"Not so easily was I remade as made. He spoke and all things were made. But while he made me simply and at once by a word, he has in the remaking of me said many words, and worked wonders and suffered much." (St. Bernard)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Salvador and the Kingdom of God

Through Salvador, I encountered the Kingdom of God.

Today, being our ‘free day’, I went to Tena, the closest big city, to get some personal things done. I had breakfast at this café to get some food that reminds me of home.

While I was there, I began reading this book about Matthew’s gospel. It is in Spanish, which, praise God, I am understanding better. Immediately, the book began speaking about why Jesus came to us. “To fulfill all righteousness” (Mt.3:15), which in this context in Matthew means: doing the will of God, submitting to the plan of God for the salvation of all. We are considered just and practice ourselves this righteousness when we allow and participate with God to realize His plan in us.

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” (Mt.5:6)

After finishing my breakfast, I saw an older man I know from Ahuano walking by the restaurant. He is 75 years old and his name is Salvador… awesome name! I had to go talk with him. After some time talking outside, I asked him if he had eaten breakfast. He said: “No.” I invited him to eat a late breakfast, and I would pay. He accepted. We talked for another hour.

Salvador does not have a lot of money. Usually, he has none at all. His grand-daughter Josselyn, who is about 9 years old, lives with him. Both her parents died a few years ago. They receive no help from Salvador’s other children. They typically have no food in the house. With his age, and bad legs, he cannot work for money. He cannot work in the field to farm the products they need to eat. I asked: “What do you do for food?” He said: “When there is food, we eat. When there is none, we don’t. If there is no food, we drink a cup of chicha, and that is enough.”

I was so surprised with his lack of worry about not having food. Not once did he complain. Not once did he curse or murmur against God. Every Sunday, I see him at mass with his grand-daughter. He is faithful to our Lord, and is devoted to our Blessed Mother. When you talk with him, you encounter peace because he is joyful and content.

I must admit I have never experienced this kind of poverty. I have never been in this type of situation where I must depend totally on God to provide for me the ‘daily bread’. Unfortunately, I often find myself thinking about food. For instance, I will be talking to someone and my attention will stray from them and to the food I plan to have for dinner. Why is it that when we have things, we just want more of them? We are seeking to fill a hole, in a vain attempt to satisfy ourselves, and all the while, the hole is getting bigger. Why do I worry about not having the things which I already have? Do we realize that we can become enslaved by the things which we own? St. Teresa of Avila said in The Way of Perfection: “It is when I possess least that I have the fewest worries and the Lord knows… I am more afflicted when there is excess of anything than when there is lack of it… I have noticed that He provides for us immediately.”

Often, we seek what the world offers to alleviate merely the symptoms of our disease. This is our disease: a desire for the things that we do not want and that do not provide. Jesus offers more than just alleviating the symptoms. He cures the disease: destroying its very source. He gives us the way to be cured:

“…seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Mt. 6:33)

For me, I have so much more to learn. I am seeking the wisdom of God, the righteousness of God. I desire to be filled only by Him, not by the world. God blessed me with this encounter with Salvador, to understand His love for us, that it goes deeper than a mere morsel of food can satisfy. And all things of this world give only an instant of satisfaction before we are back yearning for more. Everything God has blessed us with here on earth are signs pointing to the One who truly and completely satisfies.

So, if we are hungry, or thirsty, or in need of clothing, first seek His kingdom and His righteousness, and ‘these things will be given you’ and you ‘will be satisfied’. Therefore, why worry. If we truly believe he is our Father, and seek first His kingdom and His will, He will give us the greatest gift of all: everlasting life and eternal satisfaction. Salvador is cured! Despite his infirmities and age, and the lack of food, and the lack of support from his family, he is healed. And the things that have been given to him, are not an abundance of food and riches. But, what he has received is exactly what he needs, for He is already living in the Kingdom of God.



Saturday, October 19, 2013

Restless for Missions

“I will follow you wherever you go.” (Lk. 9:57)

Ask yourself this question: Would I follow Jesus wherever he goes? Can you give up the luxuries of a comfortable life, set aside your ambitions and follow Jesus? If you are a Christian, the answer should always be “Yes!”

About six months before joining FMC, I started getting this anxious feeling. I felt as though my heart was desiring this massive change in my life. It took me some time to understand why, but one day while I was reading scripture and upon seeing how the disciples of Jesus put their lives in danger for the spread of the Gospel, I couldn’t seem to match the Christianity I was living with theirs. I then realized that as long as I was living a comfortable life, shying away from any kind of adversity in proclaiming the Gospel, and ‘playing it safe’, then I was not following Christ! My faith had never been tested. I must find out where Jesus is going, and follow Him.

So, I ask you: “Where does Jesus go today?”

