Posts Tagged With: family

My visit with a pretty blonde in San Diego

I knew that title would get your attention 😉

Friday, December 21st, 2012 – 6:00pm – 28,000 feet – somewhere between San Diego & Dallas (continued at 8:00pm @ 28,000 feet somewhere between Dallas and Lafayette)

Well, my first ever visit with my friend Anne is officially over. And what a visit it was. After our friendship began online roughly 2 months ago (we met on CatholicMatch.com), I could tell that I liked talking with this chick. Not only did I enjoy it, I looked forward to it. She’s beautiful, smart, loves God, & is emotionally and spiritually mature. Two beautiful little girls. A loving and supportive family. Oh, and she started talking to me when I was still doing missionary work out of the country. Did I mention that I had a ridiculous beard when we started talking? She gets some extra points fer sure. Her striking up our initial conversation 2 months ago in spite of my situation helped me to realize that she’s a special girl and that I DEFINITELY wanted to get to know her better.

So we agreed on meeting up December 19th-21st. She was already on Christmas holiday from her teaching job and her girls would be with their dad. The timing was perfect. We decided on California for our first visit because we both believe that a man should be a man and pursue the woman. Specifically we decided on San Diego because we wanted a neutral location where it would be just the two of us getting to know each other better. I stayed at the Cabrillo Inn on Rosecrans St. and she stayed at another hotel about 10 minutes away. It was the perfect setup. On Wednesday morning, the day we met in person for the first time, it was a slow and relaxing morning. She finished up a few errands back home before she drove into San Diego. I slept in and then had lunch after a leisurely morning strolling along the waterfront at Shelter Island, which was a short walk from my hotel. When she let me know that she was on the way, I took a shower and freshened up a bit. Wanted to make sure I looked really sharp and smelled really good for our first meeting. 🙂 I was a little nervous and kinda self-conscious when we first met and hugged. But over the next few hours as we explored Old Town, had dinner at a Mexican restaurant (where we got randomly serenaded by a mariachi band as we ate) and talked, that nervousness and self-consciousness started to fade and continued to do so throughout our time in San Diego. Of course there were a few moments of silence and/or awkwardness on my part, but nothing out of the ordinary. After all, it was our first meeting, and there was no one else there but us. No family or friends to counsel/guide/distract/visit with us……….you get the idea. So yeah, I guess that added a little pressure, but nothing we couldn’t handle.

Probably my two favorite highlights were church and coffee. We got to go to noon Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown San Diego. Being able to go to Mass and to be able to share it with someone special was amazing. It’s something I don’t get to do very often, though hopefully I will in the future. The Our Father during Mass also gave me an excuse to hold her hand for the very first time. 🙂 As good of an excuse as any I could possibly think of! I also really enjoyed the time we spent at coffeehouses Wednesday and Thursday night, as well as sittin’ beachside earlier this morning at Mission Bay. These were the times when we were solely focused on each other. We didnt’ have any distractions and we could talk as much as we wanted. Probe and pick each other’s brains. Get to know each other better through pure, unadulterated conversation. Right before we left the beach this morning to head to the airport, we agreed that we both enjoyed our time together and that we wanted to continue to get to know each other. I felt blessed that we both agreed on that. And I could tell by all the subsequent texting back and forth during the course of my travels throughout the day (along with the abundance of smiley faces contained in those messages), that we were both happy with where things are at. 🙂 So as of now, no relationship status change. We wanna do things right and take it slowly. But, the future certainly does look bright!

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Mission Bay Beach

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Many thanks to Anne for taking this picture. Had to take it to prove that I was actually in San Diego 🙂

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Hotel Del Coronado all lit up for Christmas

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beachfront at Coronado Island

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best bathroom graffiti ever! GOSH!

