Called to Serve

June 15, 2010

Time to Learn!

April 3rd, 2010.  I find myself, along with Bridget and Erika, standing in the candle-lit Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, in Lafayette, LA.  The celebration of the Easter Vigil continues, the readings are beautifully read and the excitement is building.  We all know why we are here, we know what is about to happen… we are about to re-live the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!!! The time has come, the bells begin to chime, the quiet trumpet turns into a blasting hailing in of the King as our voices are raised to the heavens, joining with the praises of the Angels and Saints… “Give Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth!”  As a body gathered together to celebrate the day our Lord rose and opened to us the gates of heaven, the day death was conquered, the day reality was turned upside down, the day all things were made new… I realized that I myself was about to embark on a journey, a journey where I would have to ask the Lord to make something new for me. In less than a week I was off to Cuernavaca, Morelos.  I would be settling down and living there for a month, attending classes to learn to speak Spanish.  With virtually no Spanish on my resume, I knew that the Lord was going to have to take control of me and my journey, and in reality make me a new person, a new missionary, better able to be His servant.

– Market place in Mexico City.

– Cathedral in Mexico City.

– Interview the Gringo!!! 😛

A few days later, after an incredible, fun and refreshing stay at Big Woods, I find myself up early to catch a flight out of New Orleans, final destination Mexico City, Mexico.   Two flights, a bus and a taxi ride later… Erika, Teresa and Myself, find ourselves seated outside of IDEAL, a language school of Cuernavaca.  Our journey was beginning!!!  After a little wait, we were each carried off to our individual homes where we would each be living with a local family for the duration of our stay there.  After a few days of getting our bearings and settling into our new homes… classes began!!!

– Beans galore!!!

– Taxco, the city of silver.

– La Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Guadaloupe.

– Nuestra Senora… ruega por nosotros!

The next four weeks were composed of five hours of Spanish classes, taught completely in Spanish, five days a week.  Having arrive with the idea that I was a student, I may have neglected somehwhat the fact that I was still and am always first a missionary.  However the Lord quickly reminded me as I was blessed with opportunity after opportunity to share, not only with other students, but with the professors, my host family and a number of others who the Lord brought through my path, my testimony of how the Lord called me to missions and all that He has been doing with me and my fellow missionaries throughout all of our missions this year!!!  With my broken Spanish, I thought that anything like this kind of sharing would have been impossible… however the Lord knew.  He knew that He has the power to give us the words to speak when we cannot, that He can give us the grace, strength and inspiration to witness to Him even when it seems impossible.  And this is exactly what He did.  He gave me the words I needed, my Spanish once almost incoherent, was still very poor, but was enough… just enough.  Whenever we share the Gospel, whenever we share truth, there is a look… a look that comes across the eyes or someone who is really listening.  Whether they have decided yet to believe or reject what you are saying, as long as they are truly listening, this look is bound to come.  Because with truth is God, God IS TRUTH!  And with God, there is always change, there is always action.  Needless to say, during our time sharing at the school, this look, this change was all around… not because of us, but because of Him!

– Me and Erika in front of the Basilica.

– Tepyac… the site of Our Lady of Guadaloupe’s apparitions.

We spent our evenings going to daily Mass, walking the city, stopping to visit the poor and the homeless… doing all that we could to be missionary, to be what He has called us to be!  We may not have been able to say much more than “hola” y “como estas?”, but you would be surprised at what a simple hello can do.  A simple smile can light up the streets of the darkest city.  Helping others is hard, changing the world is hard… but one of the hardest things about it is our unwillingness to do it!  Our unwillingness to love without reserve, to dive into the effort with all our being!!  However once this hurdle is cleared… the rest continue to fall.  Before we knew it, we were walking around the city on the night before our flights home.  Having gone one last time to the cenrto, we found ourselves walking up Avenue Morelos one last time.  Approaching San Jose, a church we attended for many of our daily masses, Theresa see’s a couple sitting across the street and suggests that we go talk with them.  Jose and Teresa were a couple that we had stopped to visit with a number of times during our walks downtown.  As always, they greeted us with the most beautiful.  Teresa told us that she’s happy to see us, that she had seen us walk by on the other side of the street earlier but she knew that we’d be stopping by to see her on our return.  We don’t stay for too long, but our time was blessed.  They shared with us how happy they were to have met us and seen us during the past month.  We tell them that it was really them who blessed us.  They had so little, and yet so much.  Without the things of this world, they were still happy, and they had nothing to stand between them and Jesus.  They were closer to God that many of us who hold so many other things dear in our lives.  They not only showed us a way to Christ, but they showed us Christ Himself, as He shone through both of their beautiful faces… faces that I will not soon forget.  After a goodbye filled with smiles, we returned home to pack, to once again pick up and move where the Lord was calling us.

