St. Ezekiel Daniel Francisco Kiehl Vrazel Pray for Us by Teresa Kiehl

DSC01362I have debated over the past few days whether I should, or even could get before you all and speak about our beautiful Saint Ezekiel. I have felt at times that I would never have the strength to say anything, and even if I did, what could I possibly say to sum up the life of such a precious boy.

After much prayer however, I felt that not only God would give me the strength to speak, but that I needed to speak. You see, I know that this is part of the plan that God has planned out from the beginning of time . . .

Our dear, joyful, amazing boy was created for a reason and God has given Jonathan and I the greatest blessing in all the world. He has allowed us to understand the reason for the life of our son–that our little boy was created to be one of the most effective missionaries I have ever met.

From the very earliest moments of his life, even before birth, he was bringing people closer to Jesus. In particular, Jonathan and I. I remember learning, just days after Jon had quit his job and we had begun selling our belongings, that I was expecting our 6th little one. Personally, my faith was truly tested at this moment. We had no insurance, no income, no benefactors, and no idea where we would be living when this child would be due. Could it be that we had made the wrong choice? How little faith I had in the power of our God. How could everything come together the way we needed it to? Yet after much prayer, we felt God calling us to continue on the path which we had begun. It literally took me till mid pregnancy to feel comfortable with the idea of a new addition to our family, and do you know what finally gave me peace? The knowledge that even though we were attempting to avoid a pregnancy it happened anyway, practically miraculously. This was not an “oops” baby. This was a baby that God wanted to bring into this world. This was a child that was created for a purpose. My faith began to grow. My little missionary was already doing his work. His presence was already bringing me to Jesus.

DSC01448Later, after we had discovered we would be moving to General Cepeda, we prayed about what we should do about the child’s birth. Should we return to the states or stay in Mexico? If we stayed in Mexico do we go to Saltillo to have the baby or stay in General Cepeda? Our decision to have the baby in General Cepeda was an easy one. Of course I will have my child where we lived. I felt that there was no real question, only a reality that that was where he needed to be born. Two months after we arrived I gave birth to this beautiful little boy. He was the greatest gift we could have ever received. Why? For all my life I wanted to be a missionary, to bring Jesus and his love to people who needed him, yet here we are in the middle of Coahuila Mexico. My heart yearned to tell the people of the incredible blessing of God’s love that I have experienced and to try to share this love with others, but I studied French for 6 years. I literally arrived knowing almost no words more than “hola” and “no entiendo”. I felt like I was failing as a missionary. I would visit people in their homes and we would sit in awkward silence because I knew no words to speak. I tried to read Scriptures but didn’t know how to pronounce the words so though they sat patiently, I feel like I surely grew more in humility through humiliation than they learned of Jesus from my scripture reading. Yet after Ezekiel was born our mission changed completely. There was no more awkward silence because Ezekiel brought us together. He was one of them you see. Born in their city, in their hospital by the hand of their doctors. And cooing at a baby is an international phenomenon! Even completely grown, gruff Mexican men would lose all inhibitions in the presence of our blond haired blue eyed little Mexican and start speaking baby talk. Soon enough we would all be laughing hugging and living like family. Everyone wanted to hold him and play with him, and praise God, he had no problem with being passed around by everyone! His presence, even as the tiniest infant, made our mission work possible. No one doubted our love of them because we stayed in Mexico to live as one of them. They were able to understand that we meant what we said, we desired to love them, to live with them and bring Jesus to them, and we were willing to sacrifice much to make it happen. His little missionary self was still bringing others to Jesus!

IMAG4151 DSC03204He continued to bring others to Jesus in his own little way for the months to come. He brought others to Jesus as our entire community pulled together to try to teach him to walk, to help him learn to talk, to feed himself and drink from a cup without a lid (we didn’t have a whole lot of sippy cups available). He was loved by everyone!

