Wednesday, July 26, 2017

"Thanks" from the Teens in San Hilarion

When we first arrived here in Peru 18 months ago we did what most new missionaries do and went looking for ministries.  There is no shortage of need, so we definitely found plenty of people to help. In hindsight, we realize that not all our efforts were Spirit led. As we've learned to surrender more completely, we're a bit better at allowing the ministries to find us.

Earlier this year Katelyn, Anna, Jack and Michael received funds from members of Team Carmody who wanted our kids to have money for their own ministries. Falling back into old habits, the brainstorming began. Without any great ideas jumping off the page, they impatiently resigned to the fact that the Spirit would hand-deliver the ministries for which these funds were to be used.

A few weeks ago we helped facilitate a three-day retreat for the lay church leaders of our 140+ villages.  During that retreat, a group of young adults from a local pro-life organization gave an incredible presentation on how to minister to those struggling with issues related to abstinence, natural family planning, STDs, contraception, adoption and abortion. They concluded by inviting everyone to a Christian concert that they would be hosting in Moyobamba a couple days later.

It was as if the Holy Spirit hand-delivered the promotional flyer... As soon as it hit our hands the ideas started reeling ~ there are SO many teens in our community that have no idea how amazing it feels to be head-over-heels in love with Jesus. Christian concerts can be so inspirational and life changing, especially those designed for young adults...

In the lower left corner of the flyer it indicated that student tickets were only fives soles ($1.54), which is SO affordable!! Moyobamba is a three hour drive through the mountains. How could we get the kids there? If the concert starts at 8PM, we wouldn't get back to San Hilarion until almost 3AM - would their parents let them go? Would we have to spend the night there? They don't have money to buy dinner, so what could we feed them? So many questions....

Little did we know that the Holy Spirit had everything worked out.

All of the kids that Anna and Katelyn invited were available, eager and allowed to go.

The kids piled into the back of the nuns' new truck, where they snuggled up to keep warm in the brisk mountain air during our three hour drive.  We "stumbled across" a restaurant offering dinner for six soles ($1.85). After filling our tummies, we raced across town and arrived at the venue just as the opening act was starting.

At first, our Lost Sheep were a bit skeptical of the enthusiastic crowd. They huddled together in the back of the auditorium as if a hungry wolf was prowling. When our daughters insisted on moving closer to the stage, the group remained huddled with their arms crossed. Their eyes darted from one cluster of young adults to the next, unsure of what to make of the uninhibited laughter and outpouring of joy which surrounded them.

Apprehension was overcome by curiosity, which slowly transformed into participation as the headliner moved from one hit to the next. When I saw "our kids" swaying back and forth, clapping and singing the lines posted on the big screen, I couldn't hold back my tears. "They're enjoying themselves," I said to myself between sniffles, "they're really enjoying themselves!"  Are these the same guys that take and sell drugs? That have gotten expelled from school? In between songs the singer talked about the importance of choosing life. He invited us to join him in prayer for all those who have had abortions - which hit really close to home for one member of our group.  She was visibly enduring a roller coaster of emotions and couldn't stop crying - at times her tears were filled with joy, other times sorrow, confusion, anger. At one point, she pointed to a woman who had been dancing and singing nonstop and said, "I hope that someday I love Jesus that much!"

Toward the end of the concert the headliners encouraged the audience members to thank their mothers for choosing life. For those without mothers present, he invited us to affirm our companions for the gift we are to each other. I hugged my own children, but continued on to embrace each of my Peruvian children and thank them for allowing me to be their adopted mother. In the strength and sincerity of their hugs I realized that our growing love is mutual.  

To say we've given up on making plans is a bit of an exaggeration, but we try our best to wait patiently for Him to guide us each step of the way.

Katelyn and Anna are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to give their friends such an incredible experience. 

The kids here were excited to say, "THANKS" as well - in both English and Spanish.  To see their short videos, click on the YouTube links below:

Here's their thank you in Spanish:

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit is nudging you to support us financially, please visit:
or call Family Missions Company at
(337) 893-6111

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Giving People the Chance to Read God's Word

Charo was astonished to realize that she
could only read the top two lines of the eye chart
clearly. The third line was blurry and below that
was a complete mystery. 

There are SO many people here that have horrific vision.

Although poor sight makes life difficult, in general, our greatest desire is that these people can read the bible.

