Posts Tagged With: pilgrimage

World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Madrid – part 2

Sunday – August 21, 2011 – 3:00pm – Starbucks next to Hotel Husa Moncloa – Madrid, Spain

World Youth Day 2011, Madrid, Closing Mass & Vigil…… Closest thing to organized pandemonium I’ve ever experienced. Lest I get ahead of myself, let me start from the beginning of the day. Woke up for breakfast at 7. Everybody must have stayed up late the night before, because I was the only Magnificat Travel pilgrim there for the first 30 minutes. After a few sips of coffee & some conversation with the other pilgrims, I headed back to my room and took a shower and got dressed for Mass at 9. After Mass, we had a meeting for those who were planning on attending the overnight vigil and closing Mass. Went over some logistical details and then went our separate ways for a few hours of free time. I walked a few blocks down from the hotel to a Spain souvenir shop to buy a small Spain flag to add to my collection. After I got back to the hotel, I finished my packing for the vigil and also got some last minute things and a bite of lunch from the grocery store around the corner. Took a nap until 2:00 and then made my way down to the lobby to meet the other pilgrims for our 3pm departure.

Then the madness began.

From the very moment we arrived in the first subway station, the crowds were insane. We had to squeeze (literally) onto every subway car. Making our way through the various hallways at each station was like being in a rat race/maze. The lines and crowds as we arrived at the Cuatro Vientos airfield just continued to multiply like crazy. We passed through the first gate only to realize that we weren’t actually inside the official seating area yet. As we got close to the gate for the actual seating area, we just got squished into a humongous crowd and waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually we got word that they had completely closed off the gate. Apparently the WYD organizers had underestimated the amount of space that each pilgrim occupies and thus overbooked each section. So, we just plopped down outside the official seating area, in a section that was not far from where we were originally supposed to sit. Then we just hung out and started taking it all in.

Ate. Got water. Danced with pilgrims from other countries. Proudly waved the Acadiana flag while I danced. πŸ™‚ Observed/watched the sheer number of people outside the airfield. Just the people outside the seating area had to be at least half-a-million people. At one point I even heard the band L’Angelus playing! Seeing as how they’re from the Lafayette area and we by chance happened to sit next to where they played was awesome. Felt like a little piece of home was with me and it made me quite happy. Didn’t get to actually see them, but just hearing them was good enough. After a few hours of participating in and observing the madness, most of our group decided to head back to the hotel. Among other reasons, we realized that we wouldn’t be able to see anything or receive communion. We also figured that the crowds on the subway would be a little too intense after Mass in the morning. So at roughly 8:45 we started back towards the hotel.

There was still somewhat of a crowd as we headed back since alot of other people had the same idea as we did. The crazy thing too was that we ran into some Lafayette people on the way back. Seems to be a Lafayette thing, with going somewheres far away only to run into people from Lafayette. Actually had fun on our trip back to the hotel. Partially out of joy for leaving the pandemonium (people as far as the eye could see, literally). Also due to delirium! πŸ™‚ Sang and hooted and hollered with pilgrims form other countries as we travelled on the subway. Finally got back to our hotel at 10:45. So if it took us 2 hours to get back without a big crowd, then I don’t even wanna think what the subway was like today after the Mass ended.

Threw my stuff into the room and made my way to the hotel bar where I guzzled down 2 Cokes and hung out for awhile with the other pilgrims. Back to the room at midnight to take a shower and then passed out. Woke up around 9:30, just in time to watch the Closing Mass. After observing the crowds yesterday in person and today on TV, there had to be at least 1.5 million people. My personal estimation is more like 2 million. The cool thing was realized that all those people were there because of the Pope and our Catholic Faith, and most importantly, Jesus. At the end of the Mass the Pope blessed religious articles so I had my mission cross and a few other things blessed. Packed my bags and then headed to one of the hotel meeting rooms to attend 12:30 Mass for our group, since most of us did not attend the Closing Mass in person. Got a few logistical instructions after Mass and then headed home. We have supper at the hotel tonight at 8 & then we board the bus to the Barcelona airport at 10pm. (Our flight leaves tomorrow morning).

