Editor’s Note: Missioner-in-training Erin McHugh looks back on the past three months of formation in Washington, DC and looks ahead to how she will apply her experiences to her time on mission.

Wow, it is hard to believe our formation in DC is coming to an end, but I will never be completely formed. While I have learned and grown so much in these past three months, I hope to continue to grow during my time on mission. One thing in particular that has become very evident to me in my time in formation is the Franciscan charism and Franciscan Mission Service’s unique approach to mission. I am extremely thankful for their approach and how in line it is with my own values and beliefs of mission.

I am not going on mission to convert people to Christianity. Rather, while on mission, I hope to meet people where they are and walk with them on their unique faith journeys. I don’t believe in pushing my faith on other people. I’m not the type of person to ‘preach’ the Gospel in words, but rather lead by example, through my actions and how intentionally I live my life. I hope to serve in a way that is respectful of cultural and religious diversity. I pray I can learn from their beautiful faith lives, and that it deepens my own faith life.

I am not going on mission to start projects that the host country doesn’t want or need. Franciscan Mission Service only sends missioners to countries where local Franciscan communities have invited them. I have come to realize that imposing Western culture and society on different countries hurts more than it helps. If projects don’t come from or are not supported by the local people, they will not last.

There is no right culture in this world, and that’s what I find so beautiful about going on mission is that we have the chance to learn and grow from each other. While I’m on mission, I hope to be able to live in solidarity with the local people, be present to them, and listen to their needs rather than imposing my own. I hope to empower the local people to see the needs in their community and walk with them on a journey to create change.

I am not “giving up” two years of my life. I don’t feel like I am sacrificing anything to go on mission, rather I feel like I am fulfilling what God has called me to do with my life. I hope to learn so much about myself through building lasting relationships with the local people and immersing myself in a new culture. I’m looking forward to my transformation and the new perspective I hope to have on the world and the people around me.

Finally, it’s not my mission, but rather God’s mission. I’m just a vessel for God to use to share Christ’s love with those in most need. I can’t change people or situations — that’s God’s job. All I can do is love. I pray that my approach to mission is one of love, humility, and accompaniment.

*Featured image from the World Mission chapel in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC