God sometimes asks us to do things that seem nonsensical to the eyes of the world. I came from a “third world country” to the U.S. not to pursue the “American dream” but to be a missionary, something many of my friends and family didn’t understand. Despite the pressure of the world, I wanted to see where Christ was staying, so I said yes to His invitation to “come and see.” Jesus invited me to His home in Source of All Hope, whose mission is to give Christ a home in the places where He is most neglected: in the homeless, in the Eucharist, and in ourselves.
I had never interacted with homeless people before, at least not in the way that missionaries do at Source. Four days after arriving in the U.S. from Honduras, my first street walk was especially difficult. I felt overwhelmed on the one hand, by the surprising reality of homelessness in a country as rich (materially) as the U.S. and on the other, because I didn't know how I should interact with our homeless friends, especially because now I was in a totally different reality, culture, language, etc. I honestly thought I should go home and that I would not be of much service. But then God showed up in the form of a homeless woman outside the Basilica, who spoke in a way I could understand, and I was encouraged to stay.
As the months went by, I began to establish relationships with different people and could see the hand of God in their lives. One of them was Willie, from Puerto Rico. He had been living on the streets for 2 years. Willie, apart from fighting his addictions and homelessness, also did not speak English, which made his isolation even heavier. When I met him, I could see how God brought a little hope and relief to his life, since now he could finally communicate in Spanish with someone. At Source, every week there is a day we call “investing day” when we “invest” more intentional time with one or more of our friends with whom we want to establish a relationship. One “investing day,” I took Willie to a restaurant to have lunch; he was very excited. But when it came time to order the food, he said these words that will live with me forever, “You know, I just had a snack. In fact, I'm not hungry. I just want to talk…” These and many similar encounters with our friends highlight what Mother Teresa said about the type of poverty in rich countries: it is a relational poverty. There is hunger, hunger to not be forgotten and overlooked, a longing to be noticed and not to be seen as “the bad image of the city, family, etc...” I have witnessed friends panhandling and approaching cars and the people in the cars rolling up the windows, perhaps not intending any harm. But afterwards our friends would feel hurt and comment, “Okay, don't give me money or anything else, but at least say hi…” Some of our friends have even shared with us that some close family member has gotten rid of photos or belongings that remind them of him/her, because they are ashamed to be related.
Seeing all this suffering, I’m often tempted to ask, what about God, why doesn't he show His face to them? But then I see how our friends, in the midst of their suffering, talk about God, not only as the Creator, but as the Merciful One, someone who has something better prepared for them, someone who, although at times seems to abandon them, sooner or later provides. I have seen friends sitting on the sidewalk of a gas station run toward us shouting, “I need prayer. Can you pray for me today?” or, “Which one of you will do the prayer today for me?” I have seen friends preaching to each other about how our greatest wealth is the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ shows up in the midst of suffering just as He did at the Cross. He carried the heavy wood, the insults, the shame, and the rejection, knowing that the Father had a greater plan for redemption. The same happens on the streets: even if we don’t understand why they must suffer so much, God has a greater plan for those carrying the burden of homelessness, addictions, and familial brokenness. Through these experiences, the Lord has transformed my idea of being a successful missionary. Our success is not based on how many people we “take off the streets,” but on the love we show them by our presence. And we know that our Good Father will one day redeem his children and relieve them of their suffering.
As a community, we have a rule of life that invites us to do one holy hour every day. This has helped me with the accountability and motivation necessary for me to realize the treasure we have in our parish to be able to worship the King of Kings 24/7. And while it is true that it is sometimes difficult to wake up at 2 a.m. and stay awake during those 59+ minutes in the chapel, God gives grace and, honestly, seeing the other missionaries always motivated to spend time with the Lord has inspired me and invited me to reflect on my relationship with my Creator. I need Him to do the ministry, and if I do not personally encounter Christ, how can I speak to others, especially the most disadvantaged, about Him?
I have also seen Christ alive in the other missionaries. We live, pray, and receive formation together as brothers and sisters in Christ, providing mutual encouragement in the faith. Despite the challenges and frustrations that accompany living closely with others, a sense of brotherhood exists that ultimately overcomes any difficulty and fosters growth in our relationship with God and each other. As an individual who came from a foreign country, I have witnessed the power of Christ in my Source brothers and sisters, who have provided unconditional support as I adjusted to life in the U.S. Through the love demonstrated by the missionaries and the human, spiritual, and intellectual formation that we receive on a weekly basis, I see the community's dedication to making space for Christ’s presence in their lives.
So I have seen Christ find a home in the middle of poverty, prayer, and community. Let us ask God to grant us the grace to contemplate him in our daily lives and to respond to his call without fear or doubt, relying fully on him as the SOURCE OF ALL HOPE.
Originally from Honduras, Roberto Mejia began serving with Baltimore’s Source of All Hope Missionaries in 2021 and still works for them part-time.