Editor’s Note: Lay Missioner Rhonda Eckerman reflects on the impact of trust amidst transition. She walks us through the process of transitioning from one familiar identity to a calling for another new identity serving with FMS at the US-Mexico border.
The loss of my mom was a difficult time and a major transition in my life. I went from daughter-caregiver to parentless. With her passing, I had to face a new reality, but I was not sure what that would be. Throughout my life, my mom was a great example of lifelong volunteering, so it seemed only right that shortly after she passed, I began thinking about service and a commitment to a long-term volunteer program. I wanted only to find a program to continue care-giving, to feel useful, and to give my life purpose once again.
After looking over many possible options, I felt God’s pull to Franciscan Mission Service. I accepted the invitation from FMS to participate in their three-month Formation program. It was an opportunity to learn about St. Francis, mission with FMS, living simply in an intentional community, and best of all growing in my faith. But the emotions around the loss of my mom and saying goodbye to the old reality came flooding back during one of the more intense Formation sessions. Transition, I was told, was a process that starts with an ending and saying goodbye to the old familiar to make room for the new. This initial transition step was going to be challenging. The tears I cried in that session were for my mom; I so miss her. But I felt my anxiety after the session was more about saying goodbye to my old identity. My identity as care-giver was my old reality. This new identity that God has laid on my heart as a lay missioner and this new ministry, the ministry of presence, is a person who listens, a “presence minister”, and a “time-giver”. This ministry did not involve a role as a care-giver, and I was definitely struggling with this foreign identity.
After Formation, I returned to Colorado and reflected on all that I’ve learned about this new identity. Can I transition to become a presence minister? Can I find purpose in listening, and just being present? I pray, telling God all my fears and doubts. As with so many other times in my life, I feel the Holy Spirit bringing me a sense of comfort and peace through this transition. I know I can rely on God’s presence and direction as I begin this new life on the US-Mexico border.