All is Grace

I’ve met some of the most incredible people.

Big news: I’m back in the states! I have returned after my 2-year missionary term with the Missioners of Christ in Honduras. God has led me through many wild adventures, fun times, and heart moving moments in Honduras and now has called me back home where I will be teaching math at the high school I actually went to!

The last few months spent with the missioners happened in a blink. In March we welcomed 3 mission teams from the states while they had spring break, then in May, 1 athletic mission team, and 3 mission teams during the summer months. I knew it would happen fast and I tried so so hard to cherish every last moment. I’m left with a hole in my heart on returning back to the states and leaving the people and the country of Honduras that have impacted me so much.

These people, both who I met while on mission and my ministries, and the people who have come to serve with us, AND the missioners I had the privilege to live and serve with have all left an impact on my life. These people are extraordinary and have given me life long lessons for the journey to heaven.

Other lessons have been learned simply through experience. Experience living with 20 other young adults from different cultures and countries (talk about clashes and differences, but also the beauty of breaking down barriers and walls), experience serving in ministries and missions where fruits were seen in abundance and love was welcomed and shared, experience serving people who didn’t readily accept our good acts and the fruits were hard to see, experience boiling my clothes after having them infested with fleas while on mission, experience cooking a meal for a house of 25 which meant using bigggg pots and pans, experience listening to a single mother’s story in the village where she works long days in order to provide food and education for her children, stories of children who walk a 2 hour mountainous path from their home to go to school Monday-Friday knowing their education is a blessing from God, experience hand-making corn tortillas that turn out to be the shape of Honduras instead of the perfect circle the Honduran women make, experience showering outdoors with a simple hose and bucket with no walls or curtains to hide you, experience hugging a young teenage girl who opened up about her struggles and her heartbreaking past, experience visiting people while on mission who are resentful with the Church and with God but are re-invited and reconciled through the time with the Missioners, experience young people rising up to become leaders in their own villages after experiencing conversions and receiving formation through their time with the missioners, experience of Eucharistic adoration in the middle of Central Park in downtown Comayagua where hundreds of people gathered to adore our Lord with candlelights and praise and worship, experience of moments where I thought I reached my limits and had nothing more to give but God gave the grace to continue, experiencing moments of awe and grace soaking in the beauty of Honduras with her mountains sunsets waterfalls and nature, experiencing living with a true family of brothers and sisters in the mission house where we argued, we forgave, we laughed, we cried, we joked around, we loved, we prayed, we worked; listening to stories of how God has helped an alcoholic husband leave his addiction and have a deep conversion in the faith, listening to stories of losing close family members but still having hope, faith, and joy through it all, experiencing drinking 15 cups of coffee in one day doing house visits where each house offers a cup of coffee fresh from their own farm, experience being completely loved and cared for while sick on mission, experience being loved and accepted during difficult times, experiencing pushing forward even when I thought I had reached my limits, experience depending on our Lord in the Eucharist to be able to give more to the people we served (and lived with haha), experience being humbled and feeling like nothing/useless when I felt unable or insufficient, experiencing the connection with another person from a completely other country culture and language, experience laughing my head off until I felt nauseous with the missioners in the house, experience riding in the back of a truck for 6 hours while raining, experience surfing and traveling through Nicaragua and its beauty, experience almost falling off a cliff while on a “fun adventure day” with the Missioners, experiencing all different foods, some being my favorite (baleadas yummm) and some not (no queso por favor :)), and simply experiencing the presence of God through it all and how he never fails us and his grace is always sufficient. All the more I am convinced, all is GRACE.

My mission now? It seems to be a hidden mission. Back at home, teaching high school math. There is peace this for now is where I’m supposed to be. My mission is to bring part of Honduras and share it with the people I will be surrounded by and encounter here in the states, especially my students! Our culture lacks a lot of the richness that Honduras has, they have a lot to teach us. How to be more of a community, be more personal and relational instead of isolated and self-sufficient, how to be identified as child of God (not by success and how much we can do), how to have joy in the suffering, how to have faith and hope when there seems to only be despair, how to enjoy every little blessing that comes from God, how to never take anything for granted, how to thank God for everything. How to believe that all is grace.

Check out these photos from this past year on mission! ENJOY 🙂 just as I did in every moment these pictures were taken…

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Summer mission in El Matazano with an awesome high school team

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making filipino food with another filipina visiting missionary, Myrna! 200 lumpias all gone in one day!!!

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running the pro-life table at our mission “Jesus at the Beach” and speaking to people passing by about the gift of life

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playing music for the people visiting or passing our tent at “Jesus at the Beach” mission

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Our family Christmas card photo. Love from the Missioners of Christ in Honduras!

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enjoying coffee downtown at a coffee shop with beautiful falling flowers!

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with Diana and her nieces on Nicolle’s first communion

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May Varsity FOCUS mission! Group of Catholic athletes came to evangelize using their God-given gifts!

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Our mini-volleyball camp and tournament during the mission

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Night of Worship in Central Park in downtown Comayagua, hundreds of people filled the Park to adore the Eucharistic Jesus exposed on the altar under the pavillion!

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Women’s night: “casitas” went out for the night!

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At the orientation to prepare the US teams before heading out to mission

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one dangerous game of musical chairs on a grassy incline haha

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the villages combined at the retreat to end the mission week in La Laguna!!!

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our awesome team on my last mission (missing Savanna)

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The village of La Laguna at the closing night for the mission week, beautiful people!

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The (crazy) kids from La Laguna showing off their project! So much love and joy.

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“do the rollercoaster” 🙂

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“go crazy” picture haha 🙂

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visiting CFR priest and deacon celebrating the mass to a village that gets mass once a year!! Many villages are similar to this due to the lack of priest to cover all the villages, especially the remote ones. It’s a blessing to always have a priest that can minister confession and celebrate mass.

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On one of the house visits.

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Fun back at the retreat center after mission

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Caty, one of the long-term Honduran missionaries, graduated college!!!! Congratulations the new professional social worker 🙂

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Another filipina missionary visiting, and yes, we made more filipino food to satisfy the hungry missionaries of the house.

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At one of my favorite ministries, Casa Misericordia, an orphanage for girls with disabilities. They show love without limits!

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Vanessa 1, Vanessa 2, Yolando, and Digna. Yes the other Vanessa had to be Vanessa 1 or she would roll her eyes lol

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My going away party at the mission house, thank you all!!!

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Going away party decorations, they did an amazing job.

Banner Honduras

“Lord, make me know your ways; show me your paths.” -Psalm 25:4

 

Beautiful Honduras, the secret gem.

Being

Hi everyone!

Long time, no writing… its time for an update!! We have been go-go since the March missions started, and we still have more coming this summer. So what have we been up to since? Here’s a time-line summary of the past months after our 3 back to back missions in March:

April 1-3: “Your Life Is Mission” retreat for 40 teens on the north coast city near the beach (HOT!!!)

April 7-16: “Jesus at the Beach” mission week during Holy Week, which means vacation week also for Honduras, WHICH MEANS everyone to the beach! So we spent the week at the beach, evangelizing, and inviting people to visit our tent set up on the beach. We had a pro-life table, dramas, reflections, dances, Olympic games, a soccer championship, works of mercy, teams who would go out every day to talk to the people, and much more! Local teenagers from the retreat and La Ceiba joined us to make it possible, it was success and a lot of fun!!

