Monday, December 31, 2018

Photo Summary of Our Rest in Louisiana



"The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done
and taught.  He said to them, 'Come away by yourself to a deserted place
and rest a while.'  People were coming and going in great numbers
and they had no opportunity even to eat."  (Mark 6:30-31)
Throughout the bible the Lord teaches us the importance of rest.  We know we need to take a break 

AND YET 

it can be so hard to do.

I love this image of the apostles lounging because it reminds me that even they stopped to regroup and re-energize once in a while! 


During out time here in Louisiana we did our best to rest, like Jesus prescribed.  We didn't have a TV or the Internet at the house where we were living, so we spent our time chatting (for real) on the dock while dangling our feet in the water, reading, playing cards and board games together. 




In between resting our kids worked hard on their studies.

Anna won first place in the middle school science fair, was on the honor roll and even was awarded Student of the Month in December.  Katelyn, Jack and Michael did fantastic too!


We did our best to enter fully into the place that the Lord had us by getting involved at the kids' schools.






All six of us helped out with the BINGO fundraiser.









We also attended the schools' football and basketball games altogether as a family, which is what our kids insisted on.  They explained that their classmates, who were all so eager to "get out of their parents' house" needed to see an example of a family that enjoys being together.

Sometimes people ask if their donations go to us or to FMC.  
Thanks to the INCREDIBLE volunteers 
who give so much of their time, FMC's administrative costs 
are very low which allows us to receive almost all 
of each donation made on our behalf.


When we had business to take care of we drove about 15 minutes to the FMC campus office.

One day, while I was there, I had the honor of meeting a group of volunteers who often collate, stuff and send out our newsletters.  It amazes me to consider just how many people are working together to make this mission possible. 



Michael, Katelyn, Chris and Jack having a blast at
Chuck E. Cheese - for the 1st time in about 5 years.




One difficult thing about being State-side is adjusting to the high cost of living. Coming from Peru, where we could buy 30 bananas for $1.00 and a pound of rice for about $0.30 everything seems outrageously expensive.



As such, we are very grateful for the members of Team Carmody that have sent in donations that specifically state that we are to use that money to do something fun as a family. 











Other exciting experiences included carving a pumpkin and getting dressed up for Halloween for the first time since Fall of 2014.











Katelyn's friend grew up in Abbeville
and has always been very poor.  As he explained
what his Halloweens have been like, my kids
came to understand the hardships of poverty
here in the United States in a new way.


In Michigan we lived in an average, middle class neighborhood where most of the people that desired to pass out candy for Halloween had the financial means to do so.  As such, our kids would run from house to house collecting up miniature versions of their favorite treats.  At the end of the night it seemed that each one had enough candy to last a lifetime.

This year our Halloween experience was drastically different because the community that we were living in is extremely poor.  The municipality hosted a social gathering in the town square.  People gathered to visit, eat popcorn and laugh about everyone's silly and very low budget costumes.  The library gave away used books and the police station offered kids plastic cups with messages warning them of the dangers of drugs.  As this event wound down we headed out into the neighborhoods, ready to start trick-or-treating.  We drove and drove and drove....but found nothing.  Certain that we were somehow misinformed about the local customs we continued driving in hopes of finding the crowds of people that we were sure existed. After about 45 minutes we gave up and went to Walmart to buy our own candy.  While there we talked to the locals and learned that there is no trick-or-treating because the residents are too poor to buy candy to pass out.  We were all dressed up with nowhere to go, which was disappointing, but insightful. Our time in Abbeville really allowed us to experience a different type of poverty.  In Peru everyone was poor, so although nobody had much, they didn't really knew any different. However, here in Louisiana the Have-Nots are acutely aware of their deficiencies.  We were told a while ago that Louisiana is the poorest of all 50 states; now we have seen that first hand.

Katelyn and her classmates fought
hard to win the dodge ball
championship for the Sophomore class.

Homecoming was another insightful experience.  Although the spirit week competitions were thrilling and the football game was highly attended, the Saturday night dance was another story.  Katelyn was looking forward to dancing and the general silliness that teens enjoyed in Peru; however, the under-supervised teens were far more interested in pushing the limits and advancing their own misguided agendas.



