Posts Tagged With: pastor

My latest FMC newsletter article

Missions Is The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Loved…………..

There’s a common misconception in our world today that Love is synonymous with good feelings and easy times. And while good feelings and easy times can sometimes be indicators of a season of God’s grace in our lives, they are not the be all and end all of the Christian life. When we look in the Bible, from Adam to Moses to Jesus to the Early Church, we see lives of sacrifice. Whether God tests us as he did with Job, or whether we are persecuted for our beliefs as were Jesus and the early Christians, we know that the path to salvation is not an easy one. The first half of Isaiah 49:4 says “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity” I do not mention these things to discourage you. I mention them to encourage you. I don’t want you to lose heart as soon as things get tough. I don’t want you to think all is lost when tough times reappear.

As I sit here in our mission house in St. Lucia, reflecting on my first three and a half months as a foreign missionary, this is what comes to me. As a matter of fact, the title of this very article is a phrase that popped into my mind when reflecting on how to describe life as a missionary. What is so hard about being a missionary? The first thing that comes to mind is family and friends. As good as they are, and as much as they are a blessing in my life, God has called me to the sacrifice of being far, far away from them for the next 2-3 years of my life. Then there are all the small luxuries of life in America. I can’t go down the road to Meche’s donuts. There’s no boiled crawfish readily (or ever) available. Sometimes we don’t have hot water. It’s never cold, which on the flipside, means it’s always hot. On a more serious note, we face a nation that struggles mightily with promiscuity and a breakdown in the family unit. We face churches that are dwindling in numbers. Many of the youth are surrounded by poverty and affected by gang violence and other types of crime.

On a personal level, missions is hard because I actually have to look at myself for who I really am. In this sense, missions is kind of like a cross between a mirror and a microscope. God is stripping away the layers, helping me to get to know the true me, for better or for worse. In a nutshell, I’ve come to discover that I can be a grumpy recluse who is selfish and can’t be bothered.

However, lest you think missions is too hard, I must also mention the amazing things about life as a missionary. The first thing is that God provides. The second half of Isaiah 49:4 says “yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God.” I experienced this truth in bits and pieces over the years on the many mission trips and pilgrimages that I participated in. Never did I lack for funds or any other necessity. And now, as a full-time missionary I get to experience that all the time. Even if it’s at the 11th hour, God ALWAYS supplies me with the money I need to travel or buy supplies. Many times his providence is not only sufficient but also abundant! Whether it’s through my benefactors back home or the generous people of St. Lucia, I am never lacking anything I need. Never.

Another tremendous blessing of being in missions is seeing how God raises up servants to be our co-workers in the vineyard. With all the difficulties of getting adjusted to being a foreign missionary, living in a foreign country, and coming face to face with all the problems here, I was beginning to get discouraged. I just couldn’t see how there could possibly be anyone who would carry the torch whenever our time here is done. However, God has slowly revealed that there are amazing servants here who are willing and ready to work right along side with us. There’s the lady who feeds the poor and fosters orphans, Our pastor and his driver give us rides since we don’t have a car. Our friends in the community (who oftentimes are poor and in need) bring us food and cook for us. Young adults from the community have become regular visitors at our mission house and are beginning to help us plan bible studies and other ministries. Our Archbishop, Robert Rivas will often take time to serve guests their meals at various diocesan events. If I had more space, I could give you many more examples.

One thing I never realized about missions was that my relationships with my family would actually improve. Kinda seems silly when you think about it. Lemme move thousands of miles away, and not see my family for months and months at a time. Yeah, that’ll work. But it’s so true. In the absence felt both by me and  my family members, God is filling our hearts with a special grace. That grace is to be able to endure the sacrifices so that we can receive the blessings. Never before have I had such a good relationship with my parents.

The last thing I’d like to say is directed towards those out there unsure or discontent. Like some of you, I used to wake up every morning discontent. I would either think “Do I really have to go to class today? or I wish I didn’t have to go to work.” Even when school was good or work was not causing me stress, I always had that thought in the back of my mind that “there’s gotta be more than this”. Though you may think I’m crazy, I want to advise you to hold onto this, Pray about it, meditate upon it, and think about it. Take this discontent, and instead of letting it make you bitter or hopeless, let it motivate you to seek out what God wants for your life. Allow God to use the tragedies in your life, the moments where you are shaken to your very core to draw you closer to him. God’s has given me the grace to be able to do these things, and I do not regret it at all. Since my very first day of missionary training, and every day that I’m in the mission field, never have I woken up with dread or discontent in my heart. I know that I’m where God wants me to be, and that brings a joy and surety to my soul that is almost indescribable.

Brothers and sisters, please keep me in your prayers and be assured of mine.

“The Lord called me from the womb and he said to me ‘I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’ ” (take from Isaiah 49:1-6)

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Gregory Peck knows karate & I’m goin’ see the Pope this summer!

