To see pics, follow this link (you might have to copy and paste if clicking on it doesn’t work):
Tuesday, January 25, 2011 – 5:20pm – In my room at the Corpus Christi Carmelite Convent in Castries, St. Lucia
Ok, I gotta say that I’m not one for alliteration, but check out my location. That’s a buncha C’s. Anyhoo, today was a great day. One of the things we were taught to do as a missionary is to get to know the culture, people, and places associated with your mission post. The idea is that you want to inculturate yourself so that you’re not a stranger and so you can work among the people. As part of that, we took a tour of the island today. One of Sister Annie’s volunteers (Tim) hooked us up with a friend of his that has a taxi/van that can be rented out for tours. When we first walked up to the van, I already thought “boy, this’ll be interesting fitting everybody in there” because it looks like the size of a sardine can. Then, when I saw that there were two additional women and a baby already in there (and the driver of course) I really did a double-take. It just didn’t seem like everybody was gonna fit. But, we ended up like a circus-act clown car, and everyone managed to get in. Not that we had a ton of extra space inside, but we were all reasonably comfortable. By my count, we ended up fitting 18 people into that van. Craziness, I know. This van was like most Catholic churches I’ve seen. They seem much bigger once you get on the inside. Maybe the Lord just shrinked our bodies or multiplied space. Je ne sais pas.
So, we basically headed south from Castries, stopping at various scenic viewpoints along the way. We stopped at the top of a hill in Castries that overlooks the bay where the cruise ships dock. We also stopped at Marigot Bay and a few other nice areas and got some really good photos. Even saw some cats at one of the places. 🙂 (Nerdy, I know. But i’m a cat lover). The thing was though, that we didn’t stop at half the places with nice views because there were so many of them. When we got to Vieux Fort (on the Atlantic side) we stopped and had lunch and played on the beach for awhile. At first it was rainy and cloudy but eventually cleared up and we really enjoyed it. Except for right on shore where the waves churn up some sand, the water was a gorgeous blue. Got to see the Maria Islands just off-shore too. As the kids were playin’ in the sand and water, I found what looked like some natural sponges that washed up from the sea. I found a few that were decent sized and soft and brought them back. One is serving as a pencil/pen holder in my closet, and another will be used as a loofah. Well, I’ll attempt to anyways. After the beach we made our way back north, passing through Dennery and a few other towns along the way. Once we got back, I was happy. Though taking the tour and inculturating ourselves was nice, it was good to get back home.
There’s lots of other little blessings too here in St. Lucia. For one thing, the temperature is between 70 – 90 degrees Fahrenheit and breezy…………………………YEAR ROUND! And it rains here almost everyday, never for more than a few minutes at most. Helps keep things at a nice moderate temperature. Also helps out when you wanna take a nap. 🙂 The view from my room is amazing. I see alot of the homes on the surrounding hillsides, and we’re a mile or two at most from the harbor where all the cruise ships dock. Within a 10-15 minute walk from our living quarters are the Cathedral, Walcott square, and a bazillion different little shops and restaurants. Tim was teaching me a few Creole phrases last night, and one of the local priests is supposed to be teaching us some Creole too. The other day when me, Mark, and Lora were grocery shopping, I got to talk to one of the locals in French. I could go on and on. But the flipside to all these little blessings is that it makes me feel like a tourist. I kinda feel guilty and a little uncomfy. After all, I came here to be a missionary, not a tourist. We’ve been here almost a week and have done a whole lot yet, as far as missionary activity is concerned.
However, Mr. Frank reminded me that when beginning a new mission post, patience is essential. Things don’t happen all at once. They take awhile to get up and running. Until then, he said we gotta take time to get settled in, acclimate to our surroundings, find out where everything is at. Eventually he says that things will get to a point where you’ll be so busy that you have to turn down some opportunities. I look forward to that day. But until, then I’ll be content with where God has me at. I think another lesson God is trying to teach me is that I need to let him bless me as much as he wants. If he didn’t want these blessings to happen, then he would have found a way for me not to be here. Also, he doesn’t bless me because i’ve earned it, he blesses me because he wants to and because he loves me. Help me Lord to simply accept your blessings.
Another facet of all this, is that before the obvious opportunities for missionary activity present themselves, we are trying as a mission team to be open to all the small opportunities to be Christ-like. One instance of this is when Lora & Mark & some of the kids have visited the nursing home next to the convent. The other day when grocery shopping, I had the opportunity to buy lunch for some guy that I met (the same guy I spoke french with). We’ve had several opportunities to pray with people.
Mortification, in many small ways, is another facet of our mission post so far. When God puts you in paradise, expect to love it and to be blessed. But part of our mandate as lay Catholic missionaries is to have compassion. (“Compassion” literally means “to suffer with”.) There has to be some way that we have pain, or struggle, or suffering so that we can grow stronger, and have something to offer up as a prayer for others (just as Christ did). For as it says in Colossians 1:24:
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…”
One of the ways that I’ve done this is with cold showers. The hot water here is heated by solar power (to save electricity). However, this means that in the mornings, when I like to take my showers, there is NO hot water. 🙂 See where I’m headed? Another thing is that a regular old coffee pot that we use back in the states to brew costs over $100U.S. (almost $300E.C. – eastern carribean dollars). So unless a generous donor wants to ship one to us from the U.S., we are drinking instant coffee. For our everyday activities, we have to walk everywhere, no car of our own. My closet door can’t close all the way because of the way it is positioned in my room. We have no dishwasher, our oven is small. I could give you lots of other examples of the many small ways that we have opportunities to “self-mortify”. All in all, I’m glad that we have them, for reasons mentioned earlier. It gives a sense of accomplishment and legitimacy to our mission.
I’d just like to finish up by saying that our first week here has been tremendously blessed so far. Things are falling into place for our ministries and we are making fruitful contact with all the various people we’ll be working with. People are being immensely generous for us, and helping to provide us with all the things we need (including food and groceries to get us started, as well as a local cellphone!) We have a place to stay free of rent, and just have to pay utilities and grocery bills. There are so many good things happening that I can’t even write about them all because it would make this the longest journal entry ever, AND IT’S ONLY THE FIRST WEEK! Everything that is happening is confirming the fact that we are right where God wants us. Mr. Frank even said that never before has a mission post started off with so many things falling into place so easily and quickly. That being said, I am VERY excited about what God has in store for us in the coming weeks and months.
p.s.- Thought the seasponges I found at Vieux Fort (Atlantic side) would make good loofahs. NOT so. Just a bit too rough. They’ll probably make better sink and toilet and shower scrubbers. 🙂
p.s.s. – I should also mention that we have daily access to Mass and Confession (if necessary). 😀 Praise the Lord!