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Some of the missioners and the teens who helped with the bishop of the Diocese of La Ceiba. He’s from Ireland and an amazing bishop!

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The teens who served with us on the beach after performing a dance to the song, “Jesus at the Beach” that was written by one of the missioners.

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Sofia and me at the tent on the beach!

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Performing the choreography to the theme song for the week

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Re-enacting the washing of the apostles’ feet in front of a large crowd at the beach. Really powerful! Fr. Heraldo read the gospel out loud as the men acted it out, then afterwards, they went out in pairs and began to wash the feet of the people watching! Some laughed, some were suprised, some cried, but it was beautiful so watch the different reactions. We did as Jesus had asked us, to follow in His example and wash the feet of others, to be a servant.

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The mission team for the week all together!

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The team after the Olympics we had put on.

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Singing “dinamic” songs for the children’s program!

April 21-23: Follow-up mission in the mountains! I was sent with a team with 4 missionaries to put on a leadership formation for the leaders of the youth groups we had formed earlier in the year.

April 27-31: Silent retreat with the community in El Salvador, and one day spent at a “waterpark” which had slides and a zipline!

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Zaira and me at the retreat house in El Salvador. There is a great devotion of Oscar Romero who helped liberate and was a voice for the poor and defenseless in El Salvador during a time of war and corruption.

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The missioners at the end of the silent retreat!

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The missioners at the waterpark

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About to get on the zipline!

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Walking to the next security checkpoint to cross the El Salvador border!

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Getting ready to leave the house, and me getting comments about my “interesting” choice of an outfit, haha.

May 5-7: “Come and See” at our missioners house for the Honduran young people who are discerning if they will join our community as a missioner. Some are about to finish their studies and may possibly enter this next year! At the Come and See, they receive orientation of the life and vision of the Missioners of Christ and also get to experience the life and get to know the missioners.

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May 7: I committed myself to the Missioners of Christ! Myself and the majority of the missioners from the house did it. It’s a commitment to live and pray as a missioner. It was a special night and we all received a Missioners cross that signifies our commitment to the missioners.

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After the commitment ceremony!

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Group picture the next day!

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Receiving my missioners cross during the ceremony.

May 13: On the 100th anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, the community consecrated itself to Our Lady of Fatima after doing the 33-day consecration retreat written by Fr. Michael Gaitley based off the 33-day consecration from St. Louis de Monfort. With this, we believe the community is completely delivered and in the care of Our Lady who will guide, protect us, and make us and our mission perfectly presented for her Son, Jesus. It was a night with rosary, holy hour, mass, and a consecration ceremony where we each gave a rose to Mary and recited the consecration prayer.

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May 12-21: Varsity Mission. We received a team of about 15 college students and FOCUS missionaries. We headed to the mountains for the week after 2 days of orientation at the missioners house. We put on a soccer championship with the local villages from around the main municipal, and used it as means of evangelization by giving testimonies, talks, dramas, times of prayer in between the soccer games. Along with a children’s booth, pro-life table, and rosary making booth. It was a success and a blessing to have the FOCUS Varsity missionaries with us for the week.

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Joseph, a seminarian who served with the Missioners before entering, gave his testimony during half-time.

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Our Pro-life table and rosary making table. Arlenys showing life size baby dolls which imitates the size and weight of babies at different stages of the growth process within the womb. People are amazed to learn how developed and big a baby is already at 3 months!

May 22-24: “Bring-a-gringo-home”. It was a week of vacation where the Honduras could go their homes and if they chose, they could invite one of the Americans to come home with them! I had the blessing to go visit Zaira’s house, one of the Honduran missioners. She housed us, and we spent time with her family, then the next day, we went on a road trip to a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains here in Honduras. We ate delicious fish and enjoyed the awesome view.

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Sophia and I on the dock at the lake

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Chilling out relaxing out cooling

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Eating some delicious fish at a restaurant that over looked the lake.

June 2-4: Follow-up mission in the mountains. We put on another leadership formation for the leaders of the same youth groups we have been working with this year. Another blessings to be back in the mountains and realizing this trip, that I’m really starting to get to know the teens and the people we serve. We know their names, their families, we’ve visited and stayed at the homes, we know their stories. It’s been amazing getting to befriend the teens and their families.

June 4: We celebrated and partied in honor of Cesar who recently graduated! A candle-lit dinner, games, karaoke, and dancing! He graduated with a degree in psychology and puts on monthly human formation for us. Helping us with time-management, mental health, and suggestions for community living and working in ministries! He inspires me! That he is using his degree to help the community, but ultimately for God.

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June 8-19: LSU Mission team, although no one was from LSU due to circumstances out of our control, and then celebrating by going to a waterpark at the end of the week with the team!

June 19: the 6 new summer mid-term volunteers arrived! They spent 2 weeks in Guatemala for Spanish school. We’ve been orienting them this week and they have been accompanying us in our local ministries to determine which ones they feel called to for the summer. They are a HUGE help!! Extra hands of course are great, but they all come with a servant’s heart and willingness to help and serve wherever is needed. And they all have great, distinct personalities which adds life to the community. I’m very thankful for their yes to be here.

Last night: we celebrated the June birthdays which includes Carol’s birthday, our servant leader and one of the founders of the Missioners of Christ. The community practice throughout the week to perform 2 dances from the Mother Teresa musical because Mother Teresa is Carol’s favorite saint and role model, her example actually inspired Carol to move towards converting to Catholicism!! The dances were a surprise for Carol and she was so excited and delighted once she saw it! Check out the video of one of the dances, the music is in Italian, but it’s translated as “Her Name is Teresa”.

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The whole cast from the Mother Teresa the Musical!

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The sisters from the musical!

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One of the dances called, “Her Name is Teresa.”

AND NOW… This Thursday coming up, we are expecting about 35 highschoolers from the US along with chaperones. We will have a mission with them, some in the local villages and then 2 teams with teens who are 18+ will go to further villages for the week. This is my first high school mission with the Missioners. Should be interesting… We are always careful and the teams that come, but MOST especially with this team since they are young-ens! But we pray for a powerful experience nonetheless with God, just like all the other teams. That this time may be a time of deep conversion and encounter with God through the experiences serving the poor and people of another culture/language. Prayers always welcome..

So how have I been these past months? Busy of course. The silent retreat in April helped re-center the missionaries, to remember, we are contemplatives in action. That we first our men and women of prayer, inspired by the Holy Spirit, in constant conversation and relationship with Jesus, before we are workers and doers for Him. For me, its easy to fall into the “doing” in life, but “being” is first. Remembering to be present to everything that is given as gift during the day, all the people that we encounter in the community, in our ministries, and the missions. And most importantly, being present to Our Lord who is always with us, living here in the Eucharist in the middle of our house, and he hopes and longs for our moments where we choose to be present to Him. Where we can give Him our undivided attention, when we can put the work aside (even if its “work” thats meant to serve Him!), leave behind our distractions, and finally rest in Him.

This is my challenge for myself, to find myself and who I am before him, every single day, in every moment. In all of the work we can get caught up, I want to know the work I have to give is coming from a full well that is filled and overflowing from God. I’m thankful the community, and this has been an amazing gift that’s revealed to me over and over again. We are a group of broken, weak human beings, but we’re the group God has chosen to pray, live, and work together in order to fulfill his mission. And we give our best, and we pray he makes miracles with the little work we can do. Through Him all things are possible, without Him we can do nothing. We are the branches and He is the vine.

