So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
I have found that one of the most trying aspects of mission life is letting God take care of and lead the family. When I was young and single it was easier to live placing my life in God’s hands and yet as the family has grown it has gotten harder to allow God to provide for my little ones. As a father I have been vigilant in keeping my children from influences that could endanger their souls. Here in missions it is harder in some ways than I ever imagined. For example, before we came to Mexico my sons did not know many cuss words. Since arriving here they have heard just about every cuss word in English I have ever heard. Whether it is from American rap music blaring out four letter expletives in the park or just local kids teasing our boys with bad words, we have experienced this as a great difficulty.
On one particular occasion my son Moses was playing in the park when all of a sudden he came running up to me and said that a young boy named Eric had told him a four letter word and also directed this four letter word toward our family and then directly at Moses’ mother. Moses was really upset. I was upset as well, so I told Moses to lead me to the boy. I told him, “We are going to end this right now”.
We found Eric sitting across the park with some other kids sporting a big smile as though he was proud of himself. I told him that I was very upset that he would lower himself to say such horrible things about our family. I told him this type of talk was beneath his dignity as a child of God, that we are called to love one another. I mentioned that I knew his parents and asked if he would like Moses to say these things to his parents. He stopped smiling and the other kids left. I looked at him a while without speaking and then we returned home.
At home I told the boys that we were going to look for every opportunity we could to shower this boy Eric and his family with love.
This is part of our Monday Night Bible Study Group.
I told them that we were Catholics and that our Lord Jesus told us to return good to those who do evil to us. Well, within no time God open a floodgate of opportunities for us to make good on our talk.
Within a few days a fair came to town for holy week. We went to see it the first night. Not many people were there but Eric was there—all alone. His parents were not around and he was just hanging around the carnival. Now here was our first chance. As soon as I saw him I went up to him and asked him which rides were the best. He said he liked them all but didn’t get to ride them much because they cost money. I said to the boys “Let´s bring Eric on a ride. What do you say?” They were so excited. All five boys, Moses, Elijah, Micah, Isaac, and Eric rode the caterpillar ride. Eric smiled the whole time. He put his arm around little Isaac to help him on and off the ride. We left the fair anticipating new opportunities to love on Eric and his family. God is so generous. The very next day He sent a new opportunity.
Eric´s mother Martina and his father Loy are street cleaners in our town. They work five days a week all day. Martina nearly always smiles. Nevertheless she is a very loud person and in the early morning I would usually try to avoid her because she was always yelling. Now she started coming to the mission house asking for coffee each morning. Martina only has one volume of talking, FULL BLAST.
She only yells when she needs to talk. You can hear her down the road many streets yelling hello and laughing with people.
The morning after our fair experience Martina came over at 8:30 with a big smile. She yelled that she wanted some coffee. Her exact word was “Café!!!” It was all I could do to keep from telling her to leave. She had no manners whatsoever. She just yelled out “Café”. I prayed for patience and got her some coffee.
When I returned she asked me to come and see her house to help her with some morillos. Morillos are the logs people here use to hold their roofs up. I told her I would talk to Raul (a FMC Mexican missionary) who usually goes to take a look at houses to assess the need and urgency of a situation of need. Raul went and looked at her place and returned saying she and Loy, her husband, had a big house and they didn’t really need anything. I took his word and wrote Martina´s name on a list of people who have asked our help and who will have to wait awhile until we get through the more urgent requests.
Every day for a week she came asking for those morillos. Finally, we had a group of forty or so missionaries come down and we were working on a couple of projects in one of the neighborhoods here in town. Martina just showed up. It was her day off so she just started helping us work. She shoveled gravel and sand for almost three straight hours!
