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Give All or Else Don't Give Anything

Each Good Shepherd Volunteer is asked to write a "Member Story" to reflect on their year of service.  At the conclusion of her 2 years of service with Good Shepherd Volunteers this past October, newly-minted GSV alumna Lauren Magee shared the following story as advice to prospective volunteers. Keep scrolling to see captioned pictures of how Lauren fully lived up to her own advice!

Sr. Mary Hayden passed at the age of ninety-seven while I was serving in Nong Khai, Thailand. She was one of the founding members of the Good Shepherd Community in Nong Khai after she had been a missionary in Vietnam and Sri Lanka. She is the absolute embodiment of courage and humility, and I had the honor of knowing her and her joyful spirit.

A few years ago, she compiled her life story over a filmed interview. One of my tasks as an Administrative Assistant was to transcribe this interview, so it could be more easily distributed. I spent many afternoons listening to Sr. Mary’s stories of her childhood, why she was called to become a nun, and her commitment to missionary work. I found the task to be calming and almost therapeutic. Her words were like poetry and there were many quotes that I saved for inspiration. One of the quotes I saved--and which has stayed with me throughout my entire experience--was in reference to her becoming a missionary.

“Sometimes our religion is given to us as rules and regulations; not me, I had it as a love affair. And if I am going to give, give all or else don’t give anything. It broke my heart, but I did it. Give my country, give my loved ones, give everything I was familiar with, and start."

- Sr. Mary Hayden

My advice for someone considering post-graduate service is to take this quote to heart. Sr. Mary lived her life in service to others, but your program is only asking from you a year of your life. Be prepared to give the experience everything, or don’t give at all. You’ll end up taking away from the program, your community members, and those you serve if you don’t fully commit yourself. This year is going to break your heart and I can guarantee that you will be wounded at times. But it’s in this vulnerability and in these broken pieces that you leave room for others to mend you. You are going to learn how to heal and you will be stronger because of it.

In Nong Khai, volunteers join the Outreach and Care Center staff as well as the families who live in the Garden Community for weekly dinners. At my last community dinner, I was presented with an Elsa cake because of her blonde hair.
On my last day at Hands of Hope, the producers practiced บายศรี, a ritual that involves tying strings around an individual's wrist in order to give them blessings.

In October of 2017, I figuratively and literally passed the torch to new Nong Khai GSV, Josh, as we showed off all of our strings from a previous welcome/farewell ceremony.
Sr. Pranee led a prayer before I shared my last Community Dinner with my Nong Khai family.
My GSV supervisor Antonia was my boss, my support person, my best friend, and even my mother at times. This was one of our many hugs leading up to my final farewell.

In November 2017, I celebrated Thanksgiving with my family for the first time in 3 years; I was lucky enough to have my mother visit me in Thailand, but it had been over a year since I had seen my dad and my sister.
Every year, my grandma sends out a Christmas card to her friends and family that includes a photo of her with all of her grandchildren. For the past 2 years, they held up a photo of me in my absence.

Written by, Lauren Magee Astoria Community, '15-'16 Thailand Community, '16-'17


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