Angie couldn't stop laughing when
she realized how little she's always
been able to see - "Wow, I'm pathetic", she kept saying.

We thought the answer was purchasing large print bibles, but in prayers we kept getting the feeling that glasses were a better way to go.

Like mother, like daughter.  Charo and her
daughter Angie are so excited to be able to
see each other from a distance now.  It's so cute!!

We're not able to provide glasses for every person in need, but we have been able to help those that we've gotten to know who desire to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus by reading His Word.

Isaac hasn't stopped smiling for weeks.
He feels incredibly grateful for the new
perspective he now has on life...

There is an optometrist in a city about 30 minutes away, that is easily accessible and affordable.

We look forward to helping others as well, which we are only able to do thanks to Team Carmody!!!

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit is nudging you to support us financially, please visit:
or call Family Missions Company at
(337) 893-6111

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Her Dying Wish Was to be a Bride

A very good friend often reminds me that

"everyone has a story". 

As we step in and out of each other's stories, we can only capture a glimpse of what those lives really entail.

Last week we were invited to step into the lives of Victor and Karina, a very poor couple in their mid-30s who have two children ages 6 and 16. They live in Tres Unidos, a small village a few hours away from our home.

Victor and Karina had been preparing for the sacrament of marriage and eagerly awaited their special day. However, when Karina became very ill the doctors discovered stage 4 colon cancer. Unsure of what lie ahead, they postponed the wedding.

I certainly don't know their entire story, but want to share the chapter that we had the privilege of being a pat of.

Saturday afternoon we received a phone call from our friend Andy, a fellow FMC missionary here in Peru. He'd just been informed of Karina's biopsy results, which indicated her recently diagnosed and untreated cancer was so advanced that she had only two weeks to live, at best.

Time is often an unrecognized gift from God.
With the news of Karina's prognosis we realized that the only opportunity for them to get married before she died would be Sunday - 
the very next day. 

Recognizing both the importance and urgency of this situation, we rearranged our schedule 
and made ourselves available to help in every way possible.  Chris and the boys covered our regular ministries so that Anna, Katelyn and I could accompany Andy.  

We selected a half dozen wedding dresses that seemed about Karina's size and headed out to Andy's remote village, where Victor and Karina also live.

At 9:30PM we arrived at their home with the dreadful biopsy results as well as an invitation to be married the following day.  Allowing the Spirit to guide this VERY difficult conversation, we navigated both the logistics and emotional agony.  

After hours of talking, singing and praying we finally left around 12:30AM, promising to return in the morning to help Karina select a dress and prepare for their big day.

As promised, we arrived at their home just a couple hours before Mass.

We coordinated food preparation with the neighbors, who agreed to make lunch for about 100 people.

Karina tried on the various dresses that we brought and selected the one that, by the grace of God, fit perfectly albeit a few alterations to the length (which we were able to do with some safety pins). 

Andy found a little shop that sells rings and bought two that were just the right size.

Katelyn and Anna braided Karina's hair and adorned her with the most beautiful necklace and matching earrings, which she had set aside for this special occasion.

After we bought balloons and ribbon, members of the community offered to decorate the church.

Everything was coming together so perfectly that one might suspect God Himself had a hand in it!!

As friends and neighbors arrived nothing was shared regarding Karina's prognosis, only that Father Miguel was coming and could celebrate their matrimony. Happiness filled the air as the busyness of preparing for such a grand event consumed us all.  I too tried my best to remain joyful, but several times my facade failed.  As I looked around at all the smiling faces, I knew that all these same people would be gathered in this same place in a matter of days to grieve the loss of our beautiful bride.  They would coordinate food and decide what she would wear just as we were doing today....  It was most difficult to see Karina's children, who knew the truth, watching at a bit of distance in disbelief.  When someone caught me crying and asked what was wrong, I could only smile and say "Karina is SO beautiful. I'm very happy that they will be married today!" ...which was true.

Karina always imagined herself walking to the church in procession on her wedding day, but sadly admitted she just didn't have the strength.

A moto took her and Andy instead.

People from the community followed behind playing festive music, while friends walked alongside. At first there were just a few of us, but by the time we arrived at the town plaza there was a nice group accompanying her to the church.

Both Victor and Karina's families live far away. Given the short notice, they were unable to attend.

