Posts Tagged With: Lord

On the nature of Love & bein’ a country boy

Monday October 24, 2011 – 7:35am – Office @ Big Woods Mission – Esther, LA

“Learn where there is wisdom, where there is strength, where there is understanding, that you may at the same time discern where there is length of days, and life, where there is light for the eyes, and peace.”
–Baruch 3:14–

Last week I started getting the urge to do another journal entry. After all, it’s been over a month. (Where does the time go?) Thought that I’d get a chance Saturday during Desert Day, but I had a good distraction. A friend of FMC who attended our Life In The Spirit Seminar at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Lafayette stopped by. I had been corresponding with him to try and get a copy of Sarah Granger’s talk to him. Tried to get back to journaling later in the day on Saturday, but things kept coming up, and I didn’t wanna force it. Sunday I was gone all day. Caught a ride to 10am Mass in Richard with Kylie so I could hear Sammy and Lindsey give a talk for World Mission Sunday. Stopped at Candyland Cottage in Rayne after Mass, and then Uncle Donald’s after that.

Ok captain, time to land the plane and get to the point. So, two weeks ago, someone close to me told me she was doing a discernment retreat to try and get a handle on what God is saying to her about her next steps on her journey. Being the good influence she is, I was motivated to do one as well. I was discerning both missions and marriage. For missions, I was discerning my next steps for both long-term and short-term mission opportunities. For marriage, I was discerning the who/what/how/when factors. As far as my discernment of missions went, my desire to go to Asia at some point was confirmed. Seeing as how it looks like me and Luis might end up in Costa Rica, my time in Asia is looking like it will be with a short term mission group. I also discerned that if God puts me with a family again next year, that it would be with the Romeros. For short term missions a whole plethora of opportunities popped up. The Phillipines, St. Lucia, Ecuador, and Peru all came up. Already confirmed that I’ll be helping to lead a trip to St. Lucia in January. We’ll see what God does with the other three locations.

As far as the marriage thing goes, you didn’t honestly think I’d give you all the answers to that, did you? 🙂 It’s a private revelation from God sort of thing, where only the people concerned find out. However, I can say that I also did alot of reflecting on friendship and love, and the end of this entry I’ll include some of the nuggets of wisdom God gave to me. The realizations and revelations were a blessing to me and were proof of the Holy Spirit working through prayer.

Living out in the country has been really good for me. Yes, a big part of my season of growth right now has been due to community life. When you are surrounded by good people and a life of prayer, you WILL grow in holiness. But that’s not the only factor. Being surrounded by nature is good for my soul. Living in the peace and quiet instead of the noisy and fast-paced city is good for my soul. Seeing things like rice fields, swampland, horses, cows, pastures, fog, dogs, barbed-wire fences, & birds is good for my soul. Swimming in a muddy pond that is home to the occasional 3-4 foot gator is exhilarating…………….and good for my soul. Burning logs and branches is messy, and good for my soul. Killing wasp nests is good for my soul. Pounding on a pile of rock hard dirt, shoveling it into the back of a truck, dumping it into a hole, filling a wheelbarrow full of horse manure to fill said hole with “fertilizer” so grass can grow and thereby hold the dirt in place, is good for my soul. Riding my bike down a country road and seeing a beautiful oak tree draped with spanish moss is good for my soul. Working and sweating and getting blisters and sore muscles is also good for my soul. I love where God has me at right now. I love that I get to wake up and do this (and other missionary stuff) every day. I think perhaps the singular greatest blessing I’ve received since being back at Big Woods is being able to work with my hands and do manual labor. It has taught me so many things, including obedience AND knowing the satisfaction of a hard day’s work.

Lord Jesus, thank you for all of these blessings. Please continue to shower them down upon me. Help me to continue being open to your guidance. Bless us in all our missionary endeavors here at FMC, especially as Mrs. Genie prepares to go to China, and Intake prepares to go to Mexico.

