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Old Folks, dominoes, and visiting nature preserves……..

(follow this link for pics – http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=279206&id=605007873&l=fd7e8d37df)

Monday, March 14, 2011 – School Room @ Marian Home Mission House in Castries, St. Lucia

Normally I’m not big on frequent journaling. I’ve never been one of those people who can journal everyday.  Just can’t do it. The urge has to come to me. The moon has to strike me right. I just have to be in the right mood, u know? For me journaling is less about writing down the daily details and more about relating experiences and lessons learned. Sometimes I go weeks even a month or two between journal entries. Sometimes it’s as frequent as one or twice a week. Just checked, and my last entry was written five days ago. But as you can tell by the title of this entry, got to experience some pretty cool stuff since last Wednesday.

Old folks and dominoes is my first subject of journalistificationessnicityalityment. In case you were wondering, that was an overcomplification of a word to make myself sound smart and to give some variety to my entry. Sometimes the struggle when presenting factualities is that you feel like you repeat a lot of words and sound boring. As you know from previous entries, my visits to the old folks in the Marian Home is an almost daily occurrence. I feel like I have a responsibility towards them, and because it’s one of the only constants in my missionary life here, it’s high on my priority list. At first I didn’t need to think much about what to do when I’d visit. We just sit down and visit with each other and talk. And to tell you the truth, that’s all these people really need. They need someone to give them the time of day. They need someone to show them that they’re not forgotten and that somebody cares for them enough to sit down and talk. You’d be amazed at how grateful and easily pleased these folks are.

That being said, even if it’s only on my part, it does get a little difficult when visiting multiple times a week to hold up my interest level. That’s the struggle of missions: maintaining your charted course, the course you know is right and needed, even when the romance level of it all has gone down. So, taking a clue from my mission partner whom I saw playing dominoes with one of the residents a few days ago, I brought the domino set with me. I was still able to visit and talk and pray with some of them. But, I was also able to extend my time there with the dominoes. Simple games like that provide an icebreaker. It’s often easier for strangers to open up over a fun and simple game than it is talking face to face. The game also gives you something to do during moments of silence. When these old folks find out they can also school me, take me to town Charlie brown for a good ole’ domino beat-down, it perks them up even more!:) Maybe if I can get over my fear of losing, I’ll bring the checker-board one day.

The other really great thing was that we got to visit Lushan Nature Preserve today. The proprietor/owner, Arthur, is a parishioner at our church parish, Sacred Heart in Marchand. He has repeatedly invited us to visit and we were just waiting until the right time. Well, when he told us that he’s busy when cruise ships come in, we figured that today was a good day to visit since no ships were scheduled. He came and picked us up in the company van. Huge blessing because we didn’t have to secure a ride or pay for it. Brought us over there and gave us a wonderful tour. It consisted of walking around and seeing the different trees, fruits, flowers, other plants, and wildlife as well. The only true “wildlife” we saw were various species, but at the animal cages we also saw some guinea pigs, dogs, and rabbits. There were also various stops during the tour where we got to sample some of the food. At the “produce hut” we got to sample a few different things that grow here: Grapefruit, Starfruit (also called 5-finger fruit), sugar cane, & bananas. While sampling the homegrown goodies, he also talked a lot about uses and growing seasons, etc…. Later on we stopped at another hut where some employees talked about some of the creole foods they bake and what they’re made with. Of course, some sampling was needed, and lemme tell you, it was GOOD!

To finish off our tour, we passed by a miniature grotto he created with a statue of Our Lady Queen of Peace. We prayed together and then he brought us back home. I think though, that the truly amazing part of the tour was Arthur himself. Yes, the natural beauty was nice. The fruit was nice. The food was nice. Getting out of the city and relaxing and unwinding was great. But, Arthur’s witness to the Catholic faith and having a relationship with Jesus were the absolute highlight. Everything he talked about including stories of his blessed childhood and family life, as well as the trials he faced when trying to make a living in the years prior to opening a nature preserve on his family’s land, it all exuded his spirituality. This man’s connection to God was evident. He’s worked really hard at being a witness to Christian family life. He’s worked equally as hard at getting involved in ministries and bringing other closer to Jesus through the Catholic faith. He and his family make it a top priority to share the profits of the family business with many worth causes. Speakin’ of, it was very humbling too when he mentioned that he is going to make a donation to our missionary work. Also mentioned that he will bring us fruit and other local produce when it’s in season. Even invited us to have dinner with his family sometime. He’s also a very hard worker. All in all, he’s a great witness and sets a great example for the rest of us. Till next time, peace and God’s blessings!

