Do NET teams still give out those paper bookmarks? I was obsessed with them my first year (2001-02 travel team), and frequently urged my team, “bookmarks are the last means of evangelization!”
I was known to eagerly thrust them into the hands of every teen and even board school- buses if a group got missed. One retreat, we ran out of bookmarks (OH NO!). So, against the request of my Team Leader (TL for short), I went and got the school admin to photocopy a bunch. Yeah, later I apologized for trying to run the whole show to the TL and team-mate in charge of supplies. I made the same kind of mistake my 2nd year too (2002-03, Annunciation parish, Ottawa), and often stressed myself out trying to make sure everything was perfect. “But evangelization is good news! Everyone MUST know about it! Plus, we are ‘NET’, it’s literally our middle name!”
Later, while on NET staff (2010-18 Director of Finance/Development), my email signature always had the tagline from Paul VI that “evangelization is the grace and vocation proper to the Church – her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize.” I’ve carried this evangelical zeal – truly a gift – through my university days, practicing as a Chartered Accountant, and most importantly with my wife Rachel (nee Robinson, USA 1998-99, Canada 2002- 03, my co-TL, but honestly, I didn’t know! 🙂 and our six children.
However, I’ve found evangelization more alive in areas I’ve experienced weakness and failure than in my strengths. It gets my ego out of the way and gives God more space to work – like St. Paul saying God’s power is perfected in weakness, or John the Baptist saying Christ must increase and he must decrease. Despite having all the good things anyone could hope for in life, I’ve really come to “know Jesus” – that old missionary tagline – in my continued journey with mental health and addiction. Before my marriage in 2005, I got into a recovery fellowship and expected to check this issue off my “holiness-accomplishment list” and move on. It didn’t work out as planned. It seemed every few years, I’d break against something and have to really consider who I am and who God is. It turns out even all-grown-up seasoned NET alumni still need to be reminded, “God made me, God knows me, God loves me, God has a plan for me.” My NET brother used to add “…and dinosaurs wanna eat you!” Turns out he was right; but the dinosaur is my own self-will run riot which crops up every day. If left to my own ego, chaos and destruction ensue – just ask my wife, kids, colleagues, cats, house, or car for examples despite my good Christian intentions. Even here I found evangelization was needed. When I allowed God to work through my weakness, I saw His grace working in people around me.
Yes, this is “NET testimony part 3” – what it’s like now. Thankfully, being weak is not the same as being a victim. Christ already took the Victim title and then blew the door off it three days later. Each day, I am more of a missionary than yesterday. I’ve made worse mistakes in marriage and career than I ever did as a NETter; these make for more testimony of Christ’s Divine Mercy to share. I’m still a member of a recovery fellowship, and they say “nothing will so much insure immunity from [relapse] than intensive work with others.” More evangelization – go figure – but now it’s medicine for me too. My weakness as a fellow addict qualifies me to help another in a profoundly different way than a doctor or priest – though all are essential for healing. I’m a missionary not because I have it all together as a husband, father, financial advisor, etc. – it’s because I’m baptized, breathing, and being renewed each moment I live God’s will instead of mine. My ten years with NET grounded me to breathe in holiness and prayer so I can breathe out mission every moment of my life. I should write that on a NET bookmark somewhere.
Robin & Rachel Daniels raise their children in a hundred-acre wood outside Ottawa. He’s a CPA, CA, financial advisor, and firewood farmer.