Jesus goes wherever you go.

This is His challenge to us. He needs each one of us to ‘go and proclaim the kingdom of God’. He has ‘nowhere to rest his head’, maybe, because He is constantly at work in us proclaiming the Gospel message of salvation. This, of course, is His desire. As long as we are proclaiming, He is proclaiming.

We must be stirred up, shaken, and uncomfortable for the Gospel. For many, this will require you to go to a foreign land to proclaim His name, offer His healing, and to make known to others, who have never heard His name, salvation. “The number of those who do not know Christ and do not belong to the Church are constantly on the increase… When we consider this immense portion of humanity which is loved by the Father and for whom he sent his Son, the urgency of the Church’s mission is obvious.” (Mission of the Redeemer)

The task is urgent; the message salvific. Stir up your heart, and truly ask yourself: “Am I going where Jesus needs me to go?” Then, go out to the harvest and get to work. Really, if you are a Christian, it is not a choice. Missions is the life of the Church. If you are a believer in Christ, a member of His Body, the Church, then missions is essential to your own life. Consider that you, yourself, might be called to foreign missions. It is truly the best life, because it is who you were made to be. So, be stirred up, restless, until each heart rests in His.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

"Mi casa es pequeña."

"Mi casa es pequeña."

I woke up this morning to these words in my head:   "Mi casa es pequeña." Last night, Jefferson, one of our youth, uttered these words to Matt and I as we were leaving his house. Matt and I went to visit his family before Mass. His parents and some relatives were there. Immediately, when I entered, the father grabbed the nearest bench for me to sit on. And, as I was sitting down, the chicha was being placed in my hand. The people here know what it means to serve, giving what they have, as little as it may be. I recall the scripture from Genesis 18:1-8. Abraham rushed to meet three strangers and then he invited them to rest, wash their feet and eat. He happily called himself their servant. At first he didn't even realize that he was serving the Lord and His angels. Even in Hebrews 13:2, it is written: "Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels." How beautiful are these words!

Matt, Jefferson and I
Now, I am not saying that Matt and I are angels - though our moms might say so :)- nor are we the Lord, but the fact is, we are called to serve not be served. And we truly serve our Lord Jesus when we serve one another. Yet, He must serve us first. Where does Jesus serve us first and continue to serve us? In Mt. 20:28, Jesus connects serving to the giving of His life as a ransom. He serves us first in the sacrifice of His life on the cross. And it is in the Holy Mass where He continues to serve us, giving us His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, so that we may go forth bringing Jesus, who we have received, to others.

In the Spanish Mass of the Catholic Church right before we accept the Eucharist we say: "Señor, no soy digno de que entres en mi casa, pero una palabra tuya bastará para sanarme." In English: "Lord, I am not worthy that you enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." After saying these beautiful words, which are taken from Mt. 8:8, we humbly approach our Lord and faithfully receive His Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist, His sacrifice made present to us today. For, it is Jesus who brings healing: from our sins, from our struggles, from those who hurt us. And though our 'casa' is small, our bodies like grains of sand compared to God, and not all-together tidy, He desires to enter.

From left to right: Jefferson, Padre José, Cristian, and Nicolas

Then, we can better serve others because we have allowed Jesus to first serve us. We serve by going forth to provide for those who are hungry, for those who are thirsty, rest for the stranger... (Mt. 25:35). It is true... Jefferson's 'casa' is small. Six people sleep in a room smaller than most living rooms in the States. But, what I entered into was not a small 'casa' at all. What I experienced was a family of faith, already living in the Kingdom, the largest 'casa' of all.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Faces of Ahuano

Matt and I had a really great week. As we approach Padre's final day here in Ahuano, we are definitely spending more time with him, helping him as he prepares to leave. It has been a joyful week, full of many Baptisms (~30), a marriage, a celebration of the La Virgen del Huayco, and tons of masses. We visited with several different families, bringing the Word of God into people's homes.
I wanted to include in my blog update some of the many people we have come to know.

Sisa and I goofing around.

Belén and I... ¡Qué linda!

 Padre José celebrating a marriage. May God bless them abundantly.

At a mass celebrating La Virgen del Hauyco. Here is a statue of Mary with the child Jesús.

Celebrating the Feast of the Virgen of Huayco in the community Colonia Bolívar. Before mass, Matt and I lead the rosary and gave a reflection on La Virgen del Huayco. Such a beautiful night!

From left to right: Marci's mom, myself, Tammy, Matt, Helen, María Cristina
Some of our youth guys: Cristian, Nicolas, and Jefferson 

I can't believe that Matt and I have been here almost 8 months. It is moving so quick. This week we receive one of the new priests to Ahuano. We are so excited for this new opportunity to share the Gospel with another of our brothers in Christ and are hopeful for the blessings that will come from the hands of this servant of God. Pray for us, that the hearts of the people and ours will be open for the reception of the new priest. Pray that his own heart will allow Christ's love to penetrate. Peace and blessings to each of you.

