Posts Tagged With: Carribean

Vieux Fort Retreat – Week 1

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

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.

here’s the link to my picture album on facebook, you might need to copy and paste it into your broswer.

Day 1 – Monday, May 23, 2011 – 9:00pm – Upstairs Living Room

I’m sitting here, writing this at the end of our first full day here. We arrived here yesterday around mid-afternoon and spent the afternoon getting settled in, cooking supper, and discussing with the sisters some of the things we would be involved with while we are here. Supper was delicious, and I think God multiplied our pasta, because there’s no way I’d have thought one pan of pasta would be enough to feed 5 adults and 10 kids, but somehow it did. I also really enjoyed chatting with Sr. Francis. We chatted yesterday and today about all kinds of things: ministry, culture, missionary work, etc… It’s nice to have somebody that I can talk to and discuss things. After night prayer, me, Sister Francis and some of the kids played Rummikub, a board game based off of the card game rummy. It’s an opportunity we had because of not having as much access to the internet here. Back at the Marian Home, we basically have unlimited internet because of the wireless signal we get from the sisters upstairs. And although we try and limit ourselves in our usage of it, inevitably you devote a little more time to that instead of devoting a little more time to ministry and fellowship. So, that was a nice change of pace. I think it will also help me to appreciate the contact I do have with family and friends. Since I won’t have it as much, I’ll appreciate it more. I’ll also be better able to enter into the “retreat” aspect of our time here. Ended up getting to bed around 10 o’clock (early for me). That was also due to not having as much internet access, thus not putting off getting the rest that I need. And believe me I need it since I wake up at 4am. (4:30 back at the Marian Home). I have to wake up that early so that I can get in my personal prayer time and Scripture reading before I take a shower, get dressed, and then go to morning Mass.

Today was a really nice day too. Woke up refreshed, enjoyed my personal prayer and Scripture reading time in the chapel downstairs (which has a tabernacle with Jesus Body and Blood! 🙂 ), and then joined the sisters in their morning prayer before we went to 6am Mass. (It was actually a communion service and will be the same tomorrow, since the priest is out until Wed. morning). After breakfast and morning prayer, me and Mark walked with Sister Francis on her way to a lab appt. and then headed off to the Super J (grocery store chain) to get a few things. Saw alot of locals and their streetside “market” where they sold all kinds of diff. fruits, veggies, and other things they grow. Passed by the local independence monument, and kicked myself for leaving behind my camera, although it’s such a small town and easy to navigate that I’m pretty sure I’ll pass by it again. After we walked home, we decided on a whim to go to the beach for a short while, about an hour. Besides wanting to go to the beach, we wanted to investigate our beach options. Since Vieux Fort is literally at the southern tip of the island, when you look out the west side of the house, you see the Carribean, and when you look at the east side, you see the Atlantic. Today, we checked out the beaches on the Carribean side. First off, I gotta say that we enjoyed our time at the beach. The kids were able to swim and play in the sand. I was able to take a dip in the water a few times and got to lay down and catch some sun. However, it was definitely a missionary beach experience, not a ritzy touristy one. Our trek that led us to our spot on the beach led us past rocks, pieces of junk and trash (litter is a big problem in St. Lucia), and some less than ideal walking spaces for such a large group. One of the guys that gave Mark directions on how to get to our beach spot had the world’s largest joint in his hand. At one point on the path, we walked past a free roaming horse and her baby (forget what horse babies are called). And I’m pretty sure I caught the scent of horse poo several times while we were at the beach. Like I said, it was both enjoyable AND interesting.