Nuggets of Wisdom from The Holy Spirit about Love:

* be free to love * love unconditionally * draw close to me so that you can draw close to her * take a leap of faith * Friendship is not just a consolation prize, it is love through companionship. And marriage is the fulfillment of friendship * Instead of choosing good over evil because of an ideal, I can now choose good over evil because of someone. When I think in terms of people instead of ideals, love as a choice becomes real, and is easier to make * It should be a give and take, where you can savor the mystery * I need someone who brings out the best in me * I need someone who can bring me out of my shell * If you know the Lord has brought someone into your life, if you know you are drawn to someone because of a mutual love  for the Lord, then do not hesitate to grow close to that person! Do not be afraid that you are “deifying” them or “idolizing” them. Let yourself enjoy them and their company. Let yourself enjoy the love you give and receive. Draw closer to them by drawing closer to the Lord. That person is an instrument of God’s love in your life. To put them off due to a false sense of caution, humility, or discernment is a tragedy. By not putting your heart on the line and loving the person unconditionally, you risk losing out on the greatest treasure in life, LOVE.

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I will refresh you with living waters

Wednesday – June 15, 2011 – 6:15am – Marian Home Chapel – Castries, St. Lucia

One of the challenges I’ve discovered in my first few months as a Catholic lay foreign missionary, is that even though you may have grown enough to the point where God can use you as his instrument, you still are not perfect. I also commented last night as our group of SSME missionaries did Night Prayer, that the Devil does not like what we are doing and will come against us however he can. (Our scripture for Night Prayer was the one that talks about being on guard because the Devil prowls like a roaring lion, seeking to devour its prey.).

Since we’ve been here, I’ve been reminded that I still struggle with a lack of patience, joy, zeal, and humility. And since a big struggle in the past has been chastity (or lack thereof), the Devil has been throwing those kinds of temptations my way. It almost seems like the more and more I strive to be chaste and holy, the more temptations are thrown my way, and the more lies the Devil tries to get me to believe. On top of that, it seems like now that I’ve achieved a certain level of victory over sins of the flesh, that “sins of the spirit” that I mentioned earlier (impatience, lack of zeal, etc.) come at me with a fury. (Disclaimer: Even though I realize I’ve achieved a certain level of victory against sins of the flesh, I realize in humility that I must always be vigilant and on-guard and humble so that I do not fall back into these sins again.)

So taking all of this into account, you can see how my beginnings as a foreign missionary, though blessed, have been challenging and frustrating at times. This morning, as I was about to take a shower before Mass, all of this was on my mind again. Even though the wheels are always turning in my mind, I was puzzled as to why God allowed this to be on my mind at THIS time of day. As I step into the shower, turn the cold water handle, and feel a blast of cold water hitting my head, I think about how good it feels after a restful but sweaty night of sleep. Then I hear the Lord tell me “I will refresh you with living waters”. A sense of peace came over me. Thank you Lord for telling me what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it.

(Interesting sidenote: Right before my shower, I was reading Mrs. Genie’s 2nd book, and was at the part where she relates the story of how God revealed to her what their family’s missionary newsletter should be called. Having just read that, and then having the experience I just had, I decided that my missionary newsletter will be called “Living Waters”. It just seems so right and that it’s the perfect fit. Praise the Lord!)

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June Missionary Newsletter

Easter is not just a day, it’s a way of life!

My Dearest Benefactors,

It brings me great joy to write you and let you know how the Lord has been moving in my life and in missions. The last time I wrote you, it was almost the end of Lent, which was a spiritually enriching experience for me. I hope it was for you too.

Holy Week and the Easter Triduum were a blessing as well. The opportunity to experience the life of the Church through another culture was a great blessing. I was chosen to be one of the 12 “Apostles” for the foot washing during Holy Thursday Mass & it was an experience I’ll never forget. I was also blessed by the St. Lucians’ celebration of Good Friday. The day began with Stations of the Cross at 4am with a group from our church parish. We prayed and had meditations for each station, then would sing and process down the street to our next station. At the halfway point, we joined up with another group from the Cathedral. After we joined this group and added to that all the other people who joined the procession, there were almost 2000 people! Later that morning I assisted with another Way of the Cross at a mission station on the mountain. We started at a parishioner’s house and had a 2-mile trek to the local school. As we were getting started, I saw that no one had yet volunteered to carry the wooden Cross, so I got to do that too!