The day after Halloween we got to participate in the Day of the Dead Mass that was organized by the Hispanic community at our church. During this celebration we honored the deceased members of Team Carmody as well as our mission partners' loved ones who have passed away.  It was a beautifully sacred time of prayer!




Katelyn, Anna, Chris and I all served as lectors at the Spanish Mass.
After leaving Peru there was a huge void in our lives. Not only did we miss speaking Spanish, but our hearts longed for the open arms and selfless love that we encountered in the Latino community.

We have seen God constantly provide our family with  what we need: food, clothing, a place to live... and most recently, friendship. Before and after the Spanish Mass we spend time visiting with the folks at church.  We share meals together  and participate in social gatherings. It's exactly what we needed to fill that hole in our hearts!

The way in which the Hispanic community welcomed us is beautifully inspiring. If someone were watching from a distance he'd think that we'd known them for years.  It's awesome!!




When I was a young Girl Scout I learned the song "Make New Friends". 

The lyrics have stuck with me for over 35 years:


Make new friends, but keep the old,
One is silver and the other's gold.
A circle's round, it has no end,
That's how long I want to be your friend."


Although the Lord gives us the gift of friendship in each new place He calls us to, there is nothing and nobody that can replace our "old" friends that give us the strong foundation on which we stand.


Chris leading our two families in praise and worship
at the nursing home on Thanksgiving.

At the end of November our friends from Michigan went to Louisiana to spend a week with us.  We enjoyed uninterrupted conversation and hours of silly game playing. 




In addition to just hanging out and catching up, we were also able to serve together.

On Thanksgiving Day we went to a local nursing home and sang praise and worship.  It was a true blessing to see the residents tapping their toes and nodding their heads to the beat. As I peered out at the room full of seniors I felt thankful that although I couldn't be with my own parents, I was able to bring happiness to somebody else's parents on this special day.


After enjoying a Cajun-style Thanksgiving brunch, we stayed to play cards and chat. 



Thanksgiving was extra special for Katelyn's friend because it included
two memorable "firsts".  He served at a nursing home for the first time,
and also saw the sun set over the ocean.  He was in awe of God's goodness.


Not only did our "old" friends join us at the nursing home, but a "new" friend came along too. 

Shortly after starting classes at Abbeville's public high school, Katelyn was drawn to a young man whose story is as tragic as any kid she met in Peru.

Recognizing her own limitations, Katelyn knew it wasn't her place to fix her friend's problems; however, she knows that Jesus could!  Katelyn gave her friend the priceless gift of her time and undivided attention.  As she listened, she did her best to bring his attention back to Jesus' unconditional love and infinite mercy.  We had this young man to our house for meals and family movie nights.  He joined us for praise and worship and loved playing basketball with our boys.  Although our time together was limited, we thank God for each encounter which helps us all to draw closer to each other and to Him. 


Although the sunset on Thanksgiving Day was
relatively typical for Louisiana, it felt extra
special to us.

Simple pleasures...altogether...
exactly what the doctor ordered up!

Another great opportunity we had to serve others was during Advent.  We organized and hosted a retreat for the Spanish speaking kids that attend our church.  

We brought the nativity story to life through story telling, crafts and even a relay race in which some kids were donkeys and others pretended to be Mary.  Although a bit out of chronological sequence, we had the riders carry an egg which represented baby Jesus.  It was hilarious!!

Katelyn and Anna did a fantastic job animating the kids with the dynamicas they learned in Peru.  As the leaders, they did call-and-response songs accompanied by motions and dance moves.  Dynamicas are a super silly way to help people embrace the idea of being uncomfortable for Jesus.

Although we did our best to serve the Hispanic community, we ended up receiving way more than we gave.  Anna and I were especially blessed by a weekend long healing retreat. The facilitator was from Honduras and the Spanish speaking participants came from 9 different countries.  It was beautiful to see the work of the Holy Spirit, who is not bound by any cultural differences

Chris and I with two of the facilitators who
had flown in from California to put on the retreat.


As I'm writing this I'm realizing what a huge part retreats played in our journey of healing and reconciliation. 

