Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Humbled by the holy ones

One summer morning, I read in Luke 14:11, “Every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” I knew Jesus was speaking those words to me. That afternoon, I stopped by the home of my student Kevin (read an older story about him here). Kevin, his cousin Edgar, and their neighbor Marnilou all graduated from high school this spring and are entering seminary this year to join a religious congregation of missionary priests. 

I wanted to visit with each boy’s family to discuss financial sponsorship for seminary. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that it was Kevin’s birthday, and his mother had prepared a feast at which we missionaries were to be the guests of honor. Talk about being humbled! My heart dropped to the floor as I realized this family had probably made many sacrifices to afford this special meal, and I did not even bring a small gift to celebrate his birthday. 

Thanking Kevin's mom for the delicious food!
But I couldn’t stay downcast for too long, as they began joyfully serving us heaping spoonfuls of all manner of food prepared with such care by Kevin’s mother. She led the blessing, thanking God for Kevin’s life, and all at once I was flooded with such a great love for their family and for these young men who aspire to become priests. All three boys admitted to us that they first felt called to the priesthood at a young age, about 9 or 10, through the witness of their own parish priests and through experiencing the presence of God at Mass. Now, still so young, they are ready to answer God’s call. It will take years of formation on another island, away from their own family and friends. It will cost much more than they can afford, and so they must depend on the generosity of sponsors to support their studies. But, as Edgar explained, their hope in becoming missionary priests is to bring Jesus to distant mountain areas, to bring the Eucharist to people who have never before heard the name of Jesus.

I am so honored to have a hand in helping these young men pursue their religious vocations. The Lord used the Scripture verse on humility to prepare me for my encounter that day, and to remind me once again that it is often His poorest, littlest children who have the greatest desire to offer their lives as a sacrifice back to Him, to thank Him for all that He has done.

“He called to Him those whom He desired; and they came to Him.” - Mark 3:13

Since writing this, both Edgar and Marnilou have joyfully entered seminary. Kevin has decided to spend this year working and taking college courses while he continues to discern where God is calling him. More updates coming soon on our newest seminarians!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

"I was sick and you visited Me"

This has been a summer overridden with medical ministry! Checkups, hospitalizations, surgeries, prescriptions...you name it and we've done it.

When reviewing just the facts and figures - the endless pharmacy bills and hospital fees - I am tempted to grumble. Why me, Lord? Why are you bringing so many sick people to our door? It seems that we are the only option, the last hope for so many poor and defenseless persons here in Sagay.

Visiting Jocelyn at home after her discharge. Prayer is the most effective medication!
But when I lift my gaze from the finances and look into the faces of the sick and suffering, when they become real people with powerful stories of hardship, trials, and unwavering faith in the midst of it all, I stop worrying about the contents of my bank account. These, after all, are my friends.

This morning I arrived at the hospital at 6:00am for a blood test and two ultrasounds. Lola Mimi has chronic kidney disease, and the pain makes it difficult for her to walk. Auntie Bebe's severe stomach pain turns out to be a large, possibly malignant ovarian cyst.

Lola Mimi having her blood taken. 
In between tests, we pay off our most recent bill for Ramil, our good friend who volunteers as the chapel leader of his community. Last week he was in a motorcycle accident and fractured his humerus - it's a miracle he is alive! Still, his recovery may be lengthy and his family has no other source of income. "Malooy kami kanila" - a Visayan phrase meaning we feel pity for them, or more literally we have mercy on them.

Inside the hospital, we sit and wait. We speak with doctors from time to time, converse with other patients, and pray a Rosary together, but mainly we just wait. And in the waiting there is a fraternity, a mutual understanding that, as a missionary, it is my joy and privilege to enter into the daily lives of the people I serve, to be one with them, even in the simple action of sharing a bench outside the emergency room.

Reading the Bible together with Ramil and his cousin Eva.
It is now 4:30pm, and I am still waiting here in the hospital. It's beginning to feel a little like home, as with each visit I become better acquainted with the various specialists, nurses, med techs, and social welfare workers.  For a moment I am struck by the irrational fear that I could spend the rest of my days here within the walls of this institution, sponsoring and advocating for patients who cannot do so for themselves. But I know that, at the end of it all, at least I will have done what Our Lord has commanded me - to visit the sick, to give to the poor, to provide for the widows and the orphans. And in that I find peace.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

And we're back!

After an unexpectedly long blogging hiatus, I've finally returned! It's been a whirlwind of a summer, and while I managed to record a few stories to share with you, they never actually made it onto my blog. Well, it's time to get your reading glasses ready because they'll be coming soon!

And while you wait, a few pictures to get you started:

Singing with Cielon, one of my best students (now a graduate!) who accompanied Fr. Joe and the entire parish staff to serenade me on my birthday morning. 

Speaking with the women of Bagdal, a mountain village that has no available water except what flows from this one small hose. They must walk from their homes to this spot to wash clothes and to fetch water for cooking and cleaning.

Hamming it up with my missionary sisters, Joanne and Genevieve. What started out as a day of prayer on the beach quickly turned into team shenanigans.

"All who trust in You will be glad and forever shout for joy" (Psalm 5:12). I pray that you're being filled with the joy of the Lord as well!