Called to Serve

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!

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December 14, 2009

Have you Heard?

General Cepeda, located in the Mexican state of Coahuila, is a municipality consisting of one pueblo (small town) and 46 outlying ranchos (desert communities).  With a population of about 11,000 people, the municipality is one of the poorest areas of the country.  It is a place where many go without electricity, heat, food or running water.  Apart from their hunger arising from a lacking of food, there is another hunger present in the area, a hunger which cannot be satisfied by anything of this world.  The people are hungry for truth, hungry for faith, hungry for God.  This hunger is what brought me and my fellow missionaries down to General Cepeda for our first mission for the month of November 2009.  Our mission in General lasted for about a month.  Our time was spent doing a number of different ministries.  Each morning we would participate in as many work projects as possible (building houses, repairing roofs, etc), we would make home visits to the shut-ins, we would travel to the desert communities to give out clothes, we would have our door ministry, where dozens of people would daily come to our front door asking for their needs, whether it be food, medicine, baby products, etc. or prayer.  Our evenings consisted of driving to the desert communities and sharing our faith.  We would lead the people in praise and worship, give our testimonies, and then give a teaching on the faith, on the scriptures

I could easily write a book about our trip, about the amazing things that I was blessed to see, about the numerous miracles that God worked.  However as Christmas approaches, there is one particular story that I would like to share, an experience that has helped me put my life and this holiday season into perspective.

It was early one morning, when the missionaries had decided upon which rancho we were going to so that we could give out some clothes to the people.  Upon arriving at the desert community, we were shocked at the turnout; a great number of children came to greet us, however only two women showed up which was reversal of most visits, when the number of adults greatly outnumbered that of the children.  Before giving out the clothes, we led the group in prayer and worship.  Another oddity, the children did not seem to understand what we were doing, they did not understand the songs, or anything that we were saying to them.  One of the missionaries thought it would be a good idea to give a little catechesis to the children and chose to talk about the Our Father.  To our surprise the children did not know this simple prayer.  Not only did they not know this prayer, we soon came to find out that they did not know who Jesus was.  It’s not that they didn’t know ‘a lot’ about him; it’s that they had never heard of him, ever.  They had never heard the name of Jesus Christ.

When we found this out we couldn’t help but tell them, tell them all that we knew, to tell them about our best friend, about our love, about our savior!  We told them the story, the story of our salvation, the reason for our hope, our joy, and our love.  By the end of the day, these children who had woken up in the dark were now in the light.  They had woken up not knowing the God of the universe and were going to bed knowing how much God loved them and the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for them.  They were walking around saying “Jesus loves me”, “Jesus died for me”, “I love Jesus”. God had blessed us with the opportunity to change their lives in one day.  God not only used us to change them, but he used them to change us.  He showed us that we must always be bold in proclaiming the truth, that we must always be ready to give a reason for our hope, to tell the story.  We cannot assume that people know the truth, we cannot be afraid to ask them if they have heard the Good News of Jesus Christ.  We must always be ready to give what we have, the gift of faith.  It can change their life, it will change yours.

As the holidays approach, as we welcome the coming of Jesus Christ, as we anticipate the birth of our Savior, it would be a tragedy if we took for granted, even for one minute, the gift that we have in our faith.  We cannot let our faith become anything other than a living and loving relationship with Jesus Christ.  There are still people in the world today who have never heard of him.  This God that we love and live for, they have never met.  Let us always be ready to share the Good News, to bring Christ to others, to ask the question ‘Have you heard?”

November 30, 2009

Let Us Build the City of God

“Go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mt 19:21)

Dear Friends and Family –

Here I am Lord, for you called me”.  Samuel’s words, spoken in the book of Kings, have become my own over this past year.  Approaching graduation last spring, I began to plan out what I would be doing with my life this year.  The job applications went out, and the job offers came in.  However the Lord was working on some different plans for me.  Seven months ago, the Lord called me to follow him in a new way.  On a spring break mission trip to the small Mexican town of General Cepeda, my eyes were opened, my heart was broken, and my soul was moved.  My eyes were opened to the poverty of our world, to the conditions that millions of people live in every day of their lives.  These people, less than ten hours away from multimillionaires living in a plush San Antonio condo, are living in shacks consisting of cardboard held together with thumbtacks.  My heart was broken; I had been blessed with so much in my life and these people were sleeping in huts of mud, with no heat, no food, no family. My soul was moved, I was convicted, I need to help these people, I need do whatever I can to serve them, I need to show them that they are loved.

