This week, hundreds of young men and women arrived in Provo to begin an exciting, daunting adventure. I have a keen sense of what that’s like. Once, just like them, I was preparing to go on a mission.
In 1980, after my first year of law school, I left my studies to work with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras. For nine months, I ran a vocational school that taught carpentry and welding. I struggled with my Spanish and saw up close what it was like to live under a harsh dictatorship and contend with crippling poverty.
I grew up in an Irish Catholic home in Overland Park, Kansas, the son of an ironworker and a home economics teacher. My Catholic high school planted a strong seed of public service.
That motivation led me to the village of El Progreso. The Jesuits have a saying: they are “men for others.” They live in poverty, chastity and obedience for the sake of creating a better existence for their neighbors.
Being a missionary taught me how to live Christ’s declaration that we find ourselves only by losing ourselves. I learned to go long stretches without a shower, to empathize with my neighbors when they were victimized by abusive officials, and to accept meals from those who had almost nothing to give.
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