The last day of his life was a beautiful day in so many ways. We went on home visits in the morning and as usual little man was the life of the party. At our last visit we stopped by a gentleman’s house named Jorge, who because of an accident years ago, was confined to a wheelchair. Jorge’s father, brother and sisters were there as well. As is common, we were offered a bit of food during the visit. I, being in the family way, was offered two slices of cake, while the guys Jon and Odilio were only offered one! At one point I decided to share my cake with Ezekiel, so I cut off a small piece of cake to serve to my little darling. So with one hand holding my plate I offered the little stinker the bite of cake on a fork with the other. Ezekiel, seeing that my hands were already occupied, proceeded to use his free hands to grab all the rest of my cake from my plate leaving me a small child size portion on the fork.   But even in that, Ezekiel was doing the Lord’s work because I then laughingly announced to everyone that my little stinker just stole my cake and was promptly given yet a 3rd piece of cake (keep in mind the guys still only had their one slice- sometimes God is soooo good!)

Upon returning to our town after visiting, we were invited to a fish fry at a friend’s house where we spent a lovely afternoon with all our good friends from Juarez. We left a little early just because I needed to leave for a bible study. Staci Alvarez, our mission partner, and I went to a little ejido outside of town where we study the 5th chapter of Mark in which we read the story of Jesus walking with a crowd to a synagogue officials house named Jairus whose daughter was sick. On the way he meets the woman with the hemorrhage and the woman was healed because of her faith. While Jesus was speaking to the woman, Jairus was approached by men who told him that his daughter had died but yet Jairus chose to continue on to his house with Jesus. Upon arriving at the house of Jairus, encounters people weeping and wailing loudly. I am sure you know the story, but Jesus then says why are you crying? She is only sleeping. He entered her room, held her hand and told her to rise. And the little girl did in fact arise. We went on to discuss how in both instances both the woman with the hemorrhage and Jairus had to have faith that Jesus would heal them, even though all reason suggested that was not the case.

Therefore, when less than an hour later, I entered the room of my own son and saw him lying on the table in the hospital room I was convinced that my son was NOT dead, he was just sleeping. I held my beautiful baby boy in my arms and kissed him, prayed over him, hugged him and waited for the miracle. I just knew that God was going to use this moment as a moment to manifest his glory. I pat my son’s back I prayed some more, I had faith! God had reason for creating my son. There was a reason I conceived when it should not have been possible. There was a reason he was born. There was a reason he lived! There was a reason for all things! And so I waited for the revelation of his glory. And I waited. And at some point I realized that my son would not wake up, and I cried. I cried, but I did not lose hope. In fact, I felt a peace well up inside me because while I had faith, and though I now was sure my son would not wake again in this life, all that I had been saying to myself was still true. There was a reason for this boy’s life, and God revealed to me what that reason was.

My son was created to be a missionary. He was created to bring people to Jesus. Ezekiel existed to be a powerful witness to everyone who learned of his existence that there is a love that is greater than we can imagine, there is a God that can make all our burdens light. Ezekiel was created to be a missionary and he was one to the fullest extent until he died. But not only that, he continues to be a missionary at this very moment. Ezekiel was created for a reason and he has fulfilled his purpose and is in fact still filling that roll.

HE was only 18 months old and he made our mission possible. He touched more lives than we can count. He was who he was called to be!

HE is an example for us. He can teach us so much. I am convinced that just as Ezekiel was created for a purpose, so in fact, am I. So in fact are you!

We must all pray that God reveals to us what we were created for. What is our role in this world? Nothing, and I mean, nothing in this world is more important in our life than becoming who God has called us to be. It is not important whether or not you have the best shoes or are the best dressed in your office. It is not important if you make millions. It is not important if you become a CEO or recognized for how great you are. What is important is that at the end of this life, when all is said and done you can say I have no regrets. I have done all for you God. When I die I don’t want to just “get to heaven” I want to belong there, just as much as all the other saints. I want Jesus standing at those pearly gates with my St. Ezekiel by his side smiling and saying, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Welcome home!” and not only do I want to be in Heaven with my son, my brother and all those who have gone before me, but I want each and every one of you to be there with me. Let us do what God has called us to do. Let us be who God has called us to be.

