If He Were to Call, How Would You Respond?

If you had asked me as a freshman if I would ever consider doing missionary work full-time, I would have laughed. I grew up a cradle Catholic, but the faith no longer held personal importance in my life. Instead I chose to live for the fun right in front of me. I went out partying and was either too drunk or too ashamed of myself to attend Mass or do anything related to faith. Journeying with others to a deeper union with Christ and His Church felt out of the question. Besides, I saw those missionary people as just weird.

Fast forward to my senior year. A lot happened for me in those four years. I encountered Christ in a deeper way and fell in love with Him and His Church. I began to lead Bible studies, and although I still didn’t think missionary work was right for me, I didn’t know what to do after graduation. I had three different summer internships while in college, spanning from engineering to international development work to finance for a startup. After all of that work experience, I was still confused — but now instead simply asking myself what I wanted to do, I began asking God what I should do after graduation.

With a friend’s encouragement, I decided to apply to staff, and I was eventually asked to come to an interview weekend. God proceeded to sprinkle bread crumbs in my life to lead me away from indecision and to help me respond to my blessings with gratitude.

I encountered the first bread crumb while speaking with a priest during interview weekend. I had a fear that I wasn’t holy enough, so I couldn’t serve as a missionary. I knew I wanted Christ to be the center of my life, but I didn’t know how to move towards that.

As the priest and I began to discuss the issue, the Holy Spirit brought John 21: 15-19 to mind. In this scene, Peter is given the opportunity to turn back to Jesus after denying Him. Peter is asked three times if he loves Jesus, and Peter responds that he does. After each of the three asks, Jesus also tells Peter that he must “feed my lambs” or “tend to my sheep.”

I took this to prayer in adoration. The Lord spoke through my apprehension. He told me that, if I desire to love Him, then I must tend to His sheep in the way that He was calling me. For me, becoming a FOCUS missionary was that opportunity.

After that experience, I grew more confident that this is what God wanted for me — yet I was still fearful. I would have to enter a dating fast, and I was already in a serious dating relationship. I also would face a significant salary cut compared to an engineering job.

With this in mind, I went to go study, but I was too preoccupied with the potential offer to be a missionary. I sat there alone in the study room and prayed aloud the prayer of Samuel: “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3: 9). After that prayer, I got up and found a bookmark, all tattered and torn, which I had lost a year ago when a FOCUS missionary had invited me to go on an international mission trip:

FOCUS Missions Bookmark
FOCUS Missions Bookmark

The quote on the bookmark answered my prayer:

“The test of faith is love, heroic love, and heroism is not an obligation…How grand is this idea! The Church does not live contingent on duties, but instead the generosity of Her faithful! How grand is the confidence that God has extended to focus on our generosity and wait that we might respond! If He were to call, how would you respond?” (St. Alberto Hurtado)

This was the second bread crumb that lead me closer to becoming a FOCUS missionary.

I still had to make my own choice and take a leap of faith. I looked at my past experiences, and I saw how God had formed my heart for others and had given me my life of joy back after falling away into darkness.

I took the leap.

Now after being on campus for a month, I’ve experienced the joy the mission brings me, seeing the Lord working in the lives of students. Specifically, it brings me boundless joy when I get done teaching a student Lectio Divina and practicing it with them for the first time and having asked what they thought, they respond with “That was awesome”. Amidst this, I have sought after my original desire: to love Christ with my whole heart, to grow in my understanding and conviction of my vocation and to deepen my surrender to Him. I have expectant hope that He will not disappoint.

Joel Sarmiento
Joel Sarmiento
Joel Sarmiento was born in Colorado, but grew up in southern Illinois. He just recently graduated from the University of Illinois, where he studied General engineering, so basically he's semi-decent at all of the engineering fields. He currently serves as a campus missionary at the University of Nebraska Lincoln where you may find him doing out reach by helping people fix their bikes or playing spike ball on the quad. He also loves praying with people and has been know to pray with police officers...after they have given him a ticket.

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