Made our way back to the convent, did my daily workout and took a shower, and had a pretty normal remainder of the day. Aside from our normal routine, one of the things Sister Mary did was to introduce us to some young girls nearby. She’s going to have some of the older kids help the girls with tutoring and I think she also wants these local girls to have someone to visit with, as I’m sure they dont’ get that very often. Me, and 3 of the Eckstines also accompanied Sister Mary to a planning meeting for a fundraiser for the Vieux Fort Children’s Society. It’s a non profit that has been formed with the hopes of starting a children’s home. Currently, the only children’s home on the island is in Castries (in the north), so the kids down here that are homeless, abandoned, come from abusive homes, etc… have nowheres to turn to. The meeting was a perfect example of Mother Theresa’s saying “God calls us to be faithful, not successful.” Of course there were some minor details discussed that pertained to us, but 99% of our time there was spent watching and listening and doing nothing at all. I wanted to go because I had nothing else to do and wanted to spend my time as a missionary doing something constructive instead of being lazy. Another reason I was called there was to test my patience. I think too that aside from learning that and some other things from the people that were there, that hopefully they too were able to learn from our witness and presence. Came home after that, ate supper, and then did night prayer as well as some more retreat reflections and discussions.

The two themes that seemed to stand out today were Joy and God’s Guidance. Our scripture for God’s Guidance was 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5, & the passage that related to Joy came from our morning prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. The summary of my thoughts on God’s Guidance was “God will send us brothers and sisters in Christ who can strengthen our faith and He will direct our hearts to his love and Christ’s steadfastness.” In regards to Joy I wrote “If we welcome the Word of God into our hearts and seek after the right values, we will have abiding & eternal joy.” Then during our night prayer tonight 7 of us were a assigned a gift of the Spirit to read, pray, and reflect upon. I chose the gift of Wisdom, which is something I yearn for and which fascinates me. I found some great references (Wisdom 6:12-16 & CCC #474) and my nugget of wisdom was that “true wisdom comes from God & helps us to make good use of knowledge and understanding.” To demonstrate it, I came up with the following analogy: Knowledge is the certainty that the sun is bright and hot. Understanding is realizing it is that way because it is a gigantic ball of burning gas that emits heat and radiation. Wisdom is the ability to use that Knowledge and Understanding to warm ourselves, see where we’re going, or get a tan.

Day 2 – Tuesday, May 24, 2011 – 9:12pm – Upstairs Living Room

Really enjoyed the day today. The rain stopped us from taking a walk around town this morning. We were also gonna take a walk by the lumberyard to see what materials were available for the work we need to do on the blind lady’s house. Ended up staying home all morning and doing alot of journalling and some reading. Ate lunch and took a nap. Woke up, prayed the chaplet and then we walked around town just to explore and familiarize ourselves. Got to see the Indepence memorial monument. Then did my workout and took a shower before supper. Had two different times today that we did our “retreat” portion of the day. So far, I’m really diggin’ this retreat aspect of our time here.

The gift of the spirit that I had to report on was Wisdom. True wisdom comes from God (CCC #474) and helps us to make good use of knowledge and understanding. Reference Wisdom 6:12-16, Sirach 39, 2 Peter 1:4, Galatians 5:2-23, and Proverbs 2:1-15. Wisdom is being a good steward of God’s gifts in your life. Wisdom is know what to do with what you got. We need to be docile to the Spirit (malleable, flexible too).

Ministry reflection questions: 1.) What are my primary ministries? 2.)How are they going? 3.) Is what you’re doing what you thought you’d be doing?

1.) My ministries are primariliy visiting with the elderly at 4 different nursing homes, as well as having a ministry of prayer.

2.) They are going well. Both of them seem to fit well with my personality and gifts that God has given me. The necessity of both is evident. The elderly need someone to pray and visit with them. They need to know that they are cared for and not forgotten. My own life and spiritual journey, as well as the needs we encounter show me that my ministry of prayer is also important. I’m able to visit the Marian Home, St. Lucy Home, Adelaide Home, and Missionaries of Charity Home each week. Some of them I’m able to visit multiple times per week. On a typical day, my prayer ministry includes personal prayer in the morning (meditation, scripture, and intercessory prayer), Mass, grace at meals, morning prayer, Eucharistic Adoration, the Angelus, Noonday prayer, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and Night Prayer.  At first I thought that I prayed alot because I wasn’t yet busy with what God really wanted me to do. But then it occurred tome that I’m supposed to pray because without prayer, which is my connection to God, which is how I receive God’s grace, there will not be much fruit that’s born in my life and in the lives of all for whom I pray and with whom I am connected.