St Catherine of Sienna once said that “If you are who you should be, you will set the world on fire!” If we are who we should be, WE WILL SET THE WORLD ON FIRE! Look at all the lives that our Saint Ezekiel touched, and he was ONLY 18 MONTHS OLD!!! Just imagine what you could do if you were what God created you to be.

How do you begin you may ask . . . I will leave you with the words of one of my favorite Saints, St. Francis of Asissi, “Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

St. Ezekiel Daniel Francisco Kiehl Vrazel—Pray For US!!!!!!!!

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Saint Ezekiel Kiehl, Missionary and Apostle to Mexico by Jonathan Kiehl

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These last few days I’ve spent many wakeful nights trembling thinking of the task I now begin—that of eulogizing my own precious child. How does one do this? How do you sum up the sublime devotion, the exquisite innocence, or the tender affections and pangs of sorrow, in short how do you sum up a person’s life in a mere speech of words bedewed with the tears of paternal affection? You don’t. Nevertheless we gather together here in this hallowed sanctuary, and although we speak and reason as mere children upon the finality of death, we know that one day we will see clearly the marvelous splendor of Ezekiel’s life and death but for now, we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.

I’ll not attempt now so much to sum up his life, the worth of which even I barely comprehend. I’ll not lay out the aspirations and hopes we had for his future. None of these things seem to matter now. Instead let me speak to you of the tremendous love my son enkindled in the hearts and lives of others. Let his memory ever strengthen those who knew him, who loved him, who held his smooth tender body or received kisses from his lips. For we know that faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Our call to missions and Ezekiel’s call to life

Ezekiel’s life began upon the waves as we stepped out of the boat in faith and began to walk upon the stormy waters with Jesus. A few days after I quit my job and we began selling all our possessions, we discovered that we were expecting our sixth child.  What a blow! Why did God allow this burden to weigh us down when all we wanted to do was devote ourselves to spreading His great love? We wondered how in the world we would be able to fulfill this vocation while expecting a new child.  We didn’t know how it would be possible to care for a baby (not to mention the other children) and still be effective missionaries.  And yet it was undeniable that God was calling us to work for His kingdom in this way.  We spent so many nights in tears before God.  Why make this so difficult? We so wanted to follow His call but it suddenly seemed so “unreasonable”. Why now? How many questions we asked and yet again God responded as to Job:

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

Tell me, if you have understanding.

Then I myself will admit to you

that your own right hand can save you.

We of course knew that God alone could guide us and keep us safe—so we walked on in faith when our sight was failing. Of course we couldn’t explain to our loved ones why we would still continue on our path. When we arrived later in Mexico Ezekiel was born and we began to understand. We realized it was not to hurt us or ruin our plans but rather to raise them up, to baptize them in His redeeming love and exalt them because as we allow His will to become our own, our plans become His and His plans never fail. Ezekiel has been such a gift and strength to our family, in fact his name means “God strengthens” and he has been a means to strengthen us in times of great weakness. He was God’s gift to our mission, to His mission of sharing His love and His own Son with the poor and marginalized people of Mexico.

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I’d like to share with you a few insightful moments in Ezekiel’s life. His life brought out the very best in people. He was born on the same day Pope Francis became the head of our church. A pope who has meant so much to us striving to unite separated Christians and bringing peace to a world of frustrated hopes. As Pope Francis, Ezekiel in our own little sphere brought people together, his life strengthened the bonds of unity and love among people of varying cultures and societal ranks. How many men came into the church to hear the Gospel simply because they wanted to see and hold this beautiful blonde child? His smile drew people to him. And because of this I know Jesus must have had a radiant smile.

Ezekiel was born in General Cepeda, Mexico thanks to the courageous choice of his mother who wanted to have a child in solidarity with the poor. I remember how surprised the locals were. They would constantly marvel at Teresa. Didn’t the Americans always go to the big expensive hospitals in Saltillo or return to the US? It was one thing to visit missions but to give it all? And yet this one act of solidarity and love, this one act that said our child is not more precious than yours. This one act endeared the people to us and forever marked Ezekiel as one of them. The people used to call him “Our little Cheke”. Cheke is a short nickname for Ezekiel in Spanish. I recently received an email from Dave and Andrea Quinn, two beloved missionaries on the field in GC who were out praying for us with two villages Narigua and Mogote. Two places in which we were blessed enough to share our lives last year. One woman, Angelita, said she loved how we would call Ezekiel our little Mexican. They loved him so much she said. Their prayers are lifting us up as well.