Many blessings to all of you. Thanks for reading, being interested, and if you have supported me through prayers or financially, A MILLION THANK YOU’S!! You are the ones who make this mission possible for me, and the amazing opportunity to serve as a missioner of Christ. My peace is here and I’m doing well, until next time!

Mission, Mission, Mission

Hola a todos!!!! Hey everybody 🙂

We finished and survived our 3 back to back missions in March!! Each Saturday we received a new team of college students from the United States for the week, which we took 2 days for orientation and then 5 days in the mountain. Once we dropped off the past week’s team at the airport, we would pick up the new team for the next week. At the beginning of March, it was hard for me to imagine how in the world we would survive the next 3 weeks!! I knew it would be physically, spiritually, and emotionally demanding on all the missioners. But by grace and community, it actually wasn’t as bad as I had thought. The teams were beautiful and amazing to be with. The people ranged from all different stages in their walks with Christ. Some had just started their journey to live a Christian life, even a non-Catholic who recently just started RCIA classes!!, and also some who have been living their Catholic faith for years. No matter what background each one came from, I believe God had a personal invitation for each one of them and an experience and encounter with Him through the poor and through service.

The missions took on a new spin this time for me. This time I was going on the missions as one of the “missioners” who would help guide the team, translate, help the team from the US get the most from their experiences. It was a joy not only to serve the team from the US, but also the people in the rural mountain villages where we served. It stretched me in many ways, leading house visits in Spanish, translating both from English to Spanish for talks and conversations and also from Spanish to English for the people from the US.

Since we’ve returned, we got to rest a bit and actually took an adventurous trip to a waterfall. It was definitely ADVENTUROUS, and none of us knew what we were getting ourselves into. Traversing through rocky rivers for an 1 hr and a half to get to the waterfall, then scaling a super inclined mountain to get back the main road. The time together really brought the community together.

And to end on the note of community. I’m in love with our community, and more so, each individual that makes up our community. This past weekend we put on a retreat for about 40 teens and had about 3-4 days to plan and execute it. The day before leaving, each member of the community was working diligently to help complete all the tasks. Each person was using their gifts God had given them. It was SO beautiful so see. One of the missioners is good at constructing and wood work, and he was hard at working creating a wooden cross and base for it. Others are amazing at drawing and art, and made beautiful signs to put up at the retreat, another missionary is gifted in putting together costumes for skits, other missionaries were completing their talks that they would be giving on the retreat. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL. The community, when we all work together and have an interdependence, we work like a well-oiled machine. But on the contrary, when we only think about ourselves and get caught up on how busy we are and how much work I need to get done and feeling like I don’t have time to help others or I don’t want to bother anyone else by asking for help, we fall into individualism and don’t work as well. I’m learning A LOT from being in community here, and I believe this way of interdependent living is something we could learn in the United States and start to step away from our individualism and isolation, and the feeling of having to be strong and dependent without anyone else.

As for now, Honduras is my school, and I’m a student.

We leave next week for a next mission, “Jesus at the Beach”. It’s holy week before Easter, and its a national holiday for all of Honduras, almost like a Spring Break. And MANY go to the beach during this time. The Missioners take advantage and do evangelization on the beach, simply by approaching the beach goers and inviting them to our tents where we have games, talks, skits, dancing, singing, concerts, movies, videos, a carnival for kids, Olympics for teens, and a lot more all with a Catholic faith focus. Our goal is to bring Jesus to the beach! Please pray for the team, it’ going to be a lot of fun! Thank you also for all your prayers, and check out a few pictures from some of our missions/adventures 🙂

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Praying the rosary with the US team before leaving for the missions!

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The 3rd week of mission with the whole team before getting on the bus to the mountains

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Selfie with the children from Santa Lucia on the 3rd mission 🙂

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Ashley, Samantha, Brian, and Eduardo from the 1st mission!

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Our mountain team for the 1st mission! With Father Daniel 🙂

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The mountain team for the 3rd mission! Ramos, me, Steven, and Emily! Thanks for being awesome, available, and open!

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The Missioners at the waterfall!!! We jumped off the rock behind us, so much fun!!!!

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Group picture from the retreat this past weekend with all the teens. The theme was called “Your Life Is Mission”.

 

Also check out this video Nick made from our waterfall trip!

University Sponsorships

Hi everyone!! I have a very special message to pass on to you all. If you didn’t know already, the Missioners of Christ help in many aspects in our community of Honduras. In the education aspect, we have sponsorship programs to provide opportunity for students to attend and complete school and also provide daily tutoring.

In this past year, we have sponsored 33 children and 3 university students to attend their schools. The 3 university students from this past year will be graduating this next year and are currently in or obtaining their internships.

This April, two of our Honduran missionaries from the house will be starting their classes at the local university to pursue degrees in Psychology!! This is AMAZING news, and an AMAZING opportunity for them which they may not have had before meeting the Missioners of Christ. Both of the missioners hope to use their degree in service for the Church and to further the mission. But in order to complete their degrees, we are in need of sponsorship to help pay for their classes. Please check out their bios and click the link to learn more how to donate! Their stories and motives are inspiring to read, and also personally speaking, both amazing people with hearts full of the love and fire of Christ to share with others.

OMAR SAENZ

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This is Omar from the Missioners of Christ community in Comayagua, Honduras. It is incredible to recognize that it has been 10 years since my first contact with the Missioners through a Youth 2000 retreat where God made it clear that He is asking me to offer my life in His service. My time as a member of the community has been one of the greatest blessings that I have received from God. To serve others with the gifts that God has given me has inspired me to be a Catholic radically committed to my faith. The Lord has called me first to know and love Him, and then to serve him in my brothers and sisters who walk in sadness, hopelessness, and in those who are abandoned, and sick. In serving my brother, I am finding healing in my own heart and soul.

Serving in the community has been a huge blessing for my spiritual life, it has shown me the real role of the laity in the church. I am working specifically with youth who always show me a lot of the capacity for service of others that they have and of the need the church has of their rejuvenating spirit. At this time in my life I feel the need to serve the church and others in a more professional manner and I’m inclined to help in the spiritual and emotional healing of persons. This is why I have decided to begin my university studies in psychology.

Currently in the Missioners of Christ community I have the title of Director of Community Life, and at the same time I participate in local ministries like supporting a group of young men called Men of Christ, visiting homes, among others. However my main focus is coordinating Community life and the missions in the different parishes which we support.

By means of the community, the Lord has revealed to me that my past has been redeemed, that my present has purpose, and that my future is in His hands full of mercy. Currently, I am in the process of discerning my vocation and although I am open, I am drawn to consecrate all my life to the Lord as a religious and/or priest.

In this process of discernment, I feel that the Lord is asking me to more formal preparation in service through a university degree. I would like to study Psychology because through my own experience of life, I have realized the deep need that our society has to be healed from its wounds. This need is both for psychological and spiritual healing and through my preparation I will be able to both serve the community and my country more effectively. It will also help in my vocational discernment as solid preparation for religious life or marriage whichever is God’s will.

