My name is Brandi Banadyga (Olson) and I was on NET in 2009/10 and 2010/11. My family had a deeper conversion to the Catholic faith when I was a preteen and after years of participating in retreats and camps as a teenager, I decided to take it further and serve with NET and I’m so glad I did!
After NET I worked for a year in Lethbridge before moving to Saskatoon where I worked and ended up getting engaged and then married to my husband Kyle. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom since having our almost five-year-old boy Leander, and now also have an 18-month-old girl named Florence, and a very soon-to-be-born baby who may have made an appearance (hopefully) by the time this is published.
After spending two years as a NET missionary I would sometimes feel a twinge of guilt that I wasn’t doing enough to “evangelize”. It is only recently, and five years into motherhood and homemaking that I’ve truly realized how this looks in my stage of life. The funny thing about how it relates to my time on NET is not how *I* evangelized, but actually, how I was witnessed to by the holy, hospitable, and beautiful host homes and families I had the privilege of staying with. I say beautiful homes as well as beautiful families because there is a connection between the beauty surrounding us and the capacity it has to shape our hearts and minds towards God. My heart was most evangelized by the beauty in these homes. I only wish I knew the connection it had to conversion then!
My most cherished and vivid memories come from these homes filled with beautiful art, music, food, and fellowship. It didn’t matter if it was a tiny, humble home or a literal mansion (believe it or not even the fanciest home can feel cold and desolate). Thinking about these homes rich in beauty continues to inspire me today as I try to bring beauty and life into our own humble bungalow even as it needs fixing up in places and isn’t going to be featured on HGTV anytime soon.
I remember host homes that served champagne for breakfast on your birthday, or took you to a live theatre, went out to buy fresh beans just to make you a real Italian espresso, had fresh flowers in your room, or shared their favourite book with you. The ones who had fine art on the walls that made you want to write down the name of the artist because it inspired you so much, or simply had beautiful music on in the background (not to mention the many beautiful musicians sharing their own music along the way). The ones that went out of their way to make you feel loved, even if it wasn’t extravagant, but just a lovingly made meal or dessert and conversation around the table. These are the moments in which the true reaching of hearts happens.
“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” This quote may seem cliche but it is absolutely true and should be kept always at the forefront of our minds when it comes to evangelization.
These realizations have colored my motherhood and homemaking with a profound sense of mission. I may not be traveling the country to share the faith, but I certainly have my own duty to evangelize. I choose to do this in my home with the good, the true, and the beautiful by making my own family and anyone who enters my home feel loved and taken care of and treated with dignity. I’m not always the best at this and I’m certainly a work in progress when it comes to serving, and keeping up with the chores and responsibilities of daily life. But I know from experience that trying to cultivate this beauty is well worth the effort it may take, even if it’s lifelong. I’m grateful to all the families I met in all stages that taught me these lessons.
No matter where you are in life now, I encourage you to consider the times you felt God’s love most tangibly through moments of beauty, and try to create more of them in your own life and for those around you, as you never know just how you make someone feel may impact their future life with God.
“The world will be saved by beauty.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky
[Editor’s note: Brandi & Kyle had a baby boy on April 29th. Welcome to the world Francis John Paul Banadyga, and congratulations Brandi & Kyle!]