More Than Just an Opportunity

Hey there! One of my brothers, Brennan, is taking it away with his second guest blog post! He is a wild adventurer and does it all for God. Watching him grow throughout the past two years as a college student and specifically in the three experiences he wrote about below brings me theee greatest joy! I bolded the parts where I noted his immense learning but read it all. All 2,604 words. The words of one man (who has a second mission to perfect the handstand) making a difference by serving the Lord.

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The last time I wrote for Kerigan, I talked about how I was given the privilege to serve as a summer missionary at Camp Covecrest in Tiger, Georgia. The semester to follow (August-December 2016), I would be heading to Gaming, Austria to study abroad. I am going to tell you about camp in a little bit but first, I want to share a situation with you that arose in Austria.

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During my study abroad experience, we traveled on the weekends and were also given the opportunity to have two free 10 day periods in which we could do anything we pleased. For the first 10 days, I was ready to lead a mission trip to Romania with seven of my other classmates. I was very honored to take on this role and even more excited to be able to travel to a place as unique as Romania.

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My plans were cut off when five days before we were going to leave, I was injured while playing soccer. I went to the hospital a few days later because of the intense pain and was diagnosed with a contussion in my leg. This meant that I would have to be on crutches for 4-6 weeks while my leg healed and that Romania was no longer a reality. I had to pass my leadership position onto another one of my classmates. While the rest of my classmates were leaving for 10 days, I stayed back on campus.

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I felt as if God had taken away such a great opportunity in my life. I felt like He stole a month from my life; one month that could have been the best of my life. Over those 10 days, I watched 19 movies because all I was able to do was rest and elevate my foot. Now let me tell you, Ice Age 4 is just not a good movie to watch. The Shawshank Redemption…now that movie was worth it!

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Anyways, over these 10 days, I had a lot of time to reflect on my life. I realized that I was losing my faith and I was losing any sense of hope. I felt as if God had abondened me and I was simply alone. I just couldn’t understand how my chance to lead a mission trip to Romania was diminished because of an accidental injury. I was angry and confused and as the semester carried on, I never found peace over that week being taken away from me.

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Continuing on into the current semester (beginning January 2017), I was still not at peace about what happened in Austria. It was too hard for me to get over the fact that I lost a month of traveling. I had plans to go to Sweden to visit the hometown of my favorite soccer player, plans to go to soccer games and simply just plans to not sit around on the couch. However, my frustration over all of this was put to rest a few weeks ago. 

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Gabe Salamida, a senior at my school, came up to me one day and told me he had an opportunity for me. He is the leader for the Belize mission trip and said that two guys who had previously signed up for the trip dropped over winter break. Gabe said that he heard good things about me from other people and wanted me to fill one of the open spots.

I was in shock because all of the hope that I lost in Austria was regained in that conversation. I ended up saying yes. That yes changed my life.

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The Belize mission trip entailed my teaching partner, Kara, and I going into high school classes three or four times a day and teaching them about anything we desired. We decided to teach on joy and prayer. Kara and I realized that living with joy makes life more endurable and that prayer is the foundation for life. In forming our lesson plans, I started to discover more about myself, who I am and who I am meant to be. As I taught about these subjects, I started to truly believe the words I was saying. 

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All 21 people in my team headed to Belize on March 11, 2017. I was extremely nervous because I was expected to teach high school students about God and different ways to encounter Him and live for Him. As I taught these classes, I came to realize that without the personal experiences in my life, I would of had nothing to say to these teens. However, because of tough times in my life right alongside the extremely good times, I was able to share myself with these Belizeans. I was able to tell them about God in my life and in doing so, I realized what a big part of my life He is.

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Becuase I grew up Catholic, I always knew who God was but I just never got to know God in a personal way. Once I chose to get to know Him, I realized how great He is to me. Right now, I can tell you that God is the reason for all the good in my life. He is the reason I have joy and the reason I find purpose. God is a good Father to me and as I came closer in my relationship with God, I realized that my earthly father is a good father. Because growing up, I never appreciated my family. I never recognized all the good they did for me.

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I was able to tell the Belizeans about my dad, in relation to God as my heavenly Father. The ONLY way I was able to do this is because I have come to realize how great my dad truly is. I can see comparisons between him and God in my life. As I came to understand God’s love for me, I also came to understand my siblings love for me. I came to realize that my family is a truly great family, loving me and finding ways to support me every day. Without my family’s support, I would not be able to go to Austria to study for four months or go to Camp Covecrest to serve for seven weeks or to spend a week in Belize. My family is a blessing on me.

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After spending time in Belize, I realized how broken the families I encountered there were. Very few of the kids had married parents and many of them only had one parent in their life. They found it so hard to trust because the ones they grew up with so willingly left them. I talked to one girl specifically whose dad left her and her eight siblings behind. He just got up one day and left with another woman. Her two older sisters left the family as soon as they turned 18 because her family was so broken that they didn’t want to stick around to fix it. This girl told me that she has no one to trust and the only reason she was trusting me with all this information is “I trust you, mister, because you gringos come here for a week every year and you are nice to us so I want you nice people to know our struggles so then you guys will come back and volunteer here to help us.”

