Franciscan missioner Hady Mendez reflects on embracing her new identity as a lay missioner.

We did collaborative training this past week with three other mission organizations: Maryknoll Lay Missioners , Society of African Lay Missioners , and Comboni Lay Missionary Program . In all, there were 16 missioners preparing for life on mission. It was a great opportunity to network with the other missioners, to learn from each other, to offer one another support and prayers, and to walk alongside people who are taking a similar journey.

Missioners-in-training and Friends
Missioners-in-training and friends

After class on Friday, a group of us decided to go out to eat together. After dinner, some of us stayed at the restaurant for a little Spanish dancing. It was a ton of fun – all of us dancing, and laughing, and enjoying a night out. I met someone there who asked me where I was from and what I was going in DC. I explained to him that I was living here for the last 2 months as part of my training to go on mission and that I was out with some fellow missioners-in-training. He asked where I was going and I responded, “Latin America”.

“That couple dancing over there is going to Africa. Oh, and her too. She’s going to Tazania,” I said, pointing to one of the Maryknoll missioners. And as I was telling my new friend who we were and what we were planning to do for the next few years, it dawned on me that what we’re doing is pretty awesome!! I suddenly was overwhelmed with a strong sense of pride and joy – we’re going on mission!!

I remember the first time someone referred to me as a “missioner”. I was in Haiti with a few fellow parishioners from my church in Central Florida. We were invited to come up to the altar during one of the masses we attended. The entire congregation stood up and clapped as the “missioners from America” approached the stage to say a few words about our experience in Haiti.

I remember thinking, “Wait, we’re not missioners. Someone tell them we are just normal people here to help move forward the projects we are working on, to spread some love and cheer, and to let the people of Haiti know they are not forgotten.” But it was too late. In their eyes, we were missioners. And it felt pretty great!!!

Hady on service trip to Haiti, September 2012

So, as I fast-forward one year and two months after that initial experience, I am now proud to be called a missioner. I’m excited to offer the people of Bolivia love and cheer and to let them know they are not forgotten. Because when I think back to my experience in Haiti, it was there that I realized how important it is to bring light to situations that appear hopeless, to instill faith and hope during times of doubt and despair, to bring joy where there is sadness and pain, and to give freely knowing that by doing so, I will receive much in return.

My trip to Haiti awakened in me my call to mission. My 9-month JustFaith class opened my eyes to all the need in the world. And formation with Franciscan Mission Service has confirmed for me that this calling is real. I am excited to join the family of missioners who travel the world to spread God’s love to His people.

After all, it’s true – “The Lord hears the cry of the poor. Blessed be the poor.”