A Life Transfigured by God’s Presence: Becoming Spirit-filled Evangelizers in the Modern World Part 1

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FMC Class of 2016

How I long to find the right words to stir up enthusiasm for a new chapter of evangelization full of fervor, joy, generosity, courage, boundless love and attraction!”  Pope Francis Evangelii Gaudium 261

 

During the month of January I was blessed with the opportunity to lead a group of new missionaries through the final section of Pope Francis’ magisterial document on Evangelization Evangelii Gaudium.  We spent some weeks carefully studying how we can become better evangelists, filled with the Holy Spirit, convinced of God’s love and abounding in the joy of the Lord.  I wanted to write on some of our finding and share some reflections from our time together in hopes that it will bless others who didn’t have the privilege of being present in our sessions.

 

One of the central themes in the Catholic vision for true Evangelization is the need to pray first and work second.  A Spirit-filled Evangelist is one whose life is devoted to prayer.  He or she must be convinced that only through prayer, through a constant drawing from the well of life (Deus Caritas Est 7) will one’s mission or testimony be authentic.  As Pope Francis states:

Without prolonged moments of adoration, of prayerful encounter with the word, of sincere conversation with the Lord, our work easily becomes meaningless; we lose energy as a result of weariness and difficulties, and our fervor dies out. (Ev Gaud 262)

 

Alone we cannot even begin to complete the great work of evangelization Jesus has entrusted to us.  Our mission becomes a mere duty, an ethical choice rather than an offspring of personal encounter and love.  I am continually reminded of Pope Benedict’s words “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” (Deus Caritas Est 1)  What this means is that we do not profess our faith nor share Jesus’ love because it is the right thing to do or because it is a radical idea.  We do it because our love of Jesus impels us (2 Cor 5:14) to share our joy with those around us.  This in turn is our principal way of loving Him.  Going to Mass and even adoration is “fragmented” (Deus Caritas est 14) without an equal desire to love our neighbor and share with them the True Bread of Life.  We need to reach out and meet the most urgent needs of our brothers and sisters around us.  “For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” (I John 4:20b)  And yet as Saint John Paul II said we know that our neighbors “are hungry for God, not just for bread and freedom.” (Redemptoris Missio 83)

In spite of all possible exhortations to love and evangelize we know ourselves all too well.  My desire easily flags and my mind becomes easily distracted by the world.  I struggle to stay focused on the light of Christ as I live among other lesser lights of the world.  We recently spent a month serving among the indigenous tribes of Fort Belknap Reservation in North Montana.  One day we crossed the border to Canada and stopped at the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park in South Alberta.  It was so beautiful.  As we left we stopped at a gas station and picked up a flyer that discussed light pollution.  It showed how many lights were visible from space 50 years ago and how many more are visible today.  All this “light pollution” makes it harder to see the stars in the sky at night.  

I considered that the spiritual life is so similar.  When we surround ourselves with so many lesser lights, television, nightly news, talk radio, internet, etc.  We can find it more difficult to encounter the living God.  How often do I spend reading my Bible or in prayer?  How often do I spend watching television or listening to someone else interpret my reality for me?  We must go to the true source.  Without this vital and often encounter with Jesus we will struggle to see His light, hear His voice, be His voice.  

We should have a great zeal to share His love.  Yet we cannot simply conjure up the joy, share a love we do not fully possess.  “Love grows through love.” (Deus Caritas Est 18)

The words of Pope Francis give us direction and comfort when he says

What kind of love would not feel the need to speak of the beloved, to point him out, to make him known? If we do not feel an intense desire to share this love, we need to pray insistently that he will once more touch our hearts. (Ev Gaud 264)

He will hear us if we ask He will pour out joy into our hearts and a burning passion for the lost.  Ask God right now for a joyful strength to live the life of a Spirit Filled Evangelizer and He, who is so generous will give it (James 1:5)  “There is nothing more precious which we can give to others.” (Ev Gaud 264)

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The Profound Sweetness of the Cross

I Corinthians 2:2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

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In the 15th chapter of the book of Exodus we are given a profound foretaste of the power of the cross and it workings in the spiritual life.   The setting is the immediate aftermath of the passing through the Red Sea and the miraculous saving intervention of God destroying the enemies of Israel and His glorious triumph.  Moses and the Israelites sing the first song recorded in the narrative of the Biblical text.  They sing of His glory.  They sing of His grandeur.  He is painted as a warrior who has utter control.  There is no possible opposition to His power.  The enemies of God and His chosen are in terror and dread and “because of the greatness of thy arm, they are as still as a stone.” (Ex 15:16).  Later on in the chapter Miriam, the first prophetess, also sings with the women a shorter song proclaiming His glory and His power.