As good as all these celebrations were, it was a real blessing to get back to “normal”. The difference now was getting to live out our missionary calling within the graces of the Easter season. For the first time in my life, I’ve seen Easter as not just a day or a ritual we go through. It’s a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and his power in our lives, and I’m thankful that the Church celebrates it for 50 days! We’ve resumed our various ministries: nursing homes, prayer ministry, parish office hours, feeding the poor, evangelization, and work projects. We’re also making plans to start some new ministries. For the past two weeks, however, there’s been a slight change of pace. A visiting missionary group from Nebraska came to St.Lucia and is staying at our house in Castries. During this time we’ve been staying at a Franciscan convent in the south of the
island, having a team retreat, some prayer time, and doing some work projects. We were able to do some roof repairs at a blind lady’s house. We were also able to get her house primed to be painted. At the house of a young man confined to a wheelchair, we built a mold and poured the concrete for a ramp from his front door to the street.

We’ll be heading back to Castries tomorrow and then things will REALLY get hoppin! We’re welcoming 4 of our missionaries and a priest who are coming down to assist in FMC’s first ever Summer School of Missionary Evangelism.
It’s a month-long program where participants study Church documents and Scripture & take classes on mission work. During the last week they’ll be focusing entirely on going out into the community and putting what they learned into practice. I’m excited to reconnect with my missionary brothers and sisters & the participants as well. I think the fellowship during this coming month will fan the flame of the Holy Spirit in my heart. I look forward to a renewal of my call as a missionary!

At the end of the summer school (1st week of July) I will be flying back to the States for 6 weeks for a FULL summer. In July I’ll be assisting at Faith Camp. The focus is on providing an amazing experience of faith and fellowship for middle school kids that will deepen their relationship with Christ. The week after, I’ll be an adult volunteer at another Christian
summer camp that I attended as a camper and later as a counselor. The next week and a half will be spent visiting family and friends, & going to appointments and running errands. Then on August 8th I fly out to Europe for World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid! It’s an amazing event where millions of youth and young adults gather to celebrate Jesus and meet the Pope. We’ll be seeing various pilgrimage sites in Spain, France, and Italy before we go to Madrid to celebrate the overnight vigil and closing Mass with Pope Benedict XVI. My favorite part of the trip will be visiting The Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica! It’s the center of the Church and has been a lifelong dream of mine to be able to go there. A few months ago I
didn’t even know if I’d have the money to go, and then I got the message that an anonymous benefactor had donated the entire cost of my trip! Praise the Lord! Yet another humbling experience of God knowing my heart’s desires and providing for me in a way I never thought possible. God is good!

I would like to end my newsletter by thanking you for your constant support. Without your prayers my work would not be as fruitful as it has been. I also thank you for your financial support. It’s vital to my mission and I thank God in prayer that you have been providing for me so generously. Please continue to support me through your prayers and financial contributions. I’m still in need of a plane ticket back home to Louisiana for my summer visit and a round trip ticket from Louisiana to St. Lucia and back. I also need benefactors to continue to support me so that I can pay for my monthly expenses.

I encourage you to read my online blog, https://cajunmissionary.wordpress.com. Please feel free to email me (sidsavoie@catholic.org) or look me up on facebook. I love to share my experiences and pray for my benefactors. And for anyone who wishes, I also like to write talks, reflections, articles for bulletins & diocesan newspapers, etc….

May God Be With You!
Sid Savoie

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

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Vieux Fort – week 2!

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

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

link to pictures:

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

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

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

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

Today’s gift of the spirit: Fortitude

Psalms 2:7-9

Do what’s right even when it’s hard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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April 2011 Newsletter

For every Good Friday there’s an Easter Sunday!

