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Editor’s Note: Missioner Aubrey Kimble shares how her faith was shaken after a traumatic event in the campus community in Carmen Pampa, Bolivia.

“Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ’s power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind. Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ.” These are just a few of the words that St. John Paul II included in his papal inauguration speech. I often think of these words while on mission. They are so comforting and offer so much hope, especially when I am feeling anything but unafraid.

This year for the FMS Advent series, we are reflecting on this exact theme – “Be Not Afraid.” But as beautiful as St. John Paul II’s message is, and as much as I believe that Christ is always with me – what happens when you are afraid? The message is so much easier said than done.

Recently on Carmen Pampa University’s campus, someone that is very dear to the community and university was assaulted. It left everyone reeling. I must admit that it was one of those things that really make you question your faith and what you believe. It took me back to the age-old question: why do bad things happen to good people?

How are you supposed to move past fear when bad things do happen? After something happens to someone you know and love, how can you not be afraid? I believe with all of my heart that God is present and with us, but I still can’t wrap my head around why things like this happen.

And of course, with all of this confusion also comes guilt. I know that everyone has their own cross to bear, but while on mission you hear stories of how much others have suffered. I think about people that I know and love that I’ve met on mission, and about how strong their faith is even though they have suffered immensely. And I feel guilty that I haven’t truly known suffering like that.

I don’t have the answers to any of these thoughts or questions, and they certainly couldn’t be answered in a short blog anyway. But I will say that through everything – through the dark times, through the times when I’ve been afraid and uncertain – God has not left me. I feel His presence everywhere and I know it with every fiber of my being. God is here, right in this moment.

I don’t know why bad things happen to good people, but I believe that God will never leave us. Through it all, I feel myself growing in ways I never could have imagined. There is suffering everywhere – there is no corner on Earth I could run to that would save me or anyone else from suffering. So maybe we must learn to trust more in God. We must learn that our hope is in Him.

Learning to deal with fear and confront it has helped me to move past it in a way. I believe that there is a silver lining in every cloud. In this specific situation on campus, the silver lining would surely be witnessing the love and support that has poured out from students, community members, and housemates.

Lower campus students lining up

Lower campus students lining up

Henri Nouwen says, “love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.” I think that these are incredibly insightful words. Love is stronger than fear. And anything is possible with God’s love – even moving past fear of suffering.

Reflection Question: In the midst of suffering, what are the silver linings for you?