Sunday, January 27, 2019

A Gracious Welcome at The Lord's Ranch

This is a panoramic shot of The Lord's Ranch nestled in among the desert brush and clusters of mountains.
Following our directions we rounded the curves
until we finally saw the ranch in the distance.

Heading west in search of The Lord's Ranch we crossed the Texas/New Mexico border where there was a large welcome sign informing travelers that they were entering the "Land of Enchantment".  Even though (to the untrained eye) it just looked like a desert full of tumbleweed sandwiched between some mountains, we knew there was something more to be discovered!
The Lord's Ranch (LR) is one square mile of open desert land.  On the property there is an assortment of animals and buildings: a multipurpose center, homes occupied by members of the LR community, some small hermitages, a larger retreat house, barns, workshops, etc..  Dirt roads connect the points of interest, but it's more fun to walk through the desert vegetation...if one is willing to risk getting stabbed by the enormous thorns that are seemingly invisible until they're slicing through the bottom of your shoe and lodging themselves deep within your foot.

 
When we finally arrived we jumped out of the car for a quick photo by the front gate....
well, we actually had to take several before we got one that wasn't all blurry...
I think everyone was way too excited to stand still!! 

After receiving a mini-tour and meeting some of the amazing folks that live here at the ranch we were shown the building where we would be living.  Our gracious hosts had prepared four separate rooms for our kids, but they insisted on being together.  So, our first task was to rearrange things a bit so that Jack and Michael could be together in one small room and Katelyn and Anna could share another.

The next task was to organize the few belongings that we own...which obviously didn't take long.


Although we all felt really happy to have arrived, there was a certain restlessness that said, "Ugghh, here we go again."

We found our peace knowing that after a short time this new place would feel like home.

When we lived in Peru there was always someone outside of the bathroom door doing the "potty dance" while s/he waited their turn.

Here, we're super spoiled because there are so many toilets that we could all go to the bathroom at the same time if we needed to!



The kitchen in the multipurpose building where we're living is amazing too!  Not only does it have a refrigerator, hot running water and an enormous stove, but there is a whole shelf full of pots and pans to choose from and drawers full of utensil options.  Shortly after we arrived Katelyn set to the task of learning how to make homemade tortillas like the locals and Chris is trying his hand at some authentic Tex-Mex recipes.


The list of blessings just continues on and on.  Before arriving we assumed that we would have to hand wash our clothes.  To our delight, there is a machine that will do that for us. There isn't a dryer, but that's no big deal. We just hang out clothes on the chairs in the large gathering room.  The air here in the desert is so dry that it sucks the moisture right out of the clothes and they're ready in no time!


Jack and Michael were super pumped to learn that there are several young kids that live on the ranch. After two days they were already asking if they could "go play with their friends".

There are also some older kids here, but they're typically occupied by their responsibilities: school, work, chores, etc.  As such, Katelyn, Anna, Chris and I have been spending a lot of our free time together playing games and just hanging out, which is exactly what we need!

On the first morning, when I awoke to an incredibly beautiful
sunrise, it didn't occur to me to take a picture...I just sat in awe and
enjoyed it.  Following Murphy's Law, it seems like the mornings
when I thought to grab the camera the sunrise was on the beautiful
side of normal (like this one).  The days I didn't have it, the sky was a
breathtaking masterpiece...oh well, you've seen pretty sunrises I'm sure!

The day after we arrived I awoke early for prayer and was awestruck by the beautiful sunrise.

It was so captivating and such a perfectly peaceful atmosphere for prayer that I have set the alarm for the same time everyday since then.  Only once in three weeks were the clouds too thick to see the radiance of the rising ball of fire.

Chris, who has historically preferred to sleep in a bit, adjusted his schedule so that he too can enjoy the enchanting desert sunrises with me during morning prayer, which has been wonderful for our friendship!

Since the desert stretches as far as the eye can see in every direction, we're able to watch the sun set each night as well.

It's often little things in life, like this, that help to remind us of God's grandeur and immeasurable love!

Days after arriving at The Lord's Ranch and getting all settled in we began participating in their various ministries.

Each Wednesday night LR hosts a prayer meeting for both English and Spanish speakers in El Paso, Texas. It starts with praise and worship, which we've been able to help with, followed by a gospel teaching, small group discussions and then fellowship.  Since we're all fluent in Spanish we've been able to jump right in without skipping a beat.


This is a photo we took of Juarez from atop the hill where The Lord's Ranch food bank is located. 

There are 35 volunteers that work together to run the food bank.
In the mid 1960s Fr. Rick Thomas, S.J. raised the funds to purchase a large piece of property atop a hill in the middle of Juarez where they would build a cluster of buildings: a chapel, food bank, dentist office, and primary school.  This photo shows the food bank where hundreds of pounds of food are received through donations each day, sorted, packed and prepared for pick-up by poor families that participate in the spiritual formation programs offered throughout the week.




Fridays are a special day at the food bank because sacks full of basic staples (rice, beans, oil, carrots,  cabbage, tortillas) are prepared for the poor in the neighborhood that are unable to leave their homes.




We help out every Friday and have gotten to know many of the volunteers as well as the food recipients.




After all the food is prepared it's divided up into the delivery routes.


Before anyone leaves, all the volunteers circle-up and pray together for protection against any evil spirits who are prowling about "seeking the ruin of souls", as well as for our docility to the Holy Spirit who desires to use us to bring the Good News of our salvation to the most downtrodden.