“The Word of God will be fulfilled in our lives to the extent that we embrace it” -Fr. Jason Biscette-

To my Friends and Family,

Greetings from St. Lucia! It brings me great pleasure to be able to write you again. Can you believe it? As I write this letter I realize that I have been here for two and a half months already. Where did the time go?!? It seems like we were just getting here the other day and trying to get ourselves settled in. It’s hard to believe that we’ve already been here this long. But praise God that we’ve got lots of time left here and that there’s lots he has for us to do. So let’s get right to it. As the beginning of April drew closer, I started debating with myself about what to write to y’all. I said to myself “What is it that my benefactors need to hear? What is going to help them realize that what they do for me is vital to my mission work? How will they know that their sacrifices of prayer and financial support are indeed going to a worthy cause?” Finally I realized that I needed to put some faces to the stories from the mission field. So instead of this letter being a laundry list of things that God is giving us to do (and believe me, he’s giving us A LOT), I’m going to tell you stories of people that are part of our lives and ministry here in St. Lucia.

My first story is about one of the nurses here at the Marian Home for the Elderly. Her name is Patricia Monero. She is in her late 30’s, is a single mother, has two teenage sons, and works full-time. When we first got here and started our ministry at the Marian Home, she told us that she had two teenage sons. Being that we have lots of kids here (10 to be exact) we told her to bring them by sometime to meet the family. Little did we know how much we would get to know her story and be involved in their lives. The boys come over daily for fellowship and supper when they finish school. As a single mother who struggles to get by every month, not having to pay for after school care or worry about her boys’ safety is a huge help to her. We’re also able to assist them with school work and bring them with us when we go to church or do youth group activities. The opportunity to witness to Patricia and her boys through our simple, humble missionary way of life is a blessing for them and us as well. Her boys’ father is absentee at best, and at times has been a physically abusive alcoholic. Due to the breakup of her relationship with the father, she is having to vacate the piece of property that their house is on. At present, we have already assisted her with paperwork to obtain a piece of land in the countryside from the government. Mainly due to my mission partner’s construction skills, we also stand ready to assist in the construction of a new house, or in the relocation/renovation of her current house. Please pray for Patricia and her sons Dylan and Marlin in this tough time they face.

My second story is about a local pro-life warrior, Sabina. She lives about ten minutes walking distance from our residence, and occasionally attends Daily Mass at the Marian Home chapel. We first became acquainted with her when she invited us to help her prayer group to feed the poor in Castries. On the first Friday in March she escorted us to her house where we assisted in preparing food to feed roughly 400 people. The next morning we met her prayer group downtown and assisted in passing out food and drink, as well as using the opportunity to evangelize. We participate again in April and it looks like we’ll be able to help out on a monthly basis. She herself has had it rough, with lots of family members passing away. But in spite of the adversity she’s faced, her commitment to the poor and less fortunate is an inspiration. She also distributes clothing to the poor and homeless around town. In her house she is currently housing two young unwed mothers, and is fostering a child. While a lot remains to be done here to establish a widespread pro-life ministry network, she is certainly laying the groundwork. She is an answer to our prayers for pro-life ministry here in St. Lucia, and we will continue to assist her in whatever way we can.

It would be remiss of me to leave out our Saturday workday accomplishments as well. To this point we have cleaned up a large portion of yard waste and downed tree limbs, and have also succeeded in doubling the size of the vegetable and fruit garden. From donations received, a basketball backboard and hoop have been purchased and installed in the back yard.We’ve also organized a schoolroom full of books for distribution to area schools and the local library. Our future plans include reinforcing the rear perimeter fencing, renovating the basketball playing surface, and making a prayer garden. As I draw this letter to a close, I continue to ask for your prayers. Please pray for the success of our ministries, funding to attend various ministry events this summer, and for our spiritual and physical health. Remember to email me if you need anything (sidsavoie@catholic.org ) or visit my missionary blog at https://cajunmissionary.wordpress.com.

God Bless,

Sid Savoie

“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” –Lamentations 3:25-26–

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The missionary life is not glamorous but it is glorious!

Here’s my latest newsletter. Should be in the mail by the beginning of next week. Should be stateside about 2 weeks after that.

 

God is opening before the Church the horizons of a humanity more fully prepared for the sowing of the Gospel

Pope John Paul II in Mission of the Redeemer

 

Dearest Benefactors,

I’m sure some of you have noticed a slightly different format & layout to my newsletter, and there’s a good reason why. Me and one of my mission partners Mark did some research on how much it would cost for things like postage, envelopes, and paper. We figured out that it was just as cheap, if not cheaper, to send our letters from St. Lucia than to send them from the states. What a blessing! This gives us a chance to put our own sweat and labor into the printing and sending of our newsletters, and gives us a greater sense of ownership of our mission work. We also figured that benefactors would enjoy and be blessed by receiving mail directly from the mission field. Please remember though that payment for donations should still be remitted to FMC’s address in Louisiana, which is already printed on the return envelope included with this letter.

