Sunday, July 28, 2019

A look at St. Massimo Parish

In the U.S. (outside of Louisiana), we think of a parish as being synonymous with the church that we attend (unless you are in Louisiana, where that is the name for what other states call counties).  Both in Peru and here in Kenya, a parish is the central "mother" church for a given geographical locale which is surrounded by smaller churches that have mass much less frequently.  Here in Kenya, the name of the parish we are staying at is St. Massimo, who was a missionary martyr from Tunisia in the 3rd century.  The parish is surrounded by many smaller Christian communities, some of which have churches built, some have smaller prayer houses and some are just a few families that get together to pray and read the bible.

We are settling into life here in Mikinduri, Kenya and have been praying that The Holy Spirit guides our mission work here.  For now, we have been moving in, attending many firsts and meeting lots of new people.  Please pray for our family to be docile to The Holy Spirit and to follow His lead!  Enjoy the photos and the captions.

Peace In Him, Chris

Michael playing with a bunch of new friends!!!
There are lots of trees here....like this huge mango tree, the mangos are small right now though...can't wait!!!
 
This is the entrance from the road to the parish "compound"

This is where we stayed when we first arrived, it is part of the rectory.

This is the front view of the old church, which is used as a hall now.

This is a view of the new church from the front.
This is a view of the altar and the tabernacle.
This is an outdoor meeting area for small groups.

We have cows here which provide fresh milk for the kids at the school and for our family!

This is St. Dorothy's school which is also here inside the parish "compound".

We also have fresh bananas that grow here!
Schoolkids working on a farming project for the cows.  They all worked together to get it done in one day!
Here is a photo of our house from the outside.

One of us will be writing another blog soon about our house (which they reconstructed from an office and turned into a wonderful home which can also be repurposed as part of a convent in the future).  We will also keep in touch with more blogs about our missionary adventures here in Kenya.  Also, please pray that we are able to locate a dependable vehicle in good working condition.  Please check back soon for more updates.

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

If the Holy Spirit is 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!
Peace In Him, Chris Carmody

Our Welcoming Mass in Mikinduri, Kenya






This is St. Massimo Catholic Church
In 2015, when Jesus called our family to missions we left our material possessions behind.  Although there were moments of fear and doubt, we trusted that the Lord would provide all that we would need in whichever place He called us to - and He has!!  Most recently, we've been awestruck by the way that the Holy Spirit has worked through the faith-filled parishioners of St. Massimo Catholic Church here in Mikinduri.  When we arrived in Kenya, Father Bernard excitedly assured us that his parish would take very good care of us. 

A few days after our arrival, following Holy Mass, Father Bernard invited us to the front of the church so that he could introduce us to his parish community.  He also wanted us to see the people who had donated some of the money which was used to build the house we're living in. He began in English but quickly switched to Kimeru, the tribal language of Meru, so that everyone could understand.... everyone except for us, that is.  I haven't a clue what Father said, but I assume it was beautiful because the people's eyes twinkled in a very special way. 

Fr. B asked Chris. to say a few words.  After introducing our family and sharing a little bit about our life as missionaries, Chris cracked a couple of jokes, which got everyone laughing.  It was awesome!  Immediately they saw that we're "just regular people," like them.  I felt totally calm....

...until Fr. B asked me to speak:

"They want to hear the mother's voice, Karen.  Please speak to them," he said as he handed me the microphone.



As I looked out at the sea of smiles I began to cry...before I even said a word.  I briefly explained the apprehension we felt to give everything away back in 2015.  I told them that although Jesus promised us that He'd always provide us with what we needed, at times it is hard not to doubt or be scared.  I continued, through my embarrassingly drippy sniffles, to proclaim that Jesus' promise had been fulfilled in each and every one of them that day. They all clapped and cheered, which just made me cry even more.  I explained that we had been praying for them for several months and so it was so exciting to finally see them - in person!!  I finished by thanking them for all they had done for us but had no idea that there was more to come.


Fr. B asked Chris and me to stand together on the altar to receive the gifts the people had for us. We weren't sure what this meant, but assumed our positions, like Father asked.  Within moments it seemed like every parishioner stood up and got in line.  One by one they approached us and either handed us a household item or dropped a cash donation in a basket on the floor.  They shook our hands very firmly and welcomed us as friends to their community. 




Some of the donated items included: mattresses and bed sheets, bags of flour and ugali mix, wooden cooking spoons, eggs from their chickens and beans from their farms.  It was the most humbling experience I've ever had in my life.  I don't know a lot about the people here yet, but I know enough to know that they have given to us out of their need, not their excess...which is SO, SO, SO hard to accept.  After the TREMENDOUS display of generosity, the people returned to their seats.



Fr. B stated our plans to attend language school in Nairobi to learn Swahili and said that we even hope to learn Kimeru, which the folks here claim is easier than Swahili.  When the people's eyes widened and they began to cheer, Fr. B turned to us and explained that they were surprised and honored because most visiting white people don't try very hard to learn their language.  Some, he said, learn a little bit of Swahili, but none learn Kimeru. 

He re-introduced Katelyn and Anna and said that they had a very special surprise.

When the girls started singing the Our Father in Swahili, the church became silent and people's mouths literally dropped open.  They later told us that they were amazed at how perfect the girls' pronunciation was and how beautiful their voices are. I continued to cry.... surprise, surprise!!

When the girls finished, every person in the church stood up to cheer - really loud.  It was something that I'll remember for the rest of my life!!


Father Bernard invited the children up to the altar to get the donated items so that they could help us carry everything to our new home.  Here's Anna completely surrounded by the love of our new friends!


After everyone was dismissed, the entire congregation walked with us to our home, which is located inside of the St. Massimo compