Called to Serve

July 4, 2012

India: “Satyameva Jayate”

Filed under: Uncategorized — missionaryjames @ 1:50 am

India is the seventh-largest nation by geographical terms and the second most populous. Of the 1.2 billion people living there, a mere 2.3% of them are Christian. That is to say that just over 2% of this vast nation has heard about the love of Jesus Christ and accepted Him into their lives.  Just over 2% have heard Christ’s proclamation in John 14:6 where he boldly announces to God’s people that “I am the Way, the TRUTH and the Life”.  In a land where the national motto is the sanskrit phrase “Satyameva Jayate” (Truth Alone Triumphs), I cannot help but be convicted even deeper that our Lord desires for India to draw near to Him.  That He yearns for the hearts of these people who still do not  know Him.  That His heart aches for them to dwell in the fullness in His Divine Light, to be living in the TRUTH that they are all so desperately searching for!

Local men sitting taking a break on their rickshaws. They pull these man drawn “taxis” around for a living.

It was to this land that I was blessed to travel to this past winter for missions.  Having heard about the poverty, both materially and spiritually, and the caste system, I had no idea what to expect while boarding my flight in Houston on my way to Kolkata (Calcutta).  In my next few posts, I am hoping to attempt to share just a small part of the amazing things that God did and the things that He taught me while in the heart of India.

The view outside the bus station in Kolkata. This cement dividing wall separates the station and its parking lot for the junk yard where a number of families are living under these houses of sheets and tarps. 

Over three years ago, the Lord placed India on my heart. Since then I have been praying and waiting upon the Lord to open that door up to me in my missionary life.  This past winter, that desire was made real when God opened the door for me to lead a short-term mission trip to Kolkata and Puna for the three weeks before Christmas.  With a group of 12 missionaries, our trip begins in the streets of Kolkata.

Washing laundry on the streets with whatever available water that can be found is a common occurrence in Kolkata. 

The first half of our three-week mission was spent in Kolkata, with the better part of every morning being spent with the Missionaries of Charity in their homes of outreach.  Each morning, our group would wake up early to join the MOCs for Mass above Blessed Teresa’s tomb at the Motherhouse.  Following Mass, a communal breakfast and prayer we took off to serve for the rest of the morning.  Walking to our first morning of ministry through the twisting and winding streets of the city, I am again struck by the foreignness of this new place. Having traveled to over 15 countries in the last three years, I did not think that I was capable to this feeling anymore. I had thought that ”foreign and new” was a thing of the past, that foreign was now my ”normal”. However this was not the case in Kolkata.  The strangeness of this land extended far beyond the poverty and dirt that surrounded everything. It was a strangeness that stretched further than the sickness and death that was lurking around every corner.  This was a strangeness that I had never truly witnessed before, the strangeness of being in a nation that was not predominately Christian.  As I approached Prem Dan (Gift of Love), the home where I would be working for the week, I prayed, “Lord, how am I to serve you in a place where you seem so hidden? Please show yourself to me. Jesus, let me see that you are here.”

Beginning our mission in prayer at the tomb of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata in the Missionaries of Charity Motherhouse.

Entering the home I saw that the world within these walls was much different than the world outside of them.  There was still sickness, disease and even death… but amidst all of all this, moreover, ABOVE all of this was love!  There was a love radiating from the Missionaries of Charity as they were already beginning to clean the residents, tend to their wounds, give them their daily medication, and wash their sheets and their clothes.  However what was most striking to me was the way that they were loving the sick and the poor.  Outside of these stone walls was a world in which the ”rich and elite” would move about, literally stepping over the poor and the dying.  A world in which the privileged would do everything they could to avoid the very air being breathed by the “untouchables”, those who were unlucky enough to be borne into India’s lowest caste.  And  inside these walls was a group of servants, the Missionaries of Charity and many of the volunteers who were caring for these same people.  They were feeding them, washing them, caring for their wounds and most of all giving them the love and affection that the world had kept hidden from them for so long.  In their love I saw for the first time the real love of Christ in this land.  Jesus was beginning to answer my prayer.

