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When You Say YES to God

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Editor’s Note: After two years of mission in the U.S.-Mexico border region, Overseas Lay Missioner Rhonda Eckerman shares her favorite memories of service and recounts the joys that come with saying “yes” to God. 

Two years ago I said yes to Franciscan Mission Service and to a move to the U.S. – Mexico border taking a leap of faith, knowing nothing about the mission site or the people I would be accompanying. Recently, I have been reflecting on what that “yes” has meant to me and how throughout these two years as I continued to say “yes” to God how much my life changed and how my heart grew.

This is Carl.

Because I said yes, I can change a tire on a Honda Accord, milk an uncooperative goat, and wrangle in escaped ducks. I can jump rope, play Spanish Uno, and dance the hokey pokey with a class of fifteen young kids. I can be comfortable joking with US Customs officers about carrying $10,000 across the port of entry and comfortable walking around a Mexican town purchasing lunch or goodies from the local panadería [bakery]. Because I said yes, I did a line dance on the back porch of the migrant center while being serenaded from across the street by three young boys singing, laughing and clapping their hands at my silliness. Saying yes meant I participated in an Easter ceremony walking, singing, and praying with hundreds of other Catholics in the streets of Agua Prieta. Because I said yes, I dropped jugs of water in the desert praying for the safety of migrants and participated in cross plantings for those ones who did not make it. Because I said yes, I learned how to communicate with strangers from different parts of the world providing aid and comfort. Finally, what most impacted my heart were the hundreds of hugs I got and gave to new migrant brothers and sisters as I accompanied them for a brief period of their lives.

Because I said yes to learning about St. Francis and his passion for caring for creation, I lived simply, used less plastic and less water, recycled and ate modestly. St. Francis inspired me to pick up trash, plant succulents, relocate 3 rodents to a lovely water reserve, move hundreds of spiders back to the outdoors, and help a sick snake out of a tree. Because I said yes, I got to befriend a lonely cow we named Carl, who would moo a hello if he saw me.

Because I said yes, I found myself enjoying life in community with Mari and Julia where someone was always there to comfort you when you have a bad day, or laugh at your stupid jokes, to have puzzle club when you have no energy for anything else, or to help with prep for one of your few vegetarian recipes. Yes has meant spending Sunday nights with my brothers, the Franciscan Friars Hajime, Jim, David, and Iggy, for nights filled with prayer, reflection, socializing, and great meals. The yes has meant working alongside and learning from two wonderful School Sisters of Notre Dame, Lucy and Judy. God brought so many people into my life that I love and that love me—just a few of whom are pictured above. God gave me a family. All because I said yes.

Reflection Question: What is God asking you to say “yes” to?

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Rhonda is a Returned Missioner who served on the U.S.-Mexico border. As she prepared for her time on mission, she often reflected on the verse where Jesus says "I thirst" (John 19:28). Her first encounter with this verse was upon reading about Mother Teresa, who had such zeal about these two simple words. Focusing on the thirst of Jesus helps Rhonda draw nearer to Christ and love more deeply.