As God’s plan becomes clearer, I am asking your collaboration through prayer and financial support knowing that God is faithful to repay all that you generously give. I need sponsors to begin my studies in the university. It is my desire to begin in April 2017. The total costs of my studies monthly will be approximately $250 for about 5 years. I am looking for 10 benefactors who are able to help with a monthly contribution of $25. If you are not able to give this quantity or are able to give more each month, any contribution will be a gift.

If you are able to help, please fill in and return the attached sponsorship registration form. Be assured of my constant prayers for you. Thank you for considering helping me.

Blessings in Christ and Mary, Omar Saenz

 

MARGARITA GARCIA

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I hope you are well and rejoicing in the blessings of the Lord. I wanted to share with you a little about my current mission, as well as tell you about the mission that I hope to carry out next.

Currently, I’m in the parish of St. Peter the Apostle, Sector 4, in Planes de Santa Maria, working with our pastor Father Luis Gerardo. In our parish there are nineteen communities and my focus is on the youth and families here. I spend my time rotating between the aldeas; organizing retreats; assisting in conferences; supporting the various movements within the churches; and also doing home visits, passing time with the sick or children with special needs. We’ve started youth groups in each of the communities and much of my work is motivating the teens and teaching them about the faith.

Looking at all that I’ve done and experienced this year, I’ve seen great need among the people here. The youth are incredibly wounded by abuse, machismo, outside pressures, and the disintegration of the family. Due to terrible family circumstances, there are many children who aren’t studying and there are some children who don’t even know how to read and write. I know teenage boys whose fathers have told them that in order to be men they need to drink, and a disabled girl who is left alone in a wheelchair for hours each day without anyone to accompany or protect her. These teens are discouraged and feel that their lives have no worth. Despite all this, they long for something more. They have the desires and the ability to bring about positive changes, but they don’t have the opportunities.

I need your help so that I might help them. Working for the parish doesn’t provide pay and there are living expenses to be covered. Without funding, I won’t be able to continue my current mission. Moreover, I hope to expand my mission. I want to be better prepared when they come to me to share their problems. This has inspired me to take steps to start studying psychology in university, but I’ll need funding to be able to do so.

If you’re able to participate in the mission with monetary support, please fill out the sponsorship registration form included in the envelope. All donations made to the mission are tax refundable.

If you’re unable to offer monetary support, I ask that you participate in this mission with your prayers. Please pray for me, for these families, these teens, and for Fr. Luis that we might persevere in spreading the message of God’s love and hope to all of His children.

Thanks for reading!!

Pan De Vida

Hi everyone!

I’m alive and well. I wanted to write, even if it’s not a lot, just to say hello and let you all know I’m ok and I’m happy & have incredible peace with my decision to be back! It’s been a great month being back. The missioners all returned to the mission house in mid- January. The first two weeks consisted of lots of planning, meetings, and praying AND CLEANING to make sure we start our new year off right. We were discerning about what ministries we are continuing, who is in charge of different responsibilities in the community, and how we can continue improving our schedules and planning, and thoroughly giving the house a nice cleaning.

Last weekend, was a powerful Eucharistic retreat called “Pan de Vida” which means “Bread of Life”. It’s based off the “Year 2000” retreat that is held in the United States also. In this retreat we had, 150 teens from all around Honduras came. It was put on and led by the collaboration of the Missioners and CFR friars (click here to learn more about the CFRs and what they do, they have awesome beards). In this retreat, Jesus in the Eucharist is exposed for 48 hours straight. We have music, activities, talks, times of prayer, small groups, and fraternity. This retreat was an opportunity for these teens to possibly experience a personal encounter with Jesus for their first time.

 

This retreat meant a lot to me for several reasons. I really saw our mission alive. As Missioners of Christ, we have our local ministries while we’re in the city of Comayagua, and we also go on missions to the rural, more remote villages in the mountains. We bring groups from the states to join us, we have 3 groups coming back to back all in March, please pray for us! And we also go on follow up missions after we do our first round of mission. Every month, we visit these same communities for the year to check on them, give them the resources they may need to continue their youth groups that were formed, and we encourage and form them. We had a follow up mission in the villages the first weekend of February, and some of the teens were discouraged after the missioners did their first visit since attendance started to decline and the leaders felt discouraged. Can you imagine as a teenager, having to lead a youth group for your community without the help of a hired youth minister who is an adult, it’s got to be tough! On top of that, their resources aren’t as plentiful as we have in the states where we can google ideas, games, and activities.

SO, after the follow up mission we also invited the teens, especially the leaders of the youth groups to attend the Pan de Vida retreat. At the start of the retreat, I was helping with the check in and registration, and it was a JOY to see all the teens coming off of the bus from the villages and arriving to the retreat house, most of them traveling up to 7 hours in bus! And I had the opportunity to talk with them throughout the retreat, and they couldn’t express how impactful the retreat was for them. They kept saying it was marvelous, beautiful. Now the real test is when they return home to their villages, youth groups, and families. We pray they keep the same fire and share the amazing stories and experiences, and ultimately share the person of Jesus Christ back to their homes.. THIS is the mission, for all of us! Not just for the Missioners, not just for the youth group leaders. THIS is the mission, to experience and encounter the love of Christ day after day, and bring the person of Christ into our lives and the people who are in it.

Please pray for us! We are preparing to receive 3 spring break mission groups from the states all of March! We’re all planning and working on our responsibilities that we divvied up for the mission, you won’t believe all the work that goes behind these missions, I am impressed! And on top of all the mission work, we are still attending and putting on local ministries in our neighborhood.

My “main” ministry that I’m in charge of planning for is the local girl’s orphanage, Hogar Nazaret. I serve the middle school aged girls. I never would have imagined myself working with this age group, I’ve always thought that I’m not that great with middle school students. BUT, God is showing me more than I thought I could do. I really am falling in love with each of the girls. They’re a rowdy group, hard to control at times, seeking attention by misbehaving, but I want to see them as more than that. I want them to know they are loved and they can find refuge in God as Father. They’re great girls, and each one has a story and a heart ready to be loved, I’m excited to see what God does with them this year.

I apologize for not keeping up with the blog monthly. There has been plenty of work at the mission base, but nonetheless, I’m enjoying growing in my relationship with God through our prayer life and daily Eucharist, falling in love with the community, learning Spanish, and being stretched out of my comfort zones constantly. I really am convicted that it is necessary to leave our comfort zones in order to continue growing in the spiritual life, to consistently be reminded that God is our strength and Savior, and we are nothing without him. I pray that I can depend completely on Him at all times.

Until next time!

Some photos:

16708170_10154176350171296_1822215075125611298_nPan de Vida Retreat

16708514_10154176398136296_651800448065303609_nSmall Groups16711580_10154176349851296_2616891961967669402_nBeautiful night of adoration with Jesus present in the Eucharist!16729416_10154175789051296_2887310488619821383_nEucharistic processionimg_39591My new roomie, Vilma! I changed rooms at the beginning of the year.img_39721One of the beautiful girls from one of my local ministries at Casa Misericordia which is a girls orphanage for girls with mental disabilities.img_39921img_39631Getting some ice cream with a couple of the missioners from the house 🙂img_39441Sonia! Another US missionary with us 🙂img_39351Picture from the medical bridage where one of my good friends, John Best from my college, his brother is a CFR friar living across from us, and his mom and brother came for the medical brigade! It was awesome. We got to visit the patients after their post surgery and talk & pray with them, cheer them up.16603103_10154176383391296_743705997941768024_n

Last picture from the Pan de Vida retreat at the retreat house, Casa Guadalupe!