3.) What I’m doing is NOT what I thought I’d be doing. I thought I would be teaching in a school and leading a youth group at a church. However, i’m not disappointed that this has happened. I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy the ministries I do, and how much I’m motivated to do them.

Random Reflection:

I’ll spare you the details, but I’m in need of the sacrament of confession. It looks like that won’t happen until tomorrow since the priest is out ’till then. I’m so used to having this sacrament readily available as soon as I need/want it. That has been a huge blessing for me. On the other hand, being in a situation where it’s not as readily available really makes the priest shortage so much more real to me. It also gives me an increased appreciation for the priests we do have, as well as helping me to appreciate all those who support and promote vocations. And since this time of retreat and prayer cannot be put on hold until I’m able to receive absolution, I have to deal with it the best that I can. I’m forced to live with and reflect on the tension created in my life and soul that results from choosing sin over God. I have to live with not having the peace of heart and soul that I could have. It also increases my desire to restore right relationship with God. Another thing I’ve realized is that it has almost forced me to confide in the protection and intercession of the angels, saints, and Mother Mary to protect me and guide me until I can receive the sacrament of confession and not be at risk of dying in a state of mortal sin.

The whole experience has also humbled me. It seems like my thoughts, reflections, and journaling is the best it’s been in quite awhile. My first guess as to why this is happening is because whenever I’m not in a state of mortal sin, a subtle form of pride creeps in. I allow myself to rest easy. “It’s ok. I’m in God’s grace. No danger for me. I feel at peace. I like not having to worry.” Yes, God wants us to have peace, but the Bible also tells us that we have to always be vigilant on our spiritual journey. The moment we relax too much, lose focus, and think that we have “arrived”, that marks the beginning of our downfall. So in a paradoxical and ironic sort of way, I realize my need for God and his mercy while I’m in this state of mortal sin. And I think this has allowed me to receive the humility that has allowed my thoughts, reflections, and journaling to be what they have been thus far. And while I’m discussing sin, it also occurred to me how many of our battles with sin occur because of giving ourselves excuses to do so. Under the guise of false concern, a defeatist attitude, or some other weak reason, we give ourselves permission to indulge in sin by not fighting against it.

One of these excuses, which is itself a sin, is the sin of presumption. It’s the sin whereby we presume that God will forgive us for what we are about to do. In other words with this sin we say “God forgive me for what I’m about to do, because I’ve already sinned and I might as well do this too since I have to go to confession later anyways.” Besides selfishly distorting God’s grace and mercy for our purposes, this also means we’ve fallen victim to the lie that when we’ve fallen into sin, all hope is lost & there’s nothing good we can possibly do. True, we have separated ourselves from God by our own choice to sin. But, we are still his child and we also still have angels & saints as well as our own brothers & sisters here on earth to put us on the right track again and assist us in doing good works. This is one area where for the first time, I feel like I was able to make some progress. In spite of my intial choice to commit mortal sin, I feel like I’ve been able to choose not to add sin to sin. It feels really good. I have a hunch that if God’s grace has allowed me to advance to this stage, then I’m really close to conquering this particular sin permanently.