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Where I’m going and what I need……………….

So, usually my blog posts are simply a re-typing of  an entry from my spiritual journal. And typically these entries are well thought out, spiritual/reflective, etc…. This post, not so much. Well, I take that back. I did put some thought into it.

First off, I would like to formally reveal that my mission partners are The Eckstine Family. Mark and Lora are from Oregon and have ten children, from 15 years on down to 6  months. From oldest to youngest (correct me if I’m wrong Mark), they are Abi, Ellie, Mia, Peter, Esther, Rachel, Annie, Bridget, Becca, and Isaac.

Our mission post is St. Lucia! 🙂 I’m very excited because we just found out that we’re headed there. We started the process back in October, and had been waiting and waiting and waiting (something you have to be very good at when you become a missionary). Not sure exactly where on the island we’ll be, but i know that A.)we’ll be living on the first floor of a convent, with some nuns living on the second floor, B.)We’ll be ministering in a nursing home nearby, C.)I might be teaching in an all-boys school, and D.)we have to be there by January 18th.

Now onto the “what I need” section……

*Prayer prayer prayer. I’m beginning to learn as a missionary that God can and will provide for all of our needs. One of the primary ways we see him providing for us is through prayer. So please pray for me. If you do nothing else for me, then please pray.

*Praise be to God for generous donors. When I started my missionary training in september, I still had half of my fees to pay (roughly 1200 bucks). Got all that paid off with donations that came from my inital batch of “begging letters” that I sent out. However (there’s always a however), there are still some other needs I’m trying to take care of.

1.) I need to book a plane ticket to St. Lucia. Round trip tickets are $600-700.  I’m not sure how much missionary funds I have right now, but i know I don’t have this much in my account.

2.) Vaccinations – There are no vaccinations that i’m absolutely required to get before the St. Lucia gov’t lets me step off the plane. However, Hep. A & B are recommended, as well as polio and typhoid. DPT (D-something, Psomething, Tetanus) is another one that would be good to get. All I remember from my phone convo with the doctor’s office, after I recovered from cardiac palpitations caused by how high the cost is, is that each of those is in the neighborhood of $90. ouch.

3.) Used Cellphone – I would hardly use my cellphone at all while in St. Lucia. In fact, I plan to never use it. I’ll have my computer where I can do email and facebook, and skype as well. However, i’d like to have a working cellphone while in St. Lucia for any emergencies or other needs that come up. My cellphone is now “on the fritz” and is not the most reliable phone.

4.) Voltage converter – I need a voltage converter for my laptop so that I can use it while in St. Lucia. These typically run anywheres from $20-30 (saw one at RadioShack today for about $30).

5.) Monthly expenses – As missionaries, we are budgeted to live off of approx. $300 a month. As of now, I have enough money in my account, after paying for my plane ticket to St. Lucia to live for -1.5 months. Basically, at this point i’m in the hole.

anyhoo, I know that someway somehow, God will provide. Pray for the new batch of “beg letters” that just got sent out, as well as this blog post, that it would reach whoever it needs to reach.

If you have any prayer requests, please send them to me, and I’ll add it to my missionary prayer list.

God Bless!

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Blows my mind to think that I’ve found grace in someone else…………

11-30-10 Tuesday – 9:57pm – In my bedroom in the trailer @ Big Woods (Abbeville, LA)

It’s almost ironic how prophetic our own words can be sometimes. I was sitting here, reading through a journal entry from earlier during Intake, and in it I was thanking God for all the struggles that would come. I did that because I knew struggles help me to learn, and grow closer to God. The Holy Spirit refines our souls as fire refines a precious metal.