– The Old Cathedral… it’s sinking!!!

– Walking around the ruins of Xochicalco.

(Below- Exhausted from Language School :P)  Next stop… Home!

June 10, 2010

Where it all began…

March 2009 –

  1. Finishing up studies at Franciscan University: a year and a half of studying the faith and the Church.
  2. Unsure of status after graduation: youth minister, dre, high school teacher..?
  3. Prerparing to go on a mission trip to Mexico with the University: not quite sure what missions are but I’m sure it will be a fun time.

March 2010

  1. Finishing up Mission Europe: three months of sharing the Gospel and giving testimony throughout Europe.
  2. Unsure of where my next permanent mission post will be: General, Coatzacoalcos, Unknown..?
  3. Preparing to return to Mexico to help lead the short term trip from FUS that I was on one year ago: blessed beyond belief.

What a difference a year makes!!! If anyone had told me at the beginning of last March what I would be doing with my life, how the Lord was going to change all of my plans and show me His, I would have told them they were insane! But oh how our God is faithful!  Exactly one year later, the Lord was blessing me with the opportunity to return to General Cepeda, to the place where it all started, to once again serve Him there in mission.  And to do so with the group that would be coming from Franciscan University, the very group I was on for my first mission, those short twelve months ago 🙂

After a breif two night stop on Long Island, after leaving Ireland, me and Jonathan made our way down to Louisiana and then drove down to General Cepeda.  Upon arrival, we were joyously surprised by a very warm welcome of the short term group that had been there for a week from Miami University (OH).  Within minutes I was thrown back into the reality of the beautiful General Cepeda. I could already see the smile and the pure joy that readiated from those who had been living in this humble place for nearly a week. The unique beauty that never fails to shine through each and every person to spend any amount of time serving the Lord in this beautiful little pueblo!  I was already getting excited to hear all of the glory stories and ways that the Lord had changed these students lives over the past few days.  Later that night, I was blessed to sit down with a number of the missionaries from the group and hear their witness, of all the things the Lord had done for them, how He had opened their eyes and broken their hearts to love the poor in a new way!  I was also blessed to share my own story of how the Lord worked on me during my first short term trip down to General.

The next day, with an early wakeup, me and Jonathan rushed off the the airport in Monterrey to pick up our short term group, flying in from Steubenville!!!  Waiting outside of the International Arrivals gate, one by one we saw students with looks of anticipation, excitement, and a bit of nervousness walk out into the lobby, getting ready for what would soon be one of the greatest weeks of their lives! (whether they knew it yet or not, hehe). With twenty bright eyed students led by Daniel Telles, Theresa Haines and Fr. Rick Martignetti, we piled up our two vans and headed home to the Casa de Misiones!!!

The minute we arrived at the mission house, all twenty-one missionaries began their week by kissing the ground of their mission field… and never looked back once from there on out.  From day one, each and every member of the mission team, gave fully of themselves to everything and everyone.  Serving above and beyond, loving without reserve and stepping outside of every comfort of home, this group was such a blessing not only to the people on General Cepeda, but to our mission team as well!!! They were always shining examples of what it means to die to self and to serve, to be fearless and bold in preaching the Good News!

Our week as a team was chock-full!!!  Our work projects were many and ranged from building roofs and bathrooms to painting homes inside and out.  We had daily teams going out to the rancho’s to evangelize and offer Mass and we also had teams doing home visits, visiting the poor and the sick who are unable to leave their homes.  One of our rules of life here at FMC is that ‘in all things, praise the Lord’.  Well this group did just that!  From the moment they woke up in the morning they could be heard singing joyful songs to the Lord.  Throughout all of the morning service projects, General Cepeda was ringing with praises to our God… even after lunch, when most groups would be resting after a long morning of work, this group could be found all gathered in the coral with guitars and drums having praise and worship together!  It was just so beautiful to have the rooms of our humble little mission house echoing with shouts to God at all hours of the day!

– Jonathan preaching to the little ones in a Rancho.

– Franciscan students filling buckets of fill for a newly made roof.

