Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A year of blessings

We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!! I want to express my deep gratitude to every one of you who has continued to pray and support this mission over the past year. Although I have been serving at our stateside office this year, I have continued regularly sending alms money to my old mission partner Joanne who is still serving on Camiguin Island, and she takes pictures for me to share with you about the amazing things God is accomplishing through your generosity! Thank you!!!

Clothing the naked:

Many of our Filipino friends are extremely poor and lack basic necessities, including food and clothing. They are always extremely grateful for anything we can give them. One of our missionary interns visited the families below and brought them clothing donations that had been sent from America.

A young mother with her children.
An elderly couple caring for their disabled daughter and one of their grandsons.

The Obedencio family:

Our friends perhaps most in need on the island, the Obedencio family, experienced both joys and losses this year. Their son Louie passed away in March, but your donations are still supporting their family on a weekly basis for food, medical expenses, and other necessities.

Louie's sister Fe receiving physical therapy for her cerebral palsy.
Their father Irenao is physically disabled as well and has not been able to stand and support himself in over a year. This October, thanks to ongoing therapy, he stood up and even took a few steps! Our sponsored college students have gotten involved with this ministry, visiting the family, bringing them food, and helping transport them to therapy.

Our students helping Irenao to practice standing.


Speaking of our sponsored college students, they have far exceeded our expectations and, with the help of your financial support, are thriving in their academic, personal, and spiritual lives! Each has his or her own story, but as a whole they are an inspiring witness to me of what the Lord can do when young willing hearts are encouraged to grow, learn, and use their God-given talents to serve others.

Second-year graduation...two years down and two to go!
Our students attended an 8-day retreat on the mainland at an "apostolic farm" that grows crops to provide food for the greater community. When our students majoring in agriculture learned that insects were killing the lanzones fruit trees, they offered to harvest beetles from Camiguin Island and transport them to the farmland. These beetles will eat the insects that are preying on the lanzones trees.

Preparing to release the beetles onto the trees.
Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we were able to bring Christmas to 30 impoverished families living in a remote village high in the mountains. Our students and parish priest hiked up the mountain to help us deliver food items to many grateful recipients.

A Christmas hike!
We are so proud of these young missionary disciples who are bringing the light of Jesus into their own homes and neighborhoods. Out of all the ministries and friendships I left behind in Camiguin, I miss this lively crew the most. Your financial sponsorship of these students is already bearing great fruit in their lives!

Our sponsored students enjoying a Christmas dinner at the missionary house!
The young man on the far right in the photo above is Edgar, our sponsored seminarian. He is completing his third year of seminary with the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, but he still finds time during his visits home to Camiguin to engage in service and fellowship with our other sponsored students.

The young woman on the left is Id Von, one of our previously sponsored students who is now discerning with an order of religious sisters in Manila. We are excited for her to be following God's call!

Medical ministry:

For the past year and a half, your donations made it possible for one of our littlest patients, baby Ariel, to receive daily heart medication and to travel back and forth to the mainland for appointments with the cardiologist. Thanks be to God, the hole in his heart has now closed up!

This was Ariel in May 2016. He's much bigger (and healthier) now!
One of my favorite patients, Francisco, received surgery in January 2016 to repair his fractured femur. This summer the doctor was able to remove the stainless steel implant that was placed in his leg a year ago so that his leg bone can continue to grow normally. Miraculously, his dad (previously an absent father who returned home only because of Francisco's sudden injury) has since had a change of heart and remained at home to take care of his family, and even found a job to provide for their daily needs! Praise Jesus!

Francisco excited to have finished the surgery, and his proud father.

This is just a snapshot of the many wonders God has done this year in the people of Sagay. Thank you for your faithful support...together we are building His Kingdom here on earth!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Remembering Louie

This time is the only time you have to love. I realize that now because of Louie.

When I met him, I thought he was just another boy: dirty, not the most lovable. Louie and his sister Fe had cerebral palsy, and while Fe was sweet and loved to laugh, Louie was rather stoic. He wouldn't talk or smile at us. I remember holding Louie and just comparing him to his sister, wondering why he was the way he was. Now looking back, I’m grateful for who Louie was -- who God made Louie to be -- and seeing how Louie’s uniqueness blessed me in so many ways. 

Something about missions makes you a little stiff towards death. When I heard this spring that Louie had passed away, I immediately began thinking about the practicals - the money his family would need for the viewing and the funeral, and the people who would volunteer to clean the family’s house before the traditional in-home wake could take place. 

But when the Lord gave me the time and the grace to mourn his death, I realized that what came flooding back to my memory were all of my own imperfections, the imperfect ways that I had loved Louie.

I can remember the first time we took him with his whole family in tow to the hospital, and multiple family members were admitted for their terrible health. Louie had some complicated form of pneumonia and asthma, or perhaps it was bronchitis; maybe we’ll never really know. He had to be hospitalized for a few days, nebulized, and put on antibiotics. I can remember how I held him to feed him, supported his head, and spooned little bits of food into his mouth. After his discharge, I remember mixing drops of medicine into Pediasure so that he could consume it.

I recall his birthday - it was his fourteenth - and the first birthday party he ever had was a gathering of the missionaries, our friends, and our students...anyone who had helped care for him since the time that we had come to know him. It was a joyful gathering.