Jack is a super big help getting the sacks loaded into the vans.  It's amazing because when we entered missions he was just a little boy and now he's a wonderfully competent young man - who's almost as tall as me!



At each home we spend time visiting and praying with the family.  It's nice because each group of volunteers visits the same group of families for five or six consecutive weeks, which has given us a chance to get to know each other.



The most important thing that we can share is the message of Jesus' love.  We always do that with our words; however, there are also times when His love manifests itself in more tangible ways. For example,  Michael wanted me to give this woman his gloves because it was freezing cold and she didn't have any.  The same day Anna received this drawing of Jesus as a Thank You gift from a woman who is both mute and physically disabled. When Anna accepted the drawing the young woman lit up like the sun and couldn't stop smiling. Without a doubt, it was Jesus Himself that was smiling at us!


Each Friday we're able to visit between five and seven homes.  As we've gotten to know the folks we feel more comfortable engaging in meaningful conversation, singing praise together and sharing the gospel in a way that they can relate.  We try hard to remain docile to the Spirit so each family the specific message that the Lord has for them that day.


As I mentioned, the food bank is in Juarez, Mexico which means that we have to cross the border going there and coming back.

Going to Mexico for our ministries in the morning is quick and easy because the U.S. Border Patrol doesn't seem to care who is leaving and the Mexicans don't seem to care much about us coming in.

However, on the way back home we often have to wait for over an hour as the security officers interrogate each person, conduct background checks if/when needed, vehicles are searched, and the police dogs sniff the cars in search of contraband: drugs, weapons, etc.  Despite the delay, we have not encountered any violence at the border.  The officers on both sides are friendly and helpful.



Another well established ministry in Juarez is a house of spiritual formation in an extremely poor neighborhood.

Each Saturday morning a local priest joyfully celebrates Holy Mass.  Nobody is concerned about how long Mass lasts, so the priest includes a tremendous amount of educational insights and explanations to help the community grow in their faith, but also in their understanding of the teachings of the church.  Most Saturdays the priest uses a 4-foot tall puppet character to help explain Jesus' teachings.  He's really funny and obviously loves what the Lord has called him to do.  He is a huge blessing to everyone!

After Mass there are volunteer catechists who teach formational classes for all ages of youth and there are breakout sessions for the adults.  While these classes are going on some of the women in the neighborhood work together to prepare a hot lunch for all the attendees. Fr. Rick Thomas understood the importance of sharing scripture, but he also understood the need to help relieve peopl's physical suffering.  As such, it was always important to him that the people who attend the programming at Las Alitas get fed.

After lunch the soccer games begin on the beautiful field covered in donated astroturf.

The kids are accustomed to playing soccer on dirt fields that are covered in garbage debris and surrounded by chained attack dogs and thorney bushes that both pop balls instantly.  To play on the astroturf field is such a special treat that many of them choose not to eat lunch (even though they're really hungry) so that they have more time to enjoy the nice field.

This isn't the prison we went to, it's just a stock photo of a mexican prison
that looks kind of like the one we go to.  I wasn't allowed to take any photos.

Another LR ministry that has been in place for over 50 years is at the prison in Juarez.

Volunteers gather ahead of time to pray intensely for the prisoners for almost an hour straight. Then, as Fr. Thomas taught them, they prepare lunch for the inmates: a hot cinnamon drink made with holy water and meat sandwiches seasoned with holy salt.  There are countless testimonies of the instantaneous effect these sacramentals have had on the recipients over the years.  The volunteers have witnessed incredible conversions and are thus committed to this important ministry.  It has become one of my favorites as well!

Although The Lord's Ranch doesn't own any refugee shelters, many of their volunteers help those fleeing dangerous situations in other countries to connect with loved ones here that have taken on the legal responsibility of housing them and bring them before a court of law whereby they can present their case.  Although we have learned that most applicants are denied and deported, it has been an incredible experience to bring these people Jesus' love at such a difficult time in their lives.
The primary reason for us coming out to the middle of the desert was to learn how to live a more balanced missionary life.

One of the requirements that FMC has for their missionaries is that they set aside a 2-3 hour chunks of time every other week for individual, focused prayer.  These "Desert Days", as they're called, are a big factor in maintaining our interior peace amidst the chaos of living and serving amidst total dysfunction and discouraging destitution.

Historically we haven't had the opportunity to do our Desert Days in the desert, but here at the Lord's Ranch we do.  It's helping us to understand why Jesus went out to the desert to pray.  It's so peaceful and serene.

We've also made time in our schedule for sleep, simple, healthy meals, family prayer and praise/worship.  It may seem silly to include this, but our experience has been that when the mission gets hectic, these are often the first things to get eliminated from our routine.

Another important aspect of our family life that can't be sacrificed is the kids' schooling. We've recently switched to an online homeschooling program that we're testing out to see if it would be a good fit in our next long-term post. Although there are some mixed reviews, overall the kids seem to like it.


Our time here in the "Land of Enchantment" has been inspirational, insightful and formational all at the same time.  The amazing LR missionaries who have been serving the poor joyfully for over five decades are teaching us how to give a lot without giving it all.  They're willing to be vulnerable and speak into the mistakes they've made so that we can learn to do better.  They've welcomed us like family and do everything they can to ensure that our time here is super blessed.  
WOW - THANK YOU JESUS!


We'd love to hear from you via email:
carmodyfamilyonmissions@gmail.com

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

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

Thank you and God Bless!
In HIM, Karen Carmody

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