This Is Uncomfortable

 

It’s been a little over a month since I arrived in Honduras! So much has happened already. We had our orientation the first week where we learned more about what our life will be like as a missioner; doing ministries, community life, prayer life, receiving our schedules, learning the rules of the house (need them when 20 people live in one house!), and other things like this. After our orientation, we entered right into the life. Most of this blog will consist of pictures and their captions so you can see some of the places and people I encounter daily, and plus pictures speak more words than a long blog does haha. My time here has been an amazing blessing but also super INCOMODO (uncomfortable). Even though it seems contradictory, my discomfort that I feel here, has actually been the great blessing. Still I’m learning Spanish slowly, only being able to communicate and understand simple sentences, conversations in large groups can be hard to keep up with, sometimes I don’t catch all the jokes that are said, my natural reserved self took a while to warm up to the community, the ministries are stretching me which I’ll talk more about later.. This may all seem like I’m complaining, but really, I’m thankful to have this opportunity to grow in places where I feel completely uncomfortable and weak. I believe this is exactly where God is going to meet me, and show that He’s the one in charge and not me. If great things can come from my service here, it has to be from Him.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

On a lighter note, now that it’s been some time here, I’m starting to make friendships, fall in love with the people of Honduras, becoming used to the schedule we live here, I’m discovering my call and want to be here, and all at the same time, I feel that I’m drawing closer to God more than I have ever before. There is a great struggle and sorrow that the people experience here in Honduras, it’s also a struggle for me in this time of adjustment into the community, but these struggles that I encounter have brought me to go to God even more and also draws me closer to the people in their reality of their humanness. I pray I will grow more in compassion and understanding!! Please continue to pray for me and the Missioners of Christ here! And now, please enjoy the following pictures from my time here 🙂

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When I returned from Guatemala, we celebrated all the September birthdays at the end of the month and since my birthday is Sept 1, I was one of the celebrants! It was awesome, we had homemade baked chicken (meat is for special days and Wednesdays and Sundays only), mash potatoes, and cheesecake.

15045789_10154868901230757_467538977_nHere’s a picture of room, I share with a Honduran named Zaira!

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A picture of my weekly schedule with my different ministries.

14996293_10154868901255757_187619621_nOur chapel with Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament. We begin and end every day here.

img_7677The weekend after we returned, the community headed to El Salvador for a silent retreat. One of the younger missioners, Roger, passed away from cancer who had been with the community for 9 years. It was difficult for many especially those who were close to him. The retreat was a chance for rest and recollection after this sudden and emotional time. The retreat was in the beautiful quiet mountains in El Salvador which had a perpetual adoration chapel and was absolutely incredible. The retreat house is built and ran by religious sisters. The ride was about 6 hours in truck and our brave men of the house took on the sacrifice to ride the back of the truck enduring the hot sun and even rain, so the women could ride on the inside. Men of God!! The Missioners own only these type of trucks and its very normal to ride in the bed of the truck to get to and from places!

img_7689Here is us at the border exiting Honduras in order to enter into El Salvador. This isn’t all the missionaries from the community, but most of us who went on the silent retreat.

img_7698The US missionaries crossing the El Salvador border.

img_7709The retreat center also has a famous monument dedicated to reconciliation and peace because in this village, there was a terrible genocide in the 90’s, where hundreds of innocent and poor families were massacred in cruel terrible ways by the local military.

img_7728A view of the mountains at the retreat house. GORGEOUS!

img_7737Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in the perpetual adoration chapel. I had the chance to sign up for a holy hour in the middle of the night where I could be alone with Him in silence.

img_7746Another view from the path to the adoration chapel. The roofing is the top view of the retreat house we stayed in.

img_7757A selfie pic of the missionaries who went on the silent retreat!

img_7772Back at the mission house, every Monday we have “Casitas” where the guys and girls split up and have activities for the night separately. One Monday, we had a spa day where we painted our nails, had facials made of homemade cucumber mix, and foot baths. I love these nights because the girls can bond just with each other and be “girly” without the men haha.

img_7780Teresa and me painting our nails. We dared each other to paint our nails the craziest, brightest colors since we both don’t like wearing nail polish.

img_7789So she ended up painting her nails a bright hot pink and my nails are painted in different colors haha

img_7805The nature that surrounds the mission house is absolutely beautiful! We have mountains that surround us, and one day this HUGE rainbow showed up. The picture is taken from the second floor of the mission house. (It’s a double rainbow if you look closely) I’ve never seen one so bright and close.

img_7879One night we had dinner at the convent of the Franciscan Friars who live a couple minutes from us. We prayed holy hour, ate dinner with the postulants (men discerning to become a friar), sang karaoke, the postulants shared about their time in Honduras (since all of them were from all different countries!), and then the friars sang songs with the guitar for us to end it.

img_7890Group picture of the missionaries with the friars and the postulants!

img_7923One of the local ministries we have every Tuesday is at a local orphanage called Hogar Nazaret. About 80 girls live there ranging from 2-25 years old. They are either sent there or rescued, almost all of them come from rough pasts. Either they were abused, abandoned by the parents, or for many, sexually abused within the home. This ministry has been the hardest for me so far. Not only is it hard that these girls come from these situations, but also the girls have built up high walls of defense because of it. and because of this, anyone new (including missionaries), they will treat coldly first until they establish trust. The first few weeks have been difficult, because the girls are still getting used to me, and the past missionaries told us that they all had to go through it. We have to prove that we’re here and we’re here to stay, not just leave or hurt them like people have in their past. This ministry has been teaching me a lot. I think God is breaking down my “ideals” and dreams of what it means to be a missionary. Some may think (and I used to think also) that being a missionary is all about going to this poor country, helping the people, then being completely loved and adored by them because of your charity. But in reality, most of the time this isn’t the case. In Mother Teresa’s case, when she moved to India to live and serve the poor, they rejected her. They did not want her to be there or teach them about her God. It’s really a test, will I continue to serve even if I don’t receive any good feelings in return? Will I do it solely out of love for God and love for others, with no reward for me? It’s been a hard but eye opening experience. This retreat we put on annually for the older girls at Hogar Nazaret. It’s overnight and full of games, talks, dances, small groups, soccer, a movie, and other fun activities. The theme for this years retreat was “My Life Is Mission”. We encourage the girls to continue seeking God in their most crucial decisions they are facing in their age: to choose to follow the ways of the world where they can become pregnant young, date a man who can treat them poorly and possibly leave or abuse them later. Or they can choose the ways of God, a life of virtue, a life lived for others and not for themselves. A life with goals. We help them see their identity as daughter of God and also help them see their potential to be great, more than what is expected of them in Honduras. The retreat was incredible and powerful for them.

img_7936Playing soccer at the retreat, these girls (and the Hondurans in the community) are competitive!!

img_8140I had the opportunity to give a reflection and sing a song (in Spanish!)

img_8148Group pic at the end of the retreat, they are so beautiful!!

