion or culture. Rather, this is my own interpretive experience.
As Angel’s grandma, I’d like to share my feelings about him going on this mission. Naturally, I am very pleased by his decision to serve the Lord at this time. I’m a convert of the Church and had my first contact with the missionaries when I was 15 years old.
I still remember their faces; they were a huge influence on me. These young men were fascinating to me. What drove them to take two whole years out of their busy, promising lives, to come out to Southern California and be willing to teach those they came in contact with?
Why did they choose to stop dating girls and instead choose to have a companion with them at all times? How could they wear dress clothes 6 days a week and not feel smothered by the discomfort? Why were they willing to stop their college education for a time and instead study the Gospel, just as intently or more? Why did they choose to not listen to popular music or watch the latest movies, but instead, listen only to Church music and videos?
These two young men were so different from anyone I had ever known at that time. Their simple sincerity and dedication were very obvious to anyone they came across. As a young 15-year old girl, I was very curious about these young mens’ motives for doing what they did. To hear them speak of the Lord, Jesus Christ, and what He’s done for them personally generated a curiosity in me that I had never considered.
Who is this Jesus Christ, that these 2 young men obviously loved and worshiped? How is it that they believed He communicated His desires to them, and they willingly did His bidding? This was all very fascinating to a young Catholic girl. At that time, Church was something one did maybe twice a year, at Christmas and Easter time, and occasionally at funerals. Church was such a small part of my life and everyone I knew up until then had similar experiences.
I had participated in Catechism in order to take my First Communion. The instructors were mainly older men who drying rattled off facts we were to memorize and recite. There was little enthusiasm for what they taught. I didn’t hear their love of Christ. Even the Sisters, who appeared a little more animated in their teaching gave little indication about having a personal relationship with God or Christ, or even the Holy Ghost.
Once, after I heard that a friend’s baby brother had suddenly died, I asked the Monsignor about it. Since the baby had not yet been baptized, what was to become of him? The answer was quite a shock and dismayed me greatly.
By that time, I was a proud Godmother to two infant girls. One was my favorite maternal uncle’s child and the other was my favorite paternal aunt’s baby. To think that if they suddenly died before being baptized, and as the priest suggested, were condemned to burn in the Eternal Flame was such an abhorrent thought, I couldn’t bear it! How could a God do such a thing to His creations?
Although the point Monsignor tried to make was to always be prompt in baptizing newborns, my interpretation was that of a God who was full of wrath and judgment. On the contrary, these two young missionaries portrayed God as a loving Father who knows us by name and loves us dearly. He loved me so very much that He allowed His Own Son to atone for my sins. Why would anyone wish to worship a God so aloof and rigid as the Catholic God?
Please note: this is my personal experience. I am not trying to bash Catholicism. In fact, I have a son-in-law who is Catholic and I respect his choice. Many of my extended family are practicing Catholics, and I respect their choice. It’s not about Catholicism, but about allowing God to be an active part of your life.
Historically, Roman Catholicism has been the predominate religion in the Dominican Republic. However, recently, there’s been an influx of Protestant, and non-Christian groups, such as Buddhists, Jews and Muslims.
I am confident that Angel will come in contact with those who, like me so many years ago, were lacking an understanding and relationship with the Savior. He has been taught the principles of the Gospel by his parents and teachers, and has a true relationship with his God. His youthful sincerity will attract those seeking a better way. Angel possesses those very same qualities that I saw in those young missionaries so many years ago.
I’m especially excited that he will be serving and teaching the good people of Santo Domingo. It is very fitting that he should be assigned that area, as part of his ancestry comes from that region, specifically, Puerto Rico. There will be many things he will learn, which will help him identify and emulate the good qualities he sees in his father’s family. What he learns there will be useful for him throughout his life.
Angel will come back to us a much more mature young man. His testimony will be strengthened to the point of sustaining him when times are rough – and there will be very rough times ahead. I hope he remembers always to keep a prayer in his heart at all times. Remember to be courageous and stand for truth and righteousness always.
Defend what he believes, and be willing to confront a corrupt world with a strong yet gentle spirit. Be teachable at all times and willing to do what it takes. There will be raw moments, but remember, “if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you” Those moments will be fleeting in the great scheme of things, and they will add a quality to the soul like no other.
Angel, I want to bear you my testimony. That I know we have a kind, loving Father in Heaven, who is anxiously awaiting our return. He knows us by name; we sat at His knee. If the veil were lifted just a few moments, we would be in such awe to His love for us. The father’s reaction when the Prodigal Son came home is just an inkling of how He feels about us.
The natural beauty and variety of this world is such fine proof of Heavenly Father and Jesus’ love for us. That our perfect Lord would willingly sacrifice Himself for our ransom is incomprehensible to us, yet, He did. As they say, “He was crucified on a cross of wood, yet He made the hill on which it stood.”
The Creator of the Universe could have walked away, but He didn’t. The pains of this life which are sometimes very hard to bear, and the pains from the consequences of sin are overwhelming. To know that He took upon Himself ALL of that, is just too much for our minds to grasp. Yet, He did!
Angel, go and serve Him. And know that by doing so, you are carrying with you the prayers of your family and friends. Do your best every day. We will be waiting for your reports of all your rich experiences. We love you.