Mission to Europe -“Athirst for God”

Tucked in a picturesque valley in Romania, was a family summer camp.  Our mission team was there to serve at a young adult retreat sponsored by the local diocese.  When my roommate, Paul, and I were ushered to a modest cabin, I opened the rear window and was pleasantly surprised by a lovely, running stream in our backyard.  The Psalm came to mind;

  “As the deer longs for running waters, so is my soul athirst for God.”     -Psalm 42:2

"My soul thirsts for God"
“My soul thirsts for God

When I awoke the next morning and started Morning Prayer in my Magnificat issue, I was greeted by a “hello from heaven.”  There on the page… was Psalm 42. 

“Okay, Lord,” I prayed, “I do get the message.”

For the previous nine days, my fellow team members and I had been engaged in an exciting outreach to various Catholic communities, schools and prayer groups.  Our leader, Tom Edwards, a full-time lay evangelist who has traveled the world teaching, exhorting and encouraging others with fine Biblical teachings, had given such powerful messages as “Faith That Overcomes Obstacles,” and “Finding Our Father.”

Tom with Slovak Interpreter
Tom with our Slovak Interpreter, Jarka; His challenge to the high school students?  To choose Jesus and the Gospel

His wife, Jean, taught -and bore witness- to the “Gospel of Life,” using realistic fetal models to engage the imagination of both students and teachers in three Slovakian Catholic high schools.

A teacher examines a fetal model
A teacher carefully examines a fetal model

Maureen and Paul had given their testimonies, and like me, were available for personal prayer for others.  This kind of ministry bore fruit in ways that only God truly knows, but which we could at times, see with our own eyes. 

Lastly, I performed “A Visit with St. Paul” for five different audiences, four of which were young people.

Proclaiming the Word
Proclaiming the Word at a Catholic high school

In 2011 and 2012, I performed twenty times as St. Paul in China.  This, however, was the first time I had the same opportunity in Slovakia and Romania.  What a joy and a privilege it is to present the life and legacy of the Great Apostle!  After each performance, students asked questions about St. Paul.  One college student, Gabro, in flawless English asked me for permission to use my script.  He wants to replicate the drama for his various apostolates.  With glee, not only did I give him permission, but I also gave him my script and a DVD of the studio version of “Visit.” 

I pray earnestly for Gabro, asking the Holy Spirit to help him evangelize and catechize his peers through this use of drama– an excellent example of the “new evangelization.”

I also had the opportunity to teach while on mission.  In Presov, Slovakia, at a day of renewal for the community leaders of Maranatha Catholic Community, I spoke of the joy of the Resurrection.  I cited passages from both Luke Chapter 24, and St. Paul’s beautiful “Letter of Joy,” otherwise known as Philippians.

The John Paul Community Center
The John Paul Community Center – Presov, Slovakia

As you can see, this dynamic community of faith meets in a place that commemorates St. John Paul.  At night, a spotlight installed by the city government shines on his statue.  No ‘separation of church and state’ issues bother the people of Presov!

I also taught in Poprad, Slovakia, at a gathering of priests, students, and professors from the local Catholic University.   My subject was Romans 8:14-17.   As a complement to the performance I had given the day before, I centered the teaching on…


“We have not been given a spirit of fear leading us back into slavery, but rather a spirit of adoption, through which we cry out  ‘Abba, Father!'”  -Romans 8:15

This is what Jarka (the interpreter pictured above) had to say;

“Day Two started with a talk given by Glenn Smith. He encouraged us to cry out to our Lord with great joy and say “Abba, Father.’“

And thus I circle back to my opening remarks.  When I think of all the blessings of this mission, the one that stands out the most is the prompting given by the Spirit in Romania.  Through Psalm 42, the prayer of a soul crying out for union for God, I was reminded -I am reminded- that I too, am a soul seeking union with Abba, Father.

Indeed, this is the invitation we all have been given by Jesus.  The Mass readings from these last weeks of the Easter Season have been focused on this very invitation to intimacy with our God. 

As the great Feast of Pentecost approaches, all of us can invoke the abundant graces of the Holy Spirit.  Our Amazing God presents us once again with the opportunity to be renewed, refreshed and empowered  by the Great Paraclete...


P.S.  If you are interested in learning more about the foreign missions sponsored by Renewal Ministries, please go to the link.