Give them heaven!
Misionero Ryan

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Most Terrible Poverty

Matt and I have had a busy week, meeting with different people and families. I feel that the time we have spent with people has been so valuable.
Last Tuesday, Matt and I went to Coca, a much larger city, with Padre. At one point we came upon an older homeless woman and her daughter. She was begging for money from another woman. The woman completely ignored her, not saying a word. Not even an, “I am sorry. I cannot help you right now.” Nothing. Matt and I watched as the homeless woman completely humbled herself before another human being. And she was treated as if she did not exist. What if when you die and are reaching out to the Lord to have mercy on you (that you might be worthy to enter into His everlasting glory) that He completely ignores you? “He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will himself also call and not be heard.” (Prov. 21:13) In the words of Blessed Mother Teresa: "Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty."
Lord, have mercy! Matt and I talked with the woman, Maria Joselyn and her daughter, Jasmin, for a few minutes. She is homeless, but is able to stay with her daughter in a homeless shelter at night. Her husband is blind, unable to work and lives in another part of Ecuador. She wanders the streets daily just trying to get the food and money her and her daughter need for the day. We prayed with them, and were able to give her some money. We gifted Jasmin a rosary. They were so grateful. The light of Christ shown through her eyes, and she had such a warm radiance about her. Truly the kingdom is for those such as these. We are so blessed to live in His kingdom! Praise you Jesus Christ!

With Maria Joselyn and Jasmin in Coca, Ecuador.
Another story is about Maria Cristina… She is a twelve year old girl who has been through so much. She is unable to speak and hear, possibly born this way. She had a terrible accident when she was an infant and was badly burned. Also, a few years ago, she was run over by taxi in Quito and she had to go through some major surgeries to repair the damages. She goes to school, but unfortunately there is not a lot of help for her because the teachers are not equipped to teach her. Despite all of these sufferings, she is one of the most joyful people I know. She always brings with her a smile. Matt and I communicate through gestures and just, plain laughter. There is also something much deeper going in her heart.
She came over the other day with her mom, Gladys. Gladys came over to ask for help. She had cancer removed from her throat a couple of years ago, and now she has to go to Quito once a month for medical treatment, for the next 5 years. It cost her about $300 per month. Their family definitely cannot afford this. Matt and I were able to assist her with some of the money we had, and offered her prayers of protection and healing. Matt and I cooked lunch for them, Gladys, Maria and her sister, Tamara. What I noticed while we were cooking in the kitchen, was that, Maria, in the adjacent room, was sweeping and decorating it. I walked in and saw that she had carefully draped one of the small tables with a linen. She placed at the center of that table a statue of our Blessed Mother. In front of Mary, she placed a crucifix. It was so perfect. I realized that her understanding and wisdom in the spiritual life is so profound. I felt so humbled walking into the small holy sanctuary she had created for our Lord and His Mother. My thoughts turn to the reading from Luke 10:38-42. As we were there, serving and concerning ourselves with the material needs of the family, she was at the feet of Jesus, choosing Him over all things and adorning the room, the best way she could, as a gift to her King.

Also, Sunday was Helen’s birthday, Marcia’s daughter. She turned 9 years old. We visited them last night for a couple hours after getting back from the communities. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of choices in Ahuano for cakes or other sweets, so we brought Salticas crackers, there are like Ritz crackers: so delicious! She immediately started sharing them with all of her sisters. We sang Feliz Cumpleaños to her. We played a bunch of games with the kids. It was a blast. We ended our time with them in prayer together, with the entire family and the children.
Marci's girls From the left: Naomi (baby), Evelyn, Helen (back middle), Belen (front middle), and Sisa. 
Can’t wait to tell you about this upcoming week. Peace of Christ be with each of you!
Give them Heaven!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Faith and Perseverance

To all the Lord's hard-core prayer warriors and dedicated benefactors for the mission in Ecuador! May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ abound in you through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I apologize for not getting this update out sooner. We have been incredibly busy over the past few weeks. I hope to do my best to fill you in on all of the works God has been doing here in Ecuador.
June 29th marked the 5th year of Padre Jose becoming a priest. We had a huge celebration after mass on Sunday, June 30th. There were over 100 people that came. We began by having an indoor soccer match between the missionaries and the young kids. It was hardly a fair fight. It was 3 missionaries versus 16 kids, ages 8-12. I wish I could say, 'We let them win'. It was a lot of fun. There was a ton of food. Everyone that came was able to eat. The Lord blessed all of us.
The next day, Luis, our mission leader, went back to the U.S. He is originally from Venezuela, and he has been living in the U.S. for over 7 years. He feels called to get his citizenship. This requires him to be in the states for 6 months. So, through much discernment, he headed back to the states to begin the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. Unfortunately, this takes him away from the mission here in Ecuador. Please pray for Luis, that this process is smooth and the possibility that he will return to Ecuador before the end of the year.