As mentioned in my last letter, our mission post is the country of St. Lucia. Me and my mission partners, The Eckstine Family, are in the capital city of Castries. The Corpus Christi Carmelites were gracious enough to let us inhabit the first floor of their convent which was already earmarked for missionaries and volunteers. We have plenty of space for all 13 of us, and I could not have imagined or asked for a better place to stay. Another blessing is that we pay no rent, and only pay our share of the utilities and pay for our own food as well. Included in our living quarters are a spacious kitchen, a washroom, dining room, living room, school room, and bathrooms in each individual room. Within the same compound, there’s a nursing home and a nursery school. They also have a chapel which affords us the TREMENDOUS blessing of daily access to Mass and The Holy Eucharist and Confession! Because we are within walking distance of the downtown area, anytime we need to make a trip to the city market, post office or some other destination, we have easy access. With the space and privacy that we have we’re also blessed to have a good daily rhythm and are able to accomplish all the things we need to do, including schoolwork, individual study time for the adults, and personal prayer time as well. Perhaps the best thing about our living quarters is that the compound is completely walled in and gated off, and is locked at night. As you can see we are very safe and secure & extremely blessed with what the Lord has provided for our living quarters.

The country of St. Lucia is quite an interesting place to live as well. The island itself is only 14 miles (east to west) by 27 miles (north to south). The population is approximately 170,000 which is less than the population of the Greater Lafayette area.  A country that is smaller than my hometown. What a culture shock! J The weather year-round ranges from 70 to 90 degrees with a rainy season in the latter part of the year. Weather is also moderated by breeze from the Atlantic Ocean and Carribean Sea. Location-wise, St. Lucia is south of Martinique, west of Barbados, and northeast of St. Vincent and The Grenadines. English is the official language, but most people here speak Creole and for many of them it is their first language. 70% of the population is Catholic and the rest are for the most part affiliated with other Christian denominations. So as you can see the field of harvest to which the Lord has sent us has some quite favorable conditions! However, not all is perfect in paradise. One of the primary challenges in St. Lucia is the deplorable condition of family life, a fact that is even acknowledged by the media and government. Some 70% of children are born out of wedlock or have divorced parents. There is also a large portion of the youth that seem to struggle with chastity and purity. Lack of direction and focus among the youth are quite a problem too. Gang violence and violence in general are also problems here. We are advised to not go out after dark, and if necessary, only if we have someone give us a ride. Due to the size and nature of the island, there is very little industry here besides tourism. Therefore unemployment is very high. Any native industries that do exist (such as banana production) are only seasonal work and are still suffering setbacks from Hurricane Tomas in October 2010. The cost of living is also very high. Even with an exchange rate of 2.7 Eastern Carribean Dollars per every 1 U.S. Dollar, most everyday items in the grocery store are double the normal cost since almost everything has to be imported. Combined with the lack of employment this makes poverty an enormous problem in St. Lucia. I could give y’all quite a sizeable list of the problems that face the people here, but I think you get the idea. To put it succinctly, there are many challenges here that make life difficult.