Andy did an amazing job of stepping up and filling that role.

As I walked into the church, the excitement was tangible.

The community was thrilled to celebrate this joyous occasion altogether.

After Victor and Karina found their places in the front of the church, Katelyn, Anna and I sneaked out the back in a rush to make it to our next commitment. Although we wanted to stay and be a part of their big day, we knew that our job was done.

We jumped into a moto and headed back through the jungle on the little dirt path. When we arrived at the river we negotiated a rate for crossing the river in a half-empty boat because we couldn't afford to wait around for other passengers.  Thankfully, they only charged us $1 more. We caught the first camioneta that passed by on the highway and prayed for an uneventful trip. Moments after arriving home we met up with Chris and the boys, who had just started eating lunch at a friend's house.  When we returned home kids were waiting by our house for our next scheduled activity.  It all came together so perfectly that one may suspect that God Himself had a hand in it... wait a minute, didn't I already say that???

Victor and Karina had an incredibly blessed day. Karina was baptized, received her First Holy Communion, was confirmed and received the sacrament of matrimony.

We give thanks to our God who does real things for real people in the real world.  We give thanks for every member of Team Carmody who makes this mission possible - especially those that have donated their wedding dresses. Together we are bringing the love of Jesus to His beloved children here in Peru.

We ask for your prayers, that Victor, Karina and their children are able to draw their strength from Jesus during the heartbreaking days ahead.

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit is nudging you to support us financially, please visit:
or call Family Missions Company at (337) 893-6111

Thursday, July 13, 2017

We're Almost Residents!

Border controls are measures taken by a country to monitor and regulate the movement of people, animals and goods into as well as out of a country. The goals are to protect from the illegal movement of weapons, drugs, contraband and people, to safeguard the people from disease-carrying merchandise, and maintain economic prosperity and national sovereignty.

Peru's current law allows tourists one 183-day visa each year. Last September we crossed into Ecuador, hoping the visa regulations were unenforced, and discovered the opposite to be true. It is only by the grace of God and the intercession of Our Blessed Mother that we were granted re-entry. 

If you want to read about that adventure, go to our blog post titled "Visa Renewal by Katelyn".

For those wishing to remain in Peru for an extended period of time, the government offers "carnets de extranjerios" (foreigner cards).  As part of the application process individuals need to change their status from "tourist" to "resident". This is an extremely lengthy process which includes very specific authorizations, stamps and seals, notarizations and such from offices here in Peru as well as the individual's country of origin.

We began this process in January while still here in Peru. We went to Houston in March and completed the required steps at the Peruvian consulate. 

At the beginning of June we all went to Lima and visited several different offices to obtain the necessary authorizations.

Chris and I returned to Lima at the beginning of July to present all our documentation to the officials at Immigration.

We received papers of confirmation acknowledging that we've completed all necessary steps. Now, we wait.....

When we receive our carnets de extranjerias we'll be allowed to remain in country for two additional years without needing to leave for any sort of visa renewal.

We're not sure exactly what the Lord has planned for our family, but this will keep the door open to stay here in Peru if He so desires this of us.

After obtaining these cards, we'll be able to begin the process for our kids. We've been told that it is significantly easier for the children of residents, so hopefully we'll all have what we need before our current visas expire in October.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

9 Month Old Amir Weighs Only 10 Pounds

The lesion above Katelyn's ankle
Yesterday morning I was lost in prayer as I contemplated treatment options for Katelyn's possible case of cutaneous leishmaniasis, which is a parasitic disease causing large lesions on the skin. Katelyn, who was sitting nearby, politely interrupted to share a quote from the book she's reading,

"I cried because 
I didn't have shoes 
until I met a man 
that didn't have feet." 

Knowing what occupied my mind, she simply smiled lovingly and allowed me to return to prayer. I acknowledged the beauty of the quote, but it wasn't until a few hours later that it really hit me.

We drove into Tarapoto to visit the clinic that could take a culture of Katelyn's wound, which is necessary for further diagnosis. Early that morning, as I was trying to get everyone out the door, I specifically said, "We have to go. I don't want to show up at 11:00 as everyone is leaving for lunch."

