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Turn to Jesus (Article)

The Biggest Adventure of my Life
I´ve kept that desire to impact the world, but with a different purpose: not to benefit myself and receive all the fame and glory, but instead, for Christ!

Anne Westerman
I encourage every young man or woman who is searching for meaning in his or her life to take up the challenge of giving for a year.
My hopes and dreams were the same as yours. As a kid, did you not long to be an Olympic champion, a famous astronaut, or even the president of the United States? Like you and every other child, I wanted to make an impact on the world, leave my mark in history and pursue great adventures no woman had ever challenged. God´s plan embarked me on the biggest adventure of my life: the International Volunteer year. I´ve kept that desire to impact the world, but with a different purpose: not to benefit myself and receive all the fame and glory, but instead, for Christ! The spark ignited during my first encounter with the Regnum Christi Movement at the age of 11 when I was invited to attend a retreat in my hometown, Gaylord, Michigan, given by some consecrated women traveling through the area. I realized then that Christ had to play the leading role in my life. That year, I went to a Christmas convention in Rhode Island, and year after year I returned. Looking back at it now I realize that I was not drawn there because of all the fun I had and the new friends I met, although at the time I thought this was the reason. There are plenty of other camps and places that I could have gone to for the fun, but the one thing offered to me at those conventions was something that sports, dance, drama, and other groups could never offer: I was offered Jesus Christ. That part in my soul that could only be filled with Christ was beginning to be filled. The tiny spark was being enkindled into a fire of love for Christ and the thirst for more knowledge and enthusiasm was growing stronger. I distinctly remember a time during my third year attending the Rhode Island Christmas convention when I sat in the chapel and began to sob. I was feeling a tug on my heart to do more. I started to question myself. Where would my dreams of being an Olympic champion lead me? The only rewards would be trophies and medals upon a shelf that would collect dust and memories that would only linger in my own mind. Would that really make me happy? It was then that I decided that I would make my impact for Christ. At age 11 I had incorporated into ECYD, a world-wide group of youth living their Catholic faith and fighting to give Christ to others, but not until I was 13 did my life as an apostle for Christ begin. During the next few years God kept feeding the fire in my soul. I ushered for the Regnum Christi Youth and Family Encounters (conferences with our founder) in Chicago and St. Louis, went on numerous retreats, conventions, camps, and even a pilgrimage to Rome for Pentecost in 1998. God was slowly preparing me, giving the spiritual strength I would need when making the bigger decisions that would soon emerge in my life. When I was 13 I became the team leader for an ECYD club in Gaylord, Michigan, because our team leader decided to attend Immaculate Conception Academy, a boarding school in Rhode Island for high school girls open to the consecrated life. Before she left, she entrusted the torch to Annie Smith and me to keep the club running. Since then, the club has been passed on again to Emily Dzwik and Rachel Castle, because both Annie Smith and I are now Volunteers. As my senior year rolled around, I felt myself gradually absorbed into the worldly desires and typical interest of teenagers. My prayers became less frequent, I was immersed in my sports, school work, applications for college, class president responsibilities, hanging with my friends, and just about everything else that could distract a teenager from focusing on God. I was starting to slip and fall away from everything ECYD had taught me. I started to doubt. I blocked out the call to be a co-worker so that I could fulfill my dreams of playing college softball. Others constantly told me that I could always give a year after college and that I shouldn´t give up my dream of playing ball now that it was becoming so tangible and after working so hard to make it possible. I was starting to believe them and to rationalize with myself. I was going to leave Christ with the "leftover bread crumbs" of my life, instead of the fresh loaf. Christ still had a hold of me though, whether I realized it or not. My wakeup call came from the words of a close friend: "It doesn´t matter what others want you to do. Do what God wants." It was then that I realized that I had started to put God into my plans instead of putting myself into His plans. Shortly after hearing those words, I went home, pulled out my prayer journal, and began to write, "March 9, 2001, I´ve made my decision to give a year next year..." There it was in writing! Now there was no turning back. Every time I started to doubt I would return to that page in my journal. I was done running from God´s gentle call to give more. Currently, I am stationed in Chicago working with girls between the ages of 10 and 16. I wake up so many mornings totally amazed that I am here. Who could have imagined that I would be a co-worker, someone that long ago, I had looked up to and admired. So far, it has been the best year of my life. I thought that I would be the one giving, but Christ always seems to outdo me. The adventures that I had dreamed to go on as a child are now becoming a reality and it´s only the beginning. I encourage every young man or woman who is searching for meaning in his or her life to take up the challenge of giving for a year. "For it is in giving that you receive." Anne Westerman (18, Gaylord, Michigan)



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