Day 3 – Wednesday, May 25, 2011 – 8:27pm – Upstairs Living Room

Today started off differently than I had hoped it would. Sister told us Sunday that we’d have communion services Monday and Tuesday since the priest was out, but Mass would resume today. Well, I get to “Mass” and out walks the same layman that officiated the communion service the previous two mornings. He begins by telling us that the priest missed his plane. I hope the priest is ok, and my second thought was I sure hope he comes back tomorrow. The rest of the morning was low key. Mark and Lora went to the resale shop run by the Vieux Fort Children’s Society and did some other errands. I stayed home and watched the kids. About 10:00, the little kids were being too noisy and woke up the baby. So, of course he’s cranky and not happy with the world. Ellie tried holding him, I tried. And when he was trying to throw a tantrum, I tried quieting him, even spanked him a couple times. He finally calmed down a bit, but I could tell he just needed to get back to bed. So, after imposing threat of “getting in trouble with mommy and daddy” to get the littles to be quiet, I began my odyssey of getting the baby to sleep. I don’t have much experience with kids, but this one sure does fight the sleep. I sang the chaplet. He calmed way down, and his eyes even got a little droopy. But, now and then, he’d get a little whiney. So I finally decided to lay him down in his bed. Had to keep a hand on him, not so much to hold him down but moreso to reassure him that someone was there. He’s one of those babies that always has to have some kind of contact in order to not be whiney or fussy when trying to put him down for a nap. So, after at least 30 minutes of tahtah-ing him and reading a book to pass the time, he FINALLY zonked out. Praise The Lord! The only other thing really notable about the day we me and Mark walking to the lumberyard/hardware store. Yeah, I know, that’s how you can tell i’m a missionary on retreat. When the highlight of my day is walking to the lumberyard! 🙂 We needed to check out their materials and prices so we could get an idea of what we were lookin’ at to be able to fix up that blind lady’s roof so it didn’t leak. Mark figured $200EC (approx. $70US), which is not bad at all.

My first spiritual nugget of the day was a quote from the book “Cursillos in Christianity: Leader’s Manual”. It states “….it is not likely that a person will love God unless he prays to him, unless he spends some time with Him as a person. It is the same with any personal relationship. Two people have to spend some time together or they will not develop a friendship and a love. The friendship will be broader than just the time they spend together. It will begin to penetrate all of their lives the deeper it becomes. But it is the time together that is indispensable for the forming of the bond.” I was drawn to this quote for 2 reason. First of all, it opened my eyes on how to approach my relationship with God. Do I really talk with God and spend time with Him everyday? Or do I just mentally acknowledge his presence, rattle off a few prayers, and call that a relationship? Second of all, it brought a whole new meaning to my discernment of marriage, and the process of friendship and dating that precedes engagement and marriage. It speaks to me of the importance of forming a friendship, a truly loving friendship that brings joy and happiness, and is centered on God. I also see in it the importance of devoting time to that special person. Of course, as a missionary, any friendships that I begin to form now will be long distance. But I feel like I can devote the time necessary to nurture these friendships, both in prayer and in conversation. Online chatting and video chat programs make it much easier to have some good face time. And in God’s time, I’ll have some actual face-to-face encounters as well.

Today’s gift of the Spirit was Understanding. During Ellie’s presentation of this gift, I came away with some good tidbits. I discovered that it is an intimate knowledge of God. Not just knowledge, but INTIMATE knowledge. (ref. Proverbs 2:3-13). Understanding will guard you. Understanding helps us to see what God is not; helps us to have a deep and abiding peace; helps us to be at peace with the mystery in life and to savor the mystery. I especially like the part about “deep and abiding peace”.

Well, I gotta go. Need to get MagicJack running on my computer so Sister Mary can make some phone calls home to the states. Then, gotta get back online and do some more researching of plane ticket prices.