When he was born we had no money, no insurance, no idea how God would bring about his birth. This we thought would create problems for us but God always clears the path for His children. He chose to do so by using others, by showing us once again the best in other people. We used to get so annoyed at the nurses spending an hour to discover some loophole by which they could avoid charging us. Once we waited over an hour to find out they had helped us save 30 pesos which is less than three dollars. When he was born the doctors told us that we would not have to pay a single peso for the birth of our baby. God had acted in a marvelous way but again what impressed me most was the way He did it. It was by bringing out the very best in every person we knew or met. The doctors who overlooked their payment, the nurses who were overjoyed and went out of their way to make sure we knew how much they loved us, the pharmacists, the street sweepers, the priests. How many shepherds and goatherds visited our boy in the hospital that day leaving their tiny flocks simply to say a kind word? Everyone was better and happier in his presence.

Throughout his life whenever we got stopped by soldiers, with their menacing masks and machine guns, Ezekiel brought out the best in them as well. We never experienced a rough encounter, often when they saw Ezekiel they melted into unexpected displays of affection relating to us stories of their own children and families they had left back home and asking us to pray for them, lay hands upon them, to bless them with Holy Water or give them a Bible or Rosary. Ezekiel couldn’t pass through a store without receiving at least half the customers touching his blonde head. This is not an exaggeration. Our foundress, Ms. Genie, used to say children make the best missionaries and in Ezekiel’s case this was undeniably true.

On the eve of his birth the Lord gave us a verse which now carries a much more profound meaning for us:

Psalm 77:17,20 The waters saw you, God; the waters saw you and lashed about, trembled even to their depths. Through the sea was your path; your way, through the mighty waters, though your footsteps were unseen.

Baptism and Baptismal meal

Before long we were planning Ezekiel’s baptism. We knew that we wanted to share our son with the entire community. We wanted his baptism to be an event that spoke Our Lord’s generosity and hospitality to the least of our community. Jesus said to us:

Do not (merely) invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. 13 But (rather)…invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

We opened our mission house to over 300 people that day from the local community and villages. People came from all walks of life to eat, drink, laugh, and celebrate Ezekiel’s new life in Christ. Perhaps our greatest blessing was receiving Teresa’s parents and grandmother into our mission home. Teresa and I knew that her parents had struggled to accept our decision to enter mission. Nevertheless they willingly came down to not only celebrate but truly serve our entire family. Deacon Bill was blessed to celebrate at our child’s baptism. It was at that service that Dad saw the great beauty of our mission. I remember his tears and weeping as he trembled before the words of the Baptismal rite calling us as parents to be faithful followers and witnesses of the gospel. We all cried as God open our eyes. This was constantly the way God used Ezekiel. I saw the very best in Dad and Mom Vrazel that day. Their tenderness and faithfulness. I will never forget Mom Vrazel serving juice and water to the often times pushy poor locals trying not only to eat but also get a plate of food to bring home. Deacon Bill was traveling blessing houses, animals, Bibles, rosaries, anything the people brought to him. He and I even laid out a concrete floor for one of the local families.

We visited villages together as a group and saw Jesus change lives. Ezekiel loved to dance and raise his hands when we went out to the villages. I still remember him joining us in laying hands on people, touching their knees as we prayed inviting the Holy Spirit to enter and transform their pain into joy. I remember him lifting his little hands with us in worship.

His favorite song was titled “La Pancita”. He had a special little dance he would do when we played it. Roughly translated it says: “Ever since I was in my mother’s little belly you were watching me when I am playing or sleeping you watch over me and never leave me – for this reason I say thank you Lord, for being with me and taking care of me with your love”.

I’ve no doubt that Ezekiel was called to be an apostle. As Isaiah he could also proclaim “The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.”