– Missionaries painting the inside of an elderly man’s home.

Just like with all of our short term groups to General, our evenings were spent driving to the local rancho’s to share testimonies, have praise and woship, to offer prayer to the people and at times to offer mass.  The first night out at the rancho’s, anyone there could tell that this group had not only prepared what they were going to share, but that they had done so prayerfully, that they really took the time to listen to the Lord and to have Him reveal to them how He has worked so powerfully in their lives!  All week long, the testimonies shared by the missionaries were beautiful witnesses of how the Lord wants to, and IS, working in all of our lives.  We were even blessed to have two students come forward and volunteer to give a teaching.  Each of them waited upon the Lord to share with them what He wanted to speak, and faithfully they delivered His message in a powerful way, speaking truth, light and love into the hearts of those who listened!!

– Theresa reading some Scripture to a woman who we were building a bathroom for.

– Work Project team who built a new bathroom.

– Happy Missionaries!!!

As we approached the end of our week, we were blessed to be able to take a pilgimage day to Saltillo.  In Saltillo, the missionaries truly used this day as a day of pilgrimage.  Students headed off to the market to buy blankets for the homeless or food for the hungry.  We then moved on to the Cathedral which was a time of prayer for us and the group, to thank the Lord for all that He had done with us, for us and through us throughout the past week. After eating dinner as a group, we returned home to General… stopping briefly out in the desert to see the beautiful stars which the Lord was blessing us with on such an incredible evening.

– Building a room onto the house of a young family.

– The entire group in front of the Cathedral in Saltillo on our day of pilgrimage.

The following day would be our last full day in General Cepeda as a group.  After breakfast, we all took off for Desert Day, a day of prayer out in the desert to be refilled and renourished, to thank to Lord for every blessing He has poured out upon us, and to seek His will for each of us.  Going off in our seperated directions, many of the missionaries grabbed a seat near a little stream or found shade under a cactus.  However I knew where I was headed… back to my cave.  A year later to the day, I was able to return to the spot where the Lord had first called me to missions.  Stepping into the cave I was excited and a little saddened… excited to be back, saddened to see that the back of the cave had caved in.  However the Lord showed me that what once was dark, the inside of that cave, was now filled with light.  What once was unclear in my life, my vocation, now was shining brightly in my living as a missionary.  The Lord is, has, and continues to bless me abundantly in this life as a missionary.  After our desert day, we had an incredible opportunity to go to the rancho San Jose and celebrate their feast day!!  Their celebration included Danzantes, a beautiful mass, and a feast for the entire community.  Returning home after a long day, our final evening was spent together in the sala, sharing our experiences from the week and how the Lord had blessed us.

– Danzantes at San Jose.

– Padre Ricardo (Rick) walking with a woman to begin the ceremonies of the Feast Day at San Jose.

A week of blessings!!!  These young Franciscan students came to General unknowing… but ready!  They left as missionaries, on fire to serve the Lord and their brothers and sisters.  I pray that all of those who left with a desire for missions, continue to seek out the Lord and His will!  That He would give them the grace and the strength to answer this call and that the doors would be open for them to do so!!

Missionary Randoms 😛

– Me and Mirna, one of the Garza children, a family of full-time missionaries from General Cepeda.

– Really no explanation 😛

– Cannonball!

– Preparing for when the world is turned upside down by the transforming love of God being brought to the ends of the earth!

– Flying Ninja Jonathan!

June 8, 2010

Claíomh an Spioraid. Tá an Chomhphobail an Ghrá.

I will first ask for the forgiveness of all those who actually speak Irish if my title is incorrectly translated. It is meant to say, “Sword of the Spirit. A Community of Love”.  After having left our mission post in Spain, I had decided ahead of time that our brief mission in Ireland wasn’t going to be much of mission at all, but instead just a break on our way back to America. Little did I know, that the Lord had other plans in mind.  The week and a half spent I was to spend there would soon become one of my most treasured times in our European mission. Leaving Cordoba, the ten of us missionaries flew and bussed ourselves to Madrid, off to Dublin and finally came to rest in the beautiful little town of Loughlinstown in County Dublin, just south of Dublin City.  Our plans were to stay, as a group, for a few days with the Moran’s, a family of one of our missionaries.  I don’t think they really knew what there were signing up for when they said yes to having us!

– The whole group in Ireland! (plus Inma!)

