As Superstorm Sandy raged and roared outside, missioner candidate Jeff Sved found that going without electricity would be very similar to his adjustment to a new culture and a new lifestyle.
What does a week without electricity mean for a group of missioners-in-training?
A little extra challenge. And a whole lot more to reflect on…
For our week of collaborative training with the Maryknoll and Comboni Missioners and the Society of African Missioners in Ossining, NY, we were without electricity while discussing what it will mean to be powerless in a new culture.
Being without power was the recurring theme as we contrasted the desire to live and walk alongside our brothers and sisters around the world with the reality that we will be perceived as foreigners with the power (and money) to fix every problem.
It is so tempting to accept that invitation, naively thinking that we actually do have the power and knowledge to fix a problem we only superficially understand. Mission in many ways hinges on the ability to avoid this temptation.
In a particularly enlightening session focused on “money in the hands of missioners,” we began to shift from our powerlessness to empowerment. The shift in focus helped me to better understand the importance of avoiding the temptation of power in a new culture.
To accept the invitation of power is to block the empowerment of others.
Jesus must have understood this perfectly. This was Satan’s trump card while tempting Jesus in the desert. His final attempt was to entice Jesus with power over all the kingdoms of the world. Even if Jesus thought He could rule much more fairly and justly than the current rulers, He turned down that power.
As missioners we must also continue to turn away from the temptation of power, and allow ourselves to be powerless.
Originally from Pittsburgh, Penn., Jeff spent this past year in Wilmington, Del., with Franciscan Volunteer Ministry teaching math in a prison and teaching English to members of the Latino community. A graduate of Villanova, he is preparing for two years of mission in Bolivia.