The past two weeks since July 3rd, Matt and I have been really busy with the short-term mission group that came from Florida. This particular group was from one parish in Florida. They were high school students, college-aged students, and several adults and parents. It was a dynamic group, with so much heart and desire. I will never forget them.
We spent most of the mission in Misahualli and the surrounding communities. Typically, we would split up into two or three groups and each group would go to a different community. One particular community, Sardines, was my favorite. I led this group at this community. As we were driving there, I was praying asking the Lord to show us what we were going to do. Sometimes, we are not sure what we are going to do until we get there and introduce ourselves, and get a glimpse of what is possible. As we arrived to Sardines in the vehicle, 20-30 kids came running full-sprint at us. Thank you Lord Jesus! We are going to work with the children. We took the kids into one of the classrooms and began offering praises to God and singing songs. We spoke about Jesus and his love for them. The group of missionaries truly gave their entire self to the children. We took the kids out and played some games. I remember at one point, Dave, one of the dads, had three kids hanging off of him like a jungle gym. It was hilarious. While we were with the kids, the adults of the community were in a meeting for the community. They finished up 45 minutes before we had to leave. Again, the Lord blessed us with having all of the adults of the community in one place. We went in to the room where they were gathered and two of the missionaries gave testimonies of God's wonderful works in their lives. We talked about perseverance in the struggles of every day life. Especially for the people, they work hard in the fields each day, and it can be dangerous. The indigenous people, many of them, respond to the struggles of life by drinking too much. It affects them and their family. We talked about this and relying on Jesus, and persevering with Him to the end. Thank you to Julie, who came on this trip, for her incredible witness and amazing Spanish skills. Her light shines so bright for all to see.
One day we were able to visit a nursing home. This turned out to be one of the best experiences I've ever had. We spent several hours just being with them. We didn't always have to say anything; just our presence, our smiles, our desire to love on them was enough. One of the ladies never receives visits from her children. So, she cries constantly, all day, and all night. How tragic is it that we can become so busy with our lives, that we forget the very person that sacrificed so much of their own life for us. I suppose it is the same with the Lord. The cares and things of the world, can provide for us this false sense of security and happiness, that we so easily forget of our God, who is truly the one who nourishes us and keeps us alive. Do not worry about such things! 'Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.' (Mt. 6:33)
Thank you to Billy, and all of the others, who truly showed me what it means to give all that you are. Not just a little of our heart, are we called to give, but all of our heart, 100 percent! God bless you guys!
Two days last week the mission group came to Ahuano, our home in Ecuador. We spent much of the time cleaning and working on the mission house for future mission groups to stay in Ahuano. We were able to visit Marci's family, along with the two other families that live in the same plot of land. We played with the kids for a bit, and then gathered everyone, children, parents, and missionaries, about 30 people. Two of the missionaries gave awesome testimonies. We talked about faith, to believe without seeing, and what that meant in the physical world in which we live. Then Marci stood up and spoke about her own struggles. I was so proud of her. Despite the struggles she has with her husband, a lack of food and a clean living situation for her daughters, she perseveres in faith, trusting in the Lord to provide. In her poverty she is able to give so much more than I have ever given out of the abundance I have. How hard it is to give from the great wealth that so many of us have: so paradoxical is this constant message of the Lord. Yet, who would believe that the King of the Universe, our God, the one through whom we were made, would humble himself to become man and allow those whom He blew the breath of life into, to persecute Him, to torture Him and to kill Him on a cross, so that He could take up His life again, and so that 'we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is' (1 Jn. 3:2).
Again, thank you for all of your prayers and your constant witness to the incredible works of the Father. The Body of Christ is always growing. Do not be discouraged by the numerous people that do not know the Lord. Allow this to increase the fire you have to spread the Gospel message: it is URGENT! The Holy Spirit is the principal agent in missions. Put your trust in Him and you will not fail!
Give them Heaven!
Ryan Lawless

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The True Man

‘Man is truly himself when his body and soul are intimately united.’ Deus Caritas Est – Pope Benedict IV

Often times, it is confusing for us men to understand what our true calling is in this life. Are we called to marriage, priesthood, single life? Are we called to go to a university or continue working after high school? The world lies to us men. It preys on men’s bodily weaknesses. It tells us that to be successful and a good provider for the family we must have a good job making lots of money. We need to have a big house, living every day in excess. Fathers are allowed to work long hours and remain hidden in the background. It also says it is okay for men to indulge in the exploitation of women for ‘there is nothing wrong with just looking.’ This nonsense is in our face, everywhere you look. Unfortunately, the thinking of the world has seeped into the minds of the men we serve in missions.