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Saint Joseph Cathedral in downtown San Diego

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view of San Diego from my hotel balcony

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Missionary Adventures and New Relationships

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. 🙂

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First Overseas Lent/Easter

(warning: LONG entry. But, it all ties together and I didn’t wanna break it into multiple sections)

Monday, April 25, 2011 – 11:18am – School Room @ Marian Home Mission House in Castries, St. Lucia

For the first time in my life, I spent Easter away from family. To the best of my recollection, I’ve never spent it overseas or away from family. There’s a first time for everything, right? I think a good recap of Holy Week and the week before is in order. (sidenote: I just realized it’s been over a month since I’ve had a regular journal entry. that’s flippin’ crazy. Usually i do it at least once a month. But that illustrates a point that I’m learning quite well: once you get into the mission field and get settled in, time begins to pass by quickly.)

The week before Holy Week was a really good week. We had our parish Lenten retreat. It was led by Brother Jeffers Paul, a layman from Dominica who works for his home diocese. I don’t really remember the theme of the retreat. As is usual with anytime i’m in church, I daydream even when I try not to, and have a hard time paying attention. But what I do remember is that he was a very passionate preacher. Not that passion and performance is everything, but being able to get excited about something you’ve devoted your life’s work to, says alot in my book. I could also tell that his life reflected what he preaches, which is what I think drew so many people to the retreat. It was the perfect blend of charism and orthodoxy. Besides the actual talks, which helped me to grow in my journey with Jesus, the sacrifice of my own will and plans to go to the talks and the closing Mass at the end of the retreat were also good for me. This is how the week basically went: Sid realized he’d have to get out of his comfort zone, sacrifice his own desires and plans, and not be able to sit at home to relax and veg out. Sid got mad. Sid went to the retreat anyways. Sid’s eyes were opened and he was blessed. Sid was then glad that he went and participated.

Me and Brother Jeffers Paul, the speaker for our Lenten retreat

Palm Sunday was not much different from the 29 previous Palm Sundays I’ve experienced. What I did notice however was the lively faith of the parishioners at our church. Well, I’ve noticed it in bits and pieces before, in fleeting moments. But there was something about Palm Sunday where I really noticed it. The best way to sum it up is that for the recessional hymn, I was waving my palm around like there was no tomorrow, dancing to the music and being joyful in the Lord. Genuinely joyful in the Lord. Not just faking it. Playing around with the kids as we started to walk out of church.

Palm Sunday Procession

The next three days were fairly non-descript. We had our normal daily routine of prayer, Mass, meals, ministry, fellowship, etc……. The routine took a backseat once Wednesday evening rolled around and we attended the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral. For those unfamiliar with it, the primary things occurring at that Mass, besides the miracle of the Eucharist are 1.)Priests renewing their vows, and 2.) Bishop consecrating the holy oils to be used by the priests for the year. It was my first Chrism Mass ever. Even in the age of priest shortages, it was truly amazing to see all the priests from the whole diocese together on the same altar. Makes the priest shortage not seem as bad. I was also really blessed by the loving words spoken by the archbishop. The other thing I remember most about this Mass was the blessing of the oils. Part of this blessing involves the bishop breathing on the oils, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and is also a reflection of Scripture, where the Spirit hovered over the waters during Creation, and when God breathed into Adam to give him life.

Opening Procession of Chrism Mass at the Cathedral in Castries

Thursday night was the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. It’s when we focus on The Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist. For this Mass, me and Mark, my mission partner, were chosen as two of the twelve men selected to represent the apostles for the foot washing ceremony during the Mass. Again, the Scriptural symbolism of this is a real and powerful way of internalizing the virtue of humility. It was humbling for me to have my feet washed, cuz i’m definitely not worthy. And it was also humbling for me to have to lower myself to the seemingly mundane task of washing someone else’s feet. It was the first time in my life I have experienced being part of the foot washing ceremony.

