Why am I a lay missioner? - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Gabe Hurrish, carrying the cross during a Lenten procession at Kuron Peace Village in South Sudan in February 2021. Photo by Br. Francis

People often say to me that they wish they could “be in mission” like me. I stop them right there and explain that every baptized Christian is in mission. It is simply that each mission, or calling from God, is different and tailored to that person. Raising a family is perhaps the most important mission in life. Jesus mentions this many times.

People sometimes see the “adventure and excitement” of being far away in some exotic location and wish they could do that. However, as a single lay missioner living in a very remote part of Africa with constant change and uncertainty all around, I sure would love to have a family and a so-called normal 9-to-5 job. But this is not the mission the Lord has granted me. I have to accept that. I read the prophets and find strength in their examples. Most did not want to do what the Lord asked of them, yet they did it out of love for the almighty. I try to do follow their example.

I don’t really ask myself: Why am I a lay missioner? I ask myself: Why am I following the example of this man Jesus, who lived and died and then rose from the dead? And the next question is: How do I follow this man, Jesus?

When I read the Gospels, one thing that strikes me about Jesus is how patient and kind he is even with those who are skeptical. He simply never turns anyone away. He is totally focused on God the Father. He wants others to believe and is sad they have closed their minds. He knows something that we ordinary folks don’t, and He wants us to share that with us so that we believe.

When I look around me at this world, I see that everyone is hurting in some way. Everyone wants to be heard. Everyone wants to see. Everyone wants to understand. Everyone wants to be treated with dignity. When I truly let that sink in, my calling becomes a worldwide effort. I am not just called to respond to those of my family, extended family or state, country or faith. I am called to reach out to everyone, all the time, everywhere.

As a lay missioner, I am committed to a simple lifestyle. Clothes, brand names, gadgets, and all that mean nothing to me. I like a simple lifestyle. I mostly bike or walk. Food is only important to me for sustenance. I have no “bucket list” as I take what the Holy Spirit gives me daily. Like St. Paul in 2 Cor 6:10, I am “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” And in Phil 4: 12, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

Beekeeping workshop in November 2020.

I don’t avoid suffering, whether in myself or being with others who do suffer. There are countless times when people have come to me and started spilling their hearts out. I love that I am relatively free and able to simply listen. Most of the time I can’t come up with the wise words of a prophet, yet these simple folks are so grateful that someone just listened. By the grace of God, they feel better. I can be available to them because I am not burdened by the cares of this world. The ears are the most important tools of the missioner.

As a lay missioner, I do spend a considerable amount of time in prayer. Prayer time for me is simply being with God. I have found that book prayers, structured prayers and scheduled prayers are not my favorite form of being with God. Instead, I find myself in conversation with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the communion of saints throughout the day. All my actions and words I see as in communion with this presence in my soul.

As in any conversation, sometimes my words are humble, sometimes harsh, sometimes hurtful, sometimes angry and most of the time wrong. I ask God to help me in almost everything. I implore the Holy Spirit to enter me when I am affronted by a harsh person.

So with all that in mind, I may be called a lay missioner. But in fact, every one of us is a missioner, and we all have our personal missions from God. Whatever that mission may be, we do it for the glory of God. So I encourage everyone to look at their lives and realize it is a calling, an urging before God to be good, do good and speak good.

That is why I am a lay missioner.

With prayers and blessings,

Gabe Hurrish
Gabe Hurrish works in parish ministry at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Riwoto in the South Sudanese state of Eastern Equatoria. He has served as a Maryknoll lay missioner in South Sudan since 2018.