I suppose this is gonna be my last journal of this pilgrimage. I must say that it was truly a blessed experience, a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing. Got to see and do so many awesome things. Looking forward to being at home with friends and family for a few days before I head back to St. Lucia for my last few weeks. It’ll be nice to start posting pictures and journal entries online, and start going over the whole experience in my mind and processing it. Really excited to get back to St. Lucia. Get to see my mission partners, the Eckstines. Miss them alot. Get to see all of my friends that live there. I think I’m most excited about going back renewed, refreshed, and revitalized. Want to finish my last weeks there on a strong note.

And now, Europe, I bid you adieu! Until next time……….

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World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Lourdes – part 2

Tuesday – August 16, 2011 – 10:50am – In the bus en route from Lourdes to Barcelona

Since I skipped yesterday, I knew I had to journal today so I didn’t forget anything. It’s really hard to concentrate though because these countryside farms and roling hills are so beautiful and quite the distraction. So let’s see, where did we leave off……. Sunday night. Sunday night at 9:00 was the rosary procession for the sick. We got there about 20-30 minutes ahead of time and it’s good we did because the place was already packed! I almost felt like we were at Woodstock or some kind of big rock concert. Seeing the thousands of people there all to say the rosary, was amazing. Just looking out on the crowd and seeing thousands of candles was quite a sight to see as well. My favorite part though was the procession of the sick and handicapped. It was such a beautiful thing, to see the “least” among us be put front and center and treated like royalty. It was amazing too how a simple smile could light up their face. I like the universality of the rosary too. It must have been prayed in at least 5 or 6 different languages. Even better though was the Ave Maria sung between each decade. Though we didn’t know all of the languages prayed in, we ALL knew the Ave Maria, and to hear everyone join in was amazing. Gave me goosebumps.

After it ended, as we were fighting the massive crowds to get back to our hotel, me and one of the other guys ran into some girls from Colorado. Invited them back to our hotel to join some people from our group to visit and hang out on the roof of our hotel. As we waited outside of our hotel for them to show up, some girls from Argentina came to talk to us and they joined us too! So it was a nice little rooftop party. πŸ™‚ Nothing too rowdy or crazy though.

As far as yesterday goes, there’s two things I’d like to focus on. The first is the international Mass @ the underground basilica. Since it was The Feast of The Assumption, Mass was planned for outside on the hillside. How cool is that, to be in Lourdes on a Marian feast day? However, due to the threat of rain, Mass was moved inside to the underground basilica. I’m actually glad it worked out that way because I get distracted more easily at outside Masses. Oh, and add to that the fact that the underground basilica is MASSIVE and quite an awesome sight to behold. Seating capacity is about 15,000 or 20,000 I think. To see that place FULL of people. To see the sick and handicapped front and center again. To see flags from all over the world. To hear the Mass celebrated in several different languages. It was another one of those “aha” moments that helped to remind me how universal the Church really is. After Mass, we took a group picture in front of the basilica. As we were getting ready for the pic, a man from New Caledonia (La Nouvelle Caledonie) wanted to take a picture of me holding our group’s American flag and have his daughters be in the picture too. Had the chance to speak some French with him too (New Caledonia used to be a French colony).

Later in the day we did the stations of the cross on the hillside. Now, these are not your normal stations. You hike up a hillside while you do the stations. And each station is composed of life-size bronze statues. The combination of the uphill walk plus the life-size scale of each station makes for a truly powerful experience. I was also feeling a little under the weather. My stomach was bothering me. My legs were also sore and were hurting me a bit, mainly from all the walking, and climbing uphill and standing around we’ve been doing. But all of that discomfort added an extra dimension to the experience. To literally feel physical discomfort while I did the stations helped me to be a little more in tune with what Jesus went through for us, and all of his pain and suffering. Being in a place like Lourdes, it also helped me to reflect on what it must be like for all of the handicapped and sick people that come here on pilgrimage every year. I realized that if they can bear with their pain and sufferingΒ  to come here on pilgrimage then so can I.

