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Being Afraid to Love Deeply Again

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Editor’s Note: Current missioner, Erin McHugh, reflects on the hesitations of her heart as she moves forward with new challenges and endeavors on mission in Guatemala.

For the past 2 years I had the honor of working with the same group of high school girls, which had been so fruitful and life giving for me. I loved teaching them English through self-empowerment lessons.  I loved working in the bakery together and sharing time together on the weekends. We built such strong relationships and became like family. I fell deeply in love with the girls and shared so much of my heart and self with them.  We experienced so much healing and spiritual growth together. I truly believe that they were my angels. I had to say goodbye to these girls last year as they graduated and have moved on from Valley. I experienced so much pain and heartbreak having to say goodbye to them. It was as if a part of my heart was being ripped out.

However, I was still excited for this third year and ready to continue to form deep relationships and love for the other girls.  The beginning of this year has been very different and challenging for me. I am no longer teaching high school and I have been heartbroken missing the girls from last year. I have been struggling teaching the middle school girls, as it is a whole different challenge. I am struggling to open my heart to love again and love the other children.  I feel as if my heart is afraid of loving again. It’s afraid of loving that deeply again, because it doesn’t want to experience the pain and heartbreak. I feel myself building a wall and resisting the new changes. I have been asking God: Why are you making this so difficult for me? Why did you call me back to Valley?  Why (over and over again) are you asking me to love these children so deeply? My heart cannot take it.  In the still small voice of my heart I hear God tell me: Because I knew you would do it. I knew you would love them.

While I have been sad, frustrated and confused about this, as I felt like I had found myself and was finally using my unique gifts for God’s honor and glory teaching the high school girls. I was mad and felt like I was being stripped of my true calling, but then I am relieved I  have to let go of the fear and love again. I know the other children at Valley need love too. I know God called me to Valley for a reason. God called me because God knew I would love them. Maybe at first it was to be with the high school girls, loving them and allowing them to see their value and worth. And now I have to start over with the middle school girls and it is exhausting, but I am still called to do the same thing. I am called to make these girls feel loved, important, and know their true value and worth.  I know I am called to love and to be at Valley.

As I have struggled with the first month and wondered if I would make it through the year, I think of a quote from Mother Teresa:  “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.” God is using me and working through me to love these children. I am being stretched in new ways this year, but it’s good to grow in my capacity to love. I do wish God wouldn’t trust me so much to love deeply, but I am staying strong and trusting that God has me exactly where I am meant to be: loving these children as deeply as I can.

Reflection Question: How is God inviting you to open your heart wider to the people present in your life?

Erin McHugh has a strong passion for working with children and a heart for those living in poverty. After serving in South Africa last summer with Experience Mission, Erin is looking forward to building relationships and immersing herself in a new culture through Franciscan Mission Service. While her family now lives in Cincinnati, OH, Erin has roots in her hometown of Louisville, KY. Before pursuing her calling for international mission work, Erin attended Butler University for two years. There she was involved with the Butler Catholic Community and was co-chair of the service committee. Erin has been in Guatemala since January 2017.