"I have no idea what is in store for me now that I've officially signed on for my first year of mission work with Saint Paul's Outreach. But I can't wait." -Rebecca Zamora, 2015
"Oh, wow. You really have no idea what's gonna happen, past me!" -Rebecca Zamora, now much, much older and much, much wiser, 2018
Hello, blogosphere! How's everyone doing? I myself am doing pretty well, I suppose.
Oh, what's been going on, you ask? Great question! (That's my new catchphrase this year) You definitely wouldn't be able to tell what's going on from my blog, that's for sure.
Judging from my blog over the last year, you'd probably know that a) I moved to Florida and b) Absolutely nothing else. Oops.
I really have no excuse for why I haven't kept up with my blog, but know that I have at least three different drafts that are never going to be published highlighting life at FSU in the 2017-2018 school year. My life got flip-turned upside-down when I moved to Tallahassee and I'm honestly still figuring out what happened and processing all that the Lord did. However, I've realized that there's so much goodness going on down here and I haven't been able to effectively share it all with the people I'd like to share it with, so I decided to resurrect the blog! Woohoo!
I'm hoping to post more regularly this year (whatever "regularly" means for a missionary) and keep everyone updated. Life moves quickly down here in Tally, and I want to record as many details as possible!
That being said, let's move forward. But before we do that, let's look back at some highlights!
life with the Catholic Student Union
The main reason I haven't really posted in the last year is because I've been busy trying to keep up with this incredible group of students as they run towards the Lord! The Catholic Student Union is an absolute machine. God has been about an incredible work in CSU over the last 20 years, and it's such an honor to play even a small part in this work. Our mission statement in CSU is "To Transform the State of Florida and Beyond," and I can confidently say that it's happening, in both big and small ways.
Life can easily get pretty hectic with CSU. Between weekly Spirit Nights where the whole community gathers to learn and grow in faith & fellowship; women's group every Thursday night; a huge retreat every semester; student Missionary Corps on Friday mornings; and meeting up with different students on campus...it's a schedule full of goodness, but sometimes it doesn't feel like there's enough hours in the day. Something I've learned is that the Lord always has something new to show me, and all I have to do is ask for the eyes to see it. This simple request during my prayer time has kept the routine from becoming mundane, and allows me to learn alongside of the students, even now.
WOmen's Spring Break Trip
Hurricanes are a reality of life for me now, in ways they've never been in the past. Between Hurricane Irma last fall, Hurricane Michael just a few weeks ago, and Hurricane Harvey hitting the City of Houston last year, these disasters keep hitting closer and closer to home. Every year, the Catholic Student Union takes three groups of students on Spring Break mission trips to various locations. The women's trip back in March was a mission to Houston, Texas, to volunteer with Eight Days of Hope, an organization that sends thousands of people to locations across the country whenever disaster strikes. It was a real privilege and adventure to take these women to the homeland and to get my hands dirty with them. Introducing them to Buc-ee's, taco trucks, and HEB didn't hurt either.
Over the last year, a few of my sisters serving with SPO & I all had a similar sense on our hearts: desiring deeper sisterhood and unity as a national women's staff. What started off as a simple word in prayer that we had in common blossomed into something beyond what we could have made happen on our own. SPO has had a version of Summer Household in place for the last few years, but this past summer was a kind of new (yet, also old) experiment. After our first round of Missionary Training in the beginning of June, 17 of us women and around 18 men stayed in Minnesota for the rest of the month in order to dive deeper into communal life, to grow in holiness, and to gain a new zeal for the mission we have been called to. I've never had 16 roommates before, and even though Summer Household was something I had actually prayed for, I wasn't sure how it was going to go.
The greatest lesson that I learned was the joy, and necessity, of carefree timelessness. While there was a definite structure to our life together (morning prayer, dinners, attending different talks every weekday, usual MPD responsibilities), there were also a lot of gaps in our days. We went on a lot of lake trips, played a lot of music, and mostly just spent time together, laughing and getting to know each other more. As SPO staff grows larger and larger, I am really grateful for the chance to have lived in this Summer Household, and to actually have time carved out with no other agenda but to know my sisters more.
