Growing up I was surrounded by a very faithful family so I always just assumed that what my Mom told me about God and Jesus was true until when I was 12 years old my older brother passed away from a brain tumour. That sent me through a whirlwind period where, as a teenager, I rebelled against everything and I questioned everything, especially God’s existence and goodness. The questions that sat in the depths of my heart during those years was, “God if you’re real, how could you have let him die? And would you be there for me when I need you?”
During my time of wrestling with that as a teenager, I embraced habits that let me ignore the wounds I felt deep down. As in the parable of the Good Shepherd, I was very aware that I was a lamb. That in my humanity I was weak and unable to deal with my problems on my own. I felt like a prey, and in order to survive I had to keep running because if I stopped then the wolves would catch me. I didn’t trust that Jesus was the Good Shepherd and that He would be there for me.
As a result, throughout my adolescence my only experience of faith was an annual retreat that my grandmother literally paid me to go to. At those retreats we would have Adoration, and despite me entering that time each year feeling angry, distant, and unlovable, I couldn’t deny the overwhelming love I encountered when I finally faced Jesus.
Each year I brought my sin and my anger, and I brought my questions, and each year He in turn brought mercy, patience and forgiveness. I had experiences of God, and moved closer to Him, but I always kept myself at a distance from Him. It would be a long time before I actually entered into a relationship with God.
I was finally challenged to face the barriers that I was running from when I got involved with Catholic Christian Outreach. Through a series of small group faith studies that CCO runs, I heard the same message that I had heard all my life, but shared in a clear and simple way that invited me to respond to it. Through CCO God also provided me with people who were ready to invest in me, teach me about the Holy Spirit and His constant presence in me, and provide me with a community of friends who were on the same journey as me.
As I continued to deepen my involvement with CCO, I felt like I was getting closer and closer to God through dealing with small barriers, but there came a time when that barrier of doubting his goodness became so obvious that I was forced to address it. I knew that I needed to give God everything, but I still struggled to believe that God would be there if I did. How could I live for God, when I lied to most of my friends about where I was going when I was headed to a Bible study? What if I shared about Him with them and God didn’t do anything in their lives?
When the leader of my CCO faith study approached me saying how much potential he saw in me, and challenged me to lead my friends through a faith study, I promptly ended the conversation. After curtly denying his request, I thought I was done with this missionary disciple nonsense for good. Thankfully, God was not. I went to a CCO conference that year called Rise Up where up to 1,000 young adults aged 18-35 come together each December to spend 4 days being exhorted in our faith and sent out as leaders. The question that God posed to me over and over again during that Conference was, “Dennis, why are you ashamed of me?” At that time I did truly love God, but I hid him from those around me. For me the symptom of my barrier was not wanting to share my faith with my friends, but the barrier was that deep down, I didn’t believe that God was good enough to actually be with me if I did.
On the third night of that Rise Up conference the MCs stood at the front, and in that moment God spoke directly to me. The MCs said, “if anyone feels called to lead a faith study, come forward now and we’re going to pray over you.” I felt like they were speaking directly to me, and I knew that leading that faith study meant embracing my full identity as a beloved Son and sharing that with others. God was asking me to finally stop running, and let the wolves catch up to me, trusting that the Good Shepherd would protect me. So I ran. I ran to the front because I knew that if I waited then I would chicken out. After not wanting to face God, I finally placed Christ into the centre of my life by saying and really meaning that I would follow Him wherever he wanted me to go.
That moment changed the entire path of my life. Now, I am still so so flawed, but I also feel like the most blessed man in the world. Because despite my flaws, Christ completes me. My ‘yes’ to God has led me to becoming a full-time missionary, it’s led me to finding my wife, moving to Montreal, getting to meet my son, Vincent, and excitedly waiting to meet my next child come October 2018. There has yet to be a day where I have perfectly lived my commitment to Christ, and there may never be, but that doesn’t really matter. Just like in my marriage to Angele, the validity of our relationship is not dependant on how perfectly I love her, but on the commitment I made to her to seek to love her better each day.
My role is as the Team Leader of the Campus Missionary team at Concordia. There is no greater joy than getting to watch students embrace their missionary identity and share their faith. Building up multiplying leaders both through my staff and my students is what I love most.
ONGOING PRAYER REQUESTS
The ministry of CCO in Montreal and all of Quebec. For my ever growing family.