Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Katelyn's Quinceañera (15th B-Day)

Since time began people of all cultures have celebrated the coming of age with various traditions. I read that when female Mentawaians reach puberty their teeth are chiseled into points to make them more beautiful.  Boys from a particular  Brazilian tribe are considered men after a ceremony in which their eyes are smothered with an acidic poison and they're whipped harshly.  Other cultures purify their adolescents through rituals of induced vomiting, long-term submersion in herbal liquids and various forms of torture. 

Although the origin of the quienceañera is unknown, it is thought to be linked to the ancient Aztecs' rites of passage.  Around 500 B.C. boys were inducted as warriors and girls were honored for their capacity to give new warriors to the community.

The Aztecs understood that the future of their tribe depended on their young women and celebrated accordingly. 
The Spanish explorers and missionaries that settled in the territory that comprises present-day Mexico adopted the Aztecs' coming of age traditions and spread them throughout Latin America.  For 2500 years Hispanics have continued the coming-of-age tradition which marks a girls' entry into womanhood. 

Today, a quienceañera is a non-sacramental Catholic Mass of thanksgiving for life and faith, crowned by God's blessing.  It is an opportunity for a young lady to publicly profess her commitment of faith and desire to remain pure until the day she returns to the altar to be wed.  


During the Mass the quienceañera renews her baptismal vows and receives special blessings from the priest. 

At the end of the ceremony the young lady often presents Our Lady with a bouquet of flowers, petitions for Her intercession and makes (or renews) her consecration.  

Today, in the jungles of Peru and many other poor parts of Latin America, young girls are taught necessary domestic skills: cooking, sewing, cleaning, childbearing. By the age of 15 they're prepared to manage a home and are ready for marriage.  The quienceañera is often a small, family affair during which the daughter is presented to the community as a potential spouse to acceptable suitors.

I've been told that outside of the 3rd world quienceañeras mark the day on which many young ladies get to do "adult" things for the first time like pluck her eyebrows, shave her legs, wear make-up, jewelry and high-heels. Regardless of the particulars, this celebration is meant to be a crucial time in the life of young Hispanic women.  While society invites youth to gang membership, drug and alcohol abuse, and irresponsible sexual behavior, the Church offers girls the opportunity to reaffirm their beliefs, make a commitment to their faith, and present themselves as dignified Christian women who are ready to take a mature role in the Catholic community.  

We were so moved by Katelyn's public profession of faith that we forgot to take pictures.
Here she is with her friends at the celebration afterward.
Katelyn welcomed this opportunity.  She stood before the congregation proudly declaring her commitment to live as Jesus teaches and announced her desire to be pure until her wedding day. At the end of the ceremony she petitioned Our Lady for constant intercession and fervent prayer, knowing that these upcoming years are going to be a real challenge.  Katelyn felt honored to be able to share her special day with the other young ladies in San Hilarion who desperately need a good example to follow.  Her friends affirmed her and thanked her for giving them the courage they need to combat the pressures in society to live as the world teaches.

After Mass Katelyn had a small party in "The Tambo", which is an open grass hut of sorts in San Hilarion. 

Chris and Anna gave beautiful speeches honoring Katelyn and pledging their support as she lives out the promises she made.  

This was a really special time for Katelyn and her daddy!!  

It was wonderful for her and Anna as well!!  

Michael and Jack were happy to just hang out with their best friends Carlos and Roberto.

Andy has been like a grandpa to Katelyn these last 3 years,
while John Paul and Miguel are the older brothers
that she always wanted but never had.
Of all the guests that helped us celebrate, Katelyn was most excited about our FMC missionary friends Andy, John Paul and Miguel.  

You know, when Jesus called us into missions He promised to give us everything that we would need.  Not only has that included food, clothing and shelter, but "family" as well.  

In wealthy families the quienceañeras often
resemble extravagant weddings, complete with the white gown.