As my day went on, I finished washing clothes and bed sheets and hanging them out to dry, gave a mid-morning snack to many of the residents and then found myself looking around for another way to help. At this time the MOCs were now in full-swing with their medical help, giving daily medications to many and treating the wounds of many more.  A result of much of these men’s  sicknesses was the drying and cracking of their skin. Of the volunteers, those who wanted were able to take lotion and apply it to the men as needed to help with these side effects.  One or two of the other guys grabbed a container of lotion and a pair of plastic gloves and began their work.  I was hesitant. Many of the residents had open wounds, infections and worn skin.  I soon remembered how St. Francis was convicted to embrace the leper and how his life was changed.  Would I have done the same?  Would I do so to these men?  Yes, Lord.  I walked over to the cabinet, grabbed the last container of  lotion, left the plastic gloves behind and went to the nearest resident.  “Do you want lotion?” I asked, pointing at the tub I was holding.  With the nod of his head and extension of his arms and legs, I dipped my hand in the lotion and began rubbing it on his hands.  He seemed surprised that I had not put on gloves.  They all put on gloves.  My skin is sick,  my wounds are deep.  But how could I?  I looked at this man, into his eyes, and I saw my Jesus staring back at me.  I had found Him!!  He was hiding where He always does, in the sick and the poor.  Why did I think it would be any different here?

As the morning wore on, I continued with my little mission… my mission to allow each of these residents to feel.  Not to feel lotion and plastic, but to feel someone, the hands of another not afraid to embrace them.  How could I place a barrier between my and my Savior who was looking back at me through each of them?  As I rubbed their hands I felt the hands of Christ.  I prayed.  I thanked the Lord for placing those hands so willingly on the Cross for me and for all of these men in Prem Dan.  I thanked Him for allowing me to help comfort those hands that very day.  I prayed that He would not simply look back at me through these men’s eyes, but that He come to dwell in their hearts.  I prayed that they would come to know Jesus and the love that He has for each of them.  I do not know if any of these men were Christian, if any of them had the faintest idea of who Christ was, but for a few hours each morning, I was able to spend time with Him, quietly looking back at me through them.  I was able to massage and comfort His bleeding hands, His feet that walked to Calvary and His back that brushed up against the grain and splinters of the Cross.

Residents of Prem Dan seated, waiting to be served lunch at midday.

I made this my mission, not only to feed these men, take them to the bathroom, wash their laundry and make their beds, but to let them know that they are loved.  Not simply by me and my love or by the MOCs and their love, but by Jesus Christ and His infinite love.  Being one of only a few of the volunteers to learn any Bengali, I was able to communicate and connect with the residents in a special way.  I don’t know that I’ve ever said “Jesus loves you” more times in a week than I did that week in Kolkata.  I also don’t know if I’ve ever gotten such an array of reactions to that simple phrase… confusion, anger, longing and intrigue.  However the reaction that I saw rise up most in the faces of these men when I would speak those words in my broken Bengali was joy.  A joy that I knew had come from Him, and one that I prayed would be lasting.  A joy that would remain long after I, and everyone else had gone.

Ending a day of work, saying goodbye to the residents and leaving the home with some of the other volunteers. 

My time working with the Missionaries of Charity was blessed beyond belief.  Not only did they inspire me with their love and sacrifice, but it was working by their side, serving the lost and the lonely, the sick and the poor, that I was able to have my first glances of Jesus hiding in India.  He showed me that He is there, that He is waiting, waiting to be known and waiting to be loved by those who do not yet know Him.  Waiting to be given His rightful place as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, to be the One True God of India.  He is there!  He wants to be known, to be called upon, called upon to change their lives and their hearts!  “But how are men to call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?”  (Romans 10:14-15)

Missionaries of Charity and volunteers washing the floors of the sleeping and eating quarters.

For India, and the rest of the world, to be  shown the beautiful light of Christ, if they are to feel His love and His joy which we celebrate with our lives…  we must go, we must be sent, we must preach, we must serve.

St. Francis Xavier was told by St. Ignatius of Loyola to go and “set all afire”.  There is a fire that needs to be lit in India, throughout all of Asia, and it is only the love of Christ already burning brightly in the hearts of Christians that can create a spark and fan into flame a fire to burn throughout the land.  St. Francis Xavier, after seeing India for himself write home to Spain saying, “Tell the students to give up their small ambitions and come eastward to preach the gospel of Christ!”  Let us give up any ambitions that are not for the building of His Kingdom and the spreading of the Good News.

