I want to tell you quickly about my Mexico City trip, and something really cool that's happened with it. Each week since the beginning of the semester, our team of four missionaries plus one student intern have been holding a weekly phone conference. Sometimes they look like this one, but usually they're pretty short and to the point with little to no messing around.
For the first month of the semester our check-ins have consisted mainly in an attempt to put the word out about our trip and recruit a few more men to join us. We certainly don't coerce, force or bribe students to come on our trips, but basically we just keep putting the word out there so more people can come, and we particularly were in need of a few more men.
When the January 15th application deadline passed, there were only two men signed up for our trip, and 12 girls. Yikes! The trip limit is 16 students, and ideally we really would've liked to have somewhere in the 50/50 range, men and women. We continued to spread the word about our trip, answer questions, and encourage young men to apply as soon as they could. If we didn't get more men to apply soon the trip would have to be cancelled, and that frightened me.
Something else that we did, which not only united us from ND->MN->VT->VA was a team fast (penance, not the quicker connotation) in hopes of getting more men to apply. This year it has been pretty clear that the Lord is asking us to fast more, and when groups of us have done this for a particular cause, I'm amazed at the results: the Lord really does answer these prayers!
We decided to choose something small, but that we could be faithful to. So we chose to not use the snooze button. After a week I was excited for the Thursday afternoon conference call to see what resulted: nada. No dice, still no men interested. We fasted on. The next week, a couple of guys' interest was piqued, but still nothing substantial. The fast continued.
Suddenly one young man comes out of the woodwork and apparently is a friend to a few of the girls who applied for the trip. He fills out an application and is accepted. Then another (from NDSU even!) decides he really does want to go. Okay, I think to myself, I think we might actually have a pretty even ratio of men to women!
With four men total, I finally decide to quit accepting students and just bite the bullet that we will have only four men and nine women. Suddenly, I get emails from three separate people: all in the same day! They do not simply show marginal interest, but actually really want to come to Mexico City--and the best part: nobody even asked two of them! These two emailed third party missionaries (not involved with our trip) seeking a mission trip this summer, and were genuinely interested in coming to Mexico City. I was astonished. This was very certainly the work of prayer and fasting, and definitely renewed my faith in the power of these two things combined.
Our trip's final roster includes 9 women plus 2 missionaries, and 7 men, plus 2 missionaries! Praise God! With that being said, I do want to issue a small disclaimer: we do not view the men on our trip as simply "just a number" or filling a space. These few men, called by God to come on this trip, are an answer to our prayers! As the director of the trip, I for one can sleep a little easier knowing that our trip will not be canceled due to lack of interest, and that the Lord has something amazing in store for each man and woman on our trip. It is clear that each of us were called to come, and that was affirmed again yesterday.
Do you remember that in the beginning I said that 12 women had originally applied for our trip? It was actually more than that, but a couple of them dropped due to lack of interest. With the accepting of the 3 last men for our trip, it meant that 3 young ladies would not get the opportunity to go. I have been so nervous, anxious about calling them and saying, "Sorry! I know you filled out an application months ago, but I simply cannot accept any more women on our trip." Well, I finally quit playing phone tag with two of them yesterday and each one was not only okay with not being able to go, they were relieved. One of them was thankful to not have to make the decision between a mission trip and summer internship while the other wasn't even sure that she wanted to go anymore. Wow, thank you God! I can't believe I was so nervous... for that!
God is definitely doing something to prepare the hearts and minds of these young men and women, as well as us missionaries, and I simply cannot wait to find out what it is! Please pray for us as we continue to prepare for our trip to México!
"Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, getting up on the dot, at a time, without granting a single minute to laziness. If, with the help of God, you conquer yourself in that moment, you'll have accomplished a great deal for the rest of the day. It's so discouraging to find yourself beaten in the first skirmish!"
- St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way #192