$30,000. 3 days.
We had 3 days to raise $30,000, and I had no idea how we would pull it off.
It was my senior year at Franciscan University, and I was blessed to be co-leading a mission to Ecuador that is so near to my heart. Plane tickets were beyond expensive that year, and the cost for us to get down to South America during our spring break in order to serve the lovely Ecuadorians both spiritually and physically was overbearing. We had only three days left in our fundraising campaign, and although we had worked our tails off, we still had about $30,000 to obtain. If we didn’t find that money, our mission would be cancelled.
We were desperate.
We called a team meeting to discuss our situation. We were at risk of losing that which we had worked for during the entire year, and we needed to make a decision. Thankfully, we decided to work tirelessly over those three days. If we were going down, we were going to go down swinging. We knew that with perseverance, the grace of God, and saintly intercession (thanks, St. Rita!), we could bring God’s will to fruition.
In order to raise that money, we needed to become beggars. In the spirit of St. Francis, we laid aside our pride and became poor. We called everyone we knew, we went to local churches that weekend to present our mission to the congregation in hopes for their support, and we begged on the streets of Pittsburgh. We spent three straight days begging our little hearts out.
The Lord brought us to the point where we had nothing, much like those we were going to serve, and much like Our Savior Himself.
Now, each Advent, I recall that wild situation in which we were brought low to beg for money. We begged passionately for something we cared about, we accepted our empty hands with joy and knew that Jesus would fill them in His time and in His way. But during those three days, we were so rich. We grew in virtue that we were going to need in Ecuador, we realized our littleness and our brokenness, and we acknowledged our total dependence on the Father in a new and radical way. In our utter temporal poverty, we became spiritually rich.
Like Our Lord humbled Himself to be born in a smelly manger, we must be brought low in order to fully accept the gift that He brings us, namely, salvation. Without the grace of poverty, we will never experience the entirety of the richness of Christ’s kingship. Without the grace of poverty, we will never become truly rich.