If you feel as though the Lord may be calling YOU to serve Him in a radical way, I would invite you to e-mail me at missiontrips@fmcmissions.com for opportunities to do so.  Also, anyone interested in coming to serve on a life-changing three-week short term mission trip to India this winter can contact me at the address above.  May God bless you and may the peace and joy of Christ be always in your heart!

June 18, 2012

Mission Update!!!

Filed under: Uncategorized — missionaryjames @ 9:38 pm

(so as you will notice in the first line of this post, this has been sitting unpublished on my blog for some time now… but better late than never… right? hehe :P)

Dear family and friends,

Peace and joy in Christ! As I sit here, just a few days after Christmas, reflecting upon the recent celebration of Christ’s birth, I cannot help but be thankful for all of the blessings that Jesus has given me.  Along with family, friends, and home, blessings that I have enjoyed my whole life, I am also struck by the amazing ways that my life has been radically changed and transformed these last three years.  And after thanking my God, I must thank you.  Thank you for making this new life possible.  It is only by your prayers and donations that I have been able to follow the call to become a full-time Catholic missionary and evangelist that God has put on my heart.

After these thanks, I must also apologize and ask for forgiveness.

Forgiveness for not sharing with you the great things that God has been doing in this world through your generous support.

I want to take the opportunity with this newsletter, to fill you in on the last year of my life as a missionary, the life that you made happen.  Forgive me if this letter is lengthy, but I want to share with you stories and experiences, not a simple outline.  I hope that you will find time to read this whole update, whether it be in one sitting or in ten.

For those of you who are new to my list of benefactors, let me give you a brief ‘catch-up’.  In my first year of missions, I was sent to serve for a few months in Spain and then spent the rest of my year serving in Mexico.  If you want to know more about any of my mission posts, check out my older blog posts! www.missionaryjames.wordpress.com!

In both of these places, I lived full-time serving the local people, both physically and spiritually.  We prayed with the sick, fed the hungry, built homes, and shared our faith in Jesus with all those we met!  Following the end of my first year, I was asked by Family Missions Company if I would consider serving as the Short-Term Missions Coordinator.  What this meant is that I would be moving myself to be based out of our stateside mission post in Abbeville, Louisiana.  I would live stateside and then organize, prepare and lead groups from all over the United States into foreign missions for one week, two weeks or a month at a time, showing others the life of missions and what it means to fully live out the Great Commission.  Upon accepting to serve in this position, I re-located myself and my possessions back to the States, but I kept my heart in full-time foreign missions.

As the STM (short-term missions) Coordinator I have been blessed to travel the world, showing others the beautiful life of missions and waiting upon the Lord to tell me how long I will continue serving Him in this way and when He will be calling me back into full-time foreign missions.  As the STM Coordinator I find myself traveling, a lot, to many different countries, and then rightly being asked how I am funding my travels and if I am prudently using by benefactors’ donations.  One of the blessings of this position, is that while I lead these many mission trips, my trip expenses and a small stipend are being covered by the groups that I am leading.  This has allowed me to accept every donation from my benefactors and put it aside completely for the poor that we serve.  As my food is paid for by the groups, I can then take your donations and feed Christ in the least of my brothers and sisters.  I can put clothes on the back of my Savior and buy Him medicine when He is sick.  So again, thank you for allowing me to serve in that way.

Visiting one of the local villages, we were able to catechize, share our testimonies, preach and of course… play with the children!!!

Waking up early for some personal prayer time on the roof of our hostel in Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

Taking a canoe to one of the local villages down the river.  Padre Lorenzo, a missionary priest from Italy is leading us today!

As I already said, I have been all over the world this past year.  And because of that, I have seen Jesus in so many different ways; with every color skin, alone, with a family, sick, imprisoned, joyful and in despair.  I want to take this opportunity to share with you a few moments that touched my heart this past year and that will stay with me for quite some time.

Riding in Father’s truck to the entrance of one of the near communities to visit and celebrate Mass with them.

Our work project for the week was repainting the parish Church in the town of Misahualli, the town where our group was staying for the week. 

Canoeing across the river.

Hiking to tres hermanos,  one of the furthest communities from town. After a ride to the end of the road, our team then set out on a trek through the jungle up to the village.