Nevertheless, 3 days later in the narrative the Israelites begin to feel thirsty and start to panic.  When they finally find water it is undrinkable because of its bitterness.  This leads them to question the motives of their great and powerful God.   “And the people murmured against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” (15:24) Their complaint becomes more explicit further on in chapter 16:

 

Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger. (16:3)

 

In 17: once more they murmur:

 

“Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?”

 

What fascinated me so much when I read and reflected upon this passage was that the Israelites never questioned God’s ability of provide or even whether He was in control.  They certainly didn’t question His existence.  They had seen and marveled at His powerful intervention in their lives but then once it was missing they lost confidence that He cared for them. They knew He was a God of armies with a strong arm yet their question and complaint was one I have struggled with often in the bitter disappointments and regrets of my own life.  They begin to doubt whether this saving, terrible God was for them.  They question whether He cared for them, whether He had the best in mind for them.  I remember asking these same questions to God when we lost Ezekiel our 2nd year of mission.  “Why did You bring us out here to Mexico to kill my children?  I have wrestled with these types of questions off and on many times when my kids have been sick or the mission seems fruitless and hard.  Sure God CAN work miracles in my life He CAN do all things, He CAN heal me etc.  But does He really want to?  Has He tired of my weaknesses and failures?

My faith has often failed me as did the chosen people’s in accepting that God, so glorious, so powerful, could possibly be so interested in me. “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Ps 8:4) I too have complained bitterly before the Lord of His apparent neglect of me and my own.  I too have asked Him if He brought us into missions to kill us off.  I too have drunk of the bitter waters and murmured against His goodness.

In Exodus 15:15 is says “And he cried to the Lord; and the Lord showed him a tree, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.” God pointed out the tree and through the tree He made the bitterness sweet.  I read that story yesterday before the blessed sacrament and I began to weep because I could hear Him saying to me, “Son, I have also given you a tree.  I have bound myself to it as an eternal pledge of my love for you.  You are precious in my eyes.  You and your family.”

The same tree that made all bitter things sweet was the God-Man’s greatest bitterness.  I starred up at the crucifix next to the tabernacle.  I saw Jesus hanging there, thirsting for me:

Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him.  (CCC 2960)

In the cross the God-Man bound Himself inseparably to our suffering and bitterness.  Saint John Paul II writes that the cross throws “a new light upon every suffering; the light of salvation.” (Salvifici Doloris 14) His sufferings make our sufferings sweet because the most important question for me about the bitterness and suffering in my life is not why it happens but rather whether God is with me in the pain and bitterness. Whether He feels my pain and knows what it is like, whether He identifies with my suffering.  I heard God speaking to me pointing out the tree of the cross and saying “I have bound myself to you and to your suffering to make your suffering sweeter”.

Saint Paul writes, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31). I need to believe that God is on my side, is by my side. To believe that HE ONLY GIVES ME THE VERY BEST.  Nothing has so destroyed my image of God as the loss of my precious son.  Before His death I too was so impressed by His power and provision.  I wanted this power. I wanted to be strong.  Yet “when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10)

I have come to treasure so much more the beauty of the cross.  The cross is the proof that HE IS FOR ME, FOR US, FOR MY FAMILY.  I can have peace only when I trust in His enduring love for me.  In the deserts of my own life when I have tasted the bitterness of suffering I have heard His voice say to me: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28) Like John the beloved disciple “I have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.” (I John 4:16)

Pope Benedict writes:

We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words, the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Saint John’s Gospel describes that event in these words: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should … have eternal life” (3:16).