There are lots of ministry opportunities as well. As previously mentioned, there is a nursing home here on the compound where we minister daily. We visit with the residents and pray with them. The Eckstine children like to assist the teachers at the nursery school as well. Trips into town usually prove themselves to be fruitful opportunities for evangelism as well. Just about every time we go in town for something, we inevitably run into someone who needs help. Each time, we give them some food and water (in ready-made baggies which we bring with us) and we visit and pray with them. We’ve also been blessed to share meals and fellowship with some people from the neighborhood here at our mission house. The opportunity to witness to them with our missionary lives as well as sharing our food is a great blessing and brings us great joy. These things have proved so fruitful that friendships are beginning to form and hopefully hearts are being changed too. Twice a month on Sundays, I go down to the cruise ship terminals with a large sign that informs vacationers about Mass times at the Cathedral downtown. Fellowship with other missionaries has also been abundant. For the past few weeks, there have been rotating groups of short-term missionaries that are with The Good News Project, based out of Wisconsin. They were working with the elderly here at the nursing home as well as providing medical care. We’ve also had the opportunity to meet with some other lay missionaries from The Diocese of Venice, FL. They were in Castries doing some preliminary groundwork for a Christian-themed sports camp that will be held in August. It looks like we might even be able to assist them! In our first week here, we met with Archbishop Robert Rivas and he informed us of the other ministries we would be involved with. Mark and Lora Eckstine (the husband/wife combo of the missionary family I’m paired with) are serving in Family and Life ministry both at the diocesan level and at our new home church parish, Sacred Heart in the Marchand neighborhood. The bishop has asked me to work with both the Youth Ministry & Vocations offices at the Archdiocesan level, assisting with planning & execution of various events. Mark and I also appreciate the fact that we have manual labor that we can assist with on a weekly basis. So far we have been doing a lot of clean up here on the compound of trees and branches that were felled during Hurricane Tomas in October 2010. It is evident that there are many other “projects” and ministries we can assist with. We just have to wait for God to let these opportunities unfold on his timeframe, not ours!

With opportunity comes challenge. One of our biggest challenges is a lack of enthusiasm. People already working in ministry here are wearied by the challenging social conditions of the people they serve. In general, there is a laissez-faire attitude, a sort of subtle indifference by some laypeople and clergy to the problems facing the Church and society as well as what it will take to address these problems. When thinking about all the challenges, from poverty to violence to unemployment and many others, it is easy to see this mission as an uphill battle. As mentioned earlier living expenses are a challenge as well. St. Lucia is a third-world country with a first-world cost of living. Another significant challenge is the slow and sometimes laborious process of getting to know the people and forming relationships. This is crucial for forming a bond of trust with both those we minister to and those we minister with.

However, in spite of the challenges I am still very optimistic.  For as it says in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans chapter 5 verse 20, “….but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”. That’s PROOF in Scripture that not all is lost, that there IS hope. I guarantee you that no matter how much hopelessness and indifference weigh down the lives of the people in St. Lucia, God’s grace can overcome it all. I’ve already begun to see people warm up to us and form relationships. I’ve seen the warm hospitality of the people here, which I believe is truly a gift from God. I’ve seen the Cathedral during a Thursday night praise and worship session, FULL of people praising the Lord and praying for conversions and miracles. Every smile we give is returned, every hello is echoed. Our co-workers in the vineyard here are also proof of God’s goodness. Their love and generosity has been a key ingredient to the success of our budding life of mission work here. Through benefactors both here and back home, God has provided for each and every one of our needs. We try our best to trust in God and have never been found wanting of the things that are necessary for our daily living. There is no hill that we cannot climb, no obstacle that cannot be overcome, and no soul that is outside of the reach of God’s graces. We are doing the Lord’s work, and “if God is for us then who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

I’d like to end by asking for your prayers and support. Without prayer, we cannot succeed as missionaries. Pray that we are faithful in prayer and that our ministries are fruitful. Please also let me know if you have any prayer intentions that you’d like me to add to my prayer list. And as always, please consider donating financially to my mission work. Your assistance here is also crucial to it’s success. As you can see, I have provided a “Specific Costs” box noting various expenses. Please prayerfully consider sponsoring one of them. Please also remember to email me if you need anything: sidsavoie@catholic.org. Another great way to keep up-to-date on the mission work here is by visiting my missionary blog: https://cajunmissionary.wordpress.com. I can also write articles and talks that you can use in prayer groups, church parish bulletins, etc. Once again, thank you thank you THANK YOU for your generosity. Without you I would not be able to fulfill my call to the foreign missions.

In Christ’s Love,

Sid Savoie

SPECIFIC COSTS YOU CAN SPONSOR:

*Pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid – $2000

*My bi-monthly missionary newsletters – $100 per 100 sent

*Plane ticket home during summer to visit family – $500

*Monthly bills (food, water, electricity, propane, toiletries, personal items, etc….) – $350

*Contributions to FMC general fund for salaries, maintenance, retreat ministry, youth ministry, almsgiving, etc.

