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“So, Where Will You Be Going?”


Editor’s Note: Missioner-in-training Maggie Van Roekel reflects on her time in Formation waiting, discerning, and planning before traveling overseas for mission.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a meticulous planner. My calendar book is my life-line and I am constantly writing to-do lists, feeling triumphant each time I can cross off a completed task.

I checked “Finish FMS application” off my to-do list in January, and I wrote down plans for attending discernment days in May. I made myself a “things to pack” list before I left for formation in August. The only question mark that seemed to remain was the country I would be serving in come January.

We’re now halfway through formation, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked the infamous question: “So, where will you be going?”

My fellow planners out there probably understand that this question scares the bejeebies out of me! I leave in approximately three months and I can’t even write where I’m going into my calendar!

My fellow missioners and I are currently in the process of discerning our mission sites. We’ve begun sessions that give us an overview of each location in Guatemala, Bolivia, and Jamaica. We have had a chance to speak with missioners in the field about their sites and some of the opportunities they’ve taken part in.

It was wonderful to have a formal formation session about discernment. We discussed what it means to discern and how to live a life of discernment in a culture that doesn’t necessarily discern. We considered what it means to be open and patient. We also discussed trusting in God’s call in our lives.

I have – more than once – caught myself becoming impatient with my own process of discernment. I want to know where I’m going! I want to plan!

But God doesn’t always recognize our want for checklists, and sometimes I’m surprised I can’t hear the sound of His belly laughs at some of the things I write in my planner. He has his own timeline, and right now I just have to wait and trust that He knows exactly what He’s doing.

Discernment won’t end when I find out my mission site placement. Even when I know where I’m going, there’s no way of knowing what my role will be. Living a discerning life means casting aside all of your preconceived notions, not only about mission, but about life and the future.

Reflection Question: what is a decision you face which you could ponder in a sense of discernment rather than impatience?

Through listening the stories of our marginalized brothers and sisters, Maggie seeks to gain new perspectives on joy and hope across different backgrounds. Her passion for disability social justice grew out of numerous experiences working with individuals with disabilities, including three summers at an Easter Seals camp. Maggie grew up in Iowa and studied health science at the University of Iowa.