20170109_121824This is the bedrock of the Gospel message for the world, the entire message we proclaim as missionaries.  God is for us.  Ever since the fall we have lived with the lurking fear that steals our peace “What if He is against me?  What if He won’t come through for me?  What if He wants to destroy me or my own?”  I have hidden so many times from my God as He walked in the gardens of my heart.  Yet the goodness of the Gospel we preach is that He is for us.  In the encouraging words of Pope Francis:

 

On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” This first proclamation is called “first” not because it exists at the beginning and can then be forgotten or replaced by other more important things. It is first in a qualitative sense because it is the principal proclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment. (Evangelii Gaudium 164)

 

 

 

To Give you a Future and a Hope (Jer. 29:11)

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Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:9

Last Tuesday our family got off the plan in Port au Prince Haiti to what has been an amazing experience living among the beautiful people of L’Asile, Nippes, Haiti MAP

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L’Asile is in the southern arm of Haiti

Our first day Tuesday was mainly a day of extensive traveling as we arrived in the afternoon and spent over four hours driving from Port au Prince to L’Asile.  Port Au Prince was unlike any place I have ever seen.  The numbers of people on the street was startling.  People selling whatever they could to get buy crowding cars whenever you stopped or slowed down enough for them to crowd around.  There were piles of trash every where.  One image sticks in my mind of a small stream completely swamped with plastic bottles, Styrofoam, plastic bags, all sorts of trash.  It literally looked like a river of trash.  Here and there a large pigs wandered in and out among children who looked for trinkets as their mothers sat and sold charcoal or dirty fruit.  I was overwhelmed immediately by the magnitude of destitution I saw.  I found myself praying for guidance and hope.  I still remember the colorful and crammed  trucks with French and Creole proverbs and verses with rainbows and expressive paintings driving by as we tried to figure out the best way to weave our way through the traffic and get out of the city before dark.  We eventually arrived in L’Asile around 7PM so weren’t really able to see much of the town where we would be living for most of our time in Haiti.

 

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Wednesday morning we awoke to sheep grazing in the trash in front of the house.  Young people from all around came to visit to see the “Blan” which is a Haitian word that literally means “white” but has come to mean “foreigner.”  The most common word here for man is neg.  I was fascinated immediately by the Kreole language.  Micah was running about the local kids with a pad and pen trying to figure out some words to be able to make friends.  I was so proud of the kids who seemed so desirous to speak to the locals and learn the language.  After morning prayer and a breakfast of hardboiled eggs and avocado (pretty much every day breakfast here), we walked about the town.  It was very similar to Leoncio Prado in many ways.  We tried a local fruit called Kenep which was like eating a RedBull energy drink in a fruit.  It was so good.  One of the locals named Bibi

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Thursday we went out to visit the sick in the surrounding villages.  The people and landscape were so beautiful in the midst of tragic poverty.  There was a profoundly humble genuineness in the people.  The smiles, often missing teeth, shown out without shame.  We drove out on a rocky dirt road to a village where we picked a lame man and brought him to the hospital to receive care.  We prayed over him in the truck as we passed family after family washing clothes and bathing in the shallow streams nearby.  Donkeys, sheep and goats roamed throughout the country side freely.  I have never seen such brightly colored houses.  Some of the houses seemed to glow with pinks, blues, yellows, and blazing greens.  Later that evening we went down to bath in the river (in our clothes!).    img_2972On the walk we passed another tarantula (they are all over here).  Later that night God treated us to one of the most beautiful sunsets and we felt like He had brought us to this broken land to open our eyes to His great love for us.  

 

Friday morning Dave and I went to Mass at 530AM.  Immediately following Fr’s homily Dave jumped and we both looked down to see a large tarantula that had crawled across his foot.  All the people just watched until one man squished it (it was very messy).    Friday we went to the smaller market and got some fruit.  That night we did Spiritual Warfare and a rosary.  

 

Over the weekend we began planning out the Ezekiel Home project.  We also asked Father to help us find the poorest of the poor so we could help them with floors for their houses.  He directed us to a village in the mountains called “Ravi Mitan” with means Middle fo the Ravine.  Visiting Ravi Mitan was perhaps the most blessed thing we have done so far in Haiti.  We found five families (one with nine kids), who we are going to give floors to.  Yesterday we went up to a town called Aquin to get all the cement for the Ezekiel Project and the floors for the poor (90 in all).  IMG_2788.JPG

New Ezekiel Home Building

I also started Creole lessons last Monday employing a local man named Ronal who needed work.  He comes to the house each day at 630 AM and teaches Teresa and I his language for an hour.  This has been a blessing.  Fr. David (from France) has asked to introduce us in Mass tomorrow.  We are determined to introduce ourselves in Creole.  He was very pleased with this.  It is so funny because Teresa and I met in French class but never really used the language in missions but it is a big help here with Creole.  I want to write another blog to tell you about the village where we are going to lay out the floors.  It was so amazing.  God has been, is, and ever will be good!