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World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Assisi/Rome – part 2

Thursday – August 11, 2011 – 9:45pm – Domus Pacis/Torre Rossa Park Hotel – San Giovanni Building – Room #270 – Rome, Italy

It’s only the beginning of our pilgrimage but the end is coming soon! I say this because with 8 locations in 14 days and fitting travel time in, we won’t have time draggin’ by! πŸ™‚ Last night I decided to go back to the Temple of Minerva/St. Mary’s Church and check out the video tour that had been recommended by one of my fellow pilgrims. When I got there after supper (9:45pm-ish) there was already another group in there doing adoration. Nice coincidence for me to be able to do both! πŸ™‚ After I finished there, I stayed out on the plaza listening to the live band. Apparently since last night was the vigil for the Feast of St. Clare, there was a cover band playing in the town square. Strange, yes. But oddly enchanting and admirable considering the reason they were there. As I started to walk back to our hotel, I met up with some other pilgrims from our group. They were headed up to Rocca Maggiore, an ancient fortress/castle on the highest hill in Assisi. Glad that I hooked up with them because I was curious enough to want to see it but would never have gone on my own. An added bonus was that on the way back down, I came across a very friendly calico cat that let me pet it. Reminded me of Patches, one of the ferals at my old apartment that “adopted” me.

This morning I could have kicked myself in the pants! It’s the feast day of St. Clare today and I wanted to go to Mass before we left Assisi. After all, when am I ever again going to have the chance to celebrate the feast of St. Clare at the Basilica of St. Clare? Probably never. Well, I missed Mass. Partially because of me still trying to get over jet-lag, and because of my own laziness. My consolation was that I knew I had plenty more amazing opportunities on this trip. Our first stop on the way out was the Porziuncola, the church that St. Francis built when he first heard God say to rebuild the Church. It’s a very small but beautiful fresco-covered church. And now there is a much larger church that was built to encapsulate this church as well as provide additional space for pilgrims and worshippers. I definitely felt God’s presence there. Only bad part was that we only got about 30-45 minutes since our bus was on a tight schedule.

The first thing we did once we arrived in Rome was to go to the Catacombs of St. Callixtus. It’s one of the many catacombs built in the early centuries of the Church as a burial place for martyrs and a place where they could secretly celebrate the Mass during times of persecution. When we were done there, our tour guide Roberta continued giving us a brief tour of the sites that were on our way to St. Paul’s Outside The Walls (aka – The Basilica of St. Paul). It’s the place where St. Paul (the one whom God literally knocked off his ass on the way to Damascus) is buried. He was martyred by being beheaded. The church is nicknamed “St. Paul’s Outside The Walls” because it is outside the original ancient city walls of Rome. I think it also had something to do with his martyrdom or his citizenship status. Saw his grave. We also got to celebrate Mass on the main altar of the church. Took lots of good pics, and then we left. It was simply amazing to see all of these great places and feel God’s presence so powerfully.

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World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Assisi/Rome

Wednesday – August 10, 2011 – 11:55am – Hotel Il Castello – Assisi, Italy

That’s right, I’m in Italy! I’m so happy right now, words almost cannot describe.Β  Flew into Rome yesterday afternoon. After collecting our baggage and boarding the bus, we settled in for a three hour ride to Assisi. Even though it was almost midnight when we arrived, the town still looked beautiful. People were ambling about (Europeans stay up late at night), churches were beautifully lit. Even though I was tired from all the travelling, I was still very happy to be here finally. Because of the lack of sleep I got while travelling, I had no problem at all falling asleep last night and getting my body on Italy time, which is 7 hours ahead of Lafayette. Slept in this morning until 8:15 and went to the hotel next door to have breakfast with the rest of the pilgrims.

Came back to my room, watched a little TV and sipped on my coffee. Took a shower and freshened up, then I set about exploring Assisi on foot. No real logic to where I went. It just felt so good outside. The sun was shining, a nice breeze was blowing, and the scenery was beautiful. Fields and orchards almost everywhere, spread among the mountains. Narrow streets that pass between stone-built edifices. Little religious souvenir shops at every corner. Saw one of the churches too. It wasn’t the St. Francis church or St. Clare church, but it was still very beautiful. I really enjoyed being in a church, in front of the Tabernacle, in Jesus’ presence. Felt very peaceful and calm. My prayer while I’m here, and during the whole pilgrimage, is to rekindle the fire of the Spirit inside of me. To rediscover God’s peace. I think Assisi is a great place to start doing that. It’s so charming and beautiful here. It’s also very holy. Knowing that I’m literally walking in the footsteps of St. Francis and St. Clare elevates the experience of pilgrimage to a whole new level.