Foot washing at Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper

Good Friday had a very sacrificial feel to it, as it should. Our church parish has the tradition of doing the Way of the Cross starting at 4am. If you thought you knew early and tired, you don’t know early and tired until you’ve done Way of the Cross at 4am! 🙂 It was a beautiful thing though. We started at the doorstep of our church with the first station, did the meditation, and then following the person who was carrying a wooden cross, walked through the streets stopping along the way to do each of the stations. We had a truck with a loud speaker on top so that everyone could hear the choir leader singing the hymns and the people leading the prayers. About halfway through the stations, we paused on the road we were on and prayed a chaplet while we waited for the other church parishes to meet up with us. By the time the other group met up with us, we were 4 church parishes total. And, I kid you not, by the time we reached the end of the Way of the Cross, the crowd was easily 2000 people. It was quite a sight to see, this massive crowd of people walking through town, praying and meditating on Jesus’ own Good Friday journey. We too had people along the way that were, as I shall attempt to diplomatically put it, not reverent towards what we were doing. We also experienced a little bit of physical discomfort. That’s what I love so much about the Catholic faith, it makes the experience of God real in a very physical and present way.

Way of the Cross winding through the city streets

After we were done with that Way of the Cross, we headed back to the mission house to have a cup of coffee, and try to regain a little bit of strength. Then, me and Mark went with our pastor and his driver to a little mountainside community that is within the boundaries of our parish, and did another Way of the Cross. Although it was not as long, it was also a walking Way of the Cross. We started at a parishioner’s house about a mile or two down the road from the chapel. As we got ready to do the Way of the Cross, and everyone else assumed their duties, no one had take up the cross yet (literally). So by chance, but perhaps by Divine Providence, I became bearer of the Cross. I had not set out to assist at this Way of the Cross with that intention, but I was happy to be able to do so. In the same way as the first Way of the Cross earlier that morning, it had some lifelike similarities and characteristics to Jesus’ Way of the Cross. We had those who were less than thrilled with what we were doing, though thankfully not many. At one point during the walk, the car with the loudspeaker we were using was parked on the side of another car that was on the side of the road, while we stopped to do one of the stations outside the house of a blind lady who was a parishioner. As we were about halfway through the station, a bus was coming up the road in the opposite direction. Seemingly unable to wait three or four more minutes, a man got off the bus and complained and said we needed to get out of the way. That in itself, while it may have manifested some impatience was not really out of place or unjustified. It was when the guy, maybe after seeing the wooden cross we were carrying, or seeing the plaster relief of the Station we were meditating on that was being held by Mark, made a comment in frustration about “Catholics worshipping statues”. Like I said, small thing overall, but it was a small “persecution” of sorts, that made the Way of the Cross seem that much more authentic and real. There was also the physical discomfort associated with such a journey. In St. Lucia, the weather is summer year round, literally. Lows are never below the 70’s with daily highs in the mid to upper 80’s. Even earlier in the morning, it still gets hot and sweaty. Add to that the exhaustion and tiredness I was already feeling, plus the headache and neckache, and it made for a very poignant and real experience. In the end, I was thankful for such an experience, and that God revealed to me things that I could improve upon.