 

“I Lift My Eyes Up Unto the Mountains”

“Buscando mis amores,

Iré por esos montes y riberas;

…Decid si por vosotros ha pasado!”

“Seeking my love,

I will head for the mountains and for the watersides;

…tell me, has he passed by you?

Saint John of the Cross

 

img_2407The roosters had just began their Monday morning crowing when it was time to get up and prepare for the day.  Our family awoke quickly preparing a small snack breakfast before Fr Leo, Sr Marie Eugenia, and a religion teacher named Garvin came to the house to pick us up on our missionary adventure to the mountain communities above our town of Leoncio Prado.  One of my missionary partners, Taylor and I had gone up to the communities for the first time this year in June and now weather was permitting for another visit, this time with a larger group.  We were heading up to a group of five communities high up in the mountains and far removed from modern life.  They lack electricity, running water, trash service, sewers, and doctors among other things.  There are very few motorized vehicles, all the houses are made of wood.  It was like traveling back to the wild west.  Fr. Leo and I whistled the tune to The Good Bad and the Ugly quite a few times.  It took us a few hours to arrive at the first communities Capirona, Porvenir and Libano.  img_2412In Libano we got out and immediately started singing and teaching local kids, who had come out of school to see the visitors, songs and hand motions and inviting them to come to the celebration of Holy Mass. img_2417 More and more people began gathering from the local community men and women boys and girls.  The church was made of wood and had a dusty dirt floor.  You could see the knee marks in the dust.  We led songs and worship for about an hour while Father confessed those who desired it and the Sister visited some families.  Later we celebrated Holy Mass and some of the local children were baptized.  img_2564After Mass we ate lunch at a local woman’s house- rice, yuca (which is kind of like a stringy potato) and chicken.  img_2539Later we headed to Porvenir where we repeated the same thing as in Libano.  We also visited a man in the local two room clinic who had cut off his thumb with a machete. img_2490 Finally we left Porvenir at about 3 o’clock to head out to Corazón de Jesús (Heart of Jesus) which was about an hour further out.  We arrived a little after 4 and were received by nearly all the community.  img_2561They were so excited!  The church was painted and had a few balloons on it.  The people had been waiting 2 years for this celebration!  img_2566These mountain communities only get to celebrate Holy Mass once a year and last year the road was impassible so they had to wait another year.  As Father prepared the altar and confessed people Jonathan went with a friend from Libano named Ronal.  Ronal lives part of the year down near Leoncio Prado.  We saw much of the surrounding area and the small grade school.  

 

img_2568Nearby and in many areas of the region you could see the destruction of the forest and locals look for new land to use for agriculture.  We have seen so much destruction of the forest out near Leoncio Prado and in the entire Valley of Ponaza.  I think of the words of Pope Francis from his 2013 encyclical Lumen Fidei:

 

By revealing the love of God the Creator, [faith] enables us to respect Nature all the more, and to discern in it a grammar written by the hand of God and a dwelling place entrusted to our protection and care. Faith also helps us to devise models of development which are based not simply on utility and profit, but consider creation as a gift for which we are all indebted.

 

We realized the great need not only of the people to hear about the love of Jesus but also to hear about the “Gospel of Nature”  which teaches us about our Lord and even gives him praise (Psalm 19:1).    

 

I reflected on this theme as we sang in the church and worshiped God who became man and later became wheat and grapes in order to draw near to us and to His creation which He intended to be “very good” (Gen 1:31).  As we have at times forgotten our identity as children of God and heirs to the kingdom we also have forgotten our call to protect and care for God’s great gift of nature which speaks to us and with us about Him.  (Romans 1:20)

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We spoke with the locals about the possibility of our family visiting these communities monthly next year Lord willing.  They found a house where we could stay for a few days each month.  We began praying at that moment that God would provide a way.  The people seemed so hungry for Jesus, hungry for a living faith, thirsty for the water of life.

 

As we headed down the mountain back to Leoncio Prado I had a lot to reflect on.  God is doing such wonderful things here in Peru and throughout the world in small communities often far from the lights and public notice.  Please continue to pray for our family as we seek His Will and pursuit the means to follow Him wherever He calls us.

 

Jonathan

Hogar Ezekiel Floors for the Poor Three Week Update

20160317_124050Wow what a blessed few weeks it has been in Leoncio Prado. God is so good to His children. The last few weeks we have been wonderfully busy working on floors for some of the families we serve through the ministry of Hogar Ezekiel. We wanted to let you in on some of our joy and some of you reading this have helped make possible.

