By Sean Connolly and Chris Meehan
This fall four former missionaries are returning to college after completing two years of missionary work. For John Bowar, Annie Bulger, Liz Loughran and Claire Mysliwiec, the move from the mission field to the campus quad brings changes large and small: spending long hours on homework that used to be devoted to evangelism, hauling heavy textbooks instead of only a pocket Bible and traveling solo to classes rather than always moving with a small missionary team. So how is the transition going?
“Missionaries go back to school with a more mature vision for their own education,” notes Nick Holovaty, who has observed the transition closely as the program coordinator responsible for the community’s campus divisions. “They’re two years older, and they’ve had two years of experiences outside the classroom, talking with people from every walk of life.”
After wrapping up his missionary work last May, John Bowar traveled first to Minnesota for a summer geology research internship and then to Alaska for two weeks of fieldwork. Camping with researchers in Katmai National Park, John collected 100-year-old samples of volcanic ash, samples that may reveal historical information about the intensity of the earth’s magnetic field.
Like missionary work (knocking on doors), geology work (knocking on rocks) is not always glamorous. “My first assignment was breaking small rocks into smaller rocks,” John says. “That was fine because I had decided to throw myself into my studies with the same intensity I’d had for missionary life.” Now returned from Alaska, John has a bigger course load than ever before (including classes for his geology major), and he’s a member of a busy household of five in Servant Branch’s campus division.
Claire, a junior history major at the University of Notre Dame, says her stint with the missionaries has helped her stay both more focused and more relaxed about her studies. “I’m a lot less concerned about grades than I was before. The reason I am in school is bigger than grades—learning what I can, so that I can serve the Lord.”
For Claire, Annie and Liz, at least one important aspect of their lives in Evansville remains the same. After joining the Sisterhood during their missionary stint and living together in household for two years, all three are household members once again—this time in one of the households of the Sisterhood in the South Bend branch. (The Sisterhood is a group of women in the People of Praise who are single for the Lord and financially in-common, and who live together in several households.)
“The simplicity of household life in the Sisterhood has helped me make a fairly smooth transition back to school,” Claire says. As an added blessing, Claire spent her summer working as an intern in a financial-planning office alongside fellow Sisterhood member Christin Rose.
In addition to taking classes in math and biology at Notre Dame, Annie and Liz are continuing the part-time jobs they held as missionaries. Both are web site developers for one:ten communications, a division of the LaSalle Company that builds web sites for educational publishers.
After two years of talking almost daily with strangers, the returned students report walking around their campuses with a new awareness—that every person they meet is someone the Lord loves. “I see myself differently,” Claire says. “I have an understanding that the Lord is sending me to people, and that’s on my mind as I interact with students and professors.”
But the returning students are clear about their primary purpose on campus. “The Lord is calling me to be a student,” as Liz puts it. Armed with that call, and carrying with them missionary instincts that may never be erased, the four are working hard to discover how to serve the Lord in their new circumstances.
Editor’s note: Four community members have recently joined the group of missionaries living in Evansville, replacing the four who have returned to college. The new missionaries are Peter Coleman, Mary Grams, Gianna Priolo and Jeanette Zimmel.
Nancy Grams says:
September 9th, 2010 at 11:31 PM
So glad to see a Community wide report on transitions in the Missionary Company. Thank you all in the Communications Office for keeping those of us who live in regular Branch life informed on what the Lord is doing in the lives of sisters and brothers doing Mission work.
Colorado Springs Branch
chris urbanski says:
September 10th, 2010 at 9:43 AM
It is so good to hear the updates on the missionaries and to see how God may use them now, on campus, at work wherever the opportunity arises. It is like reading another chapter of a very upbuilding book!
Glory to God.
Mike Zusi says:
September 10th, 2010 at 9:47 AM
Thank you John, Annie, Claire and Liz for your faithful service to the Lord and all of us. May our Lord's rich blessing be on you as you continue to follow Him in your newly restarted studies. It hardly seems possible that two years have already passed since you began as missionaries. I imagine that time won't slow down now either as you change locations, but keep building the kingdom!
Betty Rayl says:
September 10th, 2010 at 10:52 AM
As always I am built up by POP news. It is so good to hear of the many ways God is working in our body. But today, I was struck by the focus of the missionaries desire to be doing what it is the Lord is calling them to. I had to pause, and look at myself - how am I doing in my walk with the Lord? am I listening? am I focused? am I throwing myself into our life wholeheartedly? Thank you to the missionaries - both new and old - for the light you are to me. God bless you in your new roles.
June Burke says:
September 10th, 2010 at 11:02 AM
Great! I think that you are going into a different missionary field, but thank God you are there!
You may be the answer to someone's prayer! (That was a word gift recently!)
Plus, you do have those extra 2 years of missionary experience and maturity!
Congratulations on continuing to follow the Father's will!
Go with God!
jose werle says:
September 11th, 2010 at 7:47 AM
Living in Indianapolis, I have the wonderful pleasure and gift to know and work with these young brothers and sisters and thank God for the opportunity. Did missionary work with John Bowar for a mens group on the southside. (Now in a 'blended' mens group with members from the local branch, the southside and Christians in Mission. where we regularly see DAve Zimmel or Nick walking by) I hope Claire learn something doing a little bookwork for me. I hope they can be a resource for their fellow students. I know when I was in college I always wanted to learn something from the other students who were a little older than I and had experiences in the real world. POP is building something unique and wonderful! A whole life with all ages in many locations.
julie walters says:
September 17th, 2010 at 8:29 PM
Thanks missionaires for all of your work and now on to school. I'll pray for your transition.
Kim & Bruce Doffing says:
October 22nd, 2010 at 2:44 PM
With arms raised I give Praise and Glory to God for all you have accomplished as a missionary. I pray for you as you move forward as a student missionary for the Lord!
Leave a Response