Vieux Fort – week 2!

Team Retreat/Mission Trip – Sisters of St. Francis Convent – Vieux Fort, St. Lucia – May 22-June 7, 2011 (week 2)

Since I will be journaling several times a week, and only posting the collections of these entries once a week as a single missionary blog post, I forewarn you that this entry is VERY long. But I do hope you take the time to read it and enjoy the pictures.

link to pictures:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150199882382874.309058.605007873&l=e549cc195e

Day 7 – Sunday, May 29, 2011 – 11:14pm – Upstairs Living Room

Oh man, right now the journaling honeymoon is over and i’m realizing that’s it’s actually work sometimes. It’s like any other ministry I guess. Takes work but in the end the effort is worth it. Well, if I didn’t say anything about Mass, then I’d have to go to confession. So, yeah, we went to Mass. 🙂 Came back, and I uploaded my journal entry from the previous week and my pictures too. Spoke briefly to mom and dad on the phone to wish them a happy anniversary. It’s their 38th, which is amazing. I’m so grateful to the witness their marriage has been to me, and to the stability and foundation it has provided for me. Ate lunch, took a nap. Woke up around 3 and helped Mark, Sister Mary, and some of the kids deliver care packages for the St. Vincent DePaul society. All of the people we brought them to were her regular stops. Took about 2 hours. My whiney little mind was thinkin’ about how exhausting it was and how sweaty I was, but i knew I  needed to help out. Die to myself. And to see the kids and this older sister doing it, I had no other choice. Of course the need of the people we visited also helped to motivate me. Once we got back, I took a shower, and it was a pretty typical remainder of the evening.

“Only on the basis of friendship does a person arrive at the fullness of an interpersonal relationship.” –Cursillos in Christianity: Leader’s Manual–

Today’s gift of the spirit: Fortitude

Psalms 2:7-9

Do what’s right even when it’s hard

Day 8 – Monday, May 30, 2011 – 8:14pm – Upstairs Living Room

I wanted to begin today’s entry by giving thanks and praising God for my parents. Today is their 38th wedding anniversary. Their marriage has been such a witness to me, and has provided me with stability and a strong foundation in my life. Mom and Dad, I love you! Aside from that bit of good news, today was still a really good day. There was no morning Mass so I got to sleep in a little bit, 6am instead of 4am. ha! After morning prayer, me and Mark returned to Ms. Bibi’s house to finish up our work on her roof. We covered the rest of the screws on the metal roof with the tar-backed aluminum tape and also covered some long seams as well. Came back home and got some good reading time in. Went upstairs, watched some TV and then check email. After lunch, we went to the beach, this time on the Atlantic side. Lemme tell you that it was MUCH better! No horse poop, marijuana, or treacherous walking trails. In fact, the walk was really nice because most of the route there is along the highway and there’s a wide grassy shoulder that we walk on and it puts us far from the cars. The beach itself is much nicer too because there’s much more sandy area where you can lay down or sit. The water itself, also beautiful-er. 🙂 Really nice and clear. Gorgeous blue/green. And the waves were much bigger too. On the Atlantic side you get much more wind and current. After a quick dip on the water, I laid in the sun for a half hour. Was feeling very relaxed and enjoyin it. Then I decided to get my daily exercises done at the beach since I didn’t know if I’d get a chance once we got back home. The good thing too was that as soon as I finished my exercises I jumped in the water to rinse off. Walked up and down the beach for another half hour, and then we began our trek back home. Stopped first at the lumberyard to pick up some 2×4’s that we’re using to build a ramp for Moses, a paraplegic that we met last week. So, then, imagine two grown men, carrying some 2×4’s on their shoulder, with 7 kids in tow. Strange sight, I know. Then picture 1 of the men, sitting in the grass with all but 2 of the kids and the 2×4’s waiting for the other man and the other kids to grab some things from the grocery store. Yeah, I know. Definitely a sight to see and experience only in missions. Made our way home, showered, ate a snack, did some reading, and then we headed to 6:30 Mass, which turned out to be a communion service. I was particularly proud of Sister Mary because she went to get Ms. Bibi from her house and bring her to Mass. After Mass we came home, I changed my clothes and ate some supper, and then settled down to read those chapters from Job. I also began reading a new book: Love & Responsibility, by Karol Cardinal Wojtyla (Blessed Pope John Paul II). I’m not far into the book, but judging by what I’ve already read tonight and after looking at the table of contents, I think i’m gonna REALLY like this book. It’s all about love and sexuality and the responsibilities that come with it.

