As a part of her the Domestic Volunteer (DV) formation at FMS, Susie Zagar provides a personal reflection on a talk given by one of the guest speakers, Mr. Harold Nelson, an advocate for civil rights and social justice.

Program Director Rhegan Hyypio (right) arranged for her fellow community member Harold Nelson to speak to two FMS volunteers Susie Zagar (left) and Rachel Roa (middle) as a part of their Domestic Volunteer formation program.

When I first came to FMS, I learned the phrase “ministry of presence” for the first time. Over the course of the year, it has been amazing to observe the deep profound effects of this minister whether it was through spending time with the missioners in formation, with my community seeing how they have carried out their service roles in D.C. and with the people who have come through the doors at Casa San Salvador.
During the Lenten Season, the domestic volunteers were privileged to have as a guest and speaker, Mr. Harold Nelson, who gave us a talk about his experiences advocating for civil rights. In his lifetime, he has taught at Freedom Schools in Alabama, he has taught students living along the U.S. Mexican border, and he has worked in D.C. with Torture Abolition and Survivor’s Support Coalition (TASSC) .
To me, Harold epitomizes what the ministry of presence is all about. During his time working along the U.S. Mexican Border he encouraged students in their writing. He would tell them, “I can teach you everything you need to know about spelling and grammar, but I can’t teach you how to write.” Writing for the students came from within, a combination of their experiences and their personal talents. Harold’s job was to be there for the students, to give them confidence, to encourage them in finding their voices, helping them to see that they had the ability to write. Many of these students had never been given that type of encouragement and more often than not they were told that they would never amount to anything.
We asked Harold what steps we could take in our daily faith lives to carry out social justice. His answer was simple, that some one could change a life just by offering a warm welcome, just by smiling, and honestly striving to find the dignity in each individual. All of these actions go a long way in reaching out to a person.
Through Harold’s stories, I can also see how presence is two fold. While Harold was reaching out to others, he was also learning from and gaining insight from them. As an exercise, we can try to see how our presence has had an impact, how God has used us in our daily lives, but we can also reflect on what we have learned from some one else.

For Reflection: Each day, write down a list of people you met or talked to. Next write down what you were able to learn from them through your presence.

~Susie Zagar, FMS Domestic Volunteer