Carissa Benavides

Campus Missionary, Mount Royal University
carissa.benavides@cco.ca
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I come from a wonderful family of five that consists of my parents, myself, and my two sisters. However, I was also blessed to grow up surrounded by plenty of cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents. We love travelling, having fun, and engaging in loud and passionate conversations. They have truly shown me that the best joys in life are related to faith, family, and food (of course).

During my 3rd year of university (2010), a friend invited me to CCO’s annual conference, Rise Up, in Montreal. It was there that I was absolutely blown away at the amount of young people on fire for their faith. Their witness that drew me into desiring more than the lukewarm faith I had been living for a while. After Rise Up, I knew I had to make a choice in my faith: go all in now, or stay lukewarm for the rest of my life. I chose to go all in. This led to participating in the Impact Ottawa 2011 mission project later that year. Three weeks into the summer mission, my CCO staff mentor encouraged me “to be filled with God every day – for what we give of ourselves is an overflow of what we are allowing ourselves to be filled with.” Challenged to begin a consistent prayer life, it was through my daily five minutes of prayer where I encountered Jesus personally.

Back then, I was ashamed of my flaws and brokenness. I wondered, how could someone like God love someone like me? Yet that was my deepest desire: to be seen and known, to be loved by Him, imperfections and all. Jesus met me there in my longing, in the deepest part of my heart, and refreshingly overwhelmed my life with His love. He freed me from my insecurities and my sins, and allowed me to become more whole and authentic with my relationships with other people, myself and most especially, with Him.

Years have gone by since that transformative summer, and yes, I still struggle and make mistakes. But I am always humbled and grateful in remembering that I am not perfect, and that is why I need Jesus. Love requires a choice. As I continue to choose Jesus every day, He continues to give me the greatest gift of Himself. He is my Saviour, my strength, my peace of mind, my best decision, and my deepest and truest joy.

I am now a campus missionary at Mount Royal University. In CCO’s Discovery faith study, there is this quote from Benedict XVI, a highlight in itself of my time with CCO: “If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.” Over the years as a student, and now as a staff member, I have truly seen that quote come alive. I have witnessed young men and women place Christ in the centre of their lives and watch their lives become free, beautiful, and great. These young peoples’ lives radically change for the best. They become joyful, virtuous, loving, holy, confident, and missionary. I will never tire of seeing one person’s life change when they encounter Christ.

Our CCO missions have powerfully impacted our students’ lives. In the 2016 Mexico Mission, I watched students transform, from being shy about their faith to proclaiming Christ confidently. They learned how to calmly step into difficult situations, and they wholeheartedly and boldly loved the people we were serving. They came back from mission, revitalized in faith, in their love for Christ and with a greater zeal and passion for evangelization.

I have grown immensely by being on staff! Over the years, the Lord has stretched me (and is still stretching me) in my capacity to love, in my abandonment to His will, and in letting go of my pride.

ONGOING PRAYER REQUESTS

For university students across Canada, that they may grow in holiness and as missionary disciples; and for CCO, that we may continue to grow as a movement, docile to the Holy Spirit and working always for the greater glory of God.

We are full-time lay missionaries dedicated to the proclamation of the Gospel.
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