“Personal prayer is dealing in a friendly way alone with the One whom we know loves us; not a matter of thinking much, but of loving much.” –Cursillos in Christianity: Leader’s Manual–

Singing “Come Lord Jesus” to begin our retreat sharing time, I also happen to be glancing at my Star of David tatoo. Can’t help but think how in my personal life I often feel like the Jews did as they waited for the Messiah. I feel a bit like they did as they begged and prayed for his coming, and I continue to do so.

Just finished reading the latest book I’ve been reading, “Cursillos in Christianity: Leader’s Manual” & I thorougly enjoyed it. The thrust of the book is to seek those who are natural leaders in their environments and help them to become CHRISTIAN leaders in their natural environments. It’s a great thing for me to be studying during my missionary work.

Note to self: gotta think about 10 things that I’m thankful for here in missions.

At the recommendation of Mr. Frank, I’ve started reading the book of Job. His recommendation came after a recent conversation in which I was relating to him the various difficulties of being a first year missionary. I only got to the first two chapters tonight. Get this: at the beginning of his misfortunes his 500 oxen and 500 donkeys are stolen and the servants attending them are killed. It gets better. A firestorm from the sky kills his 7000 sheep and the servants attending them. Then his 3000 camels were stolen and the servants attending them were killed. Finally, all  10 of his kids were killed when strong winds destroyed the house they were in. You know what Job’s final response was to all of this? “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Mr. Frank, point well-taken. 🙂

Day 9 – Tuesday, May 31, 2011 – 8:17pm – Upstairs Living Room

Not much to say about today. We were supposed to go to Moses (paraplegic) and Annette’s house to build a wood ramp. When we got there and started talking about what we were gonna do, she asked us to wait and see if we could do a concrete ramp instead, since it would last alot longer. At first I didn’t know if it would work, or would we have the time or the money to do it. But, alot of times, things get done when people don’t accept no for an answer. This was one of those cases. Annette just wouldn’t let go of the idea, so me and Mark said we’d talk to Sister Mary and see what could be done. Long story short, we’ve secured all the ingredients we need for teh concrete and we already have the wood to frame the pour mold. Looks like we’ll be going back tomorrow to get it done. Supposedly a guy from town is gonna come and help get us started by showing us how to mix it and in what proportions.

“Man’s capacity for love depends on his willingness consciously to seek a good together with others, and to subordinate himself to that good for the sake of others, or to others for the sake of that good.”
–Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

“Sexual morality comes into being not only because persons are aware of the purpose of sexual life, but also because they are aware that they are persons. The whole problem of ‘using’ as the antithesis of love is connected with this knowledge of theirs.” –Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

“Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?”
–Job 4:6–

So today’s reading from Job (ch. 3 & 4) are more familiar to me. Job laments his misfortunes to the point of cursing the day of his birth. Although I’ve never arrived at cursing the day of my birth, I have much too easily lamented my misfortunes instead of trusting in God. I think I like chapter 3 because it shows me that even really holy people are human like the rest of us. It also inspires me because it also proves that “all the rest of us” have the ability to be like “them”. Chapter 4 was also encouraging because his friend Eliphaz gave him words and witness to lift him up.

“Although the sexual urge is there for man to use, it must never be used in the absence of, or worse still, in a way which contradicts, love for the person.”
–Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

10 things I’m thankful for in St. Lucia
1.) beach days
2.) rainy weather
3.) the breeze
4.) constant access to Jesus’ Eucharistic presence
5. )the opportunity to more fully discern my vocation to marriage by living with and learning from a large  family
6.) visits with the elderly
7.) numerous opportunities each day for prayer and reading
8.) our friends from church and the surrounding neighborhood
9.) having manual labor to keep our hands occupied and as a way to bless others
10.) learning to appreciate all the small blessings of life

Today’s gift of the spirit: Knowledge
-Divine knowledge is revealed to us by God
-helps us to differentiate between what is and isn’t consistent with the faith
-only one truth
-prevents us from being mislead in the faith

“The established order of human existence, as of existence in general, is the work of the Creator, and not a work completed once and for all at some moment in the dim past of the universe, but a work continually in progress.”
–Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