5:45pm

So I just got back from an extensive walking tour of Assisi. Our tour guide Marco who is from Umbria, took us around and showed us the highlights. We saw the Basilica of St. Francis as well as the Basilica of St. Clare and The Roman Temple of Minerva. Both basilicas were absolutely beautiful. To be in these churches that are dedicated to 2 great saints and to walk in their footsteps was awesome. The Temple of Minerva was interesting because of it’s history. It was built in the year A.D. whatever, as a celebration for the residents of Assisi who had just become official citizens of the Roman empire. It has since been renovated and rededicated as a church, but I can’t remember the saint to whom it’s dedicated.

Half the pleasure of the tour (besides seeing the churches) was simply walking around town. It has a beautiful old world charm. Life here is slow and simple. There’s almost a romantic rhythm to the way of life here in Assisi. I commented to one of my fellow pilgrims that I wanna move here. πŸ™‚ Everywhere you go in Assisi there’s an amazing view, whether it’s the narrow cobblestone streets and old style architecture, or the scenic countryside and mountain vistas. At the end of the tour right next to the Temple of Minerva, I went to a gelateria. Got two scoops of gelatto, Straciatella (no idea what that is) and Tiramisu. Tasted great, and I knew I had to get it because there’s just something fitting about having gelatto in Italy. Even better was the fact that the server and her mother both spoke French. I think one of them is from France. I also had the pleasure of speaking French with a charming 20-something Italiana at a random souvenir shop on my way back to the hotel. Her name is Roberta, she’s 27, and she works there part time while also doing a pharmacy internship. Thought about going back there to give her my email address but I realized that probably ALL Italian women are charming, and I don’t want to give my email to all of them. πŸ™‚ Oh well, if it’s meant to be, I’m sure God will have our paths cross again. Now I must do some horizontal meditation so I can regain some energy for supper and the other activities we have tonight. Ciao!

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MISSIONARY JOURNAL – NOV 09 MEXICO TRIP – DEAD BATTERY

11-29-09 (last installment)

I also feel like God blessed me with the Joy of the Lord. It’s like I’ve been embedded with this true and unshakeable joy and it’s such a blessing. I felt this joy the whole time I was on the mission trip and felt like I was at peace and at home. When we got back to Big Woods this morning, my car battery was dead, so I felt like that was God calling me to spend the night at Big Woods. I was in no rush to get home, and any chance to extend the trip further and be around FMC more was fine by me. πŸ™‚

I slept till 11 and then I woke up to go find Joe Summers to help me jump my car battery. As I was walking to the main FMC house from the home where I slept, the weather was absolutely beautiful. And as I made my way over, this happy little thought popped into my head “Ahhh. This is the life! I could definitely see myself doing this”. I can’t lie, that thought brought a smile to my face. πŸ™‚

So now as the day draws to a close, I face another week of going back to work. While I’m blessed to have a job, it’s so hard to go back to it when all I wanna do is go on missions. But I know that if God is calling me to missions with FMC (which I think he is), he’ll use this time to start preparing me and my loved ones. Part of that plan is my desire to be around FMC as much as possible and do as much as I can. Praise you Lord Jesus and thank you for blessing me so much this week. I pray that you would continue to help me grow and to nourish these needs of faith that you have planted in me this week. Amen, Alleluia, Glory!

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MISSIONARY JOURNAL – NOV 09 MEXICO TRIP – PULLED OVER BY THE POLICIA

11-29-09 (continued)

When I look back at all the mission trips I’ve already been on, and how the Lord got me involved with FMC over the past few months, it amazes me. When I think about how much I was blessed on this mission trip, how much I felt at home, and how much joy I feel, it all makes perfect sense. I think it is God trying to open me up to missions. As I said earlier during the week, “God, I give you my Yes, I pray that you help me take care of the rest.” I could go on and on and fill up at least a few more pages in my journal, but I’ll stop here. πŸ™‚

After we finished up our prayer and sharing time, we loaded up and left. Our drive back was another one of my favorite parts of the trip. We saw some amazing desert and mountain scenery and just marvelled at the beauty of God’s creation. We actually got stopped by the Mexican police in the town of Monclova, but luckily all they did was check our documents and allow us on our way. I’ve heard some interesting stories about missionaries having run-ins with Mexican police as well as border patrol on both sides. Thank goodness the Holy Spirit guided us through it without incident.