Camioneta stand in Tarapoto
When our camioneta arrived in Tarapoto there was a moto driver smiling and waving eagerly. Assuming he simply wanted our business I dismissed his attempt to get our attention. Moments later he was embracing me, giggling and talking a thousand miles an hour.  I assumed Katelyn understood what was happening because she understands everyone, but she was clueless. She listened more intently as the man recounted a series of events and surmised that we had helped his child.  We both understood that he really wanted us to visit his house and see his son. Although the man looked familiar, I couldn't place him. I explained the urgency we felt to get to the clinic and suggested that maybe we could stop by his house afterward. The moto driver was completely unsatisfied with my alternate plan and insisted that we visit his son. As we drove to his home Katelyn asked questions trying to figure things out.  All of the sudden, the light bulb went on.

Karen holding Amir Sebastian
This was Amir Sebastian's dad. Amir is a 9 month old baby that only weighs 10 pounds. Back in May we paid for Amir and his mom to fly to Lima to see pediatric specialists who performed life-saving surgeries on his internal organs. Since their return, Team Carmody has supported them in the fundraisers they've had to help pay for his medicine, hospitalizations, etc. Eight weeks ago Amir was diagnosed, by the specialists in Lima, as a quadriplegic. Although his parents felt devastated, they continually praised God for the gift that their son is to them. They humbly begged for a miracle of healing and asked that we join them in prayer.

As we continued on toward their home, I realized that I would meet Amir for the first time and my heart burst with joy. Amir has spent the majority of his life in hospitals and only recently was allowed to go home. As I considered the tremendous hardships that this family has suffered, I recalled the quote that Katelyn read to me hours prior,

"I cried because I didn't have shoes 
until I met a man that didn't have feet."

The urgency I felt to get Katelyn to the clinic was replaced with complete peacefulness as I thanked the Lord for the opportunity to step outside of myself and my own little world.

Image of Senor de los Milagros
at the Church of Las Nazarenas in Central Lima

When Katelyn, Jack and I arrived at Amir's home we were quickly greeted by his mom who was sobbing and laughing simultaneously.  Like her husband, she couldn't talk fast enough to share the thoughts of her heart. Thankfully, Katelyn assumed the role of translator and kept me in the loop. We learned that four weeks ago, shortly after we all began praying for a miracle of healing, the Lord revealed His majesty as Amir began to move his fingers. Within hours he was lifting his arms and kicking the legs which had laid limp since birth. She talked about their visit to Senor de los Milagros (Lord of Miracles) in Lima, but it was hard to decipher the details.

As Amir was placed into my arms I was amazed....simply amazed.  When his tiny little fingers grasped my thumb and his fragile little legs kicked about I was completely overwhelmed with emotion.  I asked his mom, "So, how has he been doing?" and her smile vanished.  She shamefully bowed her head and whispered through her tears, "He's not growing."  When I asked "why" the mom remained quiet, but the older sister quickly announced that they have no money for food - not for Amir or the rest of the family. She said that the baby is supposed to have 5 bottles of enriched formula a day, but that they can only afford to give him one. The dad rushed to the kitchen to retrieve a large box full of medicine and explained that all the money he earns goes to pay for the baby's medical treatment. As we discussed their situation in more depth it became immediately obvious that they need Team Carmody's help.  In addition to buying their family food, I offered to buy a large canister of formula with the little bit of money I had in my wallet. This would allow them to give the baby 5 bottles a day for an entire week. I promised to deliver several more canisters in a couple days when we return to Tarapoto for Katelyn's test results. During conversation we learned that Amir must see the specialists in Lima monthly, but his family is unable to pay for the airfare. So, on behalf of Team Carmody, we agreed to pay the $122 needed for July's trip. I told them we could pay for August's visit as well, but he insisted on trying to earn the money himself, which is so honorable.

When our visit was over, Ronaldo, Amir's dad, took us in his moto to the clinic where Katelyn was to have a culture drawn.  Ironically, Katelyn and I glanced down at my watch as we were arriving and noticed it was 11:00. Katelyn laughed and said, "I think the Lord's plan was better than yours."

For years I was encouraged by the saying, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

More recently I've found comfort in knowing that "Jesus does not remove the burdens of life, but the anguish of our hearts; He does not take the cross away from us, but carries it with us. And with Him, every burden becomes light, because He is the rest that we seek."
(Pope Francis)

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit is nudging you to support us financially, please visit:
or call Family Missions Company at (337) 893-6111