Day 10 – Wednesday, June 1, 2011 – 8:48pm – Upstairs Living Room

Today got off to a pretty good start. As I was waiting here for Mark to walk Lora to the resale shop (run by Vieux Fort Children’s Society), one of Sister Mary’s friends called and said she was coming by. Homegirl dropped off a bag full of the little love apples. They’re small apples that are shaped like pears. Quite humbling to see how the people around here, who have only known us for a week treat us like we’ve lived here our whole lives. They’re very friendly and they’re generous too, even though they don’t have a whole lot extra. When Mark got back around 9:30ish, we walked over to Moses’ house and began working on the ramp. We didn’t actually pour the concrete today, but Mark built the wooden mold-form into which we’ll pour the concrete. A little bit before lunch time, Ms. Annette (Moses’ mom) said she would fix lunch for us. Knowing that they don’t have much money to spare because of Moses’ medical expenses, we were VERY hesitant to accept. But then we remember that part of being a missionary was to gratefully accept all the ways that our poor brothers and sisters want to bless us. We have to allow people the blessing of being able to bless us. They’re like the poor lady in the Bible who gave her last two coins. She didn’t give much, but because she was poor and because it was all she had, that is precisely why it was such a blessing. Lunch was actually quite good. She made some rice and cooked up some tuna and onions with some yellow tomato slices on the side.

About an hour after lunch we finished our work for the day. Yet another example of God not calling me to be super productive or successful. I didn’t really DO a whole lot. Yeah, I cut a few pieces of wood. But Mark did most of the work. My time was not for naught though. Just being out there, sacrificing my own desires to serve someone else was a blessing to me. Helped me to learn more how to try and put others before myself. The other thing I noticed today was that I continue to struggle with adjusting to life with all these kids. God-willing, I might even have this many one day. So yeah, this is a wonderful learning experience. But i’m still adjusting. It wasn’t that they did anything out of the ordinary. I think it was just that for some reason I really noticed the tension between the kids learning how to behave towards someone who is an outsider and learning how to respect that person and his space, while on the other hand that outsider (me) learning patience in dealing with and raising children as well as the need to compromise on things that are not of dire importance. It’s not easy for them to learn how to behave towards me and me towards them, but it’ll come. Only a matter of time. And in the end, we’ll all be better off because of it.

Seems like I’ve also been having alot of opportunities this week to share with friends and family back home about my mission work.  I never realized how much someone taking an interest in my work would be a blessing to me.

“The Creator’s will is not only the preservation of the species by way of sexual intercourse but also its preservation on the basis of a love worthy of human persons.”
–Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

“There exists a joy which is consonant both with the nature of the sexual urge and with the dignity of humans persons, a joy which results from collaboration, from mutual understanding and the harmonious realization of jointly chosen aims, in the broad field of action which is love between man and woman. This joy […] may be bestowed either by the great variety of pleasures connected with differences of sex, or by the sexual enjoyment which conjugal relations can bring. The Creator designed this joy, and linked it with love between man and woman in so far as that love develops on the basis of the sexual urge in a normal manner, in other words in a manner worthy of human persons.”
–Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

“Sexual morality and therefore conjugal morality consists of a stable and mature synthesis of nature’s purpose with the personalistic norm.”
–Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

“If there is intimate cooperation between the man and the woman in a marriage, and if they are able to educate and compliment each other, their love matures to the point of which it is the proper basis for a family.”
–Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