My name is Ryan Lawless. I am a full-time lay Catholic missionary serving in a small town, Ahuano, in Ecuador. I live in a community with two other single men. We pray every day together. We are blessed to grow spiritually and fraternally. We take care of one another: praying over the other when they are sick, working together on projects and in preaching, and having a good time just being guys. We are men missionaries living the Gospel and spreading the Gospel to a people in a foreign land.
I never thought I could be called to this life. Before I heard the call to missions, I remember reading scripture and thinking, ‘My life is way too comfortable. Am I living Jesus’ words?’ At that time, I was working, making good money, taking my vacations, and able to utilize the convenience of the American culture as I pleased. Then, I said to myself, ‘How can I know what kind of man I am if my faith has never been truly tested?’ I was tired of living a complacent, lukewarm life. Is this what I was made for?

People need strong men leaders willing to fight against the injustices against the poor and to encourage every man to live the life they were made to live. In Ahuano, we see the negative influences from the lies of the world. The families have many problems. Many of the fathers drink too much. Often it is quite blatant, as we see men passed out in the streets. Sometimes, they get so drunk they go home and abuse their wife and children. They are not praying in their homes. The youth men lack motivation to work harder than they have to. Spiritual formation among Catholic men is severely lacking in these areas. Who do they need, but the True Man! Who is going to lead them to Christ, the True Man, but us men, missionaries for Christ!

You are called to be that leader, especially in leading others to know the Lord. Before I joined FMC, I would shy away from those opportunities to be a leader. I did not want the responsibility. Now, since being in Ecuador, I put my trust in the Holy Spirit. I lead prayer groups and home visits. Now, I will just begin to speak, trusting the Holy Spirit will provide the words the people need to hear.

The men of this world need men missionaries to reveal to them the love of Christ. Sometimes that means showing your confidence in Jesus and your love for them by encouraging admonishment of their sins. It is not always easy. The men need to see that they can live a different life as a man, a stronger man, who puts all of his fears, anxieties and struggles in the hands of the True Man. They need to know that this is not a weakness. Truly when your body and soul more intimately unite with the one who created you, then you become the man you were created to be. I invite you... become the man you were made to be!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Eager for Him and Him Alone

I have been in Quito, the capitol of Ecuador, for almost one month. My time in Quito has been an adventure, to say the least. I came here to obtain a more formal training in Spanish. I have been taking language classes for about 4 weeks. During this time, I also have been trying to be a missionary to the people in this city who yearn for God to ‘wipe away every tear from their eyes’ (Rev 21:4).

I remember the first day of classes, Monday, April 22nd. God gifted me with an incredible faith-filled teacher, Isabel. We were able to talk about our Lord. She is a catequist for children at her church. She stays very busy helping out in different ways. We have been able to pray together before and after the lessons. She has an incredible heart and cares deeply for each of her students.

This same day, there was another student in this school whose last day was my first day. She is a Christian missionary from England. She was leaving the next day to go to her mission post near the coast of Ecuador. I told her that in Family Missions Company, before someone leaves for their mission, we pray over them, laying our hands upon them, like the apostles did in Acts (See Acts 13:3). It was awesome to be able to join with her in prayer through our same Lord Jesus Christ. We all have a mission to preach His Gospel until the end of the world.

Later this same day, I met a young man who was lying on the street, his name is Gustavo. He is only 15 years old. He was filthy. I offered him some food and water and talked to him about the love of God. He looked confused as to why I was talking to him. I believe while he is just lying there on the street most people just walk past him. Even if it was just for a few minutes, I hope that he came to know that our Lord cares deeply for him. Please pray for him and so many others like him.

As I continued walking, I decided that I could just walk back to where I was staying. I am living in the south of Quito with a congregation of priests called Los Josefinos. From my school to their house, it is about a thirty minute bus ride. I had plenty of time to walk and make it before dark. At one point, I was walking and two men approached me from behind. One man stepped in front of me, reached in his jacket, turned towards me and pulled out a large butcher knife. The other man quickly stripped my bag and jacket off my back. They turned and took off running with my belongings.

“A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (Jn. 10:10)

Do you realize that we have been bought at a price? My life does not belong to me. God can easily take my life away if He deems it is time. The murder of a Son was the price that was paid. The destruction of His body was the destruction of sin and death. No one wants to be in suffering and pain, or in mourning. And Jesus came to make all things new (See Rev. 21). Every person is in search of happiness, comfort and peace. Even thieves are in search of these things. However, where shall you look: amongst the things of this world? These things will continue to bring sadness and disappointment, for they will never satisfy. Everything of this world has an end; everything runs dry. There is only One who can give life forever and give it in abundance. Jesus is the eternal wellspring that gives life. Follow Him and you shall never thirst again.

