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.


"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!