Thursday, December 29, 2016

Mattress Ministry

As November faded into December we turned our attention to Christmas.  While reflecting on Luke's beautiful bible story, images of Baby Jesus sleeping in the manger filled our minds.  

In prayer we asked Baby Jesus to guide our hearts and our mission: "What can we do to bring relief to those in most need during this special season?" 

Baby Jesus gave us the word 

Katelyn and Anna presented our idea to the youth group - They would search San Hilarion for anyone who sleeps on the ground.  Our family could buy them mattresses and then the youth group would deliver them.  The group loved the idea and set out days later to complete their task.  After one day they had 31 names....amazing!!!

We bought the mattresses and piled them onto our van.

During the week leading up to Christmas the kids began delivering the mattresses.

We were all happiest to bring relief to the man known as "the town drunk" who has nothing but a thin, urine-soaked foam pad and a holey mosquito net.

The kids here are well acquainted with poverty, but even their hearts ached seeing how this man lives.

This woman has been sleeping on wooden slats for years. Although she didn't say much, the twinkle in her eyes spoke volumes about her gratitude.

As we left one woman's house she smiled and asked if we like "cuy" (guinea pig).

I explained that we haven't had the opportunity to try this delicacy yet because they are expensive.  The people in our town that have cuy don't eat them, they sell them.

She smiled and said that she would send her son to get us for dinner soon.

Another family expressed their gratitude by bringing us fish that they had just caught in the river.

25 families were blessed with new mattresses for Christmas; most received one mattress, but many families needed several.  This small gesture brought relief to over a hundred people who previously had bad sleeping situations.  Some had been sleeping on the floor, others slept on wooden planks and almost all of them were sharing their space with siblings, parents or other relatives.

Thank you Jesus for guiding our hearts to those in need during this special season.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

We will finally have water in San HilariĆ³n by Chris

Water tower built 14 years ago

We are very blessed to have a well in the house that we live in. Not all of the houses in our town have a well, which means the people carry buckets down to the river to fill them up with water every day.  

About fourteen years ago, our town built a wonderful new water tower in our town. Then, the project ran out of money and they were never able to add the pumps, filtration, plumbing into/out of the tower, etc.

The local economy is based on growing
 and milling rice. Rice needs lots 
of water to grow.  

The entire area has many aqueducts which divert the water from the nearby Sisa river before it dumps into the massive Huallaga river.

                                                                                                                                    This is how dry the land can get in the rice fields during our dry months (which is most of the year).

Open one of the valves to the aqueduct and voila!
So imagine the frustration 
when the crops in the fields all around you have water brought to them. Meanwhile, you and your family have to go to the river to bathe and to carry bucket loads of water back to your house multiple times per day.

Oh, I almost forgot, add in that the temperature is 100 degrees and when you step into the sun you can feel it burning your skin most of the day.  Now, you have a better picture of what the people here deal with on a daily basis.

That is why we had a huge celebration for the "breaking ground" ceremony for the new potable water system.

All of the local dignitaries were there.  They even invited us to say a small blessing over the "primera piedra" which translated means the "first stone".  

I had the opportunity to place a shovelful of cement into the hole to make the "primera piedra"

We tried to capture some of the joy of the day with a few photos.

The photo on the right are a few of the ladies in town that are super excited that they will not have to carry water in buckets for much longer.

"A drop of water breaks a stone not by its force,
but by being constant.  That is why the triumphs
belong to those who never surrender.

Many of the children in the schools made signs to celebrate the day.

This project will take about another 8 months or so to complete.  Please pray for safe and speedy construction of this vital project for the health of the people in this area.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Anna's Dance Ministry - Recital Video

Each one of us has special gifts and talents that the Lord desires us to use for His glory. One of Anna's gifts is dance.

When we first arrived in Peru we weren't sure how the Lord would use Anna's gifts to preach the gospel and serve the poor, but He has.

This is a photo I found online of Shamboyacu.
This grassy field is actually right outside the front door
of the boarding school.