Chris and I attended a marriage retreat that yielded tremendous fruit.  All I can say is WOW!! I never would have imagined that one weekend could have such an incredible impact on a strained relationship.   


For anyone struggling in their marriage, I strongly recommend the book "Created for Connection" by Dr. Sue Johnston which teaches couples about emotional connectivity; what it is and why it's vital to healthy marriages.  The retreat that we attended used the techniques of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and aimed to help couples learn to reconnect in areas that have historically caused division and coldness.


Sarah Granger, who has spent her entire life in
missions, provided incredible insight into the dynamics
of the relationship between the missionaries in the field
and the FMC leadership who is holding down the fort.
At the end of November we had yet another opportunity to stop and reflect on life. 

Each year, at the end of November, the FMC missionaries return home from all the corners of the earth for an annual retreat called Year-In-Review (YIR).  This special time gives the weathered missionaries a chance to share stories, good, bad and ugly.  There are instructional workshops and small group discussions.   It's a time of rest, reflection and rejuvenation.

Although we just completed our third year of missions, this was the first time we attended the YIR retreat because the other years we talked ourselves out of taking that break that I mentioned at the beginning of this blog.  We convinced ourselves that staying in the field to continue serving, even though we were really tired, was better than stepping out for a little rest.  We told ourselves that taking a break would be a sign of weakness or inadequacy.   Now we know better!!

The week following YIR there are a series of continuing formation talks and workshops put on by FMC leadership as well as outside experts.  This year we were blessed with the wisdom of a missionary priest who taught us about the boundaries we need to establish to maintain the emotional health of our families.  Chris and I had time to talk with him separately about our own struggles and received priceless advice that we'll incorporate into the new routine we establish in our next post.

From left to right:
Brooke & Joseph Summers, Kevin & Sarah Granger
In addition to all the other wonderful experiences we had this last Fall, it was also a blessing to attend the Vision Casting.  Each December the FMC leadership summarizes the events gone by and presents their "vision" for the upcoming year.  This year was especially important because our leadership is changing.  For many years Joseph, the son of our founders Frank and Genie Summers, and his wife, Brooke, have been the executive directors of FMC.  They are stepping down to discern what the Lord desires of them next. Joseph's sister, Sarah, and her husband Kevin are assuming the role of leadership and will be our new executive directors starting in January of 2019.  Family Missions Company is growing exponentially and everyone is excited to see what the Lord has in store for this new chapter.

Intake, which is FMC's time of formational training, includes a very special celebration during which the new missionaries are officially recognized and commissioned to preach the gospel and serve the poor. During this year's Commissioning Mass there were over 60 new missionaries added to our ranks.  In January they will be sent out to all the ends of the earth.  Wow, God is SO good!!! 

Team Peru 2019 is a beautiful combination
of single men, single women and families.
As we were planning to leave Peru many of our mission partners asked,
"What about the people in Peru?"

We're delighted to report that several of the missionaries that have been serving in Peru will return.  In addition, there are many new missionaries joining the team.  We're SUPER happy that the mission in Peru will continue!!



Another annual event that we've missed these last couple years is the Donor's Dinner. 

This is a special time to thank those who sacrifice much to make this life of missions possible.

Several missionaries shared tear-jerking stories of how they've personally encountered Jesus in the poor.  It was incredible to hear how the Lord works in big ways and small. Our fellow missionaries spoke of simple things like meaningful home visits and more involved efforts like the opening of a nursing home for abandoned seniors.  There wasn't a dry eye in the room. 

Yuri is a Peruvian who is married to an
American FMC missionary.  We got to know
her when we were all in Peru.  Now, she
is in the States with her husband
as they prepare to have their first child.
















Here at FMC, missionaries are always coming and going.  It has been wonderful to visit with our friends who have been serving throughout the world. 


Three amazing FMC missionaries crossing paths at the
airport.  As we all come and go we take advantage of
every opportunity we have to catch up.

Great Job Katelyn!!


As our time in Louisiana was coming to an end it was time to CAPTURE and PURGE once again.  We began by taking photos of anything that we wanted to remember, which included the kids' report cards and Honor Roll certificates, the tree house that we built and the kids' artwork.   