img_8189At our Tuesday ministry, the girls go to Hogar Nazaret to spend time with the girls at the orphanage, plan activities for them, and relate them to spiritual topics to draw them closer to the Lord. This Tuesday in the picture, we printed a letter from God the Father, with bible verses that was compiled into a letter. It was all about the Father’s care and how you were created out of love and God has a great plan for you and you were not an error. It touched the girls so much, and I can only imagine how much this would mean to them, coming from their situations of abandonment or abuse in their previous homes. This day reminded me of the great work God is doing through our ministries.

img_8193Singing a song for the girls called Good, Good Father.

img_8217Group pic! (Sofia in the orange and Teresa in the green are the two missionaries I help with for this age group at Hogar)

img_8242Sr. Ana from the retreat center in El Salvador came to visit stay with us for 3 days. She shared with us more about the vocation to the religious life and about her community during our dinner.

img_8259On Nov 1, the Church celebrated All Saints Day, a big celebration in Honduras. They don’t celebrate Halloween due to its un-Christian origin. So at Hogar Nazaret that day, the girls dressed up as different girl saints and shared a small biography about each one and then we ate cake. Sophia is my favorite (with the big white veil) – she is St. Catherine Laboure, the sister who the Miraculous Medal was revealed to. She had a crazzyyy veil lol

img_8260This is Zaira my roommate 🙂 and I’m dressed as St. Josephine Bahkita.

img_8275Sophia sharing about St. Catherine Laboure to the girls.

img_8323Teresa, Sophia, and me. Teresa is dressed as Blessed Kateri Techawitha

img_8354Another ministry we do on Wednesdays is at a orphanage for girls with mental disabilities. This is one of my favorites because these girls love without limits!! They’ll climb on us and and run to hug us as soon as we walk into their house. They just cuddle and laugh with us, and always try to tickle us. They’re beautiful reminders of what it looks like to love without reserve. I’m learning a lot from them! This day we played Just Dance with them to get them to have some exercise and another week we wrote on the pavement with chalk which ended up being a battle of them trying to draw on each other haha.

img_8324At Casa Misericordia, the orphanage for girls with disabilities.

img_8385At the mission house, the missioners dressed up as different saints and shared about our chosen saints. It was hilarious seeing everyone dressed up.

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Omar, one of the Honduran missioners, dressed up as St. Omar haha.

img_8411One of the events the Missioners put together was a magic show at 2 local schools. We asked the students to bring school supplies as donations for us to bring to the schools in the poorer mountain villages that we go on mission to later in the year. As a thank you for their donations, a magician came and put on a show for all the students. We had 3 shows in 2 days.

img_8428HUGE crowd of screaming kids! They loved the magic show!

img_8449The cutest boy who volunteered to participate in one of the tricks.

img_8577This past weekend, Teresa, Sophia, and I put on a retreat for our age group of girls at Hogar Nazaret. We started with a game of soccer, introduced the theme “Created For More”, played Just Dance, had 2 talks about our identity as daughter of God and knowing our true dignity in it, watched a movie, played games, and had a pajama sleepover.

img_8594The girls with their decorated sign with the theme on it, Created For More.

img_8637My first “talk” in Spanish!

15049952_10154868934820757_1052189045_n.jpgWalking to mass along with my pig friend 🙂

Here’s a small glimpse of my past month being in Honduras, hope you got a taste! A few other ministries I partake in weekly which I don’t have pictures of are:

On Tuesdays I help tutor at a local program for kids who are being sponsored by donors from the Missioners of Christ so they can attend and finish school. Wednesdays are house visits, where we visit different people in our neighborhood and just spend time with them. We get to know their lives, what struggles and joys they are going through and then pray with them and share the gospel. Thursday mornings are self formation where I either study my Spanish or study church teachings and spirituality. Thursday afternoon is a program for the mothers of the neighborhood to gather and share time together. We have a different topic each week, the last one was about the mercy of God and each mother shared an experience of God’s mercy in their lives. They’re honest about their struggles in their poverty, but they rejoice in the many ways they’ve seen God alive and at work! Fridays are days of prayer for the community. Saturday morning I help answer the door to the house where many people come knocking, but usually asking for food or money. We aren’t able to give them it but we are able to give them a cup of water and crackers and offer to pray with them. I’ve enjoyed this one because I’ve gotten to meet more of the people in the neighborhood more personally and talk to them one on one. Saturday afternoon, I help with a children’s catechesis program ran by the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s order. Then Sunday is a free day. We’ve found time to play cards together or play basketball. It’s also a day to catch up with phone calls or go on Facebook. Mondays are cleaning days, and my roommate and I are in charge of the kitchen, which pretty much takes half a day to fully clean it! It’s a kitchen meant to cook for and feed 20+ people daily, it’s bound to get messy! It’s a packed week every week, but they pass so fast, doesn’t feel like I’ve been here for this long, I feel that I arrived a week ago!!

I’m now on my way in a plane as I type this to a wedding for two of my good friends, Victoria and Chris, from the Catholic Campus Ministry at UCF! Please say a prayer for this awesome couple if you can, for the grace to respond courageously to live out a holy marriage and be witnesses in this world! It will be interesting returning to the states even if it’s for a few days. I give thanks to God for my time I’ve had so far here and for my time to come. Yes, uncomfortable, but It’s the stretch I exactly need to continue growing in my relationship with God and his people here on earth! Thanks be to God for all things, struggles, joys, the ordinary, the extraordinary, and everything in between!!

Check out this video my friend Nick made that shows some daily encounters in our life at the mission house, enjoy!

I ATE and PUSHED down people

 

Writing from Antigua, Guatemala still!  Nick and Sonia returned to Honduras this past weekend. This week will be my 4th and last week here and this Saturday I’ll be returning to Honduras to begin the mission there! So pumped, yet it’s sad to leave the people and places of Guatemala. I’ve become accustomed to the city, the people, and my schedule I’ve made here, but on to the next! God is always asking us to be ready to go where he sends us.

There have been different adventures in the past 3 weeks while being here. My Spanish is slowly improving as I learn more vocabulary, grammar, and phrases. But still, poco a poco, paso a paso, it will take time to speak and understand fluently. It has been fun attempting to talk to the people at the market, on the streets, or at church with my broken Spanish. It’s amazing how much can be exchanged with a person with the little Spanish I know.

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The girl XT’s visiting a village called San Juan del Obispo (3 of our teachers live here and showed us around :))

Some fun things that I’ve experienced here: we went on a tour at nighttime on the active volcano called “Volcano of Fire”, WHILE it was spewing out lava and erupting!! It was an amazing sight I’ve never seen anything like it before. Before, I used to think that every time a volcano erupts, it destroys everything around it like what happened in Pompeii, but an active volcano can also erupt constantly without wiping out an entire city haha. The lava cools down and solidifies before it reaches the halfway point of the volcano, and fortunately before it reaches us too.

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“Volcano of Water” view from right outside our house! It was named after a myth from a long time ago when long rains and flooding occurred and they thought the “Volcano of Water” erupted!

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Volcano of Water view from a cemetery in a local village.

Also while being here, I’m experiencing the smallness of our world: one of my friends, Kassidy, who I met on my first mission trip to Honduras is here in Antigua too for Spanish school! She’s here with 4 other girls who will begin a Catholic mission in Trujilo, Honduras which is about 6 hours away from Comayagua. They’ll be with a group called Farm of the Child. We’ve got to hangout with them and just connect on the beauty of being called to mission, specifically in Honduras! Prayers for them as they begin their new journey!

