Desert Day – 2/10/12 – alongside a little stream (“arrollo”) just outside of La Puerta, an ejido (“rancho”) of General Cepeda,Coahuila,Mexico– 2:27 p.m.
When I was looking for a place to sit, I knew it would be a challenge since we have so many kids with our group. I told myself I had to find a place where the silence was deafening & where I couldn’t hear any other voices. I found that place. The sun in shining. The sky is clear and blue. A little bush behind me gives me shade to sit in. The stream wanders by lazy and carefree. A gentle breeze keeps me cool. God’s presence is so strong all around me, out here in the beauty of his creation. I can’t imagine being an atheist and not having anyone to thank for this.
Just looked back at my last entry, and it’s been since November 19th that I’ve written in my journal (when we were here for Intake). God has done so much for me in the past 3 months & it’s time to reflect on that. December was a fairly slow month. After the Donor’s Dinner I went back to my parents’ house for the rest of the month. Took that opportunity to visit with friends and family. About mid-December Fr. Bill Melancon, a personal friend of mine, who’s pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes in Erath, gave me the blessing of speaking at all 5 of the weekend Masses. It was fun getting to hang out and catch up with Fr. Bill. Got to spread the word about lay missions. Many of the parishioners were generous and either gave me donations or signed up on my address sheet. I was also able to speak at the LifeTeen meeting after the last Mass on Sunday night. It felt good to reconnect with youth ministry. Later on I was blessed to celebrate Christmas with my family and even got to visit with my nieces who live in the Houston area.
January was the month where A LOT happened. 🙂 And by that, I mean that it was filled with lots of good stuff. New Year’s Day I flew out to South Carolina to visit my cousin Jonathan for a week. Before our visit in September 2010, we hadn’t seen each other in 9 years. We vowed to never wait that long again and are trying to do yearly visits (or in this case, a year and a half). We are two peas in a pod and partners in crime. 🙂 Getting to spend time with him, his wife & son & her family was truly a blessing. I really, really enjoyed my visit and hope we can do it again soon. I was even blessed to be able to visit with his mom, my Aunt Anna, whom I hadn’t seen since my grandpa passed away. Missed her a lot so it was really good to see her too. From South Carolina, I flew to St. Lucia to help lead a one week mission trip. Me and James Franke (FMC’s short term missions coordinator) led a group of 16 students and 1 priest from the Newman Club @ Adelphi University near NYC. They’ve done mission trips with us in the past, and one of their students even spent a month with us last year in St. Lucia for the Summer School of Missionary Evangelism. Getting to lead a short-term mission trip for the first time ever was awesome. It really brings a whole new perspective to mission work. Getting to reconnect with some of the friends we made in St. Lucia last year was another huge bonus. And of course, feeding off of the energy of these students really gave me a boost & helped me to renew my missionary spirit.
Oh yeah, what happened after the St. Lucia trip was quite interesting! 🙂 I flew up to Kalamazoo,MI so that I could go to BentonHarbor, MI. Why, might you ask? Well, a few months prior to that I met a girl named Nina Koziuk on CatholicMatch.com. It’s a Catholic relationship/courtship website where you can set up a profile with a picture, bio, and other info so that you can network with other Catholic singles who feel called to marriage. I had seen their ad online and in church bulletins. I’d even heard from people I know who told me about successful relationships/marriages that came about because of this website. So, being 30, ready for a relationship, with nothing to lose and ALOT to gain, I signed up for the website. Met Nina one night in a group chat room and we really hit it off quite well. We share alot of the same ideas and opinions. We are both involved with ministry, and most importantly we share a passion for our Catholic faith. It’s the most important thing in our lives. After we’d been talking for awhile and realized how well it was going & how much we enjoyed it, we both acknowledged a desire to meet each other. It was the next logical step. As good as it was up to that point, we knew that it had potential and that we needed to meet in person to see if it was real. Yeah, I was nervous, especially when I stepped off the plane in Kalamazoo and realized that in mere minutes I’d be meeting her face-to-face for the first time ever. “No turning back now” and “oh crap” were the two main thoughts running through my head. :-p
I was also worried if meeting her face-to-face would live up to my hopes and expectations. Of course if it didn’t, then better to find out sooner rather than later, after having invested more time and putting my heart out there even more. But PRAISE THE LORD! It lived up to and far exceeded my expectations!!!!!!!!!! 🙂 She is as beautiful in person as she was in her pictures and on Skype video chat. We clicked right away and really got along well. Visiting with her parents was alot of fun and truly a blessing (stayed at their house while Nina stayed at her place). Visiting her other family members and friends , going to the church parish where she works, and ESPECIALLY getting to attend Mass & Eucharistic Adoration together was absolutely amazing. I knew going into this visit that I might come out of it with a girlfriend. All I needed was her dad’s permission and of course for her to say yes! Haha. 🙂 Well both happened and so now I’m proud to say that I’m blessed to be in a relationship with the beautiful, the one and only Nina Koziuk! I know from talking to other missionaries who’ve been in long-term relationships before ending up married that the distance apart is not easy but it is a blessing. I’ve learned that time apart is as important as time together, so I’m really looking forward to what these next few months bring our way.
I guess the last thing to talk about is my new mission post! Exactly one week ago me, Luis (my mission partner), Mr. Frank, Mrs. Genie, and Simon Peter (their son) left for the FMC Casa de Misiones in General Cepeda. Our purpose in coming here was two-fold. First of all, we came to put on a 3 week Intake for the four Mexican missionary families that we have living here in General Cepeda. Three of them have been connected with FMC for many years (Raul & Marta, Tono & Mari, and Gallo & Rita). One of them (Juan & Linda) got connected with us this past year. Our thought was that even though they were already our missionary families we wanted to give them the same blessing that all of our other missionaries (including myself) received from Intake. We wanted them to have talks, studies, and discussions about the Si Senor teachings on the practical aspects of living a missionary life. We wanted them to study the Book of Acts & John Paul II’s encyclical “Missionof the Redeemer”, which is all about the Church and missionary work. Besides them getting to do all of that, we also wanted the four families to form community with each other. I’m blessed to be able to say that it’s already happening. That’s a good thing because we want evangelization and missionary work to continue to thrive here even when there are no full-time FMC missionaries from American stationed here. I personally think that this mission house and these missionaries also have the capability of becoming a training and staging facility for Mexican missionaries to be sent out all over Mexico and Latin America. This Intake is a vital first step in that direction.
Our other purpose in coming here was to install myself and Luis as full-time missionaries. For however long God has us here, this is our house. My four previous trips here have all been short-term trips. This time around is a whole different feel. It’s our home now. These four families are no longer just nice people to visit with during our trips here. Now they are our co-workers in the vineyard. The people we visit and evangelize have a deeper connection with us now that we live here. I think too that me and Luis will have even more time to bond and get settled in here once Intake is over. Once it’s just the two of us living here, we’ll have more of a chance to do things together and bond as a mission team. Needless to say, but I think our first week here has gone really well and the rest of our time will continue to go well for us. There’s so much more I could say, but my hand is getting tired and I don’t have enough pages in my journal. 🙂