When I thanked her she asked us to come and see her house. She said she lived right down the street. I agreed to go and was shocked when I arrived. Raul had gone to the wrong house. Martina´s house was worse than I could have imagined. She, Loy and Eric lived in a small cinder-block square with some plastic over part of the place for a roof. Food was rotting on the table. There was no running water so the dishes were filthy, covered in oily liquids. No refrigerator. One large bed was covered with bedbug feces. There was an old dirty stove connected to an old gas tank. I was moved deeply. I realized the opportunity Jesus sent us immediately. Here was another opportunity to show love.
Some of you may be wondering how they could be living in these conditions if they work. The problem is their wages are so low that they barely get by. Together Loy and Martina make 1000 pesos every two weeks.
That is less than ninety dollars. That is about 45 dollars a week, 9 dollars a day, 4.50 per person. Total is about 50 cents an hour.
Martina’s house from the front
Primitivo, Me, Raul, Dad, and Martina
After actually seeing her house and their situation I longed to help them on so many more levels. We prayed together and I told her we would help her family. She smiled so wide. The following day I and 11 young boys went and pulled dirt from the side wall of a small hill nearby to help get her dirt for the roof.
We prayed together again and later that night I presented the group with this family´s need and they immediately responded by pooling together money to help with a roof, floor, and walls. Praise God.
Dad and Martina carrying cement bags
We were able to use these donations almost immediately. Two weeks later, when Teresa´s parents arrived for the baptism of our son Ezekiel, my father-in-law and I (with two Mexican friends and Martina herself) put in the new cement floor in her house. This simple upgrade will allow their whole family to stay cleaner and hopefully help keep out some of the bugs. We gave them a Bible and invited them to the baptism. They all came to Mass preceding the baptism and attended the baptism itself. They even stayed to help clean up the baptism reception. It was great. She asked if we could start picking them up for church each Sunday. They hadn’t been going for years. Eric (after seeing our boys) asked if he could begin altar-serving. It made me tear up a bit again. What a change!
Raul (Left), Primitivo, and Dad (Right) mixing cement Mexican Style
God really has been working a miracle in this beautiful family. They have begun going out to the ranchos with us to give back to their surroundings a bit of what they received. There are many families here in General Cepeda and in the outlying ranchos like Martina’s. They need help. They work hard but they are still so poor. These fathers also struggle to entrust their families to our Lord. They also wonder how they will provide with so little money and water.
Jesus once said “Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.” (John 16:24) The conclusion of this long blog entry is not an attempt to plea for financial support for us. Instead we are here, offering you an invitation to change the lives of so many who live in utter poverty here in General Cepeda.
Teresa’s Father Deacon William Vrazel praying for the people of San José de Refugio, one of the Rancho villages we visit.
Moses and Martina trying to get Gemma to walk.
This is a chance for you to enter into this complete joy. Please prayerfully consider donating to help rebuild a home, build a chapel, buy food for needy families, or purchase Bibles or school supplies. Perhaps your prayer group, youth group, class or church could sponsor one or more of the below listed needs. We will post information about all the work you make possible on our blog and in our next newsletter. Perhaps you can even organize a trip down here in which you can help build the Chapel, lay the cement floor, or distribute the food that you raised money for. We would love to help you experience the life-changing call that we encounter every day. We are all called to be missionaries, whatever our state in life. What can you do to live out your own missionary call?
God bless you all, and thank you again for making our mission work possible!
Teresa, Jon, Moses, Elijah, Micah, Isaac, Gemma and Ezekiel Kiehl
Ways you can help:
Build a chapel: $750.00
Replace a roof: $450
Put in a cement floor: $100
Paint a house: $40
Cement the walls of a room: $40 (it protects the adobe)
Purchase a toilet: $50
Basic food kit for 30 families: $100 (rice, beans, pasta, sugar, salt, flour, tomato base, oil, etc.)
Feed a family 5 for a week: $50
Bibles: $8 per Bible (we need these desperately)
School supplies: $15 (pencils, pens, notebooks, erasures, crayons, markers, pencil sharpeners)
It’s super easy to give. Just go to the following link and write in the comment field what the money is for: