Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Jesús está aquí!

Where, oh where, 
do we start?

Tuesday night one of our priests celebrated Mass at our church in San Hilarion.  Before dismissing the large crowd of people he announced that in one week he would return with the Blessed Sacrament.  The people didn't really understand what that meant, but seemed pleased.  They smiled and left.  

Our family stood frozen...shock, excitement, anxiety...our minds reeled with thoughts.  This place isn't in any order to house the King of the Universe.  There is so much to do!!!  
We ran home and made a To-Do list.

  • Clean up the yard around the church.
  • Have the carpenter fix the tabernacle which we received from another church as a gift.  It had been out of use for years and had been sitting in a storage room.  Parts were broken, it was scratched up and needed an overhaul.
  • Hang the tabernacle on the wall.
  • Buy a red sanctuary lamp.
  • Have the carpenter make and install a shelf for the sanctuary lamp.
  • Have electricity run to where the sanctuary lamp will sit.
  • Have the carpenter build kneelers.
  • Have the tapestry man cover the kneelers with padding and leather.
  • Buy fabric and make curtains for the windows inside.
  • Buy/install mental hooks for the curtains next to each window. 
  • Buy fake flowers and decorate the ends of the pews and the window sills.
  • Buy some new pots and plants for the altar to replace the dead ones that have been in 5-gallon buckets which are wrapped in tin foil.
  • Clean the inside of the church.
  • Buy the fabric for a sign that announces to people that "Jesus is Here" as the enter the church.
  • And so, so much more!!!

It was a busy week to say the VERY least.  Following are some photos that capture some of the work that was done to prepare for the arrival of the Blessed Sacrament the following Tuesday.

We spent one whole day cleaning up the yard around
the church. Thanks to some of the kids here in town
and our missionary friends, the Thibadeaux family, we
were able to make huge improvements.
We cut down dead bushes, raked up all the debris
and burned it (which is what everyone does
with their unwanted items), collected all the rocks
scattered around the property, created rock gardens
and so much more. 

When we finally called it a day, everyone was super excited 
because of how beautiful the yard looked.  
We were also really excited to check something off our To-Do list.

Next up - the tabernacle, sanctuary lamp and kneelers...

Edgardo, the carpenter, did an amazing job on the tabernacle.  
He also made kneelers for us.  
The tapestry man and his wife put on padding and covered them with leather.  

In Michigan it would be so easy - "Buy new pots and plants for the altar".  It was anything but easy.  We learned that people don't typically buy large pots; therefore, people don't typically sell large pots.  People enjoy the many Amazonian plants already growing around them and periodically transplant some into spaces around their homes.  We went on a wild-goose chase looking for the one woman in Tarapoto (the large city about 1.5 hours from our house) that sells such items.  We were almost ready to give up when we finally found her.  Thank you Jesus!!

One more item checked off the list!!!

Chris and the kids traveled to a nearby town where they could buy fake flowers.  When they returned they rushed up to the church to attach them to the ends of the pews.  Little by little the church was being transformed.

Everything we had done was fantastic.  
The people would definitely notice that something was different.  
However, we felt it was important to make it clear exactly what was different.  
So, we set about the task of hand-stitching a huge sign that announced "Jesus is Here!".  
Our sign hangs in the entryway of the church.  
When people walk in they now must walk to the right or left to enter the church.  
It is a beautiful reminder that something is different now.  Jesus is here!!!

On Tuesday night, as people were arriving for Mass, Chris rushed in the door with the curtains which had just been finished by a woman in a neighboring pueblo.  Katelyn and Anna climbed up the ladder in their skirts and carefully draped them across the windows.  It was a perfect finishing touch!!
When Father arrived, he was delighted beyond words.  Our church was fit for the King of the Universe.  Everywhere he looked was evidence of our love... love for Jesus!

Moments after Mass began our whole town lost power.  Everything was black.  Accustomed to such power outages, everyone sat patiently in the dark as our friend lit candles and placed them around the altar.  My heart sank.  The sinful, proud part of me wanted everyone to see all the work we had done to make the church so pretty.  

A scripture verse that I had recently underlined in my bible immediately came to mind:   

"Am I seeking to please people?  
If I were still trying to please people, 
I would not be a slave of Christ."
(Galatians 1:10)

As I glanced up at the altar and saw Jack and Michael attentively serving, I remembered why we had worked so hard.  It wasn't so that people would thank us or think we're great missionaries. It was for Jesus, and I know that Jesus can see in the dark.  

Sometimes it's hard to remember that "it's not about me".  I thank God for reminding me of that this night.   As the candles flickered, tears welled up in my eyes.  The church looked beautiful in the soft, gentle light.  

Before the Liturgy of the Eucharist began, Father explained that after the consecration our church would truly be different; Jesus would be here with us.  He talked about the importance of showing respect and being reverent.  He also explained the importance of having people responsible for maintaining an environment suitable for Our King.  At that point he invited Chris and me up to the altar. He read official documents from the archbishop and inducted us as registered Ministers of the Eucharist.  In Peru, it is rare for lay people to be given this position.  Our priest has worked hard to obtain this privilege for ourselves and some of the other missionaries so that we can have the Blessed Sacrament available for the people in our pueblos.

