I should use a proper greeting in this first blog post. It is only natural that I introduce myself to all of my readers. My name is Clare Lassiter. I am a missioner in training with the Franciscan Mission Service in Washington, D.C. I have one sister and one brother who is married to an amzing girl. They have the cutest 3 year old I know. My parents are alive and well in Virginia. So, back to answering the question...
Well, I could answer this question in several ways. First, I could say that I drove in a car from St. Louis to Washington, D.C. Next, I could say that my mom gave birth to me. All of these answers are sarcastic in response. However, I like to say that how I decided to become a lay missioner with the Franciscan Mission Service came from an experience in the Dominican Republic.
During my senior year in college, there was an advertisement about participating in an alternative spring break. I had heard of these type of breaks from my sister but never actually participated in one of them. An alternative spring break focused on doing volunteer work either in a foreign country or around the United States. This year, it was in the Dominican Republic. The requirements for participation were fundraising, being open and flexible, and doing some kind of manual labor. I figured that I could totally do this. I have a background in construction due to my dad and I am sure that I raise money for this project. I did not know Spanish but fortunately, the Peace Corp volunteer who helped to coordinate this break was fluent in it.
Although my intention during this week in the Dominican Republic was to help build a bank, I realized the real work was in being present to a family that I had met. I met this family through looking out for Joel, who is their son. He was running barefoot through the construction area which had nails and pieces of wood strewn throughout. All of these things can be painful especially in the foot. I know because it had happened to me as a wee one. I would yell out danger in Spanish because it was the only word that I knew at the time. I showed him the nails and wood and try to model how it is painful to step on it. He was a tough crowd so we ended playing. It involved running on a dirt road and trying to catch each other. I liked this job a lot more than the actual construction of the bank. So, the mom observed me doing this and called out to the Peace Corp volunteer to invite me into her home and show me how she provides for her family. At first, I did not want to do it. I thought that it was degrading to women. Women should have the choice to have a career, babies or do both. After all, it is the 21st century.
I soon got over that attitude and went inside her home. I would be rude if I did not go inside. When I entered into her home, I noticed the smile on her face. She was proud to show me how she makes food for family. She pointed out where she gets the water to wash clotehes. She directed my eyes to look at where she hangs the pots on the kitchen wall. She showed me all the toys that her husband makes for the kids, including Joel. At that moment, I let go of all of my attitudes about women in the Domincan Republic especially her. I saw the Divine in her which I had be reluctant to see before. All I did was to be there in her home with her. I was present to her.
So, how does this story answer the original question? Well, I knew that at that moment, I was ruined for life. I wanted to volunteer on a full-time basis at least for a year in the United States and eventually, I wanted to be an overseas missioner. We all know that volunteering does not pay.