My name is Ian Anderson, and I’m a full-time missionary with CCO at UBC. I started out university in Engineering, and then realized the error of my ways and converted to Kinesiology ;-D, finishing my degree in April 2010. I’m the second oldest in a home-schooling family with 6 kids. Aside from that, I was basically raised as a lot of Catholic boys are: I received my first Communion, went to Confession when my parents did, was an altar server, and got Confirmed when I was 12. I also liked to read a lot, especially stories about saints and heroes like St Francis Xavier, St Jean de Brebeuf, St Thomas Aquinas, basically all your macho saints. My dream has always been to become a man like them, courageous, and on fire for God.
Now, when I said it was my dream to be like those saints, I meant dream. Actually, maybe I should have said, “dream on.” When I was a kid, and into my early teens, I said I wanted to follow God and be a soldier for Him, but I didn’t have a clue what that meant. My idea of following God was all about appearances. Outside of Church or youth group, I did my own thing, dodged school when I could, beat up my little brother, got beat up by my little brother. At the root of most of this, I definitely didn’t trust too many people farther than I knew was safe. That included God.
To be completely honest, I was totally insecure and afraid. Afraid of the unknown, afraid of failing, afraid of standing out in a crowd, afraid of not standing out, afraid of not fitting in or looking different from everyone else. I remember when I was ten, I couldn’t even manage to sit through “Lassie Come Home” without freaking out because I didn’t know the ending and I was afraid of what might happen. The one word that would describe me before I found God for real was “coward”. Whenever I was confronted with a situation that demanded more of me than I thought I could handle, I would basically hide in the corner and wait for it to be over or for someone else to take charge. Little did I know, God had other plans.
The summer I turned fifteen, I went to the Catholic Leadership summer camp run by the Legionaries of Christ, even though the year before I went home early because I was homesick. My only expectation for myself was that I should hopefully make it through the entire week this time around. God wasn’t about to let me off that easy. The first day of camp, they announced the team captains. In my head, I was excited to see who our leaders would be for the whole week, and everything was going according to plan. Then they said my name. It was as if God had suddenly grabbed me by the shoulder looked me in the eye and said, “Look here Ian, you’ve said you wanted to be a soldier for Me. Here’s your first assignment.” Well I looked Him square in the eye and said… “AAAAHHH!!!!” It probably took me a good ten seconds to get over the shock, and I’m still not too sure how I made it to the front of the room with the other captains. I couldn’t hide, and I couldn’t fake this. That day, I really decided for the first time to let God take control. On the way to the front of the room, I prayed for God to work in me. By the end of the first day, I knew that was a good decision. By the end of the week, I knew it was the best decision of my life.
I made it through, all right, and our team beat out all the others as top team in camp. I didn’t win best team captain, but I learned a lot about what it means to lead, to trust, and live for God. That week changed who I am completely. From then on it seemed as if I was fearless: I no longer cared so much for what other people might think, or whether I would fail, or what might happen. I can only say that God managed to fit a lot of change into a single week, and I’ve been learning more about what it means to follow him in the years since then. Sometimes I’m still afraid of what’s to come, but through that summer God showed me that when push comes to shove I can trust him, and when I do He can make more of my life than I could ever ask or imagine.