Of course it was quite a long drive, especially with all the bathroom breaks and other stops. We left at approximately 10am Saturday morning and didn’t get back to Big Woods until 6am this morning. But again, the car ride is half the fun. I really enjoyed the car ride back because of the missionaries I got to ride with; Johnathan Weiss, Bree (intake 09), and Kristin Istre. We talked, we sang, we laughed, we played games, and really enjoyed ourselves. I especially enjoyed having a captive audience of full-time missionaries whose brains I could pick at to learn more about missions.

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MISSIONARY JOURNAL – NOV 09 MEXICO TRIP – DESIRE TO BE A MISSIONARY

11-29-09 (continued)

I feel so blessed by their presence and prayers at all of the rancho visits and when they come to our medical clinic. I also had the blessing of being on the construction work team and helping a local friend of the Casa de Misiones to do some work on his house. I could see Christ in every one of their faces and fell his presence. It moved my heart so much and these people fascinated me so much that I just wanted to sit and watch them. And I know we went there to heal them and bring the Good News of Jesus, but I feel like their prayers and presence healed me way more than what little I was able to do for them.

The other thing that was a huge blessing for me was fellowship with the other missionaries. I had been frequenting FMC quite a bit this semester and get to know everyone who was @ Intake this year. Getting to fellowship and visit, and do ministry side-by-side with them was such a blessing and helped me to grow alot. I also enjoyed the fellowship with some of full-time missionaries that came on the trip with us. I am so in awe of their holiness and dedication and i deeply desire to do what they do………..

As far as what I would leave in Mexico, it was my fear/distrust that God would not take care of everything in my life & provide for me if I discerned a call to be a full-time lay Catholic missionary. God really rocked my world when he proved to me how he could provide the means for me to be able to go on this mission trip. It has inspired so much confidence in me to be able to trust in the Lord and more freely discern a calling to missions. And as if I hadn’t already given it away, what I take with me is a STRONG desire to be a full-time missionary.

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MISSIONARY JOURNAL – NOV 09 MEXICO TRIP – BACK HOME

Sunday 11-30-09 / 5:05pm @ Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist

Praise God for a fruitful mission trip and safe passage back home. After Desert Day on Friday, we came back to the mission house and basically wrapped up and started packing up. We had a time of prayer and sharing which I enjoyed very much. Just hearing how much God spoke to everyone during our time of prayer out in the desert was such a blessing. The rest of the evening was spent eating supper, packing up, and enjoying the fellowship of the other missionaries. As I wrapped up the night, I went into the chapel and Jesus blessed me so much with his presence. I felt so at peace and comfortable in that stillness of prayer in the presence of the Eucharist.

A nice little side-bonus was hearing all the girls giggling and laughing in their room. At the time, I wasn’t really sure why exactly they were so loud and happy. But it brought me joy to hear them being so happy. Saturday was wake up, pack the vehicles, eat breakfast, and prayer/sharing before we left. The time of prayer/sharing was very fruitful. It seemed like b/c we had a small group, we were able to bond more and have a more prayerful atmosphere during the mission. Everybody got to praise God through singing as well as prayers of petition and thanksgiving. In our sharing time, we had to say 1) What blessed us most during the mission, 2)What we were going to leave behind, and 3) What we were going to take with us. Without a doubt, it is the people we ministered to that blessed me the most. I can now see why Mother Theresa was in love with the poor; it’s b/c they are near and dear to God’s heart. (to be continued)

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MISSIONARY JOURNAL – NOV 09 MEXICO TRIP – COWS WHILE I PRAY

Friday 11-27-09 / Desert Day part 2

So as I was sitting here praying, reading Scripture, and journalling, I started to hear a strange noise. (Mind you that i’m sitting in a small ravine where a small stream is running through it. Altogether, it’s maybe 20 or 30 fee wide at most.) As I look up, i see cows walking towards me! Of course I wonder what the Lord is doing….. After they keep coming and coming, I start to worry a little bit. The thought of being stampeded or gored by a 2000 lb. angry hunk of meat is not my idea of a fruitful Desert Day. My other thought is that I don’t wanna create movement or distraction by relocating myself and possiblely spook these beasts.