 “And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.’ (Mt. 10:28)

After this incident I have been giving thanks to God more intensely for my life. I have been praying for these men. I truly believe that God will transform the hearts of these men. However, after this I was trying not to fear these people or this city. At first, I was doing well. I was motivated not to allow this incident to frighten me. Mt. 10:28 tells us that we should only fear God, because He has the power to destroy our body AND soul. As I look around at the city and its people, I see a people living in fear. Now, I was experiencing fear in this city. I was constantly on-guard. I would guard my pocket; I would guard my bag; I would guard my back. On the bus, the other day, a person bumped against me from behind and I jumped, thinking they were attempting to rob me. Lord, I don’t want to live in fear. Save me!

For a few days, I was struggling to be open with people: on the bus or on the street. How can I minister to others if I am afraid of them? Jesus tells us that we cannot hide our talents. We cannot hide our light under the bushel basket. Our heavenly Father has created us for a purpose. All of us, as members of the Body of Christ, have a specific role in helping others to come to know His Son, Jesus, and that His Kingdom is being established here, right now. The Lord says do not be afraid of those in the world. He means right now: Do not be afraid! Slowly, I came out of hiding. I know that through the fervent prayers of my family, friends and benefactors, and the valiant prayers of St. Michael and the Holy Family, I have come out of the pit of this fear. I must tell you, despite the oppression of this city: the barred windows, the broken glass cemented into the tops of walls, the hard expressionless faces that many people display because of their fear, I have never met so many selfless and faith-filled people, as I have met here in Quito.

One man, named Klever, gave up his entire day to help me find a place to live. He has a generous heart and a great desire to understand the incredible depths of God. He doesn’t give himself a little, but like our Lord who manifested bread and fish in abundance, he gives himself in abundance.

At this point, I must mention the Josefinos. I have been staying with a group of priests at Iglesia La Magdalena. They are of the congregation Los Josefinos. There are 4 priests who live here. Padre Hector is the head of these men. Since the first day I met him he has treated me like a son. He drove me to the U.S. Embassy the day after my passport was stolen. He invited me to his hometown so I could meet his family. He has provided for me shelter, food and a place to rest in their home. I am deeply indebted to him, Padre Edwin, Padre Gustavo, and dear Padre Pedrito. Also, a young man named Cesar lives here. He has an intense desire to be a priest and to serve others. He is only 16 years old. His devotion to Jesus through our Holy Mother is intense. He awakes every morning at 3am to give praise to our Lord through the rosary. He is constantly witnessing to the love of Jesus by offering to help wherever he can. His devotion inspires me to be more attentive to the voice of our Lord.

Last Sunday, I was walking back to the church when a lady named Loran Volanci, who was sitting on the side of the road selling food, called out to me. She begged for me to pray for her to God. She begged that I would pray to God that He would protect her and heal her from her infirmities. WOW! What faith! I recall all the men and women that reached out to Jesus that they might be held. What faith! I have never seen such faith. With her right then and there, I placed my hands on her and I prayed over her that the Lord would heal her. I understood in that moment how much the Father truly loves us. This is the kind of faith we each should have. Her witness of faith augmented my own faith. Thank you Jesus!

I have been able to see one woman, Rebecca, 2-3 times per week. She has been struggling with walking the straight path with God. She has been partying too much, and being with friends who do not encourage her to grow closer to God. The first day I met her we were talking about God. I thought she had everything together. Before I left, I asked her if I could pray for her. She said, “Of course.” I said, “I don’t mean pray for you later, but right now.” Surprised, she said, “Of course!” I asked her for what she needed me to pray. Immediately, she started crying. She has been crying every night, every day, begging God for help to make her path straight. She has been so depressed. She hasn’t been going to church. She told me that she has been so confused in her faith. She wanted God to send her someone to pray with her and to help her. God answered her prayers. Now, she awakes in the morning at 5am and prays, giving thanks to God. She is so joyful and so thankful for the love of God. She doesn’t desire to go out partying. She only desires to pray and be close to Him. I gave her a bible, as well. She was ecstatic! Now, her faith is contagious. Her belief in the power of prayer is tangible. I walk away from praying with her truly feeling bold in our Lord, courageous in His love, with an increased faith in the very real presence of our God. He is alive! His kingdom is here! I have encountered Christ.