Arriving Friday, midafternoon, we had just enough time to invade the Moran house and throw our luggage all over, before we were rushing off to an evening of ministry. The ten of us, split up in pairs of two’s, and headed off to local homes in the neighborhood in order to speak and give testimony to five different aged youth groups, ranging from ages five to eighteen or so.   As a community, every friday each of the children in community come together for a night of prayer, scripture, teaching, and fun.  I was able to pair off with Teresa and spend my evening with 30 kids from the ages of 7-11.  Apart from all of the games we played and fun that we had, it was such a blessing to be able to sit down with them and share my testimony with them… to tell them how God spoke to me in a cave and called me to give my life to Him!!! He is so great!!! And these children were so intrigued, so captivated by the power of the Lord, of His desiring for us to live for Him, to follow Him, to trust Him, to give our lives to Him!!!

– Lord’s Day celebration at the Moran’s.

The Moran’s, along with a great number of other families in the neighborhood, are part of a Christian Covenant Community, Sword of the Spirit, a community which has chapters all over the world. Covenant Communities are comprised of  singles, married couples, and families all trying to live out true Gospel values. The members and families of the community often live near one another and simply provide support for one another as they all try to live as good Christians in the world today. Prayer meetings, youth groups and community events are all aspects of living in such an incredible community.As a “community of disciples on mission” The Sword of the Spirit seeks to…

√ proclaim the good news of Christ through direct evangelization
√ bring together Christians from different traditions and cultures for common mission
√ support parents in raising children with character and a clear sense of identity
√ envision and train the upcoming generation to take on roles of responsibility
√ help bridge the gaps of race, class, and culture
√ work in cooperation with the churches to foster Christian renewal and promote unity
√ give hope and vision to those seeing their countries destroyed by war and violence

This beautiful witness and way of life surrounded us during our time in Ireland as we did whatever we could to help the community and share our witness with them.  On Sunday evening, we were blessed to attent the community’s night of praise and worship.  A night of beautifully praising the Lord together with the older youths and young adults of the community was then followed by a time of planning activities for Evangelizing, fun activities for the youth groups in the community that would allow them to reach out to their friends, who either were not in the community or even not Christian, and show them their way of life and their faith in Christ.

– Missionaries and Young Adults at a Sunday Night Praise and Worship gathering.

As the weekend passed by, our team slowly dwindled down, until it was myself and Jonathan who remained.  Arriving in Ireland, we had planned on trying to attend an eight day silent retreat once the rest of the missionaries had returned home, however our plans did not work out.  Before we had time to think of other options, Mr. Moran generously offered to allow us to stay for an extra week with him and his family. The rest of our time in Ireland was filled with opportunities to serve.  We were blessed to be able to help out with chores around the community, to meet many of the other families, share meals and to continually give our testimonies to the Lord’s hand in our lives.  The following Friday we were able to once again partake in the youth group night.  Taking one of the age groups, we had an evening of games followed by the children asking questions about the faith for us to answer.  It was just so beautiful and often so surprising to see how intrigued, interested and insightful these children were.  They were asked questions that I would expect theology students in college to be asking, and then when we answered them, they would always have an insightful input and a true understanding of our response.  The Lord was and is truly working in these youth, preparing them for a life of love and service for Him!!!

– Sitting in front of the Doors of Dublin.

When I look back, I am still shocked by how much we actually fit into our schedules during that short time. The witness of that community is something that I will not soon forget.  To see families living together in such a way, living for the Lord, raising their children with good and holy Christian values gave me a glimpse of how Christ wanted the world to be… how He still wants it to be today!!! A place where all people are free in Him, have support from our fellow Christians and are fearless to be living for something more than this world has to offer.  In a special way, the Moran family blessed all of us so much during our time there.  They are a family, with struggles and trials just like every other family in the world, but the love that they showed for each other, for the other families in the community, and for us (basically complete strangers upon arrival) was and is still such a blessing in our lives. May the Lord bless them and the entire Sword of the Spirit community, pouring our His love and grace upon them and shining His divine light upon them to guide them into the way of truth.

– The sun setting over the homes of Ireland and setting on Mission Europe.

With what seemed like the perfect ending to such an incredible chapter in my missionary life, Mission Europe came to an end.

Next stop… General Cepeda.

Missionary Randoms 😛

– Me and my new friend 🙂

– Cannonball!

– Shadow Guy!

– Me and Jon at Killiney Beach.

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