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Roxane B. Salonen, Published June 20 2013

A call 'to be present' to others

BRIARWOOD, N.D. – Most overseas missionary work primarily involves practical tasks like building homes and finding food and water sources.

But when Naomi Beauclair arrives soon in Thailand, where she’ll spend the next two years, she’ll be engaged mainly in simply being present to the people there.

The website of Heart’s Home USA, the Christian organization that will host Beauclair in Bangkok starting in August, has as its primary goal “no other ambition than to be a smile, a drop of water, a hand that offers hope … to be a presence which makes it possible to love life and live completely.”

It’s a challenge Beauclair, a recent graduate of St. Louis University in Missouri, seems to have been preparing for her whole life.

And yet, for two years she’ll be mostly stripped of everything she’s known – her language, her family and, to some extent, her faith. Beauclair, a Christian, will be immersed in a predominantly Buddhist culture.

I recently sat down with her at her parents’ home in Briarwood – just a couple weeks before her training in New York to prepare for what’s next – to learn what prompted such a brave move.

After graduating from Shanley High School in 2009, Beauclair said she sought a college away from home so she could experience “a different kind of community and culture.” The Jesuit atmosphere of SLU, or “slew” as she calls it, seemed a good match.

Though initially considering an engineering career, Beauclair said she took a theology class her freshman year and was hooked.

Q What about theology attracted you to it?

A To study God is such a blessing. I mean, that’s what we’re made for, that’s our goal. So to study the ultimate goal and learn more about myself and who I’m made to be with forever was so awesome.

Q It seems some seeds had been planted for you to be receptive to this. Is that right?

A Oh yeah, the Lord was definitely working on me, even in high school. I think in my family too. I remember my dad had a holy hour of Adoration at church every week, and he would always ask us to go with him, but nobody wanted to go with him, because who wants to go pray for an hour, right? But one night I decided to go. The chapel was very quiet and peaceful, and I just sensed the presence of the Lord there. It was a very powerful experience for me.

Q OK, so take us to through your college experience. What you were thinking you might do with a degree in theology?

A I guess prayer was something I wanted to continue to have as a very important aspect of my life. I’d seen some of the fruits of that in others and I knew how important it was. So I started going to daily Mass my freshman year.

Q You said you saw the fruits of prayer in others. What were the fruits you experienced?

A An awareness of God, even outside of prayer – being able to see Christ in other people, and to learn about who I am in the presence of God. Because the way God sees us is who we are, and that’s all we are.

Q What specially led you to pursue Heart’s Home?

A It’s largely an international organization, and I know there are plenty of people here in the U.S. I could help. But I prayed about it and the Lord made it clear to me that he is not bound by anything – not language or culture or geography or anything. His people are all over the world. That gave me the freedom to consider this program.

Heart’s Home is a ministry of presence and of being with people. In studying Thomas Aquinas and how God is being itself, it made sense that I would try to be as well. As we’re made in the image and likeness of God, just being with people is so important.

Q How will that play out in Thailand?

A Heart’s Home is built on three pillars – prayer, compassion and community. So prayer is essential in order to be Christ to other people. And Mary at the foot of the cross, that we see in the book of John, is the model that missionaries follow – being with people who are suffering and to have compassion. Compassion means “to suffer with,” so to be able to do that we have to first encounter Christ in prayer.

In the mornings, we’ll take care of the needs of our own house and engage in prayer. And then in the afternoon, missionaries go out in pairs to visit friends. Anyone we encounter is considered a friend.

Q So you’re just kind of let loose?

A Yes, well, we go to an immigration detention center and a hospital. So we have friendships established already, and people expect us to come every so often.

Q Do you have fears about what’s next?

A I’m not so much worried or anxious about the culture, traveling and being across the world. I have to raise more money in order to go, so I’m more nervous about that. I still need a plane ticket and a visa. But I’m excited to go on an adventure with Jesus.

(Missionaries need to raise money for living expenses but don’t receive an income, Beauclair explained.)

Q What kind of affirmation have you had while moving toward this decision?

A Jesus is teaching me more how to trust him. When I was in the Adoration chapel in sixth grade, there was a statue that said, “Jesus I trust you,” and now I’m learning more what it is to trust fully in Jesus.

Q You seem like a peaceful person. Is that part of what your gift is, to be still in this chaotic world?

A It is hard to be still, but it’s such a gift. It’s not me. So any stillness that I have is God’s, any knowledge I have is God’s, and any good qualities that I have are from God and are God’s. “It’s no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me.”

Q Is that what you’re hoping to bring to others?

A Yes, the gift of a still presence, of stability in the Lord. Even though I might not be saying it explicitly, living it and being it will be an evangelization.

To learn more about Beauclair’s adventure and offer either prayer or financial support, visit her web page, http://usa.heartshome.org/Naomi-Beauclair-Fargo-ND.html.