In September, Anna began a Christian dance ministry at an all-girls boarding house in Shamboyacu, which is a village deep in the jungle about two hours away from us.

When we first started visiting, Anna's objectives were simply to get to know the 25 girls and teach them the basics of dance.  Since most of them had never had any formal dance instruction it was a little rough in the beginning.  Anna kept her spirits up and persevered. After a few classes, Anna was able to begin teaching them (in Spanish of course) the moves that they would later perform during the recital. With each class the girls improved, but progress was slow because we were only able to visit a couple times each month and sometimes not at all when the roads were impassible due to recent rains.

A few weeks before the scheduled recital we found out that the girls would be performing for the bishop.  This was an incredible motivator.  The girls took rehearsal more seriously and Anna was able to make tremendous progress.

The week before the recital we delivered the girls' costumes.

"We are not here to wait for the storm to pass,
we're here to learn how to dance in the rain."

Each girl received a beautifully modest shirt that Anna designed.

The girls here typically wear very skimpy clothes, so part of our ministry has been teaching them the importance of dressing modestly.

We also gave each girl a long black skirt that was hand-made by a woman from a native tribe.

This was a welcomed addition to their wardrobes, which in many cases did not include even one skirt suitable for church.

As daughters of the one true King, the girls looked and felt like the beautiful princesses that they are!!

Here is a link to the video of their recital:

A Missionary Family's Christmas

"No matter where you are, make it home." 
This is one of the many nuggets of wisdom that Genie Summers, 
the co-founder of FMC, shared with us during training.  

Such a statement encourages one to consider, what makes a house a home?  

At Christmas time it seemed to us that our home needed a tree.

Evergreens don't grow in this region of Peru, so we planned on using a banana tree. 

"We could just attach extra branches to the main stalk...." I remember someone saying.  

I'm sure a banana tree would have been suitable, but we were all super excited to find an artificial evergreen in the big city.

A fireplace also seemed like a nice holiday addition to our home.  

It's far too hot to have a real fireplace (even if we could) so we made one out of paper and wood instead. 

After hanging the paper stocking that we made, our fireplace felt complete.

The only other thing our home needed was an Advent wreath, which we made as well.  

If you look closely you'll notice that our candles are blue and not purple because we couldn't find purple ones anywhere.  Also, when the first week's candle became a fire hazard we had to remove it and just enjoy the other three. 

Historically, on Christmas Eve, we have bundled up and headed out into the cold, Michigan winter night to spend time with family.

This year, after changing out of our sweaty clothes and coating all exposed skin with bug spray, we piled into our van and drove through the rice fields to have dinner with the folks in a neighboring pueblo. 

As we bumped along the dirt road I began feeling a bit homesick. Thankfully, Jesus came to my rescue by lifting my chin and redirecting my attention toward the beautiful sunset.  "Snow is beautiful," I felt Him whisper, "but so are the rice fields in Peru."  Family is amazing, I thought, but so are the people the Lord has called us here to serve.  The emptiness that I was feeling vanished.     

For dinner, we enjoyed a freshly slaughtered turkey along with....

rice and yucca of course!!

Our next stop was another pueblo that we minister to regularly.

Michael helped prepare the altar.

Chris assisted with the vigil Liturgy of the Word service.

We rushed back to San Hilarion in time for the Living Nativity presentation that our youth group put on in the town plaza.  

In this scene, the Angel Gabriel (Anna) announced the Good News of Jesus' birth to the shepherds - and their sheep (Jack, Michael, etc).

After the skit, the youth group led the community in Christmas carols.

Then we headed to the church for their traditional midnight gathering.  Everyone welcomes Jesus into the world by singing together while placing the Infant into the manger.

As I placed Jesus into His place of honor, I silently prayed for all those in our community that don't understand the real significance of Christmas.

Dinner #2 was next on the list.  Our neighbor invited us to share their midnight feast of fried pig (chicharon).  Although we were all super tired, we couldn't decline the offer for dinner because our kids had helped butcher the pig the day before.

Around 1:30 AM we made our last stop at our friend Charo's house.

On Christmas morning, after everyone opened their present, we went to church here in San Hilarion.  As an official Extraordinary Minister of Communion, Chris was able to offer people the Eucharist.  This is the first time ever that the people in our town have been able to receive Jesus on Christmas day.  What an amazing gift!!

Still stuffed from the midnight feast of fried pig, we skipped lunch and ventured out into the blazing heat Peruvian style...

...and spent the rest of the afternoon playing at the river.

Jack and Michael quickly found their friends.

Katelyn and Anna taught some locals how to play American football.

Christmas evening we drove into Picota (the slightly larger town about 1/2 hour away) for Holy Mass.

When we returned home the boys and I collapsed from exhaustion. 

Chris and the girls dug deep for a bit more energy and headed to the church to celebrate a beautiful, candle-lit Holy Hour.

What an amazing couple of days - Happy Birthday Jesus!!


Shared Traditions

With a house full of kids, it seems that Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without cookies....

but how do we make sugar cookies without cream of tartar?  Can we buy almond extract here?

After locating a recipe that only included ingredients we could buy here, Katelyn, Anna, Jack and Michael invited the neighborhood kids in and explained our tradition.

They set to work rolling the dough - missionary style. Without a rolling pin they figured out that our water bottles work just as well.

Without cookie cutters, they decided to use our butter knife to carve out images: crosses, churches, angels, hearts, ornaments, stars, etc.

Thankfully, we've learned how to be patient from the people here because our little portable electric oven doesn't bake cookies nearly as fast as my double oven did in Michigan.

When the cookies were finally done, our kids were super excited to share them with their friends. Their friends were super excited to try these yummy Christmas treats.

Making cookies was a great way to spend time together on the day of Christmas Eve.

Christmas Donations Put to Great Use

Dear Carmody family,

     Merry Christmas.  Please use our donation to buy the people in Peru something nice for Christmas.

               Members of 
                  Team Carmody

We felt SO blessed by the extra donations sent in for Christmas, but OH how this sent our minds whirling: toys? clothes? food?  What could we possibly buy for everyone is town?


"Lord, what is the perfect gift for people that have so little and need so much?  Please Lord, help us."

Immediately, the Lord responded, "They don't need stuff.  They need ME!!"

"Yes, yes, of course Lord, but what does that look like at this special time of year?  What can we do that's different from our regular ministries?  Is there something we can give people that will draw them closer to you?  Please Lord, guide us!"

Jesus tells us to ask and we SHALL receive.  We asked for guidance and Jesus provided.

During prayer, the Lord placed on our hearts the idea of having pictures made that could teach people the story of Jesus' birth; pictures that people would hopefully hang in their homes all year...

                       ...and so we did.

We designed a 5-panel storyboard, using pictures from the movie The Nativity Story. Beneath each picture are corresponding scripture passages which explain the nativity story.

Praise God, we found someone in Tarapoto able to print them, mount them and add cords for hanging - all for about $1 each.

During the week leading up to Christmas we visited as many houses as we could and gave away hundreds of pictures. At each house we explained the pictures and summarized the story of Jesus' birth. Some were familiar and smiled as they followed along. Others admitted that they were familiar with Jesus, but had never really heard the story of His birth. At some houses the people studied the images carefully and listened intently because it was the first time they had heard the story.

Each visit was blessed and we had the opportunity to get to know many more people in our town.

Here are better images of the storyboard along with our brief description.  Upon leaving, we encouraged each recipient to read the more detailed explanation below the pictures. Some even said that they would like to read the whole story in the bible.  Praise God!!!

The angel Gabriel visited Mary and asked her to be the mother of God.

As we know Mary said, "yes".
Here, Mary is pregnant with Jesus.  She and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem.
In Bethlehem, Jesus was born.
After Jesus was born, the shepherds visited Baby Jesus.

The three wise men also visited Baby Jesus.
We are incredibly blessed to have such an amazing team behind us, praying for us and supporting our mission.  We thank God for clarity in our discernment and continue to pray that each day we're able to draw people closer and closer to Jesus.