Although Katelyn's quienceañera wasn't extravagant by any stretch of the imagination, it was exactly what she had hoped for: simple, genuine and filled with friends. 

We've said time and time again that our kids are the best missionaries.  Katelyn proved that to be true as she selflessly used her own birthday celebration to minister to the teens in San Hilarion.

The Aztecs understood that the future of their tribe depended on their young women.  Although I lack information about what particular attributes they desired, I believe Katelyn would have exceeded their expectations.  She is an incredible young lady and will contribute immeasurably to the future of every tribe with which she associates.    

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit in nudging you to support us financially so that we can continue serving those that the Lord calls us to serve, please visit either:

call Family Missions Company at (337) 893 - 6111.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

A Time of Rest & Renewal (by Chris)

Many people have been curious as to what has been happening in our life since we left Peru.  This blog attempts to convey where we are at, what we have been doing and more importantly what the Lord has been doing these past 5 weeks.  I would also like to convey what we are working toward as a goal.
Karen and I in the FMC chapel
This time has been a season that the Lord has provided for our family to heal from past wounds, to draw closer together and become more united as a family and especially for Karen and I to draw closer together as a couple.  Our church teaches that each family unit is a domestic church or to say it another way, the smallest "church" unit, much smaller than a parish or a diocese (or prelature) and much, much smaller than the global Catholic Church.  The devil does not like family.  Just as he worked to divide Adam and Eve, he tried to divide The Holy Family by trying to get Joseph to divorce Mary and he is hard at work dividing up families everywhere....all the time.  He REALLY is working overtime to do this when it comes to missionary families that are knee deep in the trenches of daily spiritual warfare all for the sake of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus to the world.
Jack and I reading

 I was blessed this Lent to read a book that a benefactor sent to me called "Man in the Mirror" (no, it is not a Michael Jackson biography).  This book opened my eyes to the traps that I had fallen into where the devil was working to divide me from my family.  The good news is that Jesus saved me from that!  A wise parish priest from my pass used to tell me that the truth is that "Jesus has saved me, Jesus is saving me and Jesus will save me" and I can tell you that this is sooooo true.  He is saving me from the tricks of the devil and is showing me my true identity and how blessed I am to have Karen as a wife and the beautiful children he has blessed me with in this call to missions.  Jesus is teaching me about the beautiful way in which He loves me and loves Karen and our kids and how we are all called to love and to share that love with others.  In addition, Jesus is actively saving me everyday and I know from the bottom of my heart with a whole ton of faith that He will save me again in the future when I am too weak to carry on, when I stumble and fall and mess up His beautiful plan for my life.  So, with all of this said, I will try to convey with words and pictures how this is all playing out in our life recently and hopefully it will help you in some way with your family or marriage or relationship or .....???  I hope it does.

We have been spending time with Jesus in the FMC chapel.  We have spent a lot of time in prayer, individually, together and as a family.  This has been a constant for the last few years but we have ramped it up recently during this beautiful time we have together.  Jesus knows each of us individually better than we know ourselves or each other and He really wants to help us to know ourselves and each other much better than we already do.  I hope that was clearer than it looks written down....

Some of the books we have been working our way through
We also have been blessed to have time to read during this time.  We have been given many good books to read which have helped out a lot.  Books like, "The Temperament God Gave You" by Art Bennett.  For those who are married, imagine going to work everyday with your spouse....maybe some of you do.  Now, for those with children, imagine going to work everyday with your spouse and your children.  That begins to open a window into the world of life in missions.  In the corporate world I was in before missions, as a manager, it was vitally important to know the type of employees that you had working for you.  It is the same in missions and knowing the temperament of each family member and how those temperaments interact with other temperaments has worked wonders in helping our family understand each other better and how we can work together better moving forward.  Praise you Jesus for this book!

