Financing missionary work isn't easy

  • May 9, 2008

We’re a generation of youth missionaries, taught not only in church but in high school youth groups or campus ministries that it’s important to share your faith with others. I remember clearly the call to “propose” the faith rather than to “impose” it. Yet often, to share that faith we need to deepen that faith, which can involve throwing ourselves headlong into an organized evangelization or mission project. World Youth Days, Catholic youth conferences and mission trips are all increasingly part of the natural culture in our  universal church, which ultimately presents a different kind of faith test: fund-raising.

I proudly watched my younger sister make an appeal for financial help at a parish in Ottawa several weeks ago. She will be taking part in Catholic Christian Outreach’s Rencontrez Jésus mission project, which not only offers training and formation in evangelization, theology and leadership, but also the chance to test her outreach skills at rallies and other events in Ottawa and Hull leading up to the Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City in June.

Like my sister, in the summer of 2004 I found myself scrambling to raise a couple thousand dollars merely weeks before heading off to help with a youth evangelization mission in Halifax. When you're in university and worrying about how you will pay for your tuition and living expenses in the fall, taking two or more months off for missionary work is daunting. Number one, you might not have any income during those months. Number two, there’s the possibility that you may have to pay a portion of the mission costs yourself.

Yet many of us still do it. Why? Well, the mission or outreach project is itself a wonderful experience, allowing us to deepen our faith by reaching out to others. Depending on the project, we are trained in ways to share our faith more lovingly and effectively.

Despite the worries it may cause, that first step of support raising can also help us grow in faith. This may sound like such a cliché, but God does provide. In my first year of university, I wanted to attend a Catholic youth conference in Saskatoon, Sask. I managed to raise enough for the conference fee, but with midterm exams and other stresses, I didn’t have enough time to seek out the extra $500 it would cost me for a round-trip plane ticket. Convinced that this conference was where God wanted me to be, I prepared to dip into my student loans to cover the cost. Two days before the flight, I randomly won $500 through a church lottery with my home parish. God had me covered.

In the next few years, God also surprised me by showing how generous family, friends and even strangers can be when it comes to helping out financially. The large amounts that people wrote down on cheques shocked me so much that I was repeatedly humbled, and determined to make the best in my pursuits of serving the Lord.

To all fellow youth saving up for the Eucharistic Congress, World Youth Day in Australia and other religious-based pursuits, take heart.

Fund-raising can be daunting, but it’s certainly an enriching part of the mission, with both financial and spiritual results.

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