Carryin' the Cross

After a break for a few hours, we headed back to our church parish at 2 for a meditation on the seven last words (phrases/utterances) of Jesus. Again, I had a hard time focusing, and didn’t remember much of what was said. But what I do remember was good stuff, and the opportunity to further try and sacrifice myself to be more available to God was good for me to experience. Then at 3 we had the Veneration of the Cross. It’s basically a liturgy, but it’s not a Mass, because there’s no liturgy of the Eucharist. The liturgy of the Eucharist is left out on Good Friday, because that’s something that first occurred on the first Holy Thursday at the first ever Lord’s Supper. On Good Friday, we remember Jesus’ death and that he’s in the tomb, and one of the ways we do that is by not celebrating the liturgy of the Eucharist and the consecration of the bread and wine into Jesus’ actual body and blood. The precious body and blood of Jesus that is consumed on Good Friday was already consecrated the day before and held in the tabernacle. We were told on Good Thursday that the “apostles” who did the foot washing ceremony would have to bring their robes on Friday because we might be asked to represent them again. Because of this, I wore a small white t-shirt and a pair of shorts to church so that I would not be too hot underneath my robe. Normally I don’t wear this kind of wardrobe to church. But when we got there, we found out that we wouldn’t have to wear the robes. Not thinking far enough in my preparations, I had failed to bring a pair of pants that I could slip on so as to be more presentable in my dress at the service. So, as to not be too much of a distraction, I sat almost all the way in the back. For the part of the service where everyone walks up to kiss the Cross, I stayed in my pew. There was only one line, and the Cross was all the way in the front. I know Jesus loves me anyways, but i did not want to distract or cause scandal by my casual dress. However, I was blessed to still be able to receive Jesus precious body and blood. When it came time for that, the area I was sitting had a Eucharistic minister at the halfway point of the pews, instead of all the way up in front. Plus, it was a side aisle. So, I felt like the combination of not having to walk past many people (and thus not being a distraction), plus feeling called by Jesus to receive his precious body and blood, justified my decision. After the Veneration of the Cross, we were quite happy to return home. We had been so busy the previous 2 days that it was nice not having anything scheduled.

Saturday morning was a normal workday. Shoveled some compost that quite literally smelled like crap. Smell didn’t leave my hands for a full day, no matter how many times I washed  them, or how many times i used hand sanitizer or poured rubbing alcohol on them. It still hasn’t completely left my workboots and work gloves. Finished off the workday by cleaning my room, doing laundry, eating lunch, and taking a nap. Woke up, played games with the kids and hung out, and then had supper. After supper, had some more downtime and then I showered, dressed, and got ready for the vigil, which was to start at 10pm. Right before we left, I downed a cup of coffee, which coupled with my later than usual in the afternoon nap, proved to aid me in staying awake at the Easter Vigil Mass. Atypical of St. Lucia/the Carribean, the Mass was really close to starting on time (things here are rarely on time). Only about ten minutes late. Had the lighting and blessing of the fire outside, we all lit our candles, and processed inside. Had the Liturgy of the Word, complete with it’s 9 scripture readings, the Homily, the baptisms and confirmations, and of course, the Liturgy of the Eucharist where we got to receive the precious body and blood of Jesus. The thing that I was expecting but was not prepared for, was the length of the Vigil Mass. Over here, a normal weekday Mass is 30-45 minutes, and a Sunday Mass is about 2 hours. All in all, Mass here, in whatever form or time of year, is twice the length of what it is in the States. So, I knew that the Vigil Mass was going to be long. Monsignor told us that it was going to end at 3. However, it “only” lasted until about 2:30. But, it wasn’t hard like I thought it would be. The reason the Masses here last so long is that there’s ALOT of singing. So while it makes Mass longer, it also helps things to pass by quickly. After we left church, we arrived home and happily acquainted ourselves with our beds. 🙂 Easter Sunday (yesterday) was a good day. Had a lazy and relaxed morning, ate Easter candy and chocolate, played games, and got to talk to my family on the phone. It really was a blessing to be able to talk to my nieces and parents. Then yesterday evening, we went to the Chancery to participate in the Knights of Columbus Easter Family Gathering. Several of the Knights and their family members (including the Eckstines) did various musical performances and then we enjoyed fellowship and dinner together. Among the various people I got ot visit with, I met a young woman from Canada, who is in St. Lucia for 3 months, living at the orphanage run by some Dominican sisters. It’s part of her Master’s degree program, and she’s helping to come up with a strategic plan for the future of the home. It was a blessing to meet at talk with her, because one of the things I lack here are people close to my age that I can visit and establish community with. The more fellowship and community we have, the more fulfilled we are, and the less likely we are to go looking for love in all the wrong places. What’s interesting is that she’s not Catholic. She’s Indian, though she talks and acts like a “normal/typical” Canadian or American because she’s lived in Canada her whole life. She didn’t say what religion she was either. I hope that I can receive some extra graces from God to represent my Catholic faith in a way that is loving and inspiring, and at the very least, does not turn her off to Christianity and Catholicism. And my real hope is that somehow I can plant a seed that leads her to a deeper relationship with Jesus.