My struggle lately has been in honoring my first-year singles commitment. Since me and (name omitted) have been visiting and praying together, we have naturally grown closer. And as you grow closer to someone you desire to spend more time with them. From a Christian perspective, the reason you want to spend more time with them is because God has allowed them to be a channel of his grace in your life. All of these things are true and good. However, I voluntarily made a singles commitment for one year upon joining FMC. After some community members drew our attention to the fact that we were not honoring our singles commitment like we should be, we realized that we’d have to take a step back. In order to be obedient and faithful, we now know that we have to limit our communication. As hard as this is, I know that it will be a source of grace for us during our first year of missions, so that we can focus on our mission work. Ultimately, I believe it will also serve to strengthen our friendship.

I’m also a little bummed out because (name omitted) decided to leave voluntarily for a few days. This past week she had a recurrence of a medical condition which was causing alot of stress for her. She felt like instead of dealing with it here and having it affect us too, that it would be best to go stay with her aunt. I recognize and appreciate her selflessness, BUT, it’s a little hard on me. When you grow close to a friend and suddenly they’re gone, it’s kinda sad. It reminds me of a bible verse from my entry on 9/17. 1 Corinthians 12 says “…if one member suffers, all suffer together…” I want so much and pray for her to be healed so she can follow God’s call to the mission field. The good thing is that later on in that chapter it says “…if one member is honored all rejoice together…” As I said earlier though, I think it’s a good struggle. Developing the virtues of patience and obedience will serve me quite well I think. It’s also good now to get used to not having  her around, because once we leave for our mission posts we won’t see each other for at least a few months and will probably at most only communicate once a week.

I have some other good news too. We (me and The Eckstines) finally got a response from Archbishop Revis in St. Lucia! He sent an email response to Mrs. Genie and asked her to send more info on me and The Eckstines. So we wrote about our formation experience, past ministry experience, and what skills and talents we have, as well as potential ministry we envision ourselves doing once we arrive in St. Lucia. What was also very encouraging was that the Archbishop seemed to be very eager to receive us. So, I’m going to step out on a limb here, without fear of “jinxing” myself, and say that me and The Eckstines are going to St. Lucia! 🙂 It’s such a relief to finally know where we’re going. I’ve also been blessed by my benefactors’ generosity. They have been very generous in both “treasure” and prayer. Since donations have started coming in, I’ve been graced to be able to do some thank you notes, because I sincerely want them to know that they are a blessing to me and that I am thankful. I also want to be able to in turn, support them by offering up their prayer intentions during my daily prayer time.

Oh wait…….What is that?…….I hear something. It’s my bed calling. 🙂 So I bid you good night and adieu.

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DESERT DAY – PART 1

Friday 3/12/10 – In the desert/rural area just outside of General Cepeda, Mexico (next to Rancho La Puerta)

I knew I couldn’t get by another day w/o journalling, and Desert Day is the perfect time to do it. First thing I gotta mention is Omar, my friend. If you recall, I first journalled about him after my trip to Saltillo the week of Thanksgiving. We met him outside of the Cathedral & were utterly blessed by his presence. Well, seeing him was what I was most looking forward to yesterday when we went to Saltillo. As soon as we parked the vehicles, we headed to the Cathedral for noon Mass. Sure enough, there he was, sitting at the corner entrance, in his wheelchair, under his lil’ umbrella.

I don’t know if words can properly convey how glad I was to see him. After a few of us visited with him for a couple minutes, we gathered all his stuff and wheeled him into the Cathedral to go to Mass with us. When the time came to go receive Jesus’ Body in the Eucharist, John-Paul Papuzynski asked me to wheel him up to receive. Of course I said yes, and was VERY happy to have that privilege. It almost felt like being able to do that made receiving Jesus’ Body so much more meaningful. John-Paul said afterwards that Omar had the biggest smile on his face when he was going up to receive Jesus’ Body. That comment in and of itself brought a smile to my face. 🙂 Another thing I noticed that really touched me, was after the collection plate was passed around and the usher was walking back to her seat, Omar reached out suddenly and handed her a coin to put in the collection basket. (to be continued)

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