Well, in a shocking turn of events that I never saw coming when I first signed onto be a Missionary in 2015, I am still serving with Saint Paul's Outreach. The mission of SPO is one that continues to stir my heart, and I'm grateful to still be a part of it. The video above is a pretty accurate glimpse of how awesome it is to be a missionary. Enjoy!
Over the last year, the Lord has been teaching me more and more about myself; He's been showing me the ways that He has been working in my life since I began serving with SPO. Being a missionary has always allowed me the opportunity to use many different gifts & talents on any given day to serve the Kingdom, and I've been given a unique opportunity to use a different set of my gifts in order to further the mission!
Along with some of my usual mission responsibilities, I have also taken on an operations role that serves all of our chapters in Florida. I won't bore you with the details (there's a lot of them!), but I essentially do a lot of administrative tasks that enable the Missionaries & Chapter Leaders to do their jobs more effectively. If you have more questions, ask me, and I will affirm how great your question is before I answer it. I'm planning on making another post about what this role has taught me and how it's influenced my spiritual life in the past few months, so stay tuned for that!
Oh, also, I went to Disney World in February. Here we are, riding Space Mountain for the second time that day. It was a good day.
Every year I have been in the mission field teaches me something different, and this year has been no exception. It's a gift to be in a line of work that never feels stagnant, that always has something new for me, and that encourages me to continue to go further up and further in as I walk with the Lord.
Since I've moved to Florida, the learning curves of life on mission have felt steeper than ever. But the fact that the Lord is never done teaching me new things has always been a source of consolation, and not despair. The fact that I have not "made it" just yet can be frustrating at times, but it mostly gives me hope. What a gift to know that the Lord is going to stay by our side, no matter what, and that He's never going to abandon us because we've learned enough or done enough!
I've always been a fan of St. Therese of Lisieux (my middle name is Therese, after all). Lately, I've been reconnecting with her in a new way. Our women's retreat right before Thanksgiving Break was based on two chapters of the book, I Believe in Love, which was written by a French priest about Therese's spirituality. The book is re-teaching me about Therese's Little Way of love that I grew so fond of when I was discovering my faith for the first time in high school. If you're unfamiliar, the basic premise of the Little Way is a loving commitment to all of the tasks and people we encounter on a daily basis. It is the recognition that these tasks and interactions, however insignificant or frustrating they may seem, are opportunities to manifest God's merciful love on earth.
My day-to-day life as an operations missionary consists almost exclusively of tasks that don't seem to have much of an impact on the college campus just across the street from my desk. However, the Lord has shown me the tremendous opportunities that I have to love in these little ways (*wink*). When I approach my workload as simply a list of things to get done, it's all too easy to miss these opportunities. But when I approach my workload with a heart disposed to St. Therese's Little Way, a budget planning meeting becomes a chance to advocate for future Missionaries to have the resources they need to do their job well. An hour of sending emails to students about turning in paperwork becomes a way to serve and ensure that their process of moving into or out of Household is as smooth and painless as possible. Approving expense reports becomes a chance to help Missionaries grow in integrity and stewardship. Making sure every Household has a fire extinguisher and knows how to use it becomes a chance to protect people that I love and ensure they're prepared in case of an emergency. There have been several occasions where the Lord has just completely floored me with how necessary love is in this job! He's really given me His eyes and heart for these little tasks, and for the people that I serve in completing them well. This has been the most unexpected source of beauty in my life this semester, and I am so grateful.
It's been a real gift to serve the mission in this unique way, while still being a part of the life on-campus with CSU. The work that the Lord is about here in Tallahassee is pretty incredible. He is bringing freedom, breaking chains, and drawing all so many college students closer & closer to His heart. Living life in community can be challenging at times, but these students are rising up to this challenge of love...in the big ways, and the little ways.
Enjoy this small collection of memories on mission from this semester! The joy is real!
I'm praying for you! God bless!
Well, I made it to Florida.
It's been a real struggle so far.
Please pray for me, I don't know if I'm going to like it here.
JUST KIDDING. I love it here. Florida has been nothing but good to me since I drove in a week ago! Leaving Minnesota and all the people I love so much was not easy (and tears were shed), but the Lord has been showering me with blessings ever since. I am so grateful!