pretty flower i stumbled upon during workday

our humble and beautifully decorated church during the Easter Vigil Mass

Christ our Light

Now I sit here, enjoying my day. It’s a national holiday today (Easter Monday), so we’ve been taking it easy. Did some reading and prayer earlier today. After I finish this entry, I’m going with the Eckstine to a local friend’s house to visit for a few hours. PTL for all of these blessings. Until next time, I leave you with a bible passage I stumbled upon recently……..

Coasts and islands, listen to me, pay attention, distant peoples. Yahweh called me when I was in the womb, before my birth he had pronounced my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, he hid me in the shadow of his hand. He made me into a sharpened arrow and concealed me in his quiver. He said to me, ‘Israel, you are my servant, through whom I shall manifest my glory.’ But I said, ‘My toil has been futile, I have exhausted myself for nothing, to no purpose.’ Yet all the while my cause was with Yahweh and my reward with my God. And now Yahweh has spoken, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him and to re-unite Israel to him;-I shall be honoured in Yahweh’s eyes, and my God has been my strength. He said, ‘It is not enough for you to be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel; I shall make you a light to the nations so that my salvation may reach the remotest parts of earth.’ ”  –Isaiah 49:1-6–

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St. Lucia – The Mission Begins!

(sidenote: follow these two links to see pictures that I’ve taken so far. http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=262702&id=605007873&l=37f3154156 

Thursday January 20, 2010 – 2:15am – first floor dining room at the convent of the Corpus Christi Carmelites – Castries, St. Lucia

So, here I am, adjusting to a new place, and I’m having trouble falling asleep. Part of it could be the time difference (back home it’s only 12:15am), and part of it also could be all that’s been going on. As I type this entry though, I could not be more at peace. It’s 75 (24 Celsius) with a breeze blowing and a light rain falling.

This past weekend I had a great time visiting with family and friends for one last weekend. Spent some time with my parents and some other close friends. I was particularly blessed by being able to spend some time with my dad, and having some guy time. Got back to Big Woods on Monday morning and spent most of the day packing and getting a few more things. Tuesday we ran some last minute errands before having one last lunch together with all of Intake 2010 (minus Madi Dold, and plus a few other missionaries that were on base), and then we hit the road. Later that evening we arrived at Kevin and Sarah Granger’s apt, where we were graciously hosted. The next morning we woke up at 3:30am and left for the NOLA airport at 4. I felt like God was helping things to go smoothly because we got all 14 of us checked in with no problems or delays at all. 🙂 And I think it was while we were waiting for our flight to Miami (which left at 6am) that it started to hit me, that we were leaving the USA and were going to live in St. Lucia for the year as missionaries. We arrived in Miami after a 1.5 hour flight, and had approx. 3.5 hours before our flight to St. Lucia. Most of that time was spent sitting at the gate talking and playing games, or walking around the terminal, looking at all the shops and places to eat. As we were getting ready to eat lunch, we started chatting with a lady who was also waiting for a flight to St. Lucia. Ends up that she’s some kind of businesswoman and senator in St. Lucia. We got her contact information, had some good fellowship with her. She was an extremely nice lady and even shared some of her snacks with the kids. Then we grabbed a quick bite to eat before getting on our plane.

