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From Fear to Freedom

by Tessie Schonder, Cap Corps DC 2022-23

“That you are continually holding me, sustaining me, loving me… Jesus, I trust in You!”

Speaking from personal experience, there’s a misery that comes when one acts as if life is completely under one’s control. This attitude leaves no room for spontaneity, no room for God’s plan, and no room for any perspective other than one’s own narrow vision of things. But if control leads to misery, then a year of service is its anecdote. Perhaps nothing is more unpredictable, stretching, and character-forming than being a year-long volunteer. And whether I realized it or not, by joining CapCorps, I signed up for a year-long spiritual bootcamp in trust and surrender.

“From fear that trusting you will leave me more destitute… Jesus, I trust in You!”

I joined CapCorps right out of college, which had been a long and winding four years for me. I had a difficult freshman year, after which I transferred schools. I decided to start fresh; I found a new friend group, joined new clubs, declared a major, and dedicated myself to the classwork... But even after transferring schools and settling down for the next six semesters, I didn’t really believe I was meant to be at this new college. I felt like a fluke, like I was only there because of luck and desperation. All the while, I kept wondering, “How could God have let me go through that awful freshman year?” I spent the rest of my undergrad gripping tightly onto my life and trying to shape it the way I wanted it to go. I did receive many blessings over the last three years of college, including an intentional community. Nevertheless, deep down I continued to hold onto the belief that if I did surrender to God (whatever that meant), I would be left completely alone.

“From anxiety about the future… Jesus, I trust in You!”

I moved to DC with excitement and nervousness, determined that this new beginning would be different from the others. I remember standing at the curb of Reagan Airport with my one checked bag, waiting for my new roommate to pick me up, all the while wondering what this year would hold for me. After I moved into the volunteer house and settled into my new life, my decision to join CapCorps began to make sense. I was continuously pleasantly surprised by the amount of energy and life I received from my new life in CapCorps. I was growing in confidence as a person, deepening my spiritual life, and building beautiful friendships. From karaoking with the friars at CapCollege to late night ice cream excursions (and deep conversations!) with my roommates, I was beginning to feel like this was exactly where I was supposed to be, and that perhaps God actually did have a plan and place for me.

“That not knowing what tomorrow brings is an invitation to lean on You… Jesus, I trust in You!”

Has my volunteer year been a perfect, problem-free experience? No. On the contrary, I have so many crazy stories from my placement site that I could write a memoir! But these experiences have made me into a more resilient person (and if nothing else, provided me with good stories to tell at the dinner table). As someone who likes control, volunteering at a high school has been a very stretching experience. Order and predictability are not characteristics one usually associates with a high school, and for good reason. Every day at my placement site, I have had to surrender my expectations for how the day ‘should’ go, and openly receive whatever the day threw at me, whether it be chaperoning a field trip, sitting at a desk entering hours worth of data, monitoring a bouncy house in the parking lot (who thought that was a good idea?), or cleaning out an old storage closet. And when I did struggle with different workplace issues, I found myself repeating the Litany of Trust, reminding myself of God’s presence and promises. And each time, I accepted these promises more deeply, which in turn cast out the lies about God that I had held onto from my past.

Through my year in CapCorps, God has moved me from fear to a place of freedom. He has restored my trust in Him, and from this restoration of trust, I can now more freely and confidently profess: “Jesus, I trust in You.”

2022-23 DC Cap Corps Community with their House Director Br. Mike Herlihey, OFM Cap.

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