Ash Wednesday, March 9, 2011 – 4:15pm – School room in Marian Home Mission House – Castries, St. Lucia

Yes yes yes, the title of this post is definitely meant to raise eyebrows and cause you to come and read my blog. Indeed I have stooped to the level of chintzy news writers. But, all for the sake of my blog and God’s kingdom, right? 🙂 The Gregory Peck reference has to do with a homily, yes, a homily given by our pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Marchand. Msgr. Bonifacio was talking about turning the other cheek, and mentioned something about Gregory Peck knowing karate and would get back at the bad guys, and that it wasn’t the best example. He really is a joy to have as a pastor. While he is not of the same culture as us missionaries, we have in common the fact that we’re not from St. Lucia. This helps us to gain insight from him on how the people are and the way they interact and operate. Slowly but surely we’re  using this information to more solidly establish relationships and get more active in our ministries.

It’s ironic that I’m talking about this right now, because I feel like this journal entry mirrors what our ministry has been like in our time here. I’ve known for awhile that I needed to do it and get active. But that’s all I’ve had, the desire to do it. A few times I’ve tried to do it, or got close, or thought really hard, but nothin’ goin’, u know? Had some thoughts cross my mind as to what I wanted to say/do, and gathered some really good ideas. It seems though that I needed to get to a point where I let go and it would just happen. I wasn’t planning to do my journal right now, but it just kinda came together as a culmination of the previous events of the day. A big motivation for me doing it is that I had this really strong feeling that it was time. Even if I didn’t know yet what I was going to say, I knew I needed to say SOMETHING. Anyhoo………….

The other part of my journal title is somewhat self-explanatory. Indeed, I am going to see the Pope this summer. World Youth Day 2011 is being held in Madrid. I had the most amazing experience of my journey with Jesus when I attended World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia. It was the most tangible glimpse I’ve ever had of the Catholic Church as Universal. As soon as I got home from Australia, I knew that I’d love to go to Madrid in 2011 but I just never realized that I’d get the chance. So, once I officially joined FMC as a missionary, I knew that I might get my chance. John-Paul Summers, the youth minister for FMC decided to organize a group to go. I kinda thought about it, but never seriously. To be blunt, I didn’t know what my summer plans were, and what my mission post would be or what the work would entail. However, in the past few weeks, I firmed up plans to come back to Louisiana in July. From the 11th to the 15th of July, I will be volunteering at Faith Camp. It’s a huge part of FMC’s family and their ministry, and I really wanted to experience it especially now that I’m a full-time missionary. After that was confirmed, I began thinking about Camp Hardtner, a Christian summer camp that I attended as a camper, counselor, and adult volunteer. It had been three years since I’ve been able to go (summer 2008). You know, that thing called life kinda happens. So, I contacted a few people after I realized the last camp session of the summer was right after Faith Camp, and voila, I’m back! I’m really excited to be going back, even if only for a week. The chance to be at a place that I really love is priceless. Life has shown me that I need to enjoy the blessings God gives me because you never know where life will take you or if you’ll ever have another chance to see that person or visit that place.

While we’re on that subject, I should mention to that right after my week at Camp Hardtner, I’ll be doing another three day silent retreat at Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House in Grand Coteau, LA. It’s a retreat house run by Jesuits, and they model their 3-day silent retreats off of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. Me and Dad have done several of these, but it’s been 2 or 3 years since we’ve been able to make one together. I’m pretty sure I could make one by myself or with some friends, but it’s something that I’ve only done with my dad. And guys being guys, you take whatever chance like this that you can get, if it means you’ll get some good male-bonding time.  So, my timeframe for the months of July and August look something like this: July 11th-15th – Faith Camp @ Camp Woodmen in Abbeville, LA. July 18th-26th – Camp Staff for Middle High @ Camp Hardtner in Pollock, LA. July 28th-31st – Silent Retreat @ Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House in Grand Coteau, LA. August 8th – 22nd – World Youth Day Pilgrimage, visiting London, Paris, Cordoba, Rome, Assissi, and Madrid. I would assume that I’ll be flying back into Lafayette 3 or 4 days before Faith Camp, and just spending time with my family and friends. Same with the time in between each trip/event I’ll be involved with. Hopefully I’ll get some chances to pass on some stories and knowledge and wisdom that I’ve gained from being in foreign missions.

The other big thing on my mind is Ash Wednesday. Lent is one of my favorite times of the year. The whole penitential aspect of it really excites me. Something about freshly committing myself, and by God’s grace becoming holier and more loving, captivates me. My Lenten strategy has varied from year to year. What do I give up? What extra thing do I do? This year, I felt like as a foreign missionary I had a decent handle on having already given up lots of stuff. Was there something extra I could do? I hadn’t really thought about my Lent this year, and what I was going to do. Now, Ash Wednesday rolls around and I still didn’t know. During my morning prayer and my morning routine, I committed myself not to worry too much or to force myself into something. Eventually, I’d figure out what God wanted me to focus on for Lent. Little did I know how soon my answer would come. During morning prayer, as I was tempted to daydream and lose focus, it dawned on me. I need to focus. It comes as a way to address the larger problem of not being present. So easily I get caught up in the past or future, that I forget to live in and be dedicated to the present, which is the only moment we have. Ergo, I have decided that I will ask God to give me the grace to notice every single time during prayer, meals, fellowship, ANYTHING, that I’m tempted to lose focus. Then, I can re-focus and re-dedicate myself to the task at hand. PTL.

