Growing up in a home with missionary parents, Jesus was at the centre of our family, and faith was something I had from an early age. However, I wasn’t personally experiencing the friendship with God that I saw my parents living out. Growing up, faith decisions were made for me. We went to Mass on Sundays, we prayed the Rosary. I volunteered at church and we said our prayers before bed. I always enjoyed these things to a certain extent, but they weren’t my choices or decisions, they were my parents’.
I always recognized that one day I too would choose to make my faith my own. But, in my head, that was years down the line. I thought that at my age I wasn’t responsible for taking my faith seriously. I thought that all I had to do was go through the motions. This resulted in me not understanding, or experiencing, who Jesus truly is. I didn’t realize He wanted a personal relationship with me, not just with my parents and older siblings. It was hard for me to understand that Jesus wanted a friendship with me, even though I was young, and didn’t feel good enough for Him.
This all changed on Ash Wednesday when I was 15. Just like every year, my father would encourage us to take Lent seriously, and to grow in holiness through daily prayer. Every other year I had the mentality that this was meant for my older siblings, but this year was different. On the way home from school that day, I can remember vividly the revelation that Jesus was calling me to a personal relationship with him now – I didn’t have to wait. I understood that my age was not an excuse to ignore the importance of the King. I was filled with excitement and pride. I was so excited to get to know Jesus. I realized that I could know him, just as my parents and siblings did. So that day, on the walk home from school. I wholeheartedly chose to put Jesus at the center of my life, and to embark on the journey to know him personally.
From that moment on, no longer were all the choices made for me. It was now my personal decision, and that made all the difference. My faith was now my own, and I can honestly say that I now have a personal relationship with my Lord. It has not always been easy, but I know this is a journey worth travelling. Through the struggles and the joys, I grow more and more closer to Jesus the further I go.
Growing up having the founders of Catholic Christian Outreach as parents, joining CCO staff may have seemed like “the easy option”. It’s what my parents have always done – I was familiar with the movement and why we exist. It’s almost like the decision was already made for me, but I didn’t want that. I didn’t want to just do it because I’m their son, I wanted to do it if God was calling me. It took a bit of time, but eventually God changed my view of what it meant to be the son of the founders of a movement. CCO was described to me as the family business. As a son, it is acceptable, and even honourable to continue in the family business of CCO. This gave me so much freedom and excitement. God had given me the freedom to choose this path in that moment.
However, even though God gave me freedom to see that he was calling me to CCO, I wanted to do it in my own time. I had made plans to pursue further education outside of university, and work for CCO in the office using my Communications Degree. But now I know God had different plans for me. Throughout my degree I really came alive when I was leading men on campus, and bringing them to Jesus. I knew this is where I would thrive, but I was afraid to change the plan I had made for myself. CCO staff members challenged me to consider if God was calling me to be a campus missionary, and this began the process of my detachment from my plan to being open to God’s plan. He asked a lot of me along the way. I had to let go of my future plans for school, my role in CCO, and where I might live. Even after all that, I was challenged further by having to sacrifice a trip that I had been looking forward to all year. I became angry at God. It felt like He was crushing all of my hopes and plans. I felt like I was willing to give him everything, but now he was even asking for me to give him this exciting trip. My parents and family suggested that maybe God was calling me to a deeper form of abandonment and surrender. My eyes were opened, and I knew immediately what I had to do. I knew God was giving me a choice: Himself, or my earthly desires and dreams. His plan for my life, or my plan. My anger slowly shifted into excitement. I knew I wanted to follow him anywhere, and this was Him calling me to be a full time CCO missionary.
Joining staff was never the easy option. It still isn’t. But, it is the right decision. I am excited to live this adventure, giving my whole life and my whole heart to Him.