My name is Natalia Perez Uribe, and I moved here, to Gainesville from NYC, to be a missionary a few weeks ago. I never thought I would be a missionary since I used to think doing this was wrong. I mean, who goes to random places on earth to force people to believe what they believe? Isn’t it wrong to convert others, strip them from their culture and identity? To understand what I say, you must know a little about me. I come from Colombia, so, growing up, I was always taught the missionaries where those who had colonized native Colombian culture and imposed their beliefs causing the extinction of ours. Thinking of missionary work made me wonder, who am I to impose my beliefs and ideologies on others? This used to be my opinion of missionaries, for this reason, I never imagined I would become one. I am more surprised than anyone at my decision… but at the same time I am not surprised at all! After God changed my stubborn heart and stereotypes on missionaries, it was clear that there is nothing else that I could do with my life.
You are probably confused at this statement. But you see, to be a missionary is like eating or sleeping for me. I can’t contain myself because of the burning fire I feel inside. I was wrong all my life when I judged missionaries for I did not understand what this word meant. To be a missionary is not to take away the culture of beliefs of others and replace them with yours. It is exactly the opposite; it is to give EVERYTHING to those around you. I am not here to make them Catholic or to win them over to my community. I am here to radically love each person God puts in my path each day. This is done by learning to become their servant. This is something very challenging, thus it is only God that can do this in me; this way, I can bring his presence, his love, his understanding to where there is suffering, lack of hope, and injustice. It is the only way to bring his compassion to respond to these realities. This is the fire that I spoke of before which I feel in my heart. That Jesus CANNOT tolerate these sufferings, he CANNOT tolerate people’s hopelessness, loneliness, despair, and confusion- his heart hurts with ours. In my heart, I need to do something about these realities and I cannot do anything else with my life.
I cannot live a life indifferent to those who suffer around me. I needed to give my life in a radical way to Him to use me do something about the injustice I saw around me! I know that I am unable to do anything because the problems in our world are too large for a girl like me to fix, I would not know where to start or what to do. Even after graduating with a MA in Education and International Development, I felt that my knowledge and skills where not enough to resolve these realities. I knew that the only way to do so, was to offer myself to God so He would use me to fix it himself as He saw fit. I desire to offer my life to him to become a channel of His RADICAL love and his joy. This is why I say there is nothing else I can do with my life!
Although there are millions of ways to do this, even in daily life without being an official missionary, I felt called to come here to Gainesville. This is a long story, so I will not write about that. But I urge you, if you have similar feelings to mine, ask the Lord, “show me WHERE do you need me to be a radical instrument of your love?” He will show you at the right time… I have come to realize that He often takes time to answer us… this is because we need it so he is able to prepare our hearts. But saying yes to coming here has been a great joy and liberation for me!
You can see here some photos I have taken of the JPII Center for the New Evangelization, where the mission is hosted. There are 2 rooms, one chapel a food bank (closet) a yard and a basement. From here, me and 3 other French missionaries (a young married couple- Quentin and Elise; consecrated sister in formation Claire) are to expand the love of Jesus into “little Mexico” the neighborhood where the center is set. This is done through various services such a the Food Bank, english classes, alphabetization, catechesis, free clothes, games with the children, jail visits, home visits, door to door, and basically becoming part of the community to know what is going on in each person’s life. I will write more, particularly stories of my experiences in this blog. I hope you enjoy it, and do not hesitate to email me with any questions or comments!!
PLEASE PRAY FOR ME!! I NEED IT!!!!
United in prayer,