Seven months later I find that the Lord has not wasted one ounce of my willingness to help these people, to love them, to show them Christ’s love.  He has called me to give up everything that was once familiar, to turn down job offers, to leave my home, leave behind friends and family, and to follow Him.  I now find myself having followed Him to the small town of Abbeville in the middle of the Louisiana bayous, training to become a full-time lay Catholic foreign missionary with Family Missions Company.  Over the past 2 months I have been in an intensive formation program, preparing me to be a foreign missionary.  This coming January I will be sent out with one or two other young men to a foreign country to begin my life as a missionary.  My life will be given to the poor.  It will consist in building homes, offering medical help to the local people, giving alms, making home visits, but most importantly to spreading the Good News of the Gospel to as many people as possible.  I will be holding prayer meetings, hosting Bible studies, sharing testimonies and giving witness to what the Lord has done in my life.  My life will be consumed with trying my hardest to become the hands and feet of Christ in today’s world, to serve my brothers and sisters abroad, to walk where Christ could not while here was here on this earth.  Family Missions Company is not a Catholic version of the Peace Corps, but instead an organization devoted and dedicated to improving the life of each and every person we meet not only in any worldly way we can, but also in giving them a hope and a love that is never-ending, that will be with them long after we are gone, the hope and love that can come only from a relationship with Jesus Christ.

This mission that the Lord has called me to is becoming more urgent each day.  As the world population approaches a monumental 7 billion people, the number of Christians is hovering around 2.4 billion.  That averages out to an approximate Christian world population of merely 28%.  If we believe the words of Jesus, if we truly believe that “every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life” (John 6:40b), then we must ask ourselves: Why isn’t more being done?  If the statistics came out that 72% of the world was dying and that all they needed for a strong chance of recovery, a chance of being healed, a chance of being saved was a WORD, you could bet on it that millions of people would be rushing into the streets shouting that word at the top of their lungs.  Well, this is what is happening; 72% of the world is dying.  They are living their lives without faith in Christ, many of them never even having heard His saving name, the name of Jesus of Nazareth.  Why is it then that we are not running to the ends of the earth to proclaim this name?  A name that brings life, a name that will not make us immortal, but a name that will bring us life eternal.

This very action is what Christ calls us to do.  In his infinite wisdom, the last thing he said to us before ascending back to the Father, was to “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News” (Mark 16:15)  We are all called to be missionaries in one way or another.  We are all called to be witnesses and preachers, to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ, the Word of God.  To proclaim Him and His Good News.  A message which can save lives, billions of lives that hang in the balance.   There are souls to be won and it is up to us to win them for the Lord.  I am called to be a missionary by giving my life.  You may have that same calling in your own life.  The world needs missionaries, and I implore you to listen to the Lord’s call and pray for strength to answer it.  However, you may not be called to give your life for this mission, but you are called to be a missionary nonetheless.  You are called to pray for missionaries and those they are serving… and I do beg you to pray.  You are called to donate to foreign missions if the Lord has blessed you with the ability to do so… and I do beg you to donate.  Millions of people are so desperate in our world today.  If we won’t help them… who will?

As my prayer warrior and donor, my mission is your mission.  The people that I am blessed to help, you are helping.  If you request it, I will send you my personnel newsletter in the mail at least once every two months, with pictures and stories of what your prayers and donations have allowed me to do.  Part of my mission is to give you the opportunity to change the world.  I need your help, those who I am ministering to need your help.  I will be and am so grateful for anything you might be able to give.  This life will be tough, but I am confident that the Lord will provide.  Know that you and your intentions will be prayed for daily by me and all our missionaries.

Father, I pray that those who feel Your call to pray and support the mission You have called me to would be blessed beyond their wildest imaginings by Your grace and blessings.  Please bless me with a steadfast spirit, a joyful heart of love, and a passion for You that is similar to that of the great missionary saints, like St. Francis of Assisi. Amen.

In the abundant and wonderful love of our Savior Jesus Christ,

James Franke – Catholic Lay Missionary

P.S. Please feel free to e-mail me your prayer intentions and glory stories at missions.james@gmail.com.  This will allow me to send you e-mail updates in addition to my newsletter.

HOW TO HELP:

– PRAY, PRAY, PRAY!!!

– FINANCIAL DONATIONS (one time gifts, monthly, etc)

– MEDICAL SUPPLIES

AIRLINE MILES

– CLOTHING, SHOES, ETC. FOR THE PEOPLE

– ASK FOR ANY OTHER WAYS YOU CAN HELP CHANGE THE WORLD!

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