In our last blog we wrote about our good friends Crespo and Sarina Armas and how God had blessed us and them with a new project idea and some possiblilites for a work that would give Crespo a much better paying job and help local kids in our poor town who live in mostly dirt houses with little sanitation. Since we last wrote we have been blessed to be able to help 5 other families through generous benefactors and prayer partners.

One little girl Colin attends Teresa’s drawing and painting classes. She has been an integral part of our church choir since its inception and has a beautiful smile and cheerful disposition. Her brother Kris suffers from a large tumor in his leg. We are still unsure of whether it is cancerous but are hopefully praying that God will heal him and/or help him get the appropriate medical attention. His father, Chicle, told me last night that they have to bring him to Lima to be looked at and are hoping to raise enough money for the airfare. We know God will help them. We were so blessed to have Tony and Monica Habashy contact us desiring to partner with us in getting them a floor and also pray for them daily that God will be present in their lives and help them with their needs. I remember the day we laid out the floor we were brought to Colin’s grandmother’s house down the street who raises Guinea Pigs (here called Cui). Micah immediately grabbed one up as the other kids ran about the room chasing the 20-30 cui that live in her kitchen. It was a bit wild. As a side note guinea pigs are great eating!! I think we all preferred them to giant jungle snail;)

20160318_193536Our third project was in Jorge’s house. Jorge is one of our older choir members and has one of the most beautiful smiles. He has been a great example for the younger kids always cheerfully helping out with church services and clean up. Last Sunday he was head of the church clean up and set up crew for our Sunday morning service. He also is currently in catechesis and we are so excited to think that he will receive baptism and First communion this September for the feast of Saint Martin de Porres, who is our town patron saint. When we worked in his house his mother Silya prepared us some Yuca chicha with salsa on the side. It was strange and good. You basically take a spoonful of the salsa and then drink the slightly fermented yuca juice which combines to give a very unique flavor. They call it masato. This project was helped by Jorge’s prayer partner Susan Taylor. Thanks to her generous gift Jorge can actually sweep out his room and keep clean. He came over immediately after the project to tell us how much he love his floor. I smiled thinking it was so strange to us in the US to think of a young man receiving a floor as a gift. It was beautiful seeing his gratitude.

IMG_1773The fourth floor was given to the Cordoba family. I was contacted by Gemma’s godparents, Mike and Angela Larkin who were glad to be partners in the project. Their son Drew is one of the semenarians in the Savanah diocese. The project was actually funny because Roberto, the father, who is our town’s main hunter, was going out into the mountains to hunt so couldn’t help out for the whole project. He showed us a small mountain cat fur and some unspecified jungle meat that he had brought back form the night before. It was interesting. He and his wife, Margarita have three girls, Corey, Nikita and Ruth. They all share the same bedroom. When we mentioned the project to them you could see their eyes light up. They were so surprised and began to apologize for not being more faithful church goers. I told them this was not a payment for going to church but rather a free gift of God’s love and grace. They were so happy. Margarita made us a wonderful salad out of a vegetable they grow here called caiwa.Descripción caigua It tastes kind of like a mix of bell pepper and poblano pepper. It was an amazing treat.

Yesterday we put in a floor in the Davila house. They live near Crespo and Sarina. The father Polidoro helped us out with the project. He and his wife Mercedes live in the house with their three kids, Jhon (spelled that way) Gerson, and Vilianita.  Gerson participates in our church choir.  Gerson’s mother is a seamstress and his father works in the chacra (farm or large garden). He actually was one of the hardest workers we have worked with. He seemed so thankful. His wife, Mercedes, made us chicha from slightly fermenting corn (which is more common here than that of Yuca). I had to leave a little early to be home for Gemma when she got out of school (12PM). They actually brought us lunch in their personal bowls. Probably our favorite part was the caiwa salsa that we put over our split peas. They had a puppy that would not leave us alone. It seemed to know exactly where to go to be in the way and get attention. This project was partnered by John and Christine Brooks. Thank you so much for your prayers and generosity.