Day 4 – Thursday, May 26, 2011 – 8:27pm – Upstairs Living Room

So, I’ve discovered that there are two reasons to not worry too much about what you’re going to do on any given day as a missionary. For one thing, it helps you to trust God and just be at peace with whatever he brings to you. It also saves you the trouble of saying that you’re gonna do something and then having to explain later why you didn’t do it! 🙂 Today was one of those days where I shoulda done that. It started off VERY well. I had been needing to go to confession since Monday, and as I mentioned earlier in the week, i was expecting Father to be back for Mass on Wed. morning. Well, since he missed his plane, I had to wait until this morning. He was very accomodating and agreed to hear my confession after Mass, and then even came over and met the rest of the mission team. We were also blessed to visit with Peter Fevrier this morning. He works for the Family & Life Secretariat here in the Archdiocese and was instrumental in getting us set up here with the sisters in Vieux Fort. Since the first day we arrived we were expecting him to come and visit with us. Today he finally made it here (he’s been VERY busy). I was thinking the whole purpose of him coming was purely practical. Maybe he was going to help us purchase supplies to work on Ms. Bibi’s leaking roof, or bring us food, or something like that. And while we did take a minute or two to briefly discuss practical matters, most of his visit was exactly that, just visiting. We must have spent almost an hour just talking about different aspects of pro-life ministry and things that are coming up soon. It was good just to sit there and visit with him, not have an agenda, and be blessed by his witness and enthusiasm. Later in the morning Mark mentioned that he and Lora would go by Ms. Bibi’s house sometime after lunch with the ladder to make some last minute assesments and then me and him would go to the lumberyard to get the materials we needed. Well, the rain changed those plans. Mark went to Ms. Bibi’s, by himself, without the ladder. And by the time he got back, the lumberyard was about to close, so we didn’t go. An unexpected blessing that I did receive came later in the evening. Sister Mary took me and Mark to visit a quadriplegic guy named Moses. He was probably close to my age. We briefly talked with his mom about building a ramp from their front steps out to the street, so getting him in and out would not be as difficult. Got to talk to him a little bit too. Understandably he wasn’t extremely talkative, but he wasn’t shy either. Sister even said that she was surprised at how talkative he actually was. I’m guessing he’s normally very quiet. Maybe having some guys there kinda made him feel at home and loosened him up a bit. I know Mark is the brains of the construction type of work, but i’m hoping to get a chance to just go and visit with him before we leave.

Our retreat time was good today, but we didn’t do quite as much as I thought we would. Can’t really explain why, except that it’s how rhythm of the day unfolded. In his homily this morning, father mentioned that “a wounded animal is the most dangerous. it’s desperate and has nothing to lose”. During our retreat time, Mark recalled this and posed the question to us: “how have we hurt or wounded each other?” Then as the discussion veered towards summer plans and what we would need for them to happen, Mark reminded us of Mr. Frank saying that we have to keep in touch with our donors, that way they can donate to us and so they can be blessed by our sharing and testimony. As Mark talked to the kids about whether or not they would be able to go to faith camp, he mentioned that if the Lord says no, then it’s a good thing. I echoed that by telling the kids how when God has said no to my heart’s desire (a loving relationship with a girl) he has blessed me with the incredible experiences of seminary and living life as a foreign missionary. Then I kinda reflected on all the wonderful things going on in my life right now, and realized that I am in a season of blessing. 🙂

Day 5 – Friday, May 27, 2011 – 9:34pm- Upstairs Living Room

Today was quite the day. Our team retreat this morning was really really good. The catalyst for the conversation was a question about how can things be improved. And that basically launched me and Mark on some really good reflections about what is so challenging about missions specifically for each one of us, and some of the things we hope to see happen in the next few months. It was very much a blessing to see Mark open up like he did, and Lora had some really good input too. I think it was the first time since we’ve been here that the three adults have really just laid it all out on the table. It’s not that we don’t like each other, but we’re at diff. stages in life and still learning how to interact with each other. None of us is particularly outspoken, so it’s hard for us to just come out and say stuff. We also finally got over to Ms. Bibi’s house to start fixing her leaky roof. She’s the blind lady I mentioned earlier in the week. After Mark assessed the situation, and even went there yesterday when it was raining, he couldn’t tell exactly where it was supposedly leaking from. So we bought some tar-backed aluminum tape, and covered the holes and seams that we could. We’ll probably go back in the next few days with another roll or two to see how much more we can do. Got some really good action pics and got a pic of me and Mark with Ms. Bibi too. Me and Mark also got the chance to visit Moses again. I hung out with Moses and chatted while Mark made some measurements for the ramp out front and went around the house while the mother showed Mark a few other things. It was really good to chat with Moses. I felt like just being there as a Christian and as a friend was helpful. Not sure how many visitors he gets each day, but i know i wouldn’t mind having visitors myself.