Katelyn LOVES to read!!!
Another great book is "Created for Connection" (C4C) by Dr. Sue Johnson.  This book coupled with "The 5 Love Languages" (5LL) by Gary Chapman have helped me to better understand Karen and our relationship.  C4C helped me to understand the conversational patterns we would fall into and gives many practical ways to break old patterns and to begin to create better ones.  This book is based on Dr. Johnson's many years of work in Emotionally Focused Therapy with married couples.  This is a rather new (~30 years old) development in the rather complex dynamics of a married couples interactions with one another.  5LL is great (many online parodies of what these 5 love languages are) for helping each person to become aware of their own love language and that of their spouse.  We realized we can, at times, think that we are showing all kinds of love to our spouse but if it is in a language they do not is all Greek to them!  Super helpful and I highly recommend these books to any couple.

1st day of school!!!
We decided to put the kids in the local Abbeville public schools which has been really wonderful for our family.  The kids get to take the bus to and from school and to take part in the "normal" events that non-missionary kids take part in that trouble so many people's minds with the feelings that they are "missing out" on these experiences.  Once again, the Lord provides.  He is so, so, so good!  The public schools here have uniforms which is a new concept for us and since this is the first time our kids have been in public school there are many new experiences for all of us to share together.  Jack and Michael are "Gators" and the girls are "Wildcats"  Here is a photo from their 1st day of school!

Family Bowling outing with another missionary family
 the night before they left  to serve in Malawi
One thing that FMC stresses and that was one of the first things to get pushed aside during our time in missions was the need for "Family Fun Days".  In addition, we have many benefactors that provided funding for special things to bless our kids and so we have been using this time we have to simply have fun together as a family.  Our youngest son Michael has always kept this in his sight while during the last few years, if we had not had a family fun day in a while, he would state, "We haven't done anything fun altogether, as a family".  Sometimes, we need to listen to our children as they know best and seem to have a better barometer of the family fun-o-meter.  Thank the Lord we are having fun altogether, as a family!!!
Our family up in our "tree house"

We have also been blessed to scrounge together scrap pieces of wood and other materials from around the FMC campus to build a tree house together behind the house we are living in.  This was a super fun Saturday activity and was something I personally always wanted to do for my kids but never made the time to do it before now.

People have been inquiring as to how we get around and where we are staying.  The Lord has provided for this as well!!  Thank the Lord that another missionary family that just left for Malawi has offered to let us use their full-size van while we are here.  Here is a picture of me in the van.

The van we are using to get around in
We are staying in a delightful cottage on a pond at the location where FMC hosts a summer camp called "Faith Camp" each year.  Recently, FMC was able to purchase this property from the organization that they previously rented it from and "Thanks be to God" because if not, we would not have a place to stay!  Why, because this year's "intake" of new missionaries going through formation is the largest ever (even larger than ours in 2015 which was the previous record holder).  There are 5 families (1 with 4 children, 3 with 5 children, 1 with 6 children and 1 with 7 children) along with 13 single females and 4 single males. 
Karen on the porch of where we are staying
Anna planting flowers to beautify where we are staying

Regarding ministry while we are here in Louisiana.  We have been available to help out with "Intake 2018" which is the process of formation that we went through back in 2015.  We attend morning praise & worship and Christian prayer with all of them a few days each week.  We have also been available as "the missionary family that is back from the field to ask questions to" for all of them.  This has been a blessing for our family and hopefully for the families in Intake. 

Our family with Fr. Francoise
We have also been reaching out to the local Hispanic community at St. Theresa's Catholic Church in Abbeville.  There is an amazing priest assigned there named Fr. Francoise who has such a missionary heart.  He served as a missionary priest in Argentina and is doing great work with the community at St. Theresa's.  We are helping out by offering family nights for the Hispanic community there and also helping out with the choir.