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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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“Hello Bible, it’s nice to see you again”

12-22-10 – 1:05pm – @ Awardmaster (my parents’ trophy shop) – Lafayette, LA

Today for me has been like one of those mystery stews where you toss in all the random leftovers. Just kinda seems that way. When Mom left the house and I was still in my PJ’s, she told me that today would be the Christmas lunch for all the employees and that I was invited. Obviously stoked because it meant lunch wraps from Zea’s which are VERY good. I was thinkin’ I’d take my time, watch some TV, take a shower, head to the chapel at St. Ed’s to do some reading, and then mosey on over to the shop to eat what was left. But, then my mom called and said that one of the girls was gonna leave the shop early cuz she wasn’t feeling good and wanted to know if I’d come. She almost seemed kinda timid and uber polite when asking me if I had other plans, and if not could I come in to cover for the girl that was leaving early. Now, yeah, it’s good that my mom’s polite. But I can’t help but thinking something was wrong with this picture. It doesn’t matter that I’m almost 30 either. My mother is my mother. I owe respect and obedience to her whenever possible. She shouldn’t have to ask if I was willing to come. She should be able to know that she can tell me she needs me to come help out at the shop since I’m home on break, and not have to worry about my reaction. I guess it’s one of those things we continue to grow at.

I also feel really bad because when she called to ask if I’d come to the shop, she was asking me about something that I was taking care of already (unrelated to work). Well I was. It was mine to take care of. After all, I’m almost 30. I’m a grown man. I need to learn how to take care of my ownself without my mom getting all in a tizzy. Asking about something that doesn’t affect you at all and that you have no control over, is no bueno. The only thing that this effort to satisfy curiosity will do is increase stress levels and possibly give rise to gossip under the guise of “concern for the situation.” So, when I reacted to her asking about the situation after I’d asked her to forget about it and let me take care of it, I felt justified. But, it was HOW I reacted that made me feel bad. I went a step beyond speaking firmly, lost the politeness, and was almost speaking too sternly and speaking down at her like she was a child. This, of course, made me feel like crap. And when I got to thinking about it, I learned more about how I should relate to God. What do I mean? Well, lemme respond with another question: Why did I feel like crap after I reacted to my mom? I didn’t feel like crap because I was fearful of some fiery angry raging response she’d have to my reaction. I felt like crap because I love her. She has been nothing but good to me all my life, and has loved me and provided for me. Therefore, why would I want to or let myself mistreat her? I think that type of fear is what should be our motivation to be holy. We shouldn’t be fearing God’s vengeful wrath so much as we should fear offending the unending love he shows us. If we feel like crap after doing something wrong, it shouldn’t be because of punitive consequences. It should be because we offended against love.

Another interesting tidbit of the day is that I finally read my Bible again for the first time in five days. Whenever I’m at Big Woods, I don’t find that it’s a problem. Out there, we have morning prayer 6 days a week.There’s a chapel with a tabernacle on the property. It’s out in the middle of nowhere and very quiet. Everybody else that lives or works there does so because they are involved in missions. You can see how it’s much easier to maintain a routine of prayer and spiritual reading and Scripture reading while there. The community lends itself to that. At home, it’s a different story. My parents themselves are good people. Besides going to church every Sunday, they both do things during the week that are concrete examples of living out their faith. So they themselves are not the cause of my laxity while at home. It’s that I don’t have a routine & I don’t have a larger community of faith surrounding me. There’s strength in numbers, and my parents can only do so much. The routine helps me to control my urges and focus my time and efforts. It helps me to overcome my laziness. The good thing about being home though is that I have to focus more on making personal effort to do what I need to do, since my normal routines and coping mechanisms aren’t there. Gaining more self-control in this way will definitely be a good thing.