Our flight into Hewanorra airport was as smooth as could be. I was a little worried because about 45 minutes until landing, the captain said we would begin our descent soon and to buckle up because there were some rainstorms and we might experience some turbulence. Now, I’ve flown alot, and have experienced some crazy turbulence. So, I know that when a pilot says “a little bit of turbulence” that usually pilot-speak for “things might get crazy”. So, one the one hand I was a bit nervous, but it was all for nothing. With the exception of some turbulence that was the same as any other fairweather flight I’ve taken, it was as smooth as could be. Perhaps my favorite part of the flight was the VIEW! As we were flying south of Puerto Rico, we passed over some random little islands that looked like they came straight out of some deserted island movie scene. Then, our descent into St. Lucia was beautiful. Since we were flying into the south airport, we got to fly over the entire island. (Doesn’t take long since the island is only 24 miles north to south.) And as we got to the southern tip and started circling around to land, we got an amazing view of the water, shoreline, foliage, and of course The Pitons. The Pitons are the two most famous landmarks, mountains, on the southern coast. Le Gros Piton is approx. 800m tall, and Le Petit Piton is approx. 750m tall. After we landed, our trip through customs was quick and easy, and our bus driver was waiting for us as soon as we were done. We took about a half hour drive to the north part of the island, where the city of Castries (pop. 60,000) and the convent are located. We quickly unloaded our bags, and then went to the archbishop’s house for dinner. About 2 hours later, we came back home and got settled in for the night. Briefly spoke to some relatives on internet video chat before trying to go to bed.

Needless to say, I’ve enjoyed myself thoroughly the past day and a half. The time we spent with The Grangers was amazing because of the fellowship AND because I think that’s where I could sense that something was different and life was about to drastically change. It’s in those moments of realization and heightened awareness that the simplest of occassions can become quite memorable. All of our travel time yesterday was enjoyable too. As I said earlier in this entry, it started to hit me that our call to be long-term lay Catholic foreign missionaries was about to be made very real. Seeing the kids giddy and full of wonder was probably the best part though. What little knowledge and experience I had, I was able to share 🙂 . Perhaps our dinner at the bishop’s house was the most enjoyable part of the day. Besides getting to eat some delicious food (both regional and American), we got to fellowship with the Bishop. Getting to know our leader and seeing how generous he is and how happy he is to have us is such a blessing.

Please enjoy the pictures and video posted below!

Thank you Jesus for blessing us in our journey as missionaries, and for opening doors and preparing the way for us. Help us to serve you by serving the people you have sent us to. God Bless!

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My heart is content………..

Tuesday 6/22/10 – 8:30pm @ the chapel in the main house at Big Woods

What a time of blessing the past two days have been for me. Living out here @ FMC, living the daily routine of work, prayer, and recreation has been so uplifting for me. Before I even got here, I was blessed because I got to pick up two other come and see participants from the airport. Showed them around town (including the Cathedral), stopped for some seafood @ a local restaurant, and talked missions and faith life on our way out to Big Woods.

The first blessing was not having to go home at the end of the night. I got to feel what it’s like to live here. 🙂 I like it! Of course I also am getting to experience the daily routine of meals, prayer, fellowship, study, etc….. I’m starting to feel like I’m a part of FMC, and that I belong here. It’s gonna be hard goin back home on Thursday, but I know now what I get to look forward to for Intake in September. A huge blessing for me has been the witness of the Eckstine family, a family of 10 kids and Mark & Laura, the parents. Their prayer, unity, & working together, especially when considering how many of them there are, is mind-boggling. Also mind-boggling is how generous they are with their time and resources. They are not wealthy by any means, but you will find it very hard to out-do them in generosity. In particular, their children have been a blessing to me. It’s been so much fun talking and playing with the kids. They’re like the brothers and sisters I never had. The joy of children is awesome!  If you wanna feel special and loved, then devote your time and love to a child and you will definitely be blessed 🙂

Another thing that has been on my mind is how much I want my  family (especially certain family members) to receive the joy and blessings that I feel I have received. The reason this came to mind was because of a bible verse I stumbled upon yesterday, 1 Corinthians 7:14. It says “For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through the brother.” What I feel like God is telling me was that as I strive to follow the call to missions, he will bless my family with graces to draw closer to him. I now know that in my absence, God will heal and bless my family, and draw them into a closer relationship with him. So that means my family is in good hands. 🙂 Well, the night is here, and my eyelids are beginning to feel heavy, so I bid adieu. Amen! Alleluia! Glory!