Also in other news that isn’t so happy, one of the long term Honduran missionaries, Roger, who was battling terminal cancer, passed away 2 weekends ago. It was hard for the whole Missioners community, and while being here in Guatemala, all we could do was continue to pray for Roger’s soul, his family, and the Missioners. It was sad, but at the same time its a cause for rejoicing because we believe that Jesus has conquered death and it has no victory over us. Death only means a passing into the next life which we pray that we get to meet Jesus face to face in heaven and rest eternally there in his kingdom. We pray that Roger is already there and celebrating in heaven while telling us just like St. Paul says in Romans 8:18 : “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us”. Roger is an incredible man of faith and we got to talk to him before leaving for Honduras, what a gift!! He will always be remembered in our community.

During the week, our teachers have taken us on field trips to different villages surrounding Antigua. We got to go to a village called Santa Maria de Jesus on their market day, where vendors sell all kinds of items along side the street. Our teachers bought us local vegetables to eat, like corn on the cob with lime and salt sprinkled on it and a vegetable native to Guatemala called guisquil which has a potato like texture. Also on Sept 15th, it was a big day here because it was Independence Day! Classes were cancelled for the day and the streets were filled with parades where various schools from Antigua and surrounding villages performed Guatemalan dances and songs that they’ve practiced for months. It was amazing being surrounded by the joy of celebration that the Guatemalans had in their independence.

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Parades filled the streets on Guatemala’s day of Independence!

Sometimes in the afternoon, the teachers will take their students on field trips around Antigua. They might take us to the market, a store, a bakery, a church, gardens, or other places here. My teacher usually doesn’t take me on field trips, but one afternoon she took me on a tour to a special place in the heart of Antigua. The place is called “Obras Sociales del Hermana Pedro”, which is a residential home connected to a church that houses people who have mental and physical disabilities. They range from babies who are a few months old to teens to adults and also the elderly. My teacher explained to me that this clinic was founded by St. Brother Pedro, who is Guatemala’s very own saint. They take a lot of pride in him and his body is actually housed as a relic in the church that we go to for daily mass! Many miracles have occurred when people have prayed to him. St. Brother Pedro lived in the 1600’s and was a Franciscan Friar following the rule of St. Francis of Assissi, which meant taking up poverty as a way of life and also assisting the poor in their needs. St. Brother Pedro was inspired to pick up abandoned people off the streets who were either sick or had disabilities. He began a residential home for them and it still exists today and is called “Obras Sociales del Hermano Pedro” which means the Social Works of Brother Pedro. So my teacher explained that they are always accepting volunteers to help with the residents. Simply playing, talking, or singing to them. Sometimes feeding them, holding the babies, caressing their skin. What they need most is for people to pay attention to them and there aren’t enough nurses to do that on top of taking care of their basic necessities such as cleaning and feeding them. That afternoon, my field trip was to Obras and I got to take a tour for potential volunteers. I met the patients and learned about the residential home. “Obras” houses 250 residents. Usually the residents are dropped off by their parents who no longer can take care of them, or the residents have been found abandoned by their families. The residents usually live there their whole life unless their family comes back to get them, which they said is unlikely. They are at capacity and only have room for about 10 more residents. Thanks be to God, another building a few minutes away is being constructed to house more residents and continue the legacy and good works of St. Hermano Pedro! After the tour, I knew I wanted to return to volunteer and be with the beautiful residents.

These past 3 weeks I’ve had classes all day and wasn’t able to volunteer, but this week I chose to have Spanish class only in the morning from 8am-12pm. So in the afternoon, I’ve had the opportunity to begin volunteering at Obras. It was overwhelming my first afternoon, luckily my friend Kassidy was also there and helped console me. It was a lot to take in at first. Some of the residents are severely physically deformed and seem helpless. Feeding them can get messy and the nurses allow you to just got for it without any background training or instructions. After a couple days it’s gotten easier and I’m starting to get to know the residents more. I’m learning how some respond to singing or touch, which toys others like to play with. They are beautiful. This residential house is a place filled with gold treasures with these people here! Being with them, I feel closer to God. I kept thinking of the quote from Mother Teresa that was recently shared with me:

“Only in heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor for helping us to love God better because of them.”

These residents help me see the face of God more clearly! After my first day of volunteering my teacher asked me the next morning in class how it went, and in the little spanish I know, I thought I told her “I fed them and helped push their wheelchairs.” but after I said it, she just stared at me with a weird look on her face and mouth open. She corrected my Spanish and told me I originally said that “I ate the residents and pushed them down” LOL. Clearly I still need some more work until my Spanish communicates what I mean for it to say.

My teacher is actually someone who I’m going to miss the most when I leave. We’ve gotten to know each other well after having full days of classes for 3 weeks. The more Spanish I learned, the more we got to share about each others lives. Her name is Gloria, and she’s a beautiful woman of God. She is a jokester, has a motherly heart, and has a great faith in God. We began sharing our favorite scripture stories and times in our life that we’ve seen God. Sometimes my homework will be to read bible stories and then write a summary in Spanish to share with her the next day. She inspires me so much. During the day she teaches Spanish at the school, and some nights she leads a catechesis class for couples preparing for marriage within the church. She teaches them about the importance of having God as the center and allowing him to be the rock. On the weekends she helps lead bible studies for people in her village. I told her one day, that she really is a missionary and encouraged her to keep doing the great works of God. She always encourages and thanks me also for saying yes to do the service in God as a missionary.

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My teacher and me!

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Inside a church in a village called Santa Maria de Jesus, and it was decorated for the feast day of Mary’s Birthday on Sept 8th

The faith life here in Guatemala is so ALIVE! There is a Catholic church on almost every other block where they have multiple daily masses! Saint’s feasts days are celebrated in big ways with Eucharistic processions, fireworks, and other activities. On Sept 8th, the birthday of Mary Mother of God, after the mass we had cake in the church!! It really felt like a birthday party with family members. God is everywhere here. Of course the faith is a struggle the more industrialized the city becomes. Antigua has slowly grown to be a city of tourism and has become more city like. But its been beautiful experiencing the faith all around me. Priests, friars, and nuns can be seen walking all around the city or in the super market. Car bumper stickers with Mary and Jesus are everywhere. Most of the people here have great faith in God. I pray that they remain rooted in their love for God and continue passing it on to the next generations.

I have 1 more day left here in Antigua and I’m trying to soak it all in while I can! Juliana and I will head back to Honduras to join the rest of the Missioners to begin orientation and our new mission. I give thanks and praise to God for this opportunity to be here in Guatemala for 4 weeks. It’s amazing how a place that was once foreign and scary, is now a place with people I can now call friends (even feels like family!) and places that I’ve come to love such as Obras, the churches, and especially my favorite local bakery Santa Clara (their CHOCOLATE CROISSANTS ARE THE BEST!). BUT, now it is time to keep walking where God is asking me to step. I place my trust and confidence in his hands because with every transition, knowing myself, it’s usually a bumpy ride. But in the end, it’s always the place and time where God needs and wants me to be. Thanks be to God for all that is true, good, and beautiful! I’ll write to you all again after some time being in Honduras. Please say a prayer for me if you can and all the other new missionaries as we begin the mission! Know of my prayers for you and if any time you’d like to send me specific prayer intentions, click “contact” at the top of my blog page. Peace and blessings be with you always!!

