Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Missions at home

Ever since I found out I'd be coming home to the States, I've been asking myself how to reconcile my two lives into one. How can I enjoy my visit home and at the same time not forget my missionary vocation? How can I continue saying yes to Jesus each day?


This afternoon on my way to church, I drove past a young man and woman on the side of the road holding a cardboard sign begging for aid. My heart leapt in my chest. Ordinarily, perhaps before missions, I would have passed by feeling a little sorry for them and, in all honesty, judging them.

What had they done to get themselves into this situation? Why does he have so many tattoos? Why is she wearing revealing clothing?

But today Jesus nudged my heart and I saw them - their downcast spirits, their pained faces. I saw myself in them because I, too, was in need of grace. I was actually on my way to church to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, to ask God for forgiveness for the innumerable times I have offended Him.

And I realized how ridiculous, how hateful it is when I allow myself to judge my brothers and sisters to determine if they are worthy of receiving my help.

Worthy.

"For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." (Rom 3:23, emphasis mine)

I knew I still had to make it to confession but prayed they would be waiting there when I returned. An hour later I pulled into a nearby shopping center and looked for them on the sidewalk, but they were gone. Disappointed yet sure God had a plan, I hopped back in the car and was about to drive away when I spotted them sitting by a storefront.

Their names are Mike and Morgan, and they are homeless. He's applying for jobs, she's selling handicrafts, but lately it hasn't been enough to scrape by. Their little girl is living with a relative until they can get on their feet; they dream of making a better life for her.

Mike gratefully accepted my offer to buy them some  groceries, so we went shopping together. I walked alongside the cart as he picked out various meats and ziploc bags, to freeze the meat in smaller portions for the coming weeks.

He's a praying man, he says. Every day he tosses their shoes under the bed so they have to get down on their knees to reach them; in doing so, they find themselves in the perfect position for prayer.

I've never been homeless, but I told Mike that I, too, have at times found myself in tremendous need of the Lord's mercy, and that He has always been there for me. He smiled slightly. "It's like us. Today we were wondering how we were gonna get by...and then you came."

You don't have to move to the Philippines to be a missionary. Jesus will put people right in your path and prompt you to love them and serve them as He would. You just have to listen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Back in the USA

It's true! After spending the last 18 months in the Philippines, I'm finally home! I'm looking forward to a time of rest and renewal before being sent back out on mission in January 2017.


Most of my time stateside will be spent at our mission base in Abbeville, Louisiana. The directors of FMC have asked me to be part of the formation team that will help lead this year's intake training for our new missionaries. The training runs from September to mid-December, three weeks of which will be spent at our base in Mexico to give the trainees an idea of what to expect in their future mission life. 

I'm so blessed to be part of the formation team because, after almost three years in foreign missions, the Lord has taught me a great deal about perseverance and hope in the midst of suffering. The day-to-day life of a missionary is vastly different than what one might expect, and I hope to bring a spirit of encouragement and understanding to my soon-to-be missionary brothers and sisters.


Although I'm currently at home, my mission team will continue our ministry in Camiguin for the rest of the year. If you are currently giving to my mission fund, please keep donating! I will be transferring the funds to my teammates for our ongoing alms needs until I return to the mission field myself. This year with your help, we are sponsoring:
  • 24 students in college - $724/month
  • 23 students in high school - $134/month
  • 1 twice-weekly dialysis patient - $537/month
  • 2 children with cerebral palsy and their disabled parents - $255/month
  • 1 Filipino family interning with our community as they discern missions - $358/month
  • Countless medical patients who come to our door each day - sometimes over $2,000/month
This is incredible! God's work is being carried out in a real way through the hands of His missionaries and through the generosity of so many benefactors! Thank you for supporting me in my missionary vocation. Thank you for saying "yes" to Christ's invitation to serve the poorest, weakest members of His Body.

Saying goodbye to some of my favorite students!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The untold story

Eighteen months ago, I wrote a story about my neighbor Desiree and the redeeming power of God's love....and never posted it. But my forgetfulness turned into the Lord's perfect timing because, during the past year and a half, the story has continued to unfold and has now come full circle!

In the spring of 2015, Desiree wrote us a letter begging for our help. There was a legal dispute over the land on which her family's house was built, and she was almost paralyzed with fear over the possible outcome.

Can you imagine the anger and sorrow that you might experience upon learning that your home could be demolished in the coming weeks or months and knowing that you are powerless to stop it? How could Desiree, married with five children living at home, possibly be hopeful in such an impossible situation?

Talking with Desiree at home.
When we visited Desiree's home to talk, cry, and pray together, she told us that every evening the whole family would gather to pray the Rosary for a miracle, and every night she would awake at 3am to pray it again on her own. Still, it was as though a dark cloud hung over her; she felt trapped under the weight of this burden that she carried day in and day out.