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I would like finally to make mention of my son’s masterpiece, his magnum opus. His death, like that of Our Lord’s has truly brought out the very best in everyone. I remember the long exasperating road I traveled from our house to the Medical Center. Barefoot and dirty I carried my dying naked son toward the center of town praying in desperation. I had tried to revive him numerous times with mouth to mouth resuscitation and discovered that even though he took four deep breaths he wasn’t responding. I could still hear his heart beating and so I asked Elijah our nine your old to watch the other three kids at the house and I hastened to the town square. The streets were utterly empty of human presence. At every street corner I paused and tried to give him my life’s breath before continuing on. At the clinic the doctor and I continued trying to revive him. Ezekiel received an injection and oxygen. At one point Odilio my saintly brother in Christ took my place giving CPR and I was asked to hold the other kids who had recently arrived.

At that moment I stood upon a cliff over the very pit of utter despair wondering if I would ever feel happiness again, wondering if this tragedy would destroy our family at its very roots. Then somehow in an obscure whisper, He was there, Jesus was present. He was living my life for me. I had not the strength. He fought for my life. He kept a spark of hope and faith within me. It was no longer I who was living but Christ inside me, keeping me alive in the pain and darkness. In a moment when I had no strength not even desire to live, His Sacred Heart beat in mine, beat for mine. That’s when the miracle began.

Teresa arrived and I had to somehow explain the inexplicable to my life’s love. We went into the little room where our son was now covered with a sheet. I remember Teresa removed the sheet and picked up our beloved and she held him in her arms. We kissed his little naked body and our hands went through his soft hair. Teresa calmly held him and spoke words of maternal sweetness to him that I will never forget. I could hear people outside calling out his name “Cheke” “Te amamos, salvalo, Señor ten piedad.” They were asking God to save him, to have mercy, to be kind to our family.

Soon the police arrived and took our boy. We held each other. We wept and groaned. I believe I now begin to understand the words of Saint Paul who spoke of the Spirit who intercedes for us when our words cannot suffice. He was speaking inexplicably through our sorrow. They said we had 40 minutes to decide all the details of his burial. We were so confused and startled. More people arrived, hundreds of people. The mayor arrived and gave us his personal chafer to drive us to Sabinas where the body would be cared for. When we left the Medical Center people flooded us with tears and hugs and words of affection. One woman gave me her shoes to wear because I was still barefoot.

Odilio was my Cirenian who helped me carry my cross in that moment. I will never forget this dear man who had cared for my son like his own. He led me in a rosary on the way to Sabinas. When we arrived I was shocked to find people were gathered even there over an hour away, people we didn’t even know who has heard of our loss and wanted to express their gratitude and love. This was Ezekiel again bringing out the very best in everyone.

There was 0ne man who had opposed us for the entire time we were there even forcing the Bishop to intervene and ask him not to interfere, this man was sitting in front of the funeral home utterly unkempt, eyes swollen with tears. He arose and clutched me asking for pardon and saying he truly loved us. Father Rogelio arrived and wept and even screamed for his Cheke. Lawyers arrived to help us with the deposition free of charge. The mayor paid every peso to have Ezekiel’s body cared for. The government officials would not accept payment for his death certificate and their services. People held vigil through the night at the church in prayer before God for our family. We barely slept that night so many came to the house to love on us and comfort us in our affliction.

At one point Teresa and I sat in a dark room with an icon of the Prophet Ezekiel, another of Our Lady and one of Jesus. Teresa held me and said using the words of Mother Teresa:

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.

I was astonished at her great pain and great faith. She was my fortress of strength in a time of utter weakness. I could continue to speak of all the people here and throughout the world who have reached out to us. No less than three dioceses in were having priest retreats this week who offered mass and prayed with the Bishops for our family. Missionaries and clergy from 5 continents were praying and sacrificing for our family. You all have helped us carry this great cross and will never (at least here on earth) realize the strength of your prayers. This is Ezekiel’s legacy. You should know that this will not end with his earthly death, no, for we know that he will continue to intercede for us in heaven as you all intercede for us here.