Poco a Poco, Paso a Paso

Hola from Antigua, Guatemala! It has been a whirl wind of events since setting foot on Honduran soil. I’ve finally found some time today to take it easy, sleep in a bit, and write this to update all of you!

We’re here in Antigua, Guatemala for Spanish school. I’m here with the 3 other new extended-term (XT) missionaries from the states: Juliana, Nick, and Sonia. The 4 of us arrived the same day in Honduras and have this time until December to experience the lifestyle and mission in Honduras to determine if we would like to return for the full 2 years after our 1 month break this December, also with the conditions that the Missioners of Christ community also find its a mutual agreement for us to return. Please keep us in your prayers during this time of transition and discernment! Sonia and Nick already speak Spanish, so they’ll be here for 1 more week. As for Juliana and me, we’ve got a longer way to go until we can “speak” Spanish haha. Juliana and I may be here for another 3-4 weeks.

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The 4 new XT missionaries: Nick, Juliana, Sonia, and me

So first, what have we been up to since leaving the states? We arrived to Honduras 2 Tuesdays ago and got to spend 4 days at the mission house where we’ll be living during our time in Honduras, it’s located in the city of Comayagua and yes, there is electricity and running water. The best thing: we have a chapel in the middle of our house with Jesus present in the Eucharist!! The mission house is called the John Paul II Formation Center, in honor of one of our patron saints, St. John Paul II. Oh! Also btw.. today we’ll be celebrating the canonization of another patron saint of ours, also one of my favorite saint friends, Blessed (to be St.) Mother Teresa!!! We’re going to buy these delicious warm chocolate filled croissants from one of the local bakeries here in Antigua, go to church to celebrate the mass and canonization with the people, and then at the house the 4 missioners will watch a movie on Mama T together at night. So I’m trying to get all my studying, homework, and “work” done Saturday! If you were wondering who our patron saints are, they are St. Therese of Liseux, St. Francis Xavier, St. John Paul II, and Blessed (tomorrow, St.!!!) Mother Teresa. We invoke the 4 of them to pray specially for us at the mission every day.

So we got a taste of the mission house for 4 days until we left for Guatemala. We lived the daily life of the Missioners which was great to experience what every day life would look like if this is my call for 2 years. Here’s a little look into a “normal” day at the mission house, although VERY subject to change and some days will look different based on what special events, ministries, or programs might be happening.

5:00am : wake up call

5:30-6:00 : personal prayer time (read scripture, pray in the chapel)

6:00 – 6:30 : morning prayer with the community (Liturgy of the Hours)

6:30 – 7:00 : daily mass (either at our chapel, the CFR friary, or the Poor Clare’s convent)

7:30 : breakfast

8:00 – 12:00 : morning ministries

12:00 – rosary and lunch

1:00 – 4:00 : afternoon ministries

5:00 – 6:00 : Holy Hour and Evening Prayer with community

6:00 : dinner

7:00 – 8:45 : down time, community recreation time

9:00 : night prayer with community then quiet time/bed time

This is how it looks every day of the week except for Sundays. Fridays are a day of silence at the house and then Sundays are days of rest without ministries and its also time to catch up with family and friends on Skype, email, or phone. We get internet every Sunday! After looking over the schedule, it seems like we pray so much! But, this is the very core of the identity for the Missioners of Christ. That all that we are and what we do, must be an overflow from God. How could we give God if we don’t receive him first? The Missioners of Christ are contemplatives in action. First we are contemplative. We begin and end our day in prayer, and also have it in various hours of our day. After hearing from the missionaries who are already living in the house, almost all of them said that prayer is the only way this mission is possible for them. And that without prayer, they wouldn’t be able to keep pouring themselves out in service during the mission. Their strength is pulled from it. Although prayer was a staple for my life back in the states, I have never had THIS much prayer daily for an extended period of time. Then after we “contemplate”, we go and are active! We overflow what we receive in our time of prayer in service to our brothers and sisters.

The time at the mission house has made it clear that this is not going to be a cake walk. The language barrier is a big challenge, and the coming together of many different cultures, ages, and people can bring difficulties while living, working, eating, and praying together daily. But this really is a family here. The house has about 25-30 missionaries who live there. We learn to give of ourselves more fully and to love, be loved and to forgive, be forgiven by drawing from the love and mercy of God. The transition will be hard for me, especially while I’m learning Spanish, adjusting to the new way of life, and getting my bearings while learning the different ministries. The language barrier can create a lot of awkward moments, especially when I don’t understand what someone is trying to tell me or if they have a hard time understanding what I’m trying to communicate haha. It can be funny sometimes, but also very frustrating, especially when you want to get to know someone more, or have deeper conversations past what their favorite food or color is. This has been a great opportunity to pray for and remember those who feel misunderstood by others. We have so many opportunities in our sufferings and uncomforts to offer it as a prayer for those who may feel the same way, thank God!  Now that I’m at the Spanish school in Guatemala, I want to learn Spanish to be able to do this mission (I need to be able to speak and understand the language!) and also to be in relationship with the people God has put here for me to encounter.

The missionaries who have been living at the house for a while share a certain phrase very often: “poco a poco, paso a paso”, which means little by little, step by step. For me, it’s good encouragement, but also very hard to implement. Patience with myself is something I have to continually learn. I can’t speak Spanish overnight, or acclimate to a whole new country/culture in one week. Even when I worked at the roadway engineering company after my graduation, I wanted to become a professional engineer in one month. This just isn’t possible. It takes time for transformation to occur. So while here, I’ll be challenged to keep having patience with myself and get over the frustrations of not being able to quickly master the language or other new things.

Last Saturday, we took a 14 hour bus ride to Guatemala and I’ve decided that I’ll be taking dramamine on the way back! Dramamine is a medicine for motion sickness and we didn’t bring any with us on the way here, which was a mistake. We all had terrible motion sickness haha. But once we got here, we were embraced by the beauty of Guatemala and the people here. We’re staying at a local woman’s house who opens her house for people to stay here like a hotel. She cooks every meal for us but also eats them with us, she’s a beautiful generous woman. We have a perpetual adoration chapel literally 3 minutes walking distance and the church has daily mass. There are beautiful mountains and even active volcanoes around us! We’re going to go on a tour to one of the active volcanoes one of these weekends. We have Spanish classes 8am-4pm Monday- Friday, we just survived our first week! We learn in these outdoor cubicles with a one on one teacher. It’s interesting since my teacher doesn’t speak English. Although I can understand most of what she says, I’m not able to respond as fast or as much as I would like.This has been teaching me more about patience with myself and also to unite that frustration in praying for those who may feel unheard or the voiceless in our world. So, here I am. Learning Spanish, enjoying Guatemala, being in communion with the other missionaries here and seeking Jesus in the people and experiences that are before me every day. I love it here, but I’m also very excited to return to Honduras and begin the mission that awaits us there. But for now, I’ll remain being present to everyone and everything here in Guatemala!

Left: our cubicles we learn Spanish in with a one-on-one teacher, Right: view of Guatemala from the school

Until next time, hasta luego 🙂