Together, Desiree, her children, and my mission team knelt on her bare cement floor and pleaded with the Lord to miraculously provide a solution, for His will to be done. Desiree wept as we asked Jesus to cast all evil spirits of doubt, despair, and anxiety out of the house and out of their hearts, and to instead strengthen their faith and fill them with joy and hope in Him.

Reading the Bible together.
When we left, although the situation itself was unchanged, our spirits were lifted. The following week when we visited again, Desiree greeted us at the door with a big smile on her face. "My neighbors ask me, 'What happened to you? Is your problem all gone?' But I tell them no, nothing has happened. It's because of the Lord."

"When you came," she explained, "I had been feeling this heaviness on my heart for several weeks. But when you prayed with me, God was here. I felt the Holy Spirit come over me, and since then I am not worried anymore. From day to day, I just trust in the Lord! Maybe we will lose the house. Okay, then we'll all sleep outside. But God will take care of us."

Desiree with her oldest and youngest children.
We couldn't believe our eyes and ears -- Desiree's heart was transformed through prayer! Jesus had truly worked a miracle, although not the one we might have expected. 

We could have gone to court on her behalf...
We could have given her money for the family's material needs...
We could have looked for a new home...

But all of these were secondary. Our real work as missionaries is to announce Christ's victory over the powers of darkness in this world, and what a gift it is to see His truth reigning in the hearts of those we serve!

Now, a year and a half later, Desiree and her family are living in a new house that we built for them. Her husband, whose own personal struggles had isolated him from their family for several years, is working to restore their relationship. Their two oldest children are part of our college sponsorship program, thriving in school and eagerly growing as young disciples, evangelizing their peers on and off campus.
Desiree and her son at his high school graduation.
The transforming power of God's grace in the lives of people like Desiree increases my zeal for the mission and helps me to persevere in times of trial. I am always blessed to share miracle stories of the Lord's faithfulness with everyone back home, all of you whose prayers and donations make this mission possible. Thank you!!

Their new home!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Louie and Fe: Our God saves!!

Many of you have seen pictures and read stories about Louie and Fe, the darling brother and sister with cerebral palsy living here in Sagay. We first met them last year -- an entire family existing in squalor due to extreme poverty and multiple mental and physical handicaps.

Let me tell you, there is NO POSSIBLE WAY we could save this family! Yes, we could give them food and medicine, but we all knew that was just putting a bandaid on a gaping wound. This family needed a SAVIOR, and in a big way!

Four adults and two children lived in this shack with no running water and no electricity.

This May, their father Irenao, already unable to walk, suffered a stroke and lost complete use of his right arm and leg. During his hospitalization, their mother, mentally handicapped and partially blind, attempted to care for them, but the results were distressing. Louie and Fe began visibly regressing.

We tried hiring a friend to provide daily home care....

We considered searching for a orphanage or institution that accommodate the whole family...

We wanted a long-term solution to ensure that the children and their parents would be provided for, especially considering that someday there may not be missionaries here to care for them. Seeing that we were powerless, our prayer came from a place of real need: "God, save Your people!"

AND HE ANSWERED!!!!!!!!

My friends, our God is a real God who does real things for real people in the real world! And just when we began to lose hope, Jesus came and brought His light to the darkness of this family's plight.

Our missionary community met together with the family's extended relatives who live on the other side of the island. They are a loving network of aunts, uncles, and cousins who had agreed to care for Irenao until he recovered. But our main purpose of meeting with them carried much more weight.

We asked if they would be willing to take in Louie, Fe, and their parents: to clean, feed, and care for each of them. For life.

After those last words fell from our lips, we waited, scanning their faces to see how they might respond. They themselves are poor, living in a small home on the side of a mountain, but we could see the love they had for one another and the generosity they had already extended to Irenao.

If you were in their place, what would have been your response?

How often Our Lord asks a simple favor of me, a little sacrifice, and I refuse Him. Not wanting to submit myself to unnecessary discomfort or inconvenience, I turn away or leave the task to someone else.

I am being honest when I say that I still have so much to learn from the poor. Because my friends, after just a moment of discussion and all-around nods of approval, this family said yes!!! Yes to opening their home to these four souls in need. Yes to the coming decades of service. Yes to the dirty work, the heavy lifting, the smelly tasks.

They said yes to love.

Smiles all around! Fe and Louie with their dad in their new home.
Praising the Lord during our meeting with the family!
God, in His goodness, had planned this from the beginning. All we had to do was to pray and seek out His will, and He did the rest!

We are still praising God for this miracle, and now I must beg for your help. We are committed to continue our financial support for their daily needs: four hungry mouths to feed, diapers, and transportation to physical therapy cost about $65 per week, or $260 per month.

Please, please consider donating monthly to provide for this family!! They so desperately need your support and your prayers! Our Lord Jesus has such a special love for them, and I believe that you too will receive great blessings from Him for your generosity on their behalf.

You can donate to my mission fund at rebeccatilyou.fmcmissions.com -- just write "Louie and Fe" in the comments box.

For more on this story, you can read my teammate Melissa's post here.

How great is our GOD!!

Monday, May 30, 2016

A tribute to Father

This is an important week for our Church! This Sunday was the feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Jesus, and this Friday we celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is also an important week for Father Joe, our priest, spiritual father, and mission partner here in Sagay.


In April 1989, in southern Maryland, I was born. Just a few weeks later, Fr. Joe was visiting parishes in New Jersey giving mission appeals and planning to continue on to Rome. But he never made it to Rome because he suddenly became very sick and had a series of seizures. After five days with no improvement, his host family convinced him to go to the hospital. 

Baptizing dozens of babies at a chapel Mass. Father has a deep love for the sacraments.
In Father's words, the doctor briefly examined him and then commanded the hospital staff to "get that man admitted immediately! He has two days to live!" A large mass on Father's brain made an emergency operation necessary but with little hope for success -- Father was told his chances were 50/50 and that, even if he survived, there was a great possibility that he would be left in a vegetative state.

On the eve of Corpus Christi, Fr. Joe lay awake in his hospital bed anticipating the operation that would begin the next morning. It was his first and only visit to the States, and considering the possible outcomes, he requested that his bishop in the Philippines have his body sent home for burial if he did not survive.

In his early priesthood, celebrating with a young couple after their wedding Mass.
Miraculously, the operation was 100% successful! And five days later on the feast of the Sacred Heart, his bandages were removed and doctors cleared him for discharge -- a miraculously quick recovery!!

Today, 27 years later, Fr. Joe frequently reflects on his life and how God has led him through every trial he has faced, not the least of which being his operation. This anniversary week is always a reminiscent time for him, but this year in particular because it is also the closing of a chapter in his priestly life. After nine years of faithful, tireless service to the people of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary parish in Sagay, Father is being transferred to the coastal town of Balingoan located on the mainland, less than a mile from the port. This Friday he will cross the ferry and report to his new assignment, beginning a new chapter in his life just as he did on that same day so many years ago.

A common sight: Father hiking mountains to visit the sick or in search of water sources.
God has been so good to Father Joe -- and so very good to me for allowing me to serve under his shepherding care. I have learned from Father that we can each only do so much - no one person can do everything - but that our job as Christians is never completed. That when we are unsure if some undertaking is possible, we must simply go on and trust that the Lord will take care of it.

That, in matters of mercy and service to the poor, it's better to act first and ask questions later, to not worry whether your finances and resources will suffice but to just give and give until there is nothing left.

Blessing a ferry before its first voyage. Fr. Joe's own father was a marine mechanic.
I have learned that a little humor can lighten the heaviest of life's burdens and that there's nothing a cold bottle of coke cannot fix. That the Lord affords us all sufferings for our good, and that sometimes He even allows us to "suffer comfortably." That, while we may not always see God's hand at work in our lives, when we look back we will realize that He was there all along.

Repairing a family's home after it was destroyed by a fallen coconut tree.
I love you, Father! Your new flock will be forever blessed to have you as their shepherd! I pray that the Holy Spirit will raise up many more holy priests willing to lay down their very lives every day for their people and their poor.


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Snapshots

Here are a few pictures from the busy month of May!


Baby Ariel was born with a hole in his heart. We met him in January when he was just one month old; he was thin with grayish skin and rarely made a sound -- clearly a sick little baby! After two trips to a cardio-pediatrician on the mainland and four months of daily medicine, the hole has begun to close. Ariel is thriving and getting chubbier every day. Thank You, Jesus!


On the right is Onel, a young man from Malaybalay who attended our mission trip this April. Last week he accompanied us on a home visit to Michael, our friend suffering from PAN, a rare disease of the blood vessels. Although Onel himself has received little formal education and has great difficulty reading, he zealously shared a Scripture passage with Michael's family and spoke to them about repentance and the mercy of God. Evidence of what the Holy Spirit can do in a heart that is ready to receive Him! 


These are our dear friends Lilay and Jerome Siapo! Until now, they and their five children have shared a small, crowded house with their extended family. With the help of Fr. Joe's maintenance team and YOUR generous donations, they now have a home of their own. (This picture was taken after Fr. Joe blessed their new house.) Please pray for the Siapo family as they work alongside us in this mission. Jerome gave up his job this year so they can serve full-time as FMC interns while they discern whether the Lord is calling them to become missionaries!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

New kicks for a cool kid

Pure joy!! Who knew simple pair of sneakers could light up a kid's face like this? Id Krism is one of our most dedicated, hardworking college students. Last week he excitedly told me that he was joining a summer basketball league, but his daily footwear consists of a pair of plastic flip flops and the dress shoes he wears to school. Today we found this pair of basketball shoes in a box of donations from the States. They're perfect fit!


Thank you to everyone who has donated to our mission! I wish you could meet Id Krism and all our friends here to see the joy in their faces. They truly feel loved by your support!