Friday, September 12, 2014

Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone by Andrew C., Lima Life Teen Core Team Member

While I was looking through some boxes, I stumbled upon an old issue of the Chimes from 2004. In it, there was an article about a trip that Life Teen took to Lourdes, France. It was ten years ago this past June when a group of 35 Life Teeners went on that trip to serve in Lourdes, and I was one of those teens.

For those unaware, Lourdes is a town in southern France and is the site where the Blessed Mother appeared to Saint Bernadette in a grotto. According to the accounts, the Blessed Mother, instructed Bernadette to tell the local priest to have a chapel built on that spot. In the grotto, a small spring appeared. There have been a number of miraculous healings that have been attributed to Lourdes. Ever since then, millions of people have flocked to Lourdes, some seeking healing from the waters, others seeking guidance and many other reasons.

So back to the story. This was right after my freshman year of high school. It was also my first time overseas, without any family. Yet, there I was, off to France with other Life Teeners to serve. We spent a long time flying from Cincinnati to Paris, only to board a smaller plane to an airport in southern France, followed by a 2-3 hour bus ride to Lourdes. To say that we were tired would be an understatement.

However, there was little time to rest. Just a few hours after stepping off the bus, we were asked to participate in a Eucharistic procession with many of us carrying incense, banners and crosses, or, in my case, the canopy that covered the Monstrance with the Eucharist. The next day, we were divided into different work groups. The older ladies worked in the Piscines, baths that were filled with water from the spring, while those who were too young to work in them volunteered in hospitals, as well as practicing what they called “Patch Adams” ministry, by giving rosaries and flowers to random strangers.

As for us men, we worked in the train stations, unloading pilgrims off trains and guiding them to busses, as well as working at the men’s Piscines. Near the end of our experience, we were asked to participate in a candlelit Rosary Procession. Some of the Life Teeners volunteered to sing in the choir. I, along with eight other of our young men, carried a statue of Mary and cross at the head of the procession, four of our girls carried candles, and everyone else participated in the procession itself. We were told that we were some of the youngest participants and, if memory serves me right, we were also the first Americans to do this.

So why tell you this story?  Was it just an opportunity to wax nostalgically about an event that happened a little over a decade ago? The truth is that this story has to deal with comfort zones. We all have our own comfort zones; where we feel safe, where we know who people are, with everything we like and nothing that we hate. It’s predictable and safe. Yet, that is not how we are called to live. The call to follow Christ means to step out of your comfort zone. Jesus says:

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

As I mentioned earlier, this was my first time overseas, without any family members. I was involved with Life Teen, but I was not exactly the most outgoing person, you can ask Angie. I would usually sit in the corner, talk only with people from my school and grade, and not really speak out as much. So to participate in this service trip was something very unexpected from me. Looking back, I was not eased out of my comfort zone, more like launched out of it. Yet, I would not change how my comfort zone was radically changed. That trip taught me, not just how universal the Church is, not just what the call to serve was all about, but what my comfort zone was, and more importantly, how to step out of it. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that only a few weeks prior to that trip, that I was the shy kid in the corner who would not participate much. Yet, when you let God work though you, big changes can happen. It’s a scary prospect, stepping out of your comfort zone, and it doesn’t get any easier as you go through college and into the adult world. Yet the Bible constantly reminds us, that while it’s not easy to follow Christ, He will always be with us.

As a new year with Life Teen begins, I would like to challenge everyone to break out of their comfort zone. It doesn’t matter if you are a new freshman, a returning Life Teener, a Life Teen alum or an adult. It doesn’t have to be some huge event like mine. It can be very simple, like meeting someone new. Not just saying, “Hello, my name is …” I mean go up and have a conversation with someone. Try inviting someone to an event if they don’t get invited to things that often. Try volunteering somewhere. There are thousands of things you can do to step out of your comfort zone.

It might be hard, it can be exhausting, and it can be scary. But trust me, it is worth it.

This blog posting was written by Andrew Chamberlain. Andrew is a 2007 graduate of LCC, a 2011 graduate of Bluffton University and a recent graduate of the University of Cincinnati. Andrew has been involved with Life Teen since 2003, both as a participant and as a Core Team member.

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