• April 29, 2010

Michelle, volunteer in Peru - “Friendship is to give and to receive”

Michelle with a number of the kids from the afternoon Permanencia - Peru, 2009

Michelle C. left in October 2008 for a 17-month mis­sion in Barrios Altos, Peru. She came back to the United States in March 2010. Here below is an excerpt from her last sponsor letter. She shares with us the joys and chal­lenges of her mis­sion...

Friendship is to give and to receive

I’ve found that it’s just impor­tant to be grate­fully recep­tive of these ges­tures of friend­ship as it is for us to demon­strate our own ges­tures of friend­ship. It’s one of the ways that we make our friend­ships on equal-footing. Even though we go thinking we’re there for the people, we find that the people are there just as much for us, and we would be putting our­selves above our friends if we didn’t allow them to show their appre­ci­a­tion for our friend­ship. The “poor” have some immense riches in their love, and it is an affir­ma­tion of their dig­nity to be someone to whom they can give.

As I was fin­ishing my mis­sion, I wanted to show my love for our friends as much as I could, but I found myself receiving more than I could ever give. About two weeks before my depar­ture from the barrio, I began to visit as many people as pos­sible to let them know I was leaving, invite them to my farewell party, and spend one last moment with them. I found this pro­cess very dif­fi­cult, never knowing if each visit would be the last time I would ever see the people and trying to make the most of each moment. It is typ­ical for our friends to invite us to share meals with them in their houses during this time, making us on the go at almost every moment, but I truly enjoyed spending so much time with our friends. [...]

I learned very much during my expe­ri­ence in Barrios Altos, and it was some­thing that has changed my life. I found that it is more impor­tant to be and to be with rather than to do. I think that maybe it isn’t that we should look to do for those who are in need, but rather to do with and to accom­pany and sup­port; to help others to see their own dig­nity, to empower. I have also learned the impor­tance of forming rela­tion­ships. In any kind of ser­vice, I believe that is where every­thing must start; we must first focus on entering into rela­tion­ship with others. In doing that, we are better able to rec­og­nize others as our sis­ters and brothers, and it is in that spirit that we should serve in the world.

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