I woke up to the sound of a car horn blaring; it was my own. Apparently, in my foggy sleep my foot (or the coat that was covering me to keep the chill off) had caught the door handle and set off the alarm. Scrambling to find my keys was a chore in the dark of course, but the single lamp post under which my car sat made the task a little easier.

When the noise stopped and the silence took over, I glanced out my window to get my bearings. It quickly came back to me. I was on my way through Ohio at night when fatigue started to get the best of me and I saw the sudden need to pull over. I took the first offramp I saw and spying a dimly lit parking lot in the distance I decided that it was my best chance to catch a quick nap.

Normally I would have preferred a motel room, somewhere to stretch my legs, but I am a Catholic Lay Evangelist, a missionary preacher, and so I go where I am called, even when the parish cannot afford to get me there.

Just days earlier, when I got the email about this particular parish mission, the Pastor's words were the same I have seen numerous times, "Patrick, we need this." They certainly did.

You see, in an effort to rejuvenate their dying parish, the Pastor and his newly formed evangelization team had decided that a Lenten mission was just what their community needed. Their prayer was that the mission would breath fresh life into their lukewarm regulars, that the Spirit would call others to Church who had never given it a second thought, in short, that miracles would follow.

 

But they had no money, and now with the sudden illness of a local missionary priest, the one who was scheduled to speak at the mission, they were stuck.  For though they didn't have these two things, God still found it fitting to pack the Church. If the signups were anything to go by, this mission was going to be their best attended parish event ever.

So while I couldn't help them with the money part, I could help them with the mission itself.

 

After a quick estimation, I realized that it would take me about three days to get there by car - which would have me arrive two hours or so before the mission was to begin. And though I had enough money for the gas to get to the mission, I certainly did not have enough to get back. "Details," I thought, and got into the car.

Two days into the drive only to be sitting upright in a cold and empty parking lot, made me wish that I had more of those details figured out. 

Regardless, at this point I was definitely awake; the fright from the horn made sure of that.

Pulling safely in to the driveway of the parish parking lot is hard to describe. The anxiety of continuous travel lifted, there was still the mission to look forward to and of course, the looming problem of a gas tank on empty.

Getting out of the car though my ear picked up the sound of a woman crying. It was coming from the entrance of the Church where the doors stood open. 

As I approached, I realized there were quite a few older people standing there, some weeping, some looking angry, others confused. Apparently, they had just made an announcement. The parish mission was to be cancelled. No one had heard from the visiting missionary for three days. 

 

Taking that as my cue, I boldly walked up the centre aisle much to the confusion of the man standing at the pulpit. Turning around to face the packed Church, I somehow spoke in voice much stronger than I felt.

 

"My name is Patrick. I have been sent here by God and at the urging of your Pastor. But..." I let the words trail off as the stunned faces began to smile as they understood what was happening, "as a Canadian I don't get reception in the United States."

The mission was about to begin.

(To hear more about my missions and become a part of a community that prayers for each other and these very important efforts, please consider joining our email list. I look forward to hearing from you.)

Hi friends, my name is Patrick and I am a Catholic Lay Evangelist. If you have been gifted by God with the finances to help me stay out of trouble then I humbly ask that you do so.  Even a little bit a month goes a long way. 

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