Day 11 – Thursday, June 2, 2011 – 10:08pm – Upstairs Living Room

When you rely on an alarm clock, you should probably make sure it’s on before you go to sleep. It’s a lesson I re-learned today. Usually when I wake up early, i’m rested well enough but still feel a little bit tired. Oh, and it’s dark outside. Well today, I thought it odd when I woke up and before I opened my eyes I thought “I feel REALLY well rested. I wonder why?”. And then I open my eyes and see the light (literally), and then have that “oh crap” moment, and look over at my clock to see that it’s 5:48. I hear people outside my door, and I throw on some shorts, peek out the door, and tell them that I must have slept through my alarm. So, instead of going to 6am morning Mass, I took a shower, and had some personal prayer time in the chapel. Even when I go to bed really late I usually am able to wake up early anyways. But, I know that with some better time management and getting to bed a little earlier I can avoid mornings like this morning altogether. The only other notable thing was the laid back day I had today. Now, if you’ve been following my blog the past two weeks, then you know the whole time here has been laid back. More of a retreat atmosphere. But, we did a little more work project stuff this week compared to last week. And I fully expected today to be working on something. But Mark said that he was gonna have some of the kids help him paint Ms. Bibi’s house. I knew that there were only so many rollers and paintbrushes to go around. I also knew that Mark was looking for more ways to get the kids involved with our mission work. So, I jumped at the chance and decided to stay home and get some good reading and journaling time in. Checked my email, and then had some more reading time. Speaking of, it’s funny how when you’re reading a really good book it’s not hard at all to find time to read. Such is the case with me right now.

“To be attracted does not mean just thinking about some person as a good, it means a commitment to think of that person as a certain good, and such a commitment can in the last resort be effected only by the will.” –Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

(The above quote reminds me of the saying “Love is a choice not an emotion”)

Today’s gift of the Spirit: Piety
-makes us more sensitive to God’s guidance
-fills us with eagerness to do works of mercy
-Ruth 1:16-17
-a virtue that governs our behavior at all times

“Unrequited love is condemned first to stagnation in the person who feels it, then to gradual extinction. Sometimes, indeed, as it dies it causes the very capacity for love to die together with it.”
–Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

“The structure of Love is that of an interpersonal communion.”
–Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

I’ve noticed that as an American, I’m used to having a full belly when I eat. Today at lunch, I knew what I ate was enough even though I didn’t feel full. But taking for granted the luxury and feeling of a full belly, I found myself trying to graze and stuff myself a little further. Eventually I got a hold of myself and realized that I’m a missionary and part of being a missionary is solidarity with the poor. And if that means not having the full belly and having to experience a little of what it’s like not to have an abundance of food, then so be it. Fasting is also a good way to be able to pray and offer up your discomfort for others. (sidenote: While I didn’t gorge myself or engage in the sin of gluttony at supper, I definitely stuffed myself a little fuller than at lunch time. Seems like this might be my next area of growth to focus on.)

Day 12 – Friday, June 3, 2011 – 8:27pm – Upstairs Living Room

The busier you are, the faster time goes by. That’s today’s theme. Left with Sister Mary at 8:30 to go to an elementary school in Micoud to assist her with Religious Knowledge testing. It’s an apostolate she’s developed and administered in her time here, and it gives the teachers, schools, and the archdiocese an idea of what kids know and what they need to learn in regards to the Catholic faith. Sister put me upstairs with 2nd grade (i think) and she had all the kids downstairs. After I finished collecting the written tests upstairs, I went downstairs to help her finish up. I sat down at a table and one-by-one a kid would come to me with his/her test, and I would ask them to make the sign of the cross and then say the hail mary. Even if they only got some of the answer correct, they still got half credit. Then we walked down to the bus stop and went back to the convent in Vieux Fort to catch a quick lunch. Hopped on the 12:30 bus to Castries for the Vocations Committee meeting. Got there with about 20 minutes to spare. At the meeting we had a post-mortem review of the Vocations Rally in May. Talked about what worked, what didn’t, what more we can do, and what we can change. Got a chance to talk to Sav (archbishop’s secretary) after our meeting and she said they’re still “processing” our visas. Told me to call her in 2-3 weeks to either have her tell me that they’re ready, or to get some kind of documentation from her saying that my visa application is being processed. If my visa isn’t ready, I need to have this documentation available in case the airport asks for it. That way I don’t have to pay any extra taxes or fees. Chances are, with the way I’ve noticed God working in my life as a missionary, the visa won’t be ready until RIGHT before I go back to the States in July. For whoever reads this, please please please say a quick prayer that our visas would get approved soon. So then we hopped on a bus back to Vieux Fort (about an hour, hour 15 to get back). Got home, took a quick shower, changed clothes, and then we went to First Friday Mass at 6:30. I really enjoyed the day. I know God allows me to have slow days for a reason, but I feel so much more productive and less lazy when the days are busy. Speakin’ of being busy, I think me and Mark are going back to Moses and Annette’s house to pour the concrete for his wheelchair ramp. Oh, and I just realized for the first time this week that I have no quotes or wise sayings to offer! 🙂