"It's still a good book.  The rats only chewed the corner.  It's not like
it's illegible.  If we get rid of it we're just going to have to buy
it again in two years!  I vote that it goes in the bin."

FMC allows each family to store two clear bins of personal belongings in the attic of a communal building.  Once again, we found ourselves asking the hard questions related to an uncertain future.  What makes the cut and what doesn't?  Is a homeschooling book (which was partially chewed by the rats in our house in Peru) that Jack and Michael will need a couple years from now more important to keep than a favorite storybook from my childhood?  It's so hard to know!!



After determining what is worth saving in the bin, the next round of decision making pertains to who we should give "special" things to. 

Jack and Michael were excited to give their friend LADD  their Bionicles.  This was significant because these constructable robots represented the last of my sons' American toys.  In 2015, when we prepared to enter missions, they gave away the vast majority of what they had.  When we returned in 2017 they gave away most of what remained. They chose to take Legos and Bionicles to Peru.  The Legos were left with the Peruvian kids and now LADD has the Bionicles.  Both Jack and Michael agreed that they'd rather just play whatever the local kids are playing when we get to our next post.  "That's more fun anyway," Michael said when I asked yet again if he was sure that he was ready to live without American toys.   


After intentionally selecting the "keep" items and carefully choosing our gift recipients, we began filling the "Donation Corner" with the miscellaneous items that we had accumulated: gift wrap, an Advent wreath, yard games, extra clothes, books (that we got from the library on Halloween) and so much more.

We were all thankful to reduce our wardrobe back down to the bare essentials: a few pairs of pants and shorts, a handful of shirts, one or two sweatshirts, pajamas and some undergarments.  It felt good to know that each of us could fit our clothes into a backpack once again.

If things weren't worth saving and they were of no known value to anyone else, they went to the burn pile.



Although Anna was super proud of her blue ribbon science project, she was content to burn the board that it was displayed on.  "The only purpose of doing this science fair project was to help me learn, which it has.  The value isn't in what I created, but in what stuck in my brain.  I had a lot of fun and that's what matters!" Anna told me with a heartfelt smile. 



Another part of leaving a place is saying good-bye. This is by far the most difficult and includes a host of emotions, many of which are quite surprising. Of all the hugs exchanged, it was most difficult to part from a woman at church whose name I don't think I ever knew.  I never could have anticipated the difficulty that we both had saying good-bye.  This woman is from Mexico, but has been living here in the States for a few decades.  At various times over these last few months she would fondly recall stories from her childhood that the elders in her native community told about the missionaries who brought them the faith. She is eternally grateful that her parents embraced Jesus' teachings and instructed her in the faith.  Every couple weeks, after Mass, this woman would approach me, hug me and thank me for saying "yes" so that other kids could have the same opportunity that she did to know Jesus.  Sometimes she would cry as she remembered the martyrs who contributed so much to the establishment of Christianity in Latin America.  When I told her that we would be spending several months along the border between Mexico and Texas a stream of tears silently spilled down her face. "Oh dear," she said covering her mouth with her hand, "I will be praying very hard for you."  She acknowledged the reality that "someone's got to do it", but felt saddened by the potential cost. No matter how many times I assured her that we were right in the middle of God's will for our family, she would simply say in Spanish, "So were they."  I think she was referring to the martyrs, but it would have been awkward to ask for clarification.  I suppose I share this little story simply to illustrate the expanse of the impact missions has on people.  The "yes" of those supporting us doesn't just impact people abroad.  The sacrifices that our team members make, which allows us to be full-time missionaries, impacts the people that we encounter every day....no matter where we are.  It is truly remarkable!!

In the Gospel of Mark, the great evangelist captures the importance of rest.  However, we don't rest for rest's sake.  We rest SO THAT we can be restored and we have the energy we need to continue on with whatever the Lord desires of us.  I thank God for this time of rest that He has given us.  We are eager to begin this next chapter of our missionary life.

Thanks for journeying with us.  
GOD BLESS YOU!!

Love, Karen Carmody





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