As missionaries we wear a simple cross. It’s unadorned and plain, not of gold or silver, but of wood. It is not a crucifix. This cross we wear always meant for me an identification with Jesus. But this meant more or less a sign to the world that I belonged to Christ. Since Ezekiel’s death Jesus has clearly revealed to me that this cross is so much more. This cross is my only real gift to Him. The same cross that was traced upon the forehead of my child and under whose weight I have fallen many more than three times. This cross we Christians carry and preach is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

The Bible and Divine Teaching informs us that at the end of our lives we will not be judged merely according to what we know but by how much we have loved, how close we came to Jesus in others and how close we allowed Him to draw near to us.

I end with a quote from Mother Teresa that perhaps comes closest to a synopsis of our little boy’s precious life:

Ezekiel could truly say with her:

I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”

We give thanks to God, for His generosity, for the time we have cherished, for we also have been made better knowing the love of God in our precious little boy.

God bless you all.

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Living in His Promise By Jonathan Kiehl

1270868_10202412029846382_217150204390685419_o                The last few weeks have been a true blessing for our Juarez mission team. Settling into new housing, starting a new year of school, new friends, new ministries and mission partners, new opportunities to share God’s great love with those who have had precious little contact with the message of the Gospel. All of these have left us with a deep sense of gratitude for the way God has steadily led us throughout the last two years of mission life. Nevertheless, new challenges continue to arise as we step into a new culture or society where the Gospel has not taken root. As a father this can create moments of fear and anxiety as you ask yourself whether your once clear call to share the Gospel will damage or weaken the family. Specifically I have found myself wondering whether God really wants me to expose your family to the dangers of mission life when there is always the safety of a return to a “safe” Christian community in the United States.

                One recent example of this occurred when the kids got home from their first day of school. We discovered that Moses would be learning about contraception and how to “protect” himself from the unwanted consequences of “loving another person”. We learned that in middle school here in Mexico the government has begun to hand out condoms to young people. This really bothered us. We decided to go down and speak to the director. We explained our beliefs and our desire to speak to Moses about sexuality in our home where we felt it could be more appropriately handled. She felt perplexed that we would have misgivings about a sex-ed program that an entire team of government officials had recommended! In the end, she allowed for Moses to be exempted from the actual in-class portion. We were asked to cover the material at home. We felt really nervous, maybe downright scared that we had taken our beautiful child into an unsafe environment. I was up for nights wrestling with the idea of how to handle this and whether to take the kids out and home school. Teresa and I have no problem with homeschooling but we really feel called to enter the culture and let Christ’s light shine in the darkness.

                One night I was pouring out my heart in prayer and Lord shared this verse with me:

“Behold, the Lord your God has set the land before you; go up, take possession, as the Lord, the God of fathers, has told you; do not fear or be dismayed…The Lord your God who goes before you will Himself fight for you, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God bore you, as a man bears His son.” Deuteronomy 1:21, 30-31

Wow, I was really leveled by those words. I thought “Am I losing faith now when we already have been carried so far? Are not my children His children? Are not His hands so much stronger and more able to keep them safe?

The Israelites were frightened for their lives but also it says they feared for their “little ones” who they thought would become prey to the enemy. (Deut 1:39) Was that not my own fear? How many times have I feared that God would allow my children to become prey to the world. And yet the Bible continually calls us to remember that my child is God’s child. I don’t want to allow these types of fear to distance me from God. These fears turned the Israelites from God’s plan and it was only a later generation that entered Canaan and experienced the adventure of following God’s promise. We decided that we would continue to trust in God’s call and follow Him by praying more as a family and inviting God to be a greater light within our home. Jesus prays in His High Priestly prayer “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one…and for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.” John 17: 15, 19 I believe the answer is not defending ourselves from the world but a Holy, consecrated offense, storming the enemy walls and winning souls for the Kingdom. I am convinced that the first and fundamental way to protect your children is to give them a holy example as a parent. Better than any other gift you can give them is a life poured out in worship of our God. “Seek first the Kingdom and all these things will be added…”