Playing with “Baby Santiago” in Tres Hermanos. 

Another mission post that I was blessed to spend time in this year was the Island of Saint Lucia.  Traveling down to this nation, I was able to spend one month (on two different occasions) with one of our full-time missionary families.  The Eckstine family (with their 10 children!) served this past year in Saint Lucia, serving with the local Church and Archdiocese, visiting the sick and elderly, working with local youth, and witnessing to raising a family with Christ as the center.  Spending so much time at this mission post not only blessed me in the many different ministries we were a part of, but rekindled that flame of missions that the Lord lit in my heart almost 3 years ago!

Students participating in a program at the local elementary school.

Corpus Christi Eucharistic procession through the streets of Castries, the capital of Saint Lucia and home to our mission post.

Excited and newly animated with this Spirit of missions and of service, the Lord, as He always does, made an opportunity to give witness to what He was again doing in my heart.  As the feast of Pentecost approached, we found ourselves attending the National Pentecost Rally at the Archdiocesan Cathedral.  Having arrived late, I found myself sitting in the back of the packed Cathedral.  As the homily began, Archbishop Robert Rivas began preaching and then abruptly paused.  The next thing I heard from him caught me off guard: “Can I ask if James the missionary is here?”  Raising my hand he called me up in front of the congregation.  As I arrived at the altar, I was then asked if I would preach, if I would tell the Catholic population of this country what it meant to be missionary?  What did Pentecost mean? What happened on that day over two thousand years ago?

Night one of our three night rally in a local outreach chapel Ti Rocher.  We were able to preach the kerygma, share our testimonies, pray and sing praise with the people of this little mountain community.

Our Summer School of Missionary Evangelism group pictured with Archbishop Robert Rivas at his home in Saint Lucia.

Still in disbelief as to where I was and unprepared to answer… I let the Spirit take over and speak His words: “Pentecost was the fulfillment of the prophets, of Christ’s promise to His followers, that He would forever be with us! Twelve men, scared and hiding, confused and alone, were overcome with power from on high and went forth to change the world!  These men were missionaries and we are all called to follow them into mission, to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ!”  A few minutes later, Archbishop Rivas took the mic back from me, saying that I was stealing his homily.  With a final question, he asked “How does your life as a missionary compare to the American dream?” The simple answer that the Lord spoke through me, to this nation that often idolizes America was this, “The American dream does not compare.  It cannot hold a candle to the glory and grace that is, and that comes with, living as a true disciple of Jesus Christ.”

Feeding one of the women (99 years old) who reside at the home of the Missionaries of Charity in Saint Lucia.

The rest of this past year included leading a trip of priests and seminarians down to our mission house in General Cepeda for a week, participating in World Youth Day, helping to lead our first annual Summer School of Missionary Evangelism, taking our newest group of full-time missionaries down to Mexico for three weeks of training, and finally leading a life-changing three week mission trip to India.  If you want to know more about any of these missions and how we served, feel free to check out my blog! I will be sending out another newsletter in a month or two to share with you everything that God did while in India, the way that He moved hearts and planted the seed of the Gospel in a land that is thirsting for more!

The group of seminarians in front of the Cathedral of Saint James in Saltillo on our day of pilgrimage.

Yoga fun on top of the mountain behind our mission house!

Again, I wanted to write this letter to thank each and every one of you for the great support that you have been for me these last 2 and a half years. The mission that the Lord has called me to, and then every mission trip that I have been blessed to lead, would not have been and will not be possible if not for your support, both in prayer and financially.  May the Lord bless you for your generosity!  I will continue to keep each of you in my daily prayers and I pray that you all have a blessed New Year, filled with love, joy, peace and happiness, all springing up from your relationship with Jesus Christ!  God Bless!

in Him,

James Franke

May 24, 2011

New Year, New Mission: Misahualli – A Mission to the Amazon

Filed under: Uncategorized — missionaryjames @ 12:08 am

 “He is Here!”

An early January morning, unlike the cold and snow I had been walking through a week earlier, I find myself arising early in the morning to begin my mission by walking into the hot and humid jungle of the Amazon.  Today I am going, with a number of religious sisters, a priest and group of missionaries, to visit Tres Hermanos, a small jungle village a few hours away from our mission base in Misahualli, Ecuador. Piling into the back of our truck and beginning to drive into the jungle, we had no idea the day that was awaiting us, what the Lord had planned.

An hour later, reaching the literal ‘end of the road’ we step down from the vehicles, put on our packs and begin our hike.  The beginning of our hike seemed easy enough, trekking down a well trodden path, and making great time, we began to think that we would surely make it to our destination within the hour.  Slowly that dream of ours began to diminish and we realized the work that we had gotten ourselves into. The once smooth and easy path was soon transformed into a winding and difficult journey through the thickness of the Amazon, made more difficult only by the thigh-deep mud we found ourselves trudging through.  What to many would have been a back-breaking blow became for us a reason to rejoice!  Songs of praise and worship began to echo throughout the jungle around us as we shouted out the glories of God. Encouraging and inspiration quotes and lyrics came to strengthen us after the first and second hours passed and we still seemed distant from our final stopping point.  From Teddy Roosevelt saying, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led diffcult lives and led them well.” to Christ’s, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23), we began to realize that this hike was very much one of those crosses that Christ was speaking about, one of those worthwhile things that was in no way easy.

 

One group from this May’s trip to Ecuador, hiking through a river to reach one of the villages.

Approaching the third hour of our journey, now being covered and mud and having been weighed down by the last hour of heavy rain, someone in the front of our group shouted some of the most comforting words that could have been spoken at that moment, “We are here!”.  With a sudden surge of energy, the rest of the group livened and ran, as best they could, the final hill up to the village.  Arriving to meet the people we, here quickly remembered that the hike was not our mission, it was little more than the beginning.  These people, they were our mission.  We had come with one purpose, to bring them Jesus Christ.  To bring Him to them in our words, our love, our testimonies and above all, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  The incredible thing about this mission is that many of these people had never heard about Jesus and that Mass had never been celebrated there.  Jesus Christ, had never once been present to these people in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity!  We soon saw that the Lord was using our humble ‘yes’, as His missionaries, to bring Him so truly to these people in a way that He has never been there.

    

End Result: Tired, sore, muddy, blistered… and ready to do it all again in a second!

Hours into our visit, we had been able to share with these beautiful people the Word of God, how He loves them so unconditionally.  We were able to share our testimonies, the incredible works that the Lord has done in our own lives, how He has showed us His love and mercy time and time again. Finally we were able to celebrate Mass with them.  Many of them were not able to receive Communion, not having made the Sacrament, however all were able to look upon the face of God, of Jesus Christ, in a way that they had never been able to do before.  Any lasting echoes of our earlier cry of “We are here!” would have, at that moment, been drowned out by our new cry, “HE IS HERE!”, Jesus had come!  It was in this moment that our mission took on flesh, just as the humble bread was transformed into the flesh of the Son of God.  We were blessed by one of those rare moments, one of those glimpses of heaven on earth, when the Lord shows to us the fruit that He is bearing through us His children.  It was in that moment that our eyes were opened to see heaven come down and gently kiss earth, to see Jesus Christ use us humble missionaries as His hands, His feet, to walk to a corner of this earth that He not yet been.

Explaining to the children how each and every day the Lord desires to give them a new life in Him.  They soon rushed out the door in search of the hidden Easter eggs (a sign a new life) that were filled with yummy treats and would forever be a reminder of the gift of a new life in Christ!

Our Lord does not need us to accomplish the work of salvation, it is only in His great love for us that He chooses to use us to participate in this holy and glorious work with Him.  Having the power to physically come down to earth and walk wherever He wants, to have His voice heard at will by whomever He would wish to hear it, Jesus Christ waits on us and our ‘yes’ to move, to walk, to speak.  We must be His, be at His disposal, we must be willing to be His instruments ready to be used and formed in His hands.  And in doing so, His name will be known among the nations, all peoples shall come to praise Him and He will reign victorious in this world of ours!

Adelphi and Hofstra group (in January) after getting back from Tres Hermanos, such a blessed experience of the Great Commission of Christ!


Lord, let me only move to serve you!  Allow these humble feet to carry you to the ends of this earth, to the places you were not able to walk when you were here.  Let me be an instrument of your love and mercy to a broken world that so desperately needs you!

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