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Gonna be thankful…………..

Thursday 6-3-10 – 10:30pm @ Adoration Chapel @ The Cathedral (Lafayette)

There’s nothing like literally being face-to-face with Love Incarnate to get you to realize your imperfections. I sit here, face-to-face with my Lord and Savior, and while I’m so happy to be here, it also makes me sad. I’m sad because Jesus’ love pierces my heart & soul and helps me to realize my selfishness and how long I have to go. But, I also feel like God wants me to be thankful right now instead of sorrowful. I feel like he’s telling me to combat the sadness, frustration, and hurt w/gratitude.

To begin, I give gratitude for my job and co-workers. Without them, I would not be able to make a living, and I wouldn’t be able to work on being a better person. I give thanks for my family. They are my rock. I give thanks for my friends. They are what I look forward to when the work week is over. I give MUCH thanks for my church parish (The Cathedral) especially Ms. Laura Lahaye and my fellow Lifeteen Coreteam members. I treasure the time I spend with them because it brings me great joy and helps me to grow in holiness. I thank God for letting me make mistakes and being able to learn from them. I thank God for the patience and forgiveness shown to me through others. I thank God for all priests, and especially for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I thank God for my health and well-being. I thank God for my call to go into foreign missions. I could go on and on about all the things I have to be thankful for, but there’s not enough paper in this book. 🙂

Praise You Lord Jesus for your kindness, patience, and mercy that you give to me. Without it, I would be nothing. Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us!

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IT’S GONNA BE A ROUGH LANDING

3-14-10 (continued)

How can i go back to normal everyday life when I’ve seen how much of a blessing life as a missionary can be. On the other hand, I know exactly why I have to go back to Lafayette. I have to grow in patience and obedience until the time is right. So these next few months will be filled with fulfilling my obligations in the “real” world as well as preparing myself to enter foreign missions. Now I know that nothing is impossible with God, and that I can get through these next few months. I’m really looking forward to beginning to learn that I’m a missionary for Christ no matter where I’m at. I’m looking forward to continuing with Lifeteen Ministry @ Cathedral.

I know that I will grow in love for my family and friends. And of course, I am definitely looking forward to being as involved with FMC as possible. Hopefully I can keep in touch with my fellow missionaries, both short and long term. Joe and Brooke’s wedding is coming up this friday, there’s mission formation every week, and then of course there’s the Come & See weekend in June out @ Big Woods. All in all, the next few months will be challenging, frustrating, long, exhiliarating, rewarding, and most of all BLESSED. Gotta go now, this time for good. Think I’m gonna pray a chaplet of Divine Mercy during the flight. Lord Jesus, help me to grow in love and charity. Help me to always be ready and willing to give of myself for the sake of your kingdom. St. Francis Xavier, patron of missions, pray for us. Missionary family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, pray for us. Amen!

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DESERT DAY – PART 3

At the very moment I got to the front door, Maddie Dold was right outside and told me about a girl they had met at one of the ranchos who happened to be in town. Turns out, Maddie and Mandy had prayed with this girl and connected deeply with her at the rancho a few nights back. So last night, Maddie & Mandy, at just the right time, encountered this girl outside and got to talk with her, as well as give her some food and clothes. As Maddie is telling me this, she asks me to come and pray with them. I said yes, but told her that I felt like my prayer would be better if I went up to the chapel and prayed in front of the Tabernacle while they prayed with her.