Before I keep humble-bragging about how tan I've already gotten, the delicious cheese grits I ate the other night, and how BEAUTIFUL it is down here, let's talk about SNE!
SNE Minnesota took place on August 5-12 at the University of St. Thomas, as usual. Half of our staff and students were preparing for SNE Ohio the next week, but we hit the ground running with the same speed and zeal! I didn't really have any time to be nervous this week, even though I always get jitters in anticipation of meeting a bunch of new people (hello, FSU students!). I was either too busy running around like a chicken with my head cut off, or the Lord granted me a bunch of grace to make it through a crazy time with nothing but joy. Both are true.
The first full day of SNE is most always a Sunday, and is used as a retreat day before a full week of teaching and breakout sessions and small groups. We hear two talks, have priests available for Confession, and end the night with Adoration and some good ol'-fashioned surrendering to the Lord (if you so desire). The talks of the retreat day were centered around boldness: boldness in receiving mercy, and boldness in trust. Let me tell you, the Lord was about a bold work in my life during SNE! I'm still processing a lot of it, but the image given of being released from our 'bushel baskets' (analogy taken from Matthew 5) has stuck with me ever since. Here is a link to the talk I'm referring to: https://spo.org/sne-2017-talks/2017/8/9/bold-in-trust
And wow, these students!!! I'm blown away. They are so ready to set the Florida State campus on fire with their zeal for souls and joy in the Lord. These students have shown me nothing but genuine Southern hospitality since SNE. I can't wait to journey through this year with them!
I've only been in Tallahassee for just about a week, and it's amazing how much I already feel at home. We've had a few meetings here and there, but mostly our team has just been spending time together and enjoying being with one another before the craziness really begins this week. And so the adventure continues...40 degrees warmer.
Please keep us in your prayers! We are ready to bring the Kingdom to FSU's campus!
In Jesus Through Mary,
God sure loves surprises, doesn't He?
Let's review the past couple of years of my life:
Summer 2014: I think you want to be a missionary.
January 2015: You're going to be a missionary!
June 2015: You're moving to Minnesota!
Summer 2016: You like Minnesota?
January 2017: You're going to serve a third year!
Spring 2017: You're going to move to Florida!
When I signed on for a third year of service with SPO back in January, I never could have imagined that things would pan out the way that they did. I won't go into the specifics of a crazy semester of discernment, but trust me when I say that the Lord has been about a wild work in my heart this year. When I look at my life over the past couple of years next to the lives of the average twenty-something, wild is the only word that really comes to mind: living in three different states over the past three years; seemingly putting my life 'on hold' to bring college students closer to Jesus; living off of the generosity of mission partners for two, going on three, years; et cetera, et cetera. It's a hard life, but it's a blessed life. It is a life that is wild, and so full of joy. The fact that He has not called me out of this life just yet is a gift to be grateful for on its own!
Lately, God has made it very clear in my prayer that He's leading me into the wild this next year. I have been reading an incredible book called Wild and Free, by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan. The book's tagline is "A Hope-Filled Anthem for the Woman Who Feels She is Both Too Much and Never Enough." Ugh, if a tagline of a book has ever tugged right at my heartstrings, it is this one. Reading this book has forced me to wrestle with some bigger questions: What would my life look like if I was actually living 'wild'? What does that even mean? Am I ready to accept the freedom that the Lord has for me? Do I even actually want to be free, or am I letting the comfort of living in fear rule me?
Heavy questions, I know, but God has been gently leading me to the answers. He has given me boldness to say "yes" to serving at a new campus, in a new state, with a new team. He has given me the courage to leave the comfort of a city and people that I have grown to love dearly. It was not easy for me to make any of these decisions; but the Lord has consoled me with the lasting and steady peace that comes from doing His will.
So here we are, after a third round of Mission Leader Training, back in Texas for the next few weeks and preparing to move, yet again, across the country. I am so thrilled to be embarking on this new adventure at Florida State University. Pictured below is my team for the year, a joyful, hilarious, faithful group of men and women whom the Lord has blessed abundantly already. (Ask any of us about our adventures in Gold Medal Park!) Here's to being back in the South, to college football, and to sunshine, all the time. Praise God for new beginnings!