Day 13 – Saturday, June 4, 2011 – 9:54pm – Upstairs Living Room

Day started off pretty well. Slept in a bit because there’s no morning Mass on Saturdays here. Didn’t take a shower, cuz i knew that I’d be gettin all sweaty doin laundry and other possible work activities. After breakfast I decided to handwash my laundry again. Not that I’d wanna do it every week since we have a washer at our house in Castries, but I do kinda like it. It’s one of those voluntary sacrifices that I don’t mind. Gives me something to do. Helps me get back to the basics of life without technology. Helps me to get a feel for what it’s like for most people in this country when they do their laundry. About 2/3 of the way through doing my laundry, right when my hands were sopping wet, is when Mark decides to call. He said he’d call when he and the local guy he hired started pouring the concrete. So, after I finished my laundry, I went over to Moses and Annette’s to check it out and take a few pictures. It was another instance of me not needing to be there, in a utilitarian sense, but still wanting to be there. The very fact that I was there meant I was sacrificing a little bit of ease and convenience. It was also a good chance to take some pictures of the work Mark was doing and see the final product of his/our hard work during the week. While Mark and Ed were working on the ramp. These two really slick-dressed guys come in the house and briefly talk to Moses, and then leave. Nice guys, and very polite. But, as they’re about to walk in, Mark casually asks them what church they are with, and they reply “Seventh Day Adventists”. Not what we wanted to hear.

Now, I have to say first that at least they were Christian. And just the fact that they were out and about was a witness to us about the lengths we should go to evangelize. However (there’s always a however when Sidney tells a story about slickly dressed Seventh Day Adventists), I still wasn’t happy that they came. First of all, they didn’t go to any other house, and I know this because I saw them come straight to the house, and then saw them after they left. I felt like they purposefully went to the house of the guy who is paraplegic and cannot choose to not receive them. He can’t “get away” from them because he is basically bed-ridden. They knew they had a captive audience, whether he wanted to be or not. Another reason I wasn’t happy is because Seventh Day Adventists do NOT like Catholics. Among many other issues they have with us, they think having Sunday as the Sabbath is sinful. And regardless of what denomination you are, if you worship on a Sunday as your weekly Sabbath, it means they’re not very fond of you. But, when I was telling Sister Mary that story, I told her “if you look at what they did and then you look at what Mark as doing for him, I think he knew who really cared for him and was taking care of him.” Only other highlight of the day was finally getting a fan for my bedroom! 🙂 Sister Francis had basically set aside a fan to be thrown away because she thought it overheated when using it one time and that it was broken. Bottom line, worked fine and nothing was wrong with it. So, I had the first “sopping-wet-with-sweat-free” nap since I left Castries. Funny thing though, is that I’ve become so accustomed to the heat and sweat while sleeping in my bedroom here, that I think I can sleep without a fan on if I have to. Small milestone that helps me to feel more legit as a missionary.

“….sentimental love is very often a cause of disillusionment. Disillusionment where the woman is concerned may come with the discovery as time goes by that the man’s sentiment is only a sort of screen for concupiscence or for the will to use another. Man and woman alike may be disillusioned to find that the values ascribed to the beloved person are fictitious.”
–Love and Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

“The process of integrating love (making love whole) relies on the primary elements of the human spirit–freedom and truth.”
–Love and Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

“The experience of freedom goes hand in hand with the experience of truth.”
–Love and Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

“Freedom exists for the sake of love.”
–Love and Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

“….man longs for love more than for freedom — freedom is the means and love the end.”
–Love and Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

Day 14 – Sunday, June 5, 2011 – 11:21am – Upstairs Living Room

So I dunno if I’ll journal anymore after today, but I wanted to write down some great advice I received from a missionary priest that I met this morning after 9am Mass. 1.) Stay connected to your mission partners and the people you serve. You are not in a 9-5 job. Do not isolate yourself. 2.) Pray and you will be saved. Pray in order to stay connected and have a relationship with the Lord. 3.)Let go of the small things and don’t let them bother you or get on your nerves. 4.) Love the people. They are wounded and hurt. The way they will be lead to God is not by finger wagging or the finer points and minutiae of doctrine, but by a good LOVING life and example you set. Jesus loves you so you LOVE them. 5.) Be joyful. Smile. Come out of yourself. 6.) Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

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