I remember with sadness how in recent months I saw a picture posted online of Fe and Louie and knew without a doubt that they were declining, that the state of their hygiene, their health, and their nutrition was poor, but that there was nothing I could do. Since no missionaries were living in Camiguin during that season, we depended solely on our local friends there to help -- and they did a phenomenal job -- but the task of caring full-time for Louie and his family was more than any one person or family could handle.

I know theologically that Louie is happier now. I know that he is with the Lord, dancing and singing in a way that he never could here on earth, and I’m happy for him. But there’s a deep sadness welling up in me, too, because I’ll never see Louie again this side of heaven, and somehow that really hurts. It hurts that I didn’t love him better, that it was my own pride that wanted to care for him, to be a “good” missionary caring for a disabled child. It hurts that I allowed my human blinders and judgments to view him as somehow less lovable than his sister.

But mostly, I’m grateful. I’m grateful for the time that I had with him and for the grace that God gave me to mourn his passing. I’m grateful for the many people who donated to support him and his family throughout the past year and a half. We love you, Louie, and we’ll miss you.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Two Weeks in the Philippines: part 2

Since I traveled all the way to the Philippines this March for a short-term mission (read part 1 here), I of course had to make a side trip to my beloved Camiguin! My old teammate Genevieve and I made a two-day visit to the island together. We still sponsor 15 students in college, plus one young man in seminary, and I was eager to catch up with them!

Some of our students attend school on the far side of the island and could not come home to meet with us, so we surprised them at school! We enjoyed not only hearing their updates about college but also sharing with them stories of what God has recently been doing in our lives -- about His great faithfulness and personal love for us!

Treating Elza and Cielon to ice cream.
It was a quick trip, so God made sure to put people in our path that He wanted us to see! Our friend Nardo, who experienced a powerful conversion during the past two years through his friendship with the missionaries, happened to be walking by and spotted us in a cafe! We were so happy to reconnect with him.

That evening, we hosted a dinner for all of our college students. It was beautiful to feel "back at home" once again, to sing praise and pray with them, and to rejoice in how much they've grown and how far they have come. They were just juniors in high school when we first met, and now they've completed their second year of college!

Some of our best students hamming it up! I promise they're actually hard workers. ;)
One of my favorite stops on the trip was a visit to Father Joe and Gogoy, his right-hand man. Father served the people of Sagay, Camiguin, for nine years and holds a dear place in their hearts -- and in mine as well. I was so grateful that the Lord gave us the opportunity to see him again!

Reuniting with old friends!
Finally, a highlight of my trip to the Philippines was serving alongside my fellow FMC missionaries, these incredible Filipino families who have given up everything to preach the Gospel, both in foreign lands and in their hometowns. We currently have two full-time missionary families and two "intern" families still discerning their call. You can read more about these families here and here!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Two Weeks in the Philippines: part 1

Although I'm currently serving full-time at FMC's mission base in Louisiana, I still have the incredible opportunity to travel on short-term trips to our mission posts around the world! This March, I helped lead a group of Benedictine College students on a medical mission trip to Malaybalay, Philippines.

Filipino and American missionaries serving the Lord together!
Each day was packed with prayer and service. On the first day we visited the city jail, celebrated Mass with the inmates, and provided them with medical checkups. We dispensed medicine, vitamins, toiletries, and rosaries. Finally, we prayed over each inmate -- their most common prayer request was for freedom! Many of the men and women there have grown close to the Lord during their time in jail, particularly through the witness of the missionaries who lead a weekly Bible study for them.

Sorting medicine at the pharmacy station.
Another day we held an outdoor clinic for residents of a nearby village. It rained on and off the whole afternoon, but the nursing students were awesome and kept working even though they were getting wet!

Translating the local Visayan dialect for the English-speaking students.
One of my favorite outings was a visit to the home of Nanay Ludi. Nanay (meaning "mother") is a sweet elderly woman who lives outside the city. Our missionaries have grown to know and love her and her husband over the past few years, and lately she has been suffering with chronic head pain, so we brought a nurse (one of our mission trip participants) to her house!

Beautiful scenery on the way there -- I brought my ukulele!
Nanay is the quintessential example of the simple faith that I have found time and time again among the Filipino poor. It is simple in the sense that she just trusts completely in Jesus. She knows that no one else can provide for her needs, her health, or her happiness like He can.

Nanay showing us "where it hurts."
What always amazes me is that it is precisely this simple faith which Jesus desires....and when we believe that God can work miracles and ask Him in faith, He does!! After Nanay's checkup, we laid hands on her and prayed for a relief from the pain, and that the Lord would heal any emotional or spiritual wounds as well. We prayed for God to cast out any spirits of unforgiveness, anger, or hurt.

Overjoyed at the gift of a beautiful rosary.
And Jesus healed her!!!! Nanay reported feeling a weight lifted from her, and in that moment the pain that had plagued her for months decreased dramatically! She was filled with joy to proclaim God's goodness and His healing hand. Praise You, Jesus!

I am so grateful for your faithful support that allows me to continue serving these people, both on trips like this one and through my daily work at our stateside missions office. I invite you to consider coming on a mission trip yourself! God wants to work in miraculous ways in your own heart and in the hearts of those you will meet and serve. Read more about our short-term trips here!

May our faith grow ever deeper as we seek to know Him more!

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!