Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"A Gift Exchange" by Evelyne Ello Hart

Sister Corinne asked me to write for her blog. The request came to me as a gift. Recently, I have been reflecting on my life experiences through each decade lived so far as I am preparing to enter a new one. I realized that God showered me with gifts and graces. Every morning during my stay at St. Gertrude’s, prior to my morning meditation at 4 am, I watched the sky and observed the horizon. What I saw was again a gift from God that left me speechless.

I counted my blessings/gifts and I realized that God had matched my love for writing with journalism and my love for speaking with radio broadcasting and medical interpreting. Currently, I am pursuing a doctoral degree in Leadership Studies and a Spiritual Direction formation at Gonzaga University in Spokane, in order to gift my love of teaching and my experience of the communion of the Holy Spirit to others. I kept hearing that a gift received should be a gift shared. This transaction leads us to a joyful place, where our spirit is renewed. Coming to the Monastery of St. Gertrude was a gift from God. My thank you to Him was to give back. Indeed, gift my hosts with my presence, my talents, my passion, and a taste of my culture.

My 8-year-old daughter Alexis Mérane also said thank you to God. She gifted Sister Placida with her enthusiasm when she rode Foxy bareback. It was her first time to ride a horse. She saw that moment as a special gift for her 8th birthday. She was fully herself in the Monastery, present in all activities, so committed that one afternoon while I was working as a housekeeper for the Inn, she left me a note that read, “Dear mommy, went to evening praise” and left me the key of our place on the note. I was so moved that I decided to capture it as one of our souvenirs.

In this amazing gift exchange the Lord reminded me of what it is to be a lay missionary. I was missing my home in Côte d'Ivoire, my land and my family, especially in the upcoming of my big birthday, and God brought to my attention the commitment that the Sisters made to live at St. Gertrude’s. I saw the connection between their way of life and mine. I saw the missionary thread in all of us reunited in the renewal room, on the fourth floor of the Monastery. Like me, they left their families, their homes, their lands to come as missionaries in the Nimiipuu’s country to serve, to love God, to simply be servant-leaders. Robert Greenleaf wrote in his seminal essay, The Servant as Leader that “the servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.
Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead”. As a scholar in Leadership Studies, I believe that to lead is also to inspire, to influence others to become who God called them to be. While at St Gertrude’s, the daily life inspired me to make the connection between my relationship with St. Benedict and my leadership philosophy, which is Servant Leadership. I clearly saw while praying in the chapel, the seed of a scholarly paper in my heart. I saw how Robert Greenleaf walked in some of St. Benedict’s footsteps. I saw Servant Leadership in the rule of St. Benedict and shared the beginning of that inquiry with the Sisters. That was one of the highlights of my stay. It tasted as sweet as the sweets I made for the guests at the Inn.

I can now return to Gonzaga replenished and ready to submit to the action of God as the plaque reads in the back of the statue of St Ignatius standing in front of College Hall. My time at St Gertrude allowed me to say again my yes to the Lord, to live my life as a lay missionary and to serve others using all my birth gifts.