Amongst all the trials and suffering, and fear of this world, there is so much good. There is so much to love and to be thankful for. Even a taste of the everlasting joy of the Kingdom can be appreciated right now if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. Yet, the goodness of the Kingdom is only manifested here by our cooperation with Him to help make it known. God works through us to reveal Himself to others. How will people obtain faith to see and hear the Kingdom, if no one is showing them God’s love and no one is speaking to them God’s Word. It is our obligation, like Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:16, to preach the Gospel. At any moment God could call you back to give an account to Him of the work He has given you to do. So I ask you: are you ready? How many talents have you gained? How much fruit is on your branch? Are you slumbering in the night while the oil for your lamp has run dry? Are you ready for when the theif comes in the night? For, ”Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.” (Heb. 9:27-28)

Let us awake! Let us be eager for Him and Him alone! Let us look forward to the day when the veil will be removed from our eyes and we may truly see our Lord Jesus Christ forever face to face!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

I Have Seen The Lord!

Felices Pascuas! Viva Cristo Rey!!

‘Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and what He told her.’
(Jn. 20: 18)

This past Holy Week, Semana Santa, we were so blessed to see our Lord Jesus Christ. He revealed Himself in so ways. And I want to announce to you the many ways through which He came to be with us.

Gonzalo and Los Rios
We spent the entire week in a small community called Colonia Los Rios. The local catechist, Gonzalo, and his wife, Elizabeth, allowed us to stay in their home. Most of their children are married and have kids of their own. They welcomed us sincerely into their home as family. They understand what it means to be a family in Christ. They allowed us a bedroom. With joy, Elizabeth, was up at 5:30am cooking breakfast for us. Gonzalo was our guide and helped us with catechesis. Sometimes his son, Juan, would show us around. They and so many of the people whom we visited over the course of the week were incredibly generous and, always, offered us food. And not just a little, but in abundance. We do not go hungry. We shared with them scripture and prayed with the families. Like Christ, who gives in abundance, the people here give in abundance. From their hearts, full and open, they share their lives with us. They were Christ to us. In them and by their witness in faith, I have seen the Lord.

Luis teaching the kids.
During the first part of the week we walked an hour to another small community called Runashitu. We spent time with some of the kids singing songs, and then talking about the Catholic faith. Some are about to receive First Communion, while others are receiving Confirmation. We spoke on the importance of these sacraments, and talked about the meaning and movement of La Semana Santa. The peace, joy and openness of the children call to mind the reading in Mt. 19:14: 'Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.' For, it is their yearning to believe without seeing, true faith, and their absolute trust in others that earns their place in heaven. Through them, Christ calls us closer to Him, to accept Him for all that He is, and to have complete faith in His goodness. In them, I have seen the Lord.

The kids after receiving God's miracle!
A miracle happened for those who have the eyes to see. On Tuesday before our session with the kids, we handed out 5 miraculous medals to 5 kids. When we got to class all of the kids were asking the other kids, “Where did you get those?” So everyone else asked us for one too. We did not have enough for all of the kids. So not to disappoint anyone, we told them that the next time we visit, we hope to have some more and that would probably be in another month. But, we told them to pray that God would provide them with a medal. Later on that evening Luis traveled to a nearby town, called Chonta Punta, to get some food for our Holy Thursday party with the community. While he was there he came across the nuns that were serving there for the week. They gave Luis about 20 miraculous medals! They were the same ones we had given to the kids just 5 hours before. Now we had enough!! The next day, we gave the kids the medals and told them of the awesome miracle of God. Jesus calls us to 'Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Mt. 7:7)' The kids have huge faith! And God answered their prayers. Gloria a Dios! In this miracle, I have seen the Lord!
Talking to the youth in Los Rios.
Last Tuesday, we walked to Runashitu, but this time we were prevented from going the usual way. The night before it rained all night. The road to Runashitu was completely flooded. Gonzalo led us the other way which took us an extra hour to get through, not because of distance but because it was mud and swamp. We had to remove our shoes and walk barefoot in knee deep mud. Sometimes we stepped in water, not knowing what was beneath. Sometimes, we stepped on sharp thorns which tore off in our feet. The symbolism of our journey through the mud and thorns was clear. Our pilgrimage on earth is often times treacherous, filled with many snares. Sin looms in the dark waters of our hearts. It threatens to pull us deep into its grasp to never let us go. It pierces our bodies, leaving not just wounds, but seeking to infect us with its poisonous remains. Yet, Jesus has conquered death and put sin to death. PhotoWhy must we continue walking in it? We are called to persevere. Our trials will only be with us for a little while longer, and for now, they are necessary so that the genuineness of our faith in Him shall prevail (See 1 Pet. 1:3-9). The only way that the Lord has not conquered sin in us is if we choose to give up in the middle of the journey; if we choose to lose hope. WE MUST ACCEPT His gift of faith, and then repent and give all of our sins over to Him, so that we may accept His sacrifice as complete in us. He will show us the way, and that is to proclaim His Good News. So, us four persevered in our journey through the swamp and mud, to proclaim the Gospel to the people in a Runashitu. Through all of this, Gonzalo, who is 74 years old, led the way. He has been serving as a catechist for almost 40 years and he is still sacrificing himself for the people of Los Rios. He has shown me how to persevere in joy. By his sacrifice, I have seen the Lord!