Had some good reflections today too. So, you know during Mass, the penitential rite where we confess our sins to God and community? (“I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, etc….”) As we were saying that during Mass earlier this morning, it struck me that I was just SAYING it but not PRAYING it. Then I got to thinkin’ about 2 things: 1.) How often do I say instead of pray? & 2.) Do I claim God’s forgiveness? What I mean by #2 is that this morning I noticed I was just saying the penitential rite instead of praying it. I wasn’t trying to claim God’s forgiveness and mercy. Naturally I then started reflecting on how many other times I’ve failed to claim his forgiveness. How much different would my spiritual  journey be if I did claim that forgiveness?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-19

“….loneliness is the greatest fear of humanity. In isolation people cannot be fully human. Our experiences of life confirm this. People inevitably form into groups, associations, communities, organizations. Some are temporary, some long-lived. They have a variety of purposes, but all prove man’s need for sharing and living his life with others.” –Cursillos in Christianity: Leader’s Manual–

Day 6 – Saturday, May 28, 2011 – 10:00pm- Upstairs Living Room

So the first thing in my notes said “My prediction for today is that either we have a cleaning/work day or a beach day. We’ll see what happens 🙂 It definitely wasn’t a beach day. The morning started out with me accompanying Sister Mary on a few errands to prepare for the St. Vincent DePaul Society meeting later in the morning. Had to pick up some snacks and a few things from the store. Came back just in time for the start of morning prayer. Afterwards I decided to hand wash my laundry. I wanted to handwash for a few reasons. First of all, when I saw the clothes that Mark washed in the washer the other day, some of the shirts had a ridiculous amount of what i’m guessing was lint all over them. Not a fan of lint, so that had me sold on handwashing. Second of all, I had some little packets of Tide laundry detergent that was specifically formulated for handwashing of clothes. I bought them back in 2008 when I went to Australia/New Zealand for World Youth Day and I figured I should use up some more of it. Third reason was that I needed something to do. There wasn’t really any other work for me to do, and I didn’t wanna be a complete slacker either. Also felt like handwashing would be a way to toughen myself up a bit and sacrifice the ease and comfort I was used to. So after filling buckets (2), suds-ing, agitating, wringing out, rinsing, re-wringing out, and hanging up to dry, I was done. Took me about an hour or so. Did alot of reading the rest of the morning. After lunch, I checked email and then took a nap. Woke up, prayed a chaplet of divine love for priests, took a shower, and then went back into the house. After supper we had evening prayer and our retreat time for the day. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was my day.

(from earlier today) As I sit here, sippin’ on some coffee, doin’ my morning spiritual and scripture reading, a nice rain is falling. The doors and windows are open. A nice breeze is blowing. Several of the kids are sitting in the room, next to me, quietly reading. It’s one of those heaven moments 🙂

Oh yeah, one more thing. So as I’m sitting here, I’m wearing my Pope Benedict XVI shirt from World Youth Day 2008, and Isaac keeps pokin’ the Pope’s face and makin garbled goo-goo sounds. Methinks he likes the Pope! 🙂

Judging by the amount of good reflections I seem to be having and how having a small journal nearby makes it easy  to record them, I think I’m going to try and have some kind of little notebook on me at all times. Try to be more vigilant about rewriting these thoughts…

I was also doing some reflecting on friendships and relationships recently. I’m at that stage where my year-long singles commitment is almost up (Sept. 15th). And regardless of singles commitment or no singles commitment, I’m at that stage in life where it’s what I notice and think about quite a bit. My past relationships, my faith, and other life experiences have taught me alot about the opposite sex and how I interact with them and what to look for. One thing I’ve realized is that everytime I’ve acted unchastely or improperly towards or with a girl, it was simply a very misguided way of seeking true fulfillment. (If you’ve studied Theology of the Body then you’re familiar with this concept). It occurred to me that these actions represented my want and need to be able to open up to someone, for them to be able to see me as I am, and for them to open up to me too so that I can truly see them. I’ve also reflected on things I can use as a measuring stick for determining if I have a good connection with a girl or not. One of those is “Do I act chase with her, and do I also DESIRE to act chaste with her?” Chances are that if I don’t have unchaste desires or actions with her, then it means that she brings out the best in me, and that she’s a possible match. If however, I struggle with chastity in some way with a girl, then there’s a good chance that a good connection might not exist and that I need to be cautious.