Each morning we open the church for prayer from 6-7 a.m.  The people that have come seem incredibly appreciative for this time with the Lord.

Please pray for us as we continue to work hard to serve the Lord by serving His people.

Peace and love,


Sunday, May 15, 2016

How Many Missionaries Can Fit in a Suzuki Samurai?

We spent our day off in the mountains with our missionary friends, the Schmidts.  When it came time to leave, the Schmidts offered to drive us back to the city.  This would require multiple trips in their Suzuki Samurai.  [In case you're not familiar, the Suzuki Samurai is a small SUV designed to fit four (relatively) comfortably.]  Katelyn had a different idea.

See if you can count how many missionaries we fit into the Samurai...

Missionary life isn't always comfortable (literally), but it sure is fun!!!

Peace and blessings,

A Race for the Cup

Do you enjoy scavenger hunts?  
Is it thrilling to follow leads and search for clues?
Maybe you have a future 
as a missionary!

When we traveled to Trujillo for language school we were given a mission: obtain a ciborium, a small monstrance and a pix necklace bag.  Our mission came complete with the following message,

"Trujillo is a big city.  You shouldn't have any trouble."

The first week in Trujillo flew by as we navigated the new city on foot locating the essentials: language school, markets with reasonably priced healthy food, laundromats, places to play, etc.  As we wandered about the city we noticed stores that sold religious items and mentally noted their location.  A month is a long time, so we felt no rush to secure the needed items. After all,

"Trujillo is a big city."  We "shouldn't have any trouble" finding what we needed.  

During the second week we visited the religious stores as we happened upon them.  Using our new language skills we began inquiring as to where our needed items could be found.  The scavenger hunt officially began.  The woman at store #1 didn't have them, but was sure her friend at store #2 did. Our directional vocabulary was put to the test as she described the route: down the street, around several corners, past several landmarks and there on the left...or did she say the right???  After locating store #2 the shopkeeper apologized for her inability to help.  She confessed that she didn't know their inventory well.  We'd have to return when her husband was there...but when was that?  Why was this woman using so many words that we didn't understand?  Ugh!  A few other promising leads consumed a gross amount of time, but ended up being dead ends.  As week two came to a close, the reality of our limited time set in.

The Archbishop's office is the blue building.
The door we needed to find open is right in the middle.
Monday morning of week #3 we landed a HUGE clue: the archbishop's office is in Trujillo.  Bingo! All we had to do was find him.  Surely he would know where to buy the needed items.  Our excitement dwindled when we found the exterior door locked...multiple times.  As investigators dedicated to our mission, we returned until we were let in.  A very helpful nun politely explained that although Trujillo was a big city, there was nowhere that sold these types of items for churches.  We would have to go to Lima.  Lima??  We couldn't go to Lima.... so then what?

The nun suggested that we have them made and sent to Trujillo.  Having gold vessels hand crafted and shipped from another part of the country seemed a bit over zealous given our time restraints, but realizing our options were limited we agreed. The nun contacted the man, described our mission, provided him with our email address and assured us that it would all work out beautifully.

That night when we received an email from the craftsman our hearts fluttered with excitement. Maybe, just maybe, this scavenger hunt would be successful.  The email included images of the most beautiful monstrance.  A bit of analysis revealed the monstrance's identity - it was the five foot tall monstrance used by Pope Francis in Rome.  Along with the photos was a quote for thousands and thousands of US Dollars.  What happened?  Some important details were obviously lost in the translation.  Immediately we responded (in Spanish) to his (Spanish) email and asked him to make us a small monstrance and a simple ciborium.  We provided measurements and other requirements.  Days passed with no response. We felt discouraged, but wouldn't give up.  We pestered the man with emails until we finally received a message saying that he could make what we needed IF we went to a particular bank and deposited money into his wife's account...weird.  We felt a bit skeptical, but trusted the nun and had faith that the Holy Spirit was the designer of this scavenger hunt.

Saturday morning (6 days before we left Trujillo) I walked to the bank, stood in line for almost two hours and then explained, in my limited Spanish, that I needed to deposit a large sum of money into a stranger's account.

Each time I began to second-guess our decision I glanced down at the shirt I had purposefully worn:

Keep Calm and Trust in God

It was Thursday.  We were scheduled to leave on Friday.  Still nothing.  Ugh!

Finally we received notification that the items were done and ready to ship.  Please Jesus, make clear the path between the craftsman in Lima and the Archbishop's office.  Please Jesus, hold open the exterior door of the Archbishop's office which appears to close/lock at random times.  Please Jesus surround this whole situation with a legion of angels, that we may return to San Hilarion with the items we need for our church.

Thursday night we packed all our bags in preparation for our departure the following day.  We left room for the ciborium, the monstrance and the pix necklace bag trusting "that it would all work out beautifully" just like the nun assured us.

Here is the hand crafted ciborium and monstrance
for our church in San Hilarion.

Friday morning Chris went to the Archbishop's office and sure enough, there was a box waiting for him.

We found all the clues and solved all the riddles.  Our scavenger hunt was successful.  Mission complete!!

Thank you Jesus!!

A great big "THANKS" to all our prayer warriors.  When you pray for our mission to be successful, you may not know exactly what that entails on any given day, but still your prayers are heard and answered.