My last bit of news is quite exciting. J In my last entry on the 30th, I went out on a limb and said that we were going to St. Lucia. Well, we finally heard back again from Archbishop Rivas and he said he wants us to come for sure! Yahoo! We will be living on the first floor of a convent, with some nuns living on the second floor above us. There’s a nursing home on the property where we’ll be doing some ministry. The archbishop also asked if I’d be willing to teach at an all-boys school. I’m sure too that there’s poor people that need ministry as well as many other ministry opportunities. Yesterday Sarah-Kate confirmed with me that our plane tickets had been purchased. We leave on the 17th, so we have just under a month before we’re in missions! Until that point, I’ll be spending time with family, packing up, getting rid of stuff, and tying up loose ends. I leave you with a bible verse that I got in my Scripture reading earlier this afternoon:

“I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.”
–Jeremiah 24:7–

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My missionary beg letter

To All Of My Friends and Family,

 

Greetings from God’s country! It brings me great joy to be able to write this letter to you, and tell you a little bit about what the Lord is doing in my life right now. Since the middle of September I have been living at Big Woods, the missionary training center for Family Missions Company. (A few miles south of Abbeville, LA)

 

FMC is a Catholic foreign missions apostolate that specializes in training lay Catholics (single & married) for service in the foreign missions. Since the beginning of my time in college, I have been actively discerning what the Lord is calling me to do with my life. I’ve worked at the family business and have even spent some time in the seminary. And as wonderful as those experiences were, my heart was still not at peace. A little over a year ago, I started to hear God calling me into foreign missions, and He has blessed me to finally be able to be here! Looking back many years, all the way to my time in high school, I’ve been blessed with many opportunities for mission trips all over the world. Every time I went, my heart was touched and God spoke to me. It’s easy to see now why the Lord is calling me into full-time foreign missions. To become the person God wants me to be, I feel like this is where I need to serve Him.

 

To prepare for foreign missions we do everything from work projects to Bible studies, as well as studying Pope John Paul II’s encyclical on missionary activity (Mission of the Redeemer). We also have Mass, personal prayer, community prayer, and study time built into our weekly schedule. In November we will be going to FMC’s mission house in General Cepeda, Mexico, which is 1 hour south/southwest of Saltillo. Once we get there, we will put all the things we’ve been studying and learning into practice.

 

Some of our time will be spent on home visits, where we pray and visit with the residents and bring them some food supplies. We’ll also get a chance to go out into the various communities around town and evangelize through song, prayer, spiritual teachings, and testimonies. Another way we help to provide for the needs of the people is through construction projects. We may build a wall, put up a roof, or install a drainage pipe. At the mission house we are also able to provide limited medical assistance. This time is also a good chance for us to meet to talk and pray about how the Lord is moving in our lives as missionaries and where He is leading us. At that point we will come together in prayer as a community and choose where we feel the Lord is calling us into missions. I don’t know yet exactly where the Lord is calling me. At this point my possible mission posts are Coatzacoalcos (Mexico), Ecuador, and St. Lucia. I’m also pleased to announce that my mission partners will be the Eckstine Family from Oregon. Mark and Lora and their 10 children along with me, will be going into the foreign mission field in early January. Please pray for us as we come together as a mission team, and please pray for us as we try to discern where the Lord is calling us into missions.

 

As y’all know, I cannot do this by myself. 1 Corinthians 12:27 says “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” The most important thing I need is PRAYER! Pray pray pray! Please commit yourselves to praying for me, because a missionary that is supported by prayer can do marvelous things for the Kingdom. I also need financial support to be able to go into the mission field. I would be honored and blessed if you or anybody you know feels called to donate to my missionary journey. While in the mission field, we try to live off of $300/month budget. Plane tickets (one-way) to Mexico and St. Lucia are $300 while a one-way ticket to Ecuador is $800. We also try to have money available for almsgiving for the poor. Another cost associated with going into missions is language school. This generally is in the range of $1500 – $3000, depending on the country we will be living in. Please include your mailing address, email address, and any other contact information so that FMC can keep you up-to-date on my missionary journey. You can also keep up to date by visiting my missionary blog: https://cajunmissionary.wordpress.com If any of y’all are involved with civic groups, church organizations, schools, churches, or any other group, you can invite me to make a presentation or give a talk.

 

Once again, I want to thank you for letting me share a little bit about my journey into foreign missions. If you have any questions or need anything, please let me know.

 

God Bless,

Sid Savoie

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

–Romans 10:15—

 

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