"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)

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 Cumplea├▒os 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!