So I stay put, right where I am on the very edge of the banks of this stream. Amazingly, these huge animals were wary of ME! Every single one of them eye-balled me as they passed by. They gave me as wide of a passing distance as they went by. They gave me as wide of a distance as they possibly could. Even then, I had some of them passing a mere 10 feet or so from me. What are the chances that at the exact same time I’m here, a herd of cattle would be passing by?

At the end of the herd was the cattle driver, who I’m sure was confused as to why a strange little gringo is sitting in the exact ravine where he is driving his cattle. I mustered up my best Spanish to explain what was going on and he even let me take a picture of him. After he and his cattle moved on, I marvelled in this simple encounter. I wondered if God was trying to teach me anything or any grand lesson. However, the more I think about it, the more I realize it was just a little something to bring a smile to my face, and to give me the first of hopefully many great stories from the mission field. God Bless!

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MISSIONARY JOURNAL – NOV 09 MEXICO TRIP – SALTILLO

Wednesday 11-25-09 / 10:45pm in the office @ FMC Mission House in General Cepeda, Mexico
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If I could type these entries, then maybe, just maybe, I could tell you all the awesome stuff that has been happening today and this week. Today was an especially great day. Of course we did our normal morning work projects and work. The afternoon and evening we spent in Saltillo, the nearest large city. It was a leisurely excursion as well as a mini-pilgrimage. We took time to visit the market, and I bought a blanket for each of my benefactors from this trip. (btw, benefactors, I forgot to tag you in the first note, so i’m tagging you in this one) Following Joe Summers’ advice, I took a picture of each blanket, will donate the blankets to the mission house here to give to a poor family, and then give the picture and write a note to my benefactors. Then we got to visit the Cathedral in Saltillo and go to Mass there as well. We even came across a tour guide who brought us up to the bell tower and got to take some really great pictures. The absolute best part of the day though, was meeting a crippled guy named Omar outside of the Cathedral. I was blessed to see him on my way into the Cathedral and when I stepped back outside, I saw alot of the missionaries visiting with him. That gave me the additional blessing of being able to visit with him, pray with him, and even give him my beanie-cap from South Africa & my St. Benedict crucifix as well. It sounds very small (and it is), but I felt privileged and blessed to be able to give these to him. He was so appreciative of that. He was also very happy that we were visiting and talking with him. Apparently, he gets treated badly and people talk bad about him as he sits in front of the Cathedral every day (this is what he told us himself).

His smile was one of the most beautiful smiles I’ve ever seen. When I looked into his eyes, I realized and reminded myself that I was looking into the very eyes of Christ. This man had such a beautiful soul… One of the other missionaries was able to bring him to Mass with us. Throughout the whole Mass, I wanted to just look at him. I know I was hearing the Word of God, and I know I received Jesus in the Eucharist. BUT, I was so captivated by this man. I was fascinated by him. After Mass, we brought him back outside to his spot in front of the Cathedral for him to meet his ride. Right as we were leaving, his last request was to get a hug from all of us. Again, I was floored by this poor, simple, and humble man. It was the best hug I’ve ever given/received in my whole life. As great as the whole day was, meeting Omar absolutely made my day. The icing on the cake was getting to talk with two of the missionaries on our way back to the mission house about being in missions, discerning missions, etc… (John-Paul Papuzinski & Kristin Istre). I loved talking with them about their mission experience. It seems like every time I talk with any of the missionaries about that kind of stuff, it awakens a desire in me to do the same thing. I even said on the ride to Saltillo (at the urging of the other missionaries) that I was officially giving God my “Yes”. πŸ™‚ They all smiled, clapped, and hooted and hollered, and it felt great! I did tell God though, that he’d have to help me find a way to do it!

So we come again to the end of another day filled with blessings, anticipating what tomorrow’s day of mission work will bring. God I pray that you would continue to prepare the way by opening doors and softening hearts. God Bless!

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