So as I was doing that, they were praying with this girl and her family. As I was praying, I remembered Maddie telling me earlier that they were homeless and slept outside alot. Realizing that I didn’t need my sleeping bag as much as they did, I ran outside and had Mandy tell them to wait. I ran back inside and rolled up my sleeping bag and brought it out to them. I know it wasn’t much of a sacrifice on my part, but it really felt like I did a good thing. Then, to top it all off, this girl and her family thanked me and gave me a hug. The fact that in spite of their horrible situation they still were able to share love with others was amazing to me. These people, especially the young girl (her name is Alicia Guadalupe) were so beautiful and I was immensely blessed by them. Later that night, during prayer time, Maddie and Mandy shared the story with everyone. Towards the end of her sharing, Maddie confided in us that she was having a rough time in her spiritual life and got quite emotional. She asked us to pray over her.

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MISSIONARY JOURNAL – FINAL DISCERNMENT

12-14-09 continued

It was really good to go and see people I hadn’t seen in awhile (can’t remember the last time I went to Mass there). I was a little sad though cuz the last time I was at Wisdom to venerate the relics of St. Mary Magdalene, I knew the 2009 Intake was there, and it made me sad since they had gone back home to visit family before going into the mission field. I echo Sarah Kate’s sentiment that it’s too quiet w/o all the missionaries being around. But missing them is one of those little signs that tells me I like missions and being around missionaries. 🙂

After I had dinner with some Wisdom peeps after Mass, I went to Zea’s where some coreteam peeps had dinner after 6pm Mass at Cathedral. Sarah Kate was there so I got another opportunity to talk missions with her. Nothing new really, but like I said earlier, getting to talk about missions with anybody, especially another person who is into missions, is good stuff. Talked a little bit about her goin to Spain, about mutual friends of ours who are in mission or who might be going into missions. Fast forward to this morning, I had an epiphany while I was taking a shower that I think Lent will be my final period of discernment, and that unless God makes it abundantly clear that he doesn’t want me to enter Intake 2010, then by Easter I will have made my final decision. Seems right that I have that final deadline. I think it will help me to make a decision and stick with it. It’ll also help me to give my family and friends a final decision instead of me continuing to be in a state of “maybe I will, maybe I won’t”. Lord, give me the grace to face this day, to fall more deeply in love with you, and to be Christ to those I meet. God Bless!

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MISSIONARY JOURNAL – HAD A GOOD JESUS VIBE GOIN ON

12-5-09 final installment

It’s a CD that has mission-themed songs and recordings and promotes missions. The vibe there was exactly like the vibe at Big Woods on Wednesday night. Seems like everybody knew everybody, and even if there was someone you didn’t know they were still really nice and willing to hang out and talk. I really believe that the missionary spirit is the reason why the vibe was so good on both nights, When I was talking with one of the missionaries, I found out that Saturday night they are having “Lord’s Day” at FMC. “Lord’s Day” is basically a meal within a prayer, and has a family atmosphere to it. It something done to welcome in the Sabbath Day. It’s such a blessing to attend (I did one a few weeks ago) and is the perfect mix of shared meal in community, prayer, and fellowship. Glad I found out about it cuz now I have something to do tomorrow night.

On a side note, I figured out that I want another foot tatoo since I can’t afford the big St. Benedict tatoo that I wanna get on my back. I want to get “Romans 10:15” tatooed on my left foot, b/c it speaks about how beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news. I feel the need for another tat. 🙂 Also, I felt like the verse at the bottom of this page is a good one for me to hear at this point on my missionary journey. (Joshua 1:9) It’s nice to be reassured that God will take care of it all. Well, I better get goin. My hour is over and I’ve got to take up early in the morning. Dear Lord I pray that the missionary zeal you gave me would overflow into all areas of my life, that I would persevere in prayer and charity, get up when I fall down, conquer my sins, and have people be able to recognize the love of Christ in the way that I live my life. Amen!

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