I should be thanking God for my struggles because they show me what I need to work on. If these struggle were never made evident, then how would I know to correct them?

Romans 8:14-18

The gift of counsel makes us responsive to the enlightenment of God. It’s a good gift to pray for while at Mass, considering all the ways God enlightens us through the Mass.

When my mind wandered during our sharing, I used my ink pen to draw squares around all the freckles on my right leg.

You know, I kinda wish that one of the struggles I have right now, grumpiness, would disappear soon. No, I’m not one of those people that’s grumpy with the world. It’s just that being a missionary, even in a paradise like St. Lucia, is difficult. And i’m still working on trying to adjust to living with a family that has 10 kids. Sometimes adjusting to that plus dealing with my own shortcomings and struggles plus the normal stresses of mission life, it all makes me a little grumpy sometimes. I’m lucky that these kids being as good as they are, just kinda brush it off. But, they do notice it, and that’s what has me feelin bad. Whoever the patron saint of grumpy missionaries is, please pray for me! :-p

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“Desert” Day at the Beach

 

Thursday, February 17, 2011 – 12:13pm – Rodney Bay Beach, St. Lucia

This is definitely one of those moments where I feel like God is giving us a bonus for being in missions. It’s a beautiful, sunny day with a nice breezing blowing in from the Carribean. As I sit here, writing in my journal, the waves are lapping at my feet. I can hear the radio at one of the nearby cabanas. Sand is going in between my toes. Absolutely gorgeous. In a way, I feel guilty though, like I don’t deserve it. To be honest, I don’t deserve it. I’m not that great of a missionary (yet). I’m lazy, still focus on myself alot, and I don’t put myself out there to really try and minister to people’s needs. I’m not even as deserving as many of the tourists here. At least they worked hard and saved money to be able to come here.

But then I remind myself that God doesn’t bless me because I’ve earned it or “deserve” it. He blesses me because he loves me. Plain and simple. When we think about following God’s call, we always tend to think in terms of what we’ll have to give up. In missions, I don’t get to see my friends or family. I’ve got to put my dream of finding the perfect girl on hold. I no longer have my cats or my dog. I think you get my point. But today as I reflect on all of this, I wonder “Why don’t we ever think of what we’ll GAIN by following God’s call?” I’m able to visit, minister to, and pray daily with the elderly and infirm. I get to share food, water, prayer, and companionship with the poor. I get to experience the Church as universal. I’m blessed to live with a family of 10 kids and learn about the family life that I so desire.

On my “desert” day of prayer and reflection, I get to come to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and swim and play and walk around. I get to make my mission cross from a coconut shell. Maybe if we think in terms of what we’ll gain instead of what we’ll lose, our lives would truly be changed for the better. I leave you with a Scripture and ask for your continual prayers. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein; for he has founded it upon the [Carribean 🙂 ] seas, and established it upon the rivers.” –Psalm 24:1-2–

P.S. – I just met a nice couple from Arkansas as I was walking down the beach getting some scenic shots. ‘Bout to read the last chapter of the philosophy book I’ve been working on for awhile. Also realized that I was wearing my mission cross to the beach, a cross that I made from the shell of a St. Lucia coconut. Only would this all happen……….on the same day……….on the beach………..in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia………….on missions! Boy oh boy, the interesting stories I’ll get to tell my future children and grandchildren about my time in missions.

 

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Still feelin’ like a tourist, but this tropical paradise does have it’s quirks………..

To see pics, follow this link (you might have to copy and paste if clicking on it doesn’t work):

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=263701&id=605007873&l=01d8a8adbc

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.