This morning we put in the sixth floor in the Garcia house. We met Eylin and her mother Estefita earlier this year when a number of nursing school students from Benedictine Collage came for a medical mission. Eylin needs glasses and has been had been having problems with her eyesight. Their house is particularly dark and she was having real issues finishing her homework. I remember feeling touched as both she and her mother cried. Estefita felt ashamed that they couldn’t do more for their daughter. Estefita earns a living cooking for the neighborhood when she is able. She once sold me something called “mountain soup” which was basically oily water and armadillo meat. It wasn’t our favorite but we were thankful for her giving us an extra large helping because we were missionaries:) Eylin has a lot of hopes for her education. She is one of the few girls in our town who definitely hopes to go to the university after high school. We were blessed to be able to do this project with the help of Saint John’s CYM.

So far so blessed. Please continue to pray for us as we seek benefactors and prayer partners to keep working to give young people here more safe and clean homes. Pray that they come to know more deeply the great love Jesus has for them and that they would come to realize their important identity as children of God and disciples in mission.

P.S. to see more photos of our work please visit Jonathan Kiehl’s facebook page.

The Armas Family and a New Project

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The Armas Family and a New Project

When we began the new Ezekiel Home in Leoncio Prado we began praying and searching for a cook and someone who could fix a few things around the house to make it more kid friendly before recieving so many young people into our home. How blessed we felt when God decided to bless us doubly by sending us the Armas family.

I met Crespo during Holy Week when we needed a cement floor put in the house because John was so dirty from the dirt floor. He and I worked well together and we really got along talking throughout about Crespo’s life and his time in the army. He has a great since of humor and is a true optimist. His normal occupation is a pig farmer in which he makes 10 soles (3 dollars) a day. This is low even for San Martin, Peru where the local wage average is about 50 soles a day for a skilled worker.

Crespo’s wife, Sarina, is one of the most gentle and serene souls we have met in mission. She is a great cook and although she cannot read or write she has a mother’s wisdom and a great way of dealing with tough situations. She can cook almost anything. When we first met she offered us mountain soup (a local soup for the poor made from armadillo), she has cooked giant snail (not my favorite), majas,

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Majas

and even fox. We really wanted to help their family but struggled to find a way to help them without hurting their sense of human dignity. They don’t like charity so we hired Sarina to cook for us during Hogar Ezekiel and she also helps out with the laundry. It is a true blessing.

Crespo and Sarina received the sacrament of matrimony on May 14th.

The wedding

Crespo and Sarina’s Wedding

Sarinas baptism

Sarina’s Baptism

Sarina was baptized during the wedding and both Crespo and Sarina received first communion. It was beautiful. They have continued to come faithfully to church on Sundays and whenever Father comes into our area to celebrate Mass.

Their oldest child, 10 year old Nashely, has been coming to Ezekiel Home from the beginning and is a classmate to Micah. She has a radiant smile and loves to hold little John. One of her favorite foods is the Juane. It is a lump of rice with a small piece of chicken (often the head) inside and one or two olives. It represents John the Baptist’s head and his sacrifice for the sake of justice. For the feast day of Saint John the Baptist most everyone makes Juanes at home and shares them with their neighbors. It ends up being all we eat for days! Yum. She is part of our church choir and participates in Teresa’s drawing and painting classes on Wednesdays.

Jenco the TerrorJenko is 2 and a handful of trouble. We first met little Jenko when his mother Sarina came to a one day health clinic that a number of Benedictine College students set up during their 1 week visit earlier this year. He was so thin and sickly. Sarina told us he haden’t been eating and was losing a lot of weight. We brought them to see the sisters in Picota (who have a little clinic there). They did some tests and found out he had a high number of parasites inside him that were making him very ill. The sisters gave him some medications and he was soon back to normal.

One of the issues that face many of the families here is that they have dirt floors and walls that house and breed all sorts of bad bugs and diseases. Peru has the largest cockroaches in the world and they are very present in the dirt floors and walls of the houses here. Many of the youngest children are the most vulnerable to health problems because they crawl around on the dirt and then put their hands and whatever is in them into their mouths.

We wanted to have a cement floor put into our house and soon after we realized the great blessing it was to not have to worry so much about little John getting sick or ruining his clothes. We could wash our cement floor which helps to get rid of unwanted flies, ants, spiders, etc. that tend to congregate in the dirt floor houses. You can sweep the floor without worrying about making holes in the floor. You could also spray diesel and water on the floor which is a local remedy against disease carrying mosquitoes and biting gnats.