Katelyn sings in the Hispanic choir during the Spanish mass at St. Theresa
Jack and I playing musical chairs at St. Theresa's "Family Reunion"
The last component is the help that Karen and I have been receiving from so many sources here in Louisiana.  We have been so blessed to be here with the community at FMC that is so loving and welcoming to our family.  Karen and I have been going once / week to a Catholic marriage counselor in New Orleans that is very gifted and uses Emotionally Focused Therapy along with St. John Paul II's "Theology of the Body" based principles to guide us.  He was born in Nicaragua and is fluent in Spanish which is a bonus blessing for us.  The sessions are going very well and are helping our marriage tremendously.  We are also seeing individual counselors as well as receiving spiritual direction.  We can both see how the Lord has brought us all of these wonderful people to help us process, heal and to move forward together.  Praise the Lord for all the good that is happening in our lives!  Thank you Jesus!!

Here are some misc. photos of our time together:
Anna and Katelyn writing down "what blesses them"

Katelyn and I doing a puzzle

Anna and Michael making chocolate chip cookies

Katelyn doing homework on the computer w/ Michael waiting in line

Our goal is that after our family has been through a season of healing (we do not know how long this will be but the Lord knows and we are confident He will let us know) after which we plan to begin discerning our next mission post.  We are in need of continued financial support during this time of healing as the cost of living in the U.S. is much higher than what we have been used to in the jungle of Peru.  In addition, the cost of the counselors (even with their reduced missionary rates) and the travel costs to and from have been adding up quickly.  Thank you to all of you that have been supporting us on this missionary journey.  Please pray for our family's healing and for our house to sell and we will continue to pray for all of you!  Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.  Amen, Alleluia, Glory!!!

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit in nudging you to support us financially so that we can continue serving those that the Lord calls us to serve, please visit either:

call Family Missions Company at (337) 893 - 6111.

Monday, October 8, 2018

A House for Maria (by Chris)

We wanted to close the loop on another one of the work projects that we started back in June & July when the short-term mission trip was with us in Peru.  We built 2 houses, one for Loyda, which you can read about in the blog, Welcome Home Loyda and one for Maria, our neighbor and the mother of our dear little sheep, Jose & Fernando.  We last left off with the blog, Sometime Fruition Begins with Demolition to show the start of the process for Maria's house.  Yes, the same Jose & Fernando that we wrote about in the blog post: Loving My Enemies and that we have mentioned numerous times in other newsletters and blog posts.  As we had mentioned, the short-term missionaries were only here for a week and a half and there was only so much construction that could be done in that time.  After they all left, the construction continued with our good friend, Pablo and was assisted by some other missionaries that were in Peru for a Peruvian Intake (i.e. missionary formation) that took place during the months of June and July.  We were also blessed that our friends from the U.S. the Smith family were able to come and visit us in Peru and to help out with finishing both houses as well.

We were able to complete a home that could house not only Maria, Jose and Fernando, her little daughter Brittany and also her newborn baby but also Maria's two older daughters (one of which was somewhat estranged and living across town with another family).  To see them all reunited under one roof, with running water where Maria could wash the clothes of her children small children and could have a space for a kitchen to prepare meals for her family was very rewarding.  So we would like to share some of the photos of the continued work and what the final product looked like and how joyful Jose and Fernando are in their new house.

Maria's previous home

First, we will start with the before picture to jog your memory if you have read some of the previous blogs and newsletters or if you haven't had the chance to see how this family was living.

The inside of the house
The view from the backside of the home

The Smith family really helped to get the walls and the floors done
Our friends, the Smith family, came down for a visit in July to help with the construction efforts....they were such great missionaries and their visit really blessed our family and the community tremendously!

Pouring a cement floor for Maria's family

Anna with Maria, Jose, Fernando & Brittany

The finished product from the outside

The main living room
One of the two bedrooms, which is for the older daughters
The other bedroom where the boys
Fernando showing us their pet bird that they have in their new home

We are so happy to share what our Lord was able to do for this family using the support of so many people around the world to make it all happen.  Thank you all for your help in making this all possible and please pray for Maria and her family that they may continue to lean on Our Lord in all things.

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit in nudging you to support us financially so that we can continue serving those that the Lord calls us to serve, please visit either:

call Family Missions Company at (337) 893 - 6111.