Luke Schaefer is 23 years old from Victoria Texas. Luke served with NET Ministries USA 2015-16, And Ireland in 2016-2017 on the Imeall Boirne Cluster Team (County Clare). From there Luke went to Sacred Art School in Italy, and then ended up answering the call to serve with NET Ministries Australia. He is currently pursuing his art, and hopes to make a career out of it, whilst drawing others to a deeper relationship with Jesus.
A few years ago I joined NET, and since then my life has never been the same.
Sure I was born into a pretty traditional Catholic-American family, and if you were to skip to where I am now as a person, you could easily say, “Oh, so you just learnt to embrace your roots?” but the answer is, our journey to Jesus is never just, “Our parents’ story”.
Growing up I was that one kid in the family, who had a streak of rebellion. It didn’t really matter what the situation was, I was going to resist. I loved having a different opinion to my parents, but in the end I still went along with everything; see I wasn’t resisting because I was strong willed or opinionated, I honestly had no clue what it was that I wanted in life.
I found that even though I grew up learning all of my prayers, the Hail Mary, the Our Father, etc. and would even go to every Sunday Mass and various youth groups around, I didn’t have any personal conviction in what I believed.
I knew of sin but I had no concern over its weight. My attitude would change so quickly based on who I was with. I could be praying with a group of young people at church one minute, and the next be with a crowd that made the worst jokes, or did the cruellest things to others.
This was pretty much my entire high school experience, I started to become whoever I thought it was that I needed to be, to get the most out of the situation. If it paid off well for me to be outgoing and friendly in one instance, I would do it. But if in the next I saw no profit in it for me, I would switch off and drive people away.
Fast forward to NET, I came in thinking that I was going to be able to make it by pretty easily in a Catholic setting, after all I had plenty of the head-knowledge from growing up in a Catholic environment. It seemed like a great way to get out of my small town, make some new friends, and to see the world. I figured that I could give to God, one year of mission. I believed that I could kind of ‘“fake my way through” without having to fully believe in what I said, and that after NET, I could live my life however I wished, knowing that I had done a good deed and given God a chance.
I was more than a little bit mistaken.
Immediately upon arriving to NET Training, I was thrown into unpredictable moments where I started to have to be honest. There would be times of prayer, praise, and conversation after conversation with people who were on fire for their faith. Now I was an expert in faking, and I could smell the fake on someone else; but here, there was a joy inside of the people around me that I couldn’t explain. It was bright, and it was genuine. I found that in order to fit in, I had to start imitating that joy, but it was a joy that truly came from letting Jesus into their hearts. It wasn't something I could pretend to have, but it was something I really started to want.
It was here that I made the choice to start being honest with myself, and with God. I didn’t like the person I had been, and I wanted to be changed.
NET gave me the tools I needed to start this change. I learned quickly that becoming the person I wanted to be was not a one-time decision, but a daily one, that I needed to continue to strive for.
Through my time with NET I was blessed to be surrounded with an opportunity for good. Everyday I was given time to get to know Jesus better in personal prayer, and through the sacraments. I had a team that invited me, and pushed me to grow in so many good ways, and that loved me through every mistake I made along the way. I had a mission field where not only was I learning to embrace Gods love for me, I was also able to see the same struggle I had, but in the lives of the young people we ministered to, and to be able to share with them the hope and joy that I’ve found in Jesus. There is nothing else like that.
I can’t say that I am exactly who I want to be now, but I do know I am on the right path, and I would never have gotten this far, by only treating my faith as just "the way my parents raised me" I needed to find out who Jesus was for myself, and now I am closer to my family than I have ever been. My life has taken some twists and turns but no matter where I find myself or whatever I find myself doing, I want to live authentically.