Thinking about all these things, we remembered that during our first year in missions some of our fellow missionaries, Sammy and Lindsey Romero, had started a project called Floors for the Poor. They were able to bless a number of families in the Philipines with new cement floors for their houses. We also were able to put some floors into houses we worked on our first year of mission in General Cepeda. We realized Leoncio Prado and its surrounding communities were perfect for doing floor projects. Within days we had contacted Sammy and Kevin Granger, our sub-director, and gotten permission to began an Ezekiel Home/Floors for the Poor project. We would like to make sure that all the kids who attend our Ezekiel Home can live in a home with a cement floor. It’s a way to help these beautiful young kids have a small buffer against the local diseases that affect our local kids so much.

This project also will help Crespo who, if you remember, currently works 10 hour shifts as a pig farmer for a mere 3 dollars a day! Crespo will recieve 20 dollars for every floor we put in together. This is a good wage down here where the average wage is around 16 dollars a day. We can do a floor from start to finish in 4-6 hours.

We would like to invite anyone reading this to help us help these great kids. For $150.00 you can give a family a cement floor in a room of their house. Many of the homes here are only one or two dirt rooms so it maybe that their whole house gets a new floor. Those who donate will be given a photo of the family they help so they can be praying for their Peruvian Partner Family who will also get a photo of the donor(s) that help put in their floor so they can also be praying for their American Partner Benefactor(s). We are hoping that this can lead to a beautiful spiritual solidarity that transcends mere charity or monatary donation. We want the children here to know that people in the US love them and are praying for their well being. We want the families here to began to realize they can be part of something bigger, that the family of God is global.

Thank you all for your help and support. We couldn’t do this without you.

SPECIAL THANKS – A special thanks to Michael and Lena Vrazel for helping us with our first project putting in a floor and some walss in the Armas family house!  More to come soon!!!

The Most Beautiful Words

 

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Our Pucacaca next door neighbor, Jhon, on Hogar Ezekiel opening day, Pucacaca.  (We now live in 2 different cities)

I am not sure if you all realize that we missionaries believe our ultimate goal in every location is to work ourselves out of a job.  Well, poco a poco it seems that we are starting to do just that!

 

Yesterday we reopened the Ezekiel home in Pucacaca.  After months of God-sent setbacks we were so excited to be back with the kids we have come to know so well.  It was a beautiful reunion singing God’s praises together again and praying on our knees the Divine Mercy Chaplet in the front room again.  We were so overjoyed at God’s generosity.  Yet His most generous gift came later on in the evening.  Teresa and I had just put the kids to bed and were cleaning up when we heard a loud child’s voice in the house next door.  We both stopped and listened.  It was our little neighbor Jhon (yes that is how it is spelled) was praying.  We were so astounded.  This is boy we have been neighbors to since we got here.  He lives with his grandmother, Laylita and no other adults.  His 10 year old sister Lleri (pronounced Jerry) often has had to miss school to stay at home with Jhon and his two brothers Jordan and Abyu.  He has always been a bit of a trouble maker but we really like him.  He is Isaac’s best friend in Peru.  Here he was praying speaking to the God who loves him and his poor family so much.  We both felt we were hearing something sacred.  He prayed for a long time:)

 

Another blessing just as beautiful happened 2 weeks ago.  About a month ago, Teresa and I were trying to figure out various ways to evangelize the adults in our community.  We recently had a marriage with four couples from our town who had their marriages blessed in the Church.  Before them there was only one married couple in our town.  The adults prefer to simply live together without marriage.  We decided to offer a communion service at 8:30 AM on Monday for the moms so they could start their week of with Jesus in a special way.  Teresa and I went for two Mondays and not even one mom showed up.  We felt like the idea was good but seemed to miss the mark somehow.  Then 2 weeks ago some of the young men from the high school asked us if we could do it earlier because they wanted to come.  We knew it was Jesus asking us to give a little more to the youth so we changed the time to 6AM.  The young people here often go running at 3:30 AM, yes AM.  I have gone twice but let’s just say I am not quite used to getting up so early and running a couple miles.  Since they are used to getting up so early and school starts at 7AM, the 6AM service has worked out so well.  We get 5 or 6 young people who want a little more from Jesus.  Some of these youth have never even been baptized but they have such an amazing faith and desire.  God is so good!

 

I have realized the most beautiful words said by man are not those we often cherish in great collections of masterworks, they are not even written down on paper or stone, they are simple words of a loving heart seeking the one it was made for.  I pray each of you will also encounter the great desire to encounter Jesus in the great adventure, Love’s encounter and love’s embrace.