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The thing is that there are about a dozen or so volunteers teaching at the school I was in which is an amazing influence on the Belizean teens. They want us to come back because for some reason, they want to trust the gringos. These kids want so badly to love, but more importantly they want to be loved. Unfortunately, many of them don’t encounter this in their homes. They feel our love for a week because it is easy for us to be kind to them and for us to listen to them during our one week obligation. However, the full time volunteers are expected to discipline these students and control the classrooms thus, having to give tough love at times resulting in the students becoming upset. The volunteers also must plan lessons each day in their different classrooms while facing the challenge of forming relationships with these teens so that they can get to know their students better and know how to serve them better.

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I say all of this because as great of a week I had in Belize and as much as I enjoyed it, taking a role like that on for a year would be one of the hardest tasks to assume. However, I feel called by God to eventually do such a thing. God is calling me to do ministry and missionary work in my life because for some reason, He blessed me with the ability to be good at it. To be good at connecting with high schoolers and sharing my experiences with them. That’s the whole reason why Gabe approached me. He heard others say I would be good at that type of missionary work. With that, I want to tell you about Camp Covecrest and what it did for me.
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At camp, I spent two weeks preparing/training and five weeks of being assigned with a parish group with a partner or two. I journeyed with the 20 or so teens and lead small groups for them just trying to see where their faith life was and what advice I could give to push them further in their faith. I wanted so badly for each and every one of these teens I encountered to know God as much as I do. To know His love and His support and especially, to know His forgiveness.

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In these five weeks, I was drained waking up every morning at 6:30am and going to sleep every night at midnight. I was pushed to my limits to love these teenagers and to be an example of joy that they would like to imitate. To show them the love of God and by the end of the week, to hope that they put in the effort during their time at camp to get enough out of it so that they would be willing to go home and direct their life towards God’s plan.

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In this seven week experience, I realized that it was difficult but in every challenge, the reward was so much better. To just see one teenager by the end of the seven weeks going home with God on their mind was enough to find my time spent there as a success. It wasn’t only one teen though. I saw dozens of teens that I encountered leaving with a desire to know God better. I ended the summer realizing that I myself wanted to know God better. Even though I could stand in front of these teens and tell them about God, I knew I needed to go home and get to know God better. I realized that I needed to recommit myself every single day to seeking out God and his plan for me.

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Now this timeline I laid out may not make a lot of sense because I went to camp last summer and then flew to Austria for the fall semester and then traveled to Belize this spring. But it shows that even after my amazing experience at camp, I didn’t have it all figured out. I came to realize that life is a struggle and once you stop struggling, that’s when you have given into the devil and his temptations. Every day that I seek out God and decide to take on the struggle is a win for me. The hard times make life worth it. The hard times give you a sense of meaing and purpose because as you strive to overcome challenges, you are striving to do better with your life and to do better means you have a purpose in sight.

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I want to live my life taking on the next challenge because I don’t want my life to be boring and easy. I want it to be exciting and thrilling and I am so blessed to be given such great opportunities in my life. The thing is, I have a new challenge coming this summer and I am so blessed by it.

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After every summer, you can’t reapply to be a summer missionary because Life Teen’s goal is the send you out into the world and evangelize back home. However, each team has about 12 guys and 12 girls at the different camps and each team has one guy captain and one girl captain. A week after I said yes to going to Belize, I got an email from Lizzie G, the camp director for Life Teen, aka who runs Camp Covecrest. She asked me to go to Camp Golden State in California for a month this summer as the guys’ captain. I will be leading them in formation and preparing them to lead teens closer to Christ.

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For some reason, she and the other full-time missionaries saw me do well at camp. So much so that they were willing to ask me to take on a leadership position. This priveledge that I will get to take on this summer brings me confidence that I am able to do ministry well. More importantly, it provides me with the humility to know that the only reason I can succeed in it is because God has blessed me with the talent.

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Whoever is reading this, please know that I am blessed. God has provided me with the best possible life to live and I am so glad that I have decided to live according to His plan. High school me would have never dreamed of doing the things I am priveledged to do now. My dream job in highschool was to make YouTube videos of me playing FIFA on my Xbox (“Yes, this is most definitely true” – Kerigan) because that was the only thing I could really find much happiness in. But now, all my happiness comes from God and the experiences and people He has put in my life.

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I am so joyful each day because I realize how far I have come. Let’s face it, I’m not the best at what I strive to do but I am always pushing myself to be better. I am always looking for the next challenge that will push me in ministry. I want to live my life bringing others closer to God and showing them that God is so willing to forgive them, love them and give them a plan that they are perfect for.

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My purpose of writing this is to share a little bit about myself and for me to reflect on this past year of being pushed more and more out of my comfort zone. When I first felt called to do ministry, I feared social encounters because I was uncomfortable with putting myself out there. Now, God is asking me to put all of myself out there so that others can hear of my witness and in doing so, may chose a life with Him.

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I realize now more than ever that with God by my side, I can do anything. “Jesus said, With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” – Mark 10:27. God has formed me into the man I am today. He has provided for me. He has blessed me with such a great life. All I want to do is give it back to Him by serving Him each and every day.

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May the joy of the Lord be my strength. Thank you for reading! Be safe and God bless.

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