As I finish my journal entry, I think of a few things that need some prayer:

-For Patricia, Dylan, & Marlin Monero. Patricia is a nurse at the Marian Home. Her relationship with the father of her children is bad. These boys need guidance. By God’s grace, we’re able to help fill some of that need. She also needs to relocate to a different house/piece of property. Long story, but big headache. Please pray pray pray.

-For Sabina. She’s a local resident who attends daily Mass at our chapel. In her home she is helping care for unwed mothers and is also fostering children. Every month she also does a lot of work to supply food and other needs of the local poor. We’ve been blessed with her bringing us into this ministry, but there is so much need.

-For all of the FMC missionaries. This is a season of getting established at various mission posts and finalizing plans. Pray that God’s will be done.

-For me and those on my mission team that will be travelling back to the States this summer. You already know my travel plans. Some of the Eckstine kids (along with Mark) are also going to be attending Faith Camp, and they may have other travel plans as well. Pray that our time away from our mission would renew us, and that we would have lots of opportunities to share about missions and to evangelize. Please also pray for safe travel and for the funds we need to do all of this.

God Bless!

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Hopefully this is the start of something good

Monday 7/26/10 – 1:00pm @ Awardmaster

Four times in less than three weeks. That’s been my recent frequency of my spiritual journal. Maybe it’s because I’ve got alot going on and coming up. Maybe I’m just bored at work. Either way, I hope I can keep it up. I really enjoy the reflective nature of journaling and it also seems like something that could help give insight to others.

First order of business is to name the “friends” that I talked about in my last entry. First is Mandy Gaerke. She’s a student at Miami University in Ohio. She was on the mission trip to General Cepeda, Mexico  back in March. She’s got a tremendous heart for ministry and missions, and will be spending  the year in Guanajuato, Mexico for a study abroad program. Second is Sarah Carroll. We’ve only become acquainted recently through friend #3, Madi Dold, whom I’ll talk about in just a bit. Sarah is from the Lafayette area, but lives in Pensacola (thus her connection to Madi). We’ve actually crossed paths recently at Joe and Brooke Summers’ wedding (she’s Brooke’s cousin) but we didn’t know each other yet. She recently went on a two week trip to General  and LOVED it. Felt the call to missions in an undeniable way, and has plans to be at Intake in September.  Last but not least is the aforementioned Madi Dold. We met on the trip to General in March (the one that I met Mandy at). Also like Mandy, she’s got a heart for missions. She’s also got alot of love in her heart and really cares for and loves all those whom God has put in her life. Like Sarah, she has also felt a call to missions and has plans to be at Intake in September.

The only sad thing about these 3 musketeers is that Mandy won’t be at Intake. I believe she has a heart for and call into missions, but she’s got to follow God’s plans and timeframe which I believe she strives to do. I’m kinda sad that I don’t get to talk to Mandy much, especially now that she’s in Mexico. It’s possible too that I feel that way cuz I’m blessed to talk with Madi and Sarah so much, and Mandy is so much like them. After talkin’ with Madi last week, I got in touch w/Fr. Wayne Duet who is  a friend of Madi’s family, and I’m gonna spend some time visiting with him next weekend. Really looking forward to that. Seems like a nice guy and I’m sure he’ll give some words of wisdom that’ll benefit me. Coincidentally, he knows my dad from back in the day when he was at St. Jules and my dad used to do the weekly Ultreya meetings over there. He’s also the priest in Richard, LA at the church parish where Charlene Richard’s grave site is at. 🙂 Small world, eh? It’s amazing how interrelated our lives our and how God makes connections, many times when we don’t even realize it. Lately in my convos with these three, I’ve come to realize how God is moving in our lives and how he’s beginning to open doors for us and provide us with what we need.

It’s also teaching me how building a sense of community and relationship is crucial to strengthening our faith lives as Catholic-Christians.  You could use the term “relational ministry”. In my opinion, since God is Trinity (relationship and communion in its purest form) this should be the most important aspect of Church and ministry. Oh, I also forgot to mention that Fr. Wayne helped Fr. Sam Jacobs (now bishop) to start the Awakening retreat. AND when he was stationed in Erath, was a really big supporter of their Lifeteen program. Awesome, huh? Like I said, it’s a small world and the connections are many.

Last thing is that I ask you to pray for my friend Ryan Breaux. He recently felt a call to be a missionary with Lifeteen and needs alot of doors opened and alot of things squared away in the next month to make it on time to the start of missionary training. Thanks and God Bless!

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