To the students at the University of Minnesota, and all of those in the Twin Cities who welcomed me and loved me over the past two years: I thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for sharing your lives with me, for letting me walk with you, for walking with me as I struggled and triumphed and everything in-between. The past two years have been filled with more joy and love than I thought were possible for a Texan living in the Midwest, and it is largely due to the people and the friendships that the Lord blessed me with. I am grateful for my time serving in Minnesota and would not trade it for anything at all. You are in my prayers and my heart.
And so the adventure continues, and continues, and continues!
To Jesus Through Mary,
The spring semester is the semester where we just get to do the things that we do best. Missionaries have usually found their 'sea legs' by now, and we've really settled into the groove of the school year. This is great, because the spring semester is also usually pretty chaotic and very full. Even through all of the chaos, the Lord, in His usual fashion, supplies the grace and the energy that we need to continue building His Kingdom.
Fan Into Flame
A key part of the ministry of Saint Paul's Outreach is our Fan Into Flame retreat. Every chapter puts on this yearly retreat in an effort to invite students into a deeper relationship with Christ, particularly with the Holy Spirit, and to introduce them to a joyful community of other students running after the Lord. This is my fifth Fan Into Flame retreat (3 as a student + 2 as a missionary), so I have years of proof that this retreat works. I have seen student after student be impacted by this weekend and I have seen so many lives actually change, and it is one of my favorite parts of this mission.
This year, we handed most of the leadership roles over to our students: they gave the talks, handled registration and other administrative tasks, led small groups, served on the music team, and made sure we had plenty of snacks to go around. I have bragged time and time again of our students and their dedication and service to this mission, and I will do it again: OUR STUDENTS ARE THE BEST. It was humbling to realize that our team of 19 missionaries (our team + the University of St. Thomas team) can only do so much to put on a retreat for a little over 200 college students. The service of our student leaders was an immeasurable gift and this retreat simply wouldn't have happened without them. I also got to take some pictures throughout the weekend when I wasn't supervising small groups; enjoy the gallery below!
Minnesota Benefit Banquet
These are some of the senior women I've been walking with for the past two years: Jazlyn, Grace, and Ali. I am so grateful for them!
After Fan Into Flame, we had a pretty quick turnaround. The Tuesday immediately following the weekend was Mardi Gras, which always means one thing in SPO Minnesota: the annual benefit banquet! We essentially bribed our Household and Formation students with a free dinner and their very own SPO polo (a "SPOlo," if you will) to mingle with donors and be a standing witness of the impact of Saint Paul's Outreach. Once again, I will take this time to brag about our amazing student leaders. Even after spending all weekend serving on Fan Into Flame, our students were willing and ready to give even more of themselves to serve at the banquet.
The majority of our students only see a small facet of what SPO does: they see the Mission Leaders on their campus; in Minnesota, they see students from other chapters at events like Fan Into Flame or the Formation retreat; sometimes they make it out to the School of the New Evangelization and get to see a broader picture of SPO. Rarely, however, do the students get to be face-to-face with those who have really made their experiences possible: the donors and benefactors. The banquet is a great opportunity for these encounters to happen. During cocktail hour, our students were dispersed in pairs or groups of threes, meeting and mingling with guests as they arrived. During dinner, they were spread out among tables of guests, sharing a meal together and answering any questions about Saint Paul's Outreach. At the end of the night, all of the students and Mission Leaders in our grey and blue SPOlos were invited onstage while closing remarks were made. While some of us may have felt awkward standing up there for all 600 guests to see, we have heard time and again that this simple act was one of the most impactful parts of the banquet for a lot of the guests.
Overall, the banquet was a great experience. I was not the photographer like I was last year, so I was able to enter in a little more fully and really take everything in. I was once again reminded of how grateful I am for Saint Paul's Outreach, and that there are so many people that are willing to give generously to support what I do.
And so the wonderful adventure continues!
In Jesus through Mary,
My name is Rebecca. This blog is a documentation of my life as a missionary with Saint Paul's Outreach - in Minnesota, Florida, and everywhere in-between. Thanks for stopping by!