God Bless!

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!

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January 2011 Missionary Newsletter!

Dearest Benefactors and Prayer Supporters,

 

It is with great joy that I write this latest newsletter to y’all. There is much to rejoice about and much news to share. First of all, let me share the big news that I now have a mission post! Praise God! When I sent out the last newsletter, there were three possible mission posts and we were searching and hoping and praying and emailing and doing everything we could to try and figure out where God wanted our mission team to go. To make a long story short, we finally heard back from Archbishop Rivas and he welcomes us with open arms in St. Lucia! (For those who don’t know, St. Lucia is a tiny island nation in the southern part of the eastern Carribean. The island is a mere 14 miles x 24 miles, with a population of approximately 160,000. English is the primary language, while many of the people also speak Creole. The people are friendly and the culture is welcoming. However, family life is not strong and purity and chastity are often overlooked.) Archbishop Rivas informed us that we will be staying at a convent with the Corpus Christi Carmelites. They live on the second floor, and there are several rooms on the first floor where myself and the Eckstine family will stay.

 

As far as ministry is concerned, we know for sure that there is a nursing home on the same premises where we will be ministering. The Archbishop also asked me to teach at one of the all-boys school. Aside from that, there are lots of other possibilities. We are hoping to have lots of opportunities to evangelize as well as work with the poor. As mentioned above, we also hope that our witness as a family and a committed single will open doors for ministering to and strengthening family life as well as the values of chastity and purity in the culture. And as funny as it may sound, we hope to be able to minister to tourists as well. Whether it be standing at the dock when the cruise ships come in holding a sign with information on Mass times and ministry opportunities, or whether it be our simple witness through our missionary way of life, we hope to inspire visitors to witness to the Gospel EVEN when they are on vacation. I guess you could say that patience and waiting has paid off. As it says in Isaiah 40:31 “Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength”. We fly out of New Orleans on January 19th to head to St. Lucia, with a  quick layover in Miami. However, as much as it brings me joy to report on all of this good news, please offer up prayers for the other mission teams. They are still trying to figure out lots of details and logistics, and when you’re a missionary who’s ready to go out into the mission field, waiting can be very difficult.

 

The Lord has also blessed me tremendously in my preparations to leave for St. Lucia. I’ve been able to whittle down my clothing and possessions to what I can fit in my luggage. A friend of mine donated to me a large duffel bag which will help tremendously in packing my clothes and other items. One of the gifts my parents gave me for Christmas is a digital camera, which will help me to document all of our missionary activities and keep everyone posted via blogs, facebook, and email. I could go on and on about all the kindness shown to me and the help given to me as I prepare to leave for missions. Alas, I only have two pages for my newsletter, so I’ll save some of the stories for my online blog! I do have some prayer requests that I’d like you to offer up. 1.) For ABUNDANT prayer support for all of FMC and its missionaries. We cannot do what we do if we are not supported daily in prayer. 2.) Focus and dedication for all of the missionaries. It’s very easy to get distracted and lose sight of what God has called us to do. 3.)Please also pray that God would raise up generous donors for our efforts. Trust me, I hate to talk about money, but I have to. It’s a necessity. As a mission company and as individual missionaries, we simply cannot do what we do without the help of others.

 

In closing, I would like to thank y’all for the tremendous amount of support you have given me, and thank you for your continued support. Please send me any prayer intentions you have so that I can add them to my missionary prayer list. If you wish to stay in touch with me in between newsletters, you can email me at sidsavoie@catholic.org. You can also visit my blog, https://cajunmissionary.wordpress.com, or you can look me up on facebook. And though I am no longer able to offer my services for speaking engagements, meetings, etc.., I’m more than happy to write articles or talks if needed. Once again, Thank You and God Bless You for your support. Please enjoy some pictures of life here at Big Woods Mission. (I couldn’t decide yet which pics to use, so just go look on my facebook profile! 🙂 )

 

In Christ,

Sid Savoie

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