Editor’s note: Missioner Anna Klonowski reflects on her past experience studying abroad in Guatemala and the fear she overcame in traveling to a new country.
My sophomore year of college, I was accepted into my university’s study abroad program in Guatemala for the following spring semester. I felt so excited–ready for a new journey and new growth. I thought of all the experiences I would have, the places I would travel, and the people I would meet. With a whole year until going abroad, Guatemala felt like a far-off adventure.
Between my sophomore year and the spring semester of my junior year, I thought a lot about how much opportunity for growth I would have and how excited I was to study Spanish. I didn’t really think about how afraid I would feel in the moment of actually leaving.
On January 2nd, 2015, the moment to leave finally arrived.
And I felt terrified.
Questions started forming in my mind. Was this the right program for me? Would it be too hard to be away from my family? Could I adjust to the culture shock?
I arrived at the airport really, really early in the morning and spent some time there with my family. Though I didn’t know what the future held, I tried to recall all of my original excitement and the hopes I had for the next four and a half months.
Saying goodbye to my family in the airport and stepping onto the plane was a moment that I put my trust completely in God. As the plane took off from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and headed toward Guatemala City, Guatemala, I thought of the prayer by Thomas Merton that has comforted me in times of fear. An excerpt says,
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you… Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Even as I ran through the Houston airport so I wouldn’t miss my next flight, I took comfort in that prayer. When we landed in Guatemala, I still felt a little fear, but I also felt again excitement and hope for the upcoming semester.
Deciding to study abroad in Guatemala was one of the best decisions I have ever made. When I chose to trust in God’s plan rather than my own fear, I began to grow as a person every day. My experience there made me want to pursue international lay mission with Franciscan Mission Service, and now, as I prepare to head abroad yet again, I am determined to be filled with the excitement and possibilities that come with trusting God’s plan for my life.
Reflection Question: How is fear holding you back from living in a trustful surrender to the blessings and experiences that will shape you for the future?