My journey towards Maggie’s Place began in fifth grade when one of my teachers told my class about a year of service she completed in Alaska with a Catholic volunteer program. As an 11 year old girl, her story of serving others and growing in her faith through a year of service stirred my heart.

I had always looked up to this teacher for her faith, gentleness, and trust in God’s will and her story helped me understand how she had cultivated these admirable qualities. I felt that God was knocking on the door to my heart but I tucked this feeling away into my fifth grade memory bank, thinking that I would never be brave enough to leave my family, fly across the country, and serve others in such a radical way like my teacher had.

Little did I know at the time that God would eventually lead me to do just that by serving at Maggie’s Place as a full-time live-in MissionCorps member. From July 2014 to May 2016, I lived and served at The Elizabeth House in Tempe, AZ and then The Hannah House in Mesa, AZ alongside pregnant moms, new mothers, newborns, and my fellow MissionCorps members.

gretchen-success-story-1-webOn a daily basis, I served in little ways alongside my Corps members: we drove moms to important appointments, we held crying babies, we cleaned up messes, we chatted with volunteers, we accepted donations, we washed the cars, we cried with moms and with each other, we kept the houses running, we stayed up late to chit chat, and we prayed for the needs of our community knowing that God would provide.

It has been said that living in an intentional community – especially a community like Maggie’s Place – is like constantly looking into a mirror. By living with those you work with and by working with those you live with, you are constantly reminded of your shortcomings and pesky vices. However, you also come face-to-face with your strengths and talents as living in community requires you to rise to the occasion. On a daily basis, you gaze upon the moms, babies, and Corps you live with and see how the Lord is working though them, and in doing so you are able to then look upon your own heart and behold how the Lord is working through you.

At Maggie’s Place, I learned how to love when I did not feel the warm and fuzzies towards the one that required love. I learned how to show genuine hospitality when I was tired and did not feel like it. I learned how to embrace community even when isolation would be more pleasant and much easier. I have learned how to strive for excellence when tempted to cut corners. But more importantly, I have learned how to be loved, how to accept other’s hospitality, how to surrender to a loving community, and how to delight in the excellence and gifts of others. Through the grace of God, I have learned how to serve and to be served at Maggie’s Place, and for that I will be forever thankful!