'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!'  (Rom. 10:15)

There is so much more to say. I hope to give more soon. But for now, I ask for your prayers for Colonia Los Rios. God is doing great things here. Blessings to all and peace in the name of Jesus Christ be with you!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Luz de Belen

It is incredible to see the awesome way God uses you. But, you have to be open to it. I believe that you must pray to our Heavenly Father to show you His Son. Beg your Holy Mother to show you how you are to live a life that is a complete 'YES!' We have been praying more and more for God to open our hearts to those divine appointments that He has waiting for us. Lord, show us how you want to use us, today, right now. So often we just carry on our own way, walking by people, and we don't think twice about that person we just passed, or even that person we had a quick conversation with. What is going in their life? As a member of the Body of Christ, in what way do they need me? What gifts do I have to offer them?

I would like to recount an event that happened in Quito right before coming to Ahuano. We were waiting to finish the process to get our Visas. We had 5 hours to wait. So, we ventured out into the city. About an hour and a half before we had to get back for our Visas, Matt reminded us that he needed a couple of things for his guitar before we headed to Ahuano. We asked a man at this restaurant where to find the closest music shop. It took us almost half and hour to walk there. Along, the way we saw this woman and her two kids on the side of the road. Her eyes revealed an abyss of great sadness within her. We stopped to talk to her and her kids. Her name is Luz de Belen (Light of Bethlehem) and she was holding in her arms a sleeping infant. The older boy with her, Sebastian who is about 2 years old, immediately jumped in my arms when I sat down to talk with him. He desired so much love and affection. Luz has 5 kids and her husband just left her after her last baby. She is living on the street with her kids, because she just lost her job and therefore her apartment because she can't pay rent. When we first began talking with her she couldn't speak, but only cried. Her sadness was overwhelming. We played with Sebastian and talked with her and Sebastian about the awesome love of our God. We prayed over her, laying our hands on her and the kids. It was an incredible experience. We gave some money to her and some of the food we had to Sebastian. When we left, she was no longer crying, but in her eyes there was a bright light, the flame of Christ within her had been fed.

The more I think about this encounter with this woman and her children, the more I realize that we actually encountered Jesus. When you think of three men walking from a distant land, who come upon the light and find a woman holding an infant, and then before they leave, give gifts to them, what do you think about? This is the story of the Magi who follow the star that stops over Bethlehem (Mt. 2:1-12). We stopped when we saw Light of Bethlehem (Luz de Belen). We came not bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but with the gifts of kindness, hope and love. We gave a few minutes of our day to someone who has been forgotten, to show them that they have dignity; to show them they are loved by One who entered into our poverty as one of us; to show them that the One who was rejected, "because there was no room for them in the inn" (Lk 2:7), has gone to "prepare a place" (Jn. 14:3) for her and her children.

In our mission in Ecuador, we have experienced some awesome encounters with people, sometimes immediately after we pray for them. "For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened" (Mt. 7:8). I encourage you to make this a part of your prayer each day, especially as you are heading out from your house. Every time you are about to meet with someone, ask for the Lord to show you how you can witness to them. These encounters will happen when you least expect them. And allow any moment to be that moment where you encounter the Light of Bethlehem.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

We´ve Arrived

¡Todo gloria a Dios!

We arrived in Quito, Ecuador late last night. Almost exactly three months ago Matt, Luis and I found out that our mission post would be in Ecuador. I cannot believe that the time is here. I cannot believe that God finds me so worthy to stand before Him in this place. I am so blessed to have so many people praying for us and the people whom we will serve. Thank you!

We are all very different, and our gifts are unique. Yet, we have one goal and mission in mind. I pray that we may have unity in everything that we do. This is the beginning of our mission. In our morning prayer today it was all about singing a new song and how the spirit of God creates. This is what we want: to begin anew today... Lord convert our hearts anew today and at each moment. Show us our iniquities that we may shed ourselves of all that is not of you. I must decrease. You, Lord, must increase. Create in us, one body, one mind and one spirit for You and your people, so that our love may be intense.

Today, we head to Tena on a bus down the mountain to visit the bishop. We will discuss with him our mission and continue to discern the place where we will serve permanently. Like James said this morning, we must always begin and end with prayer. Pray without ceasing. We must pray our mission into being... without prayer we will not be successful. Without conversing with God how could we possibly know what it is He wills for us. Please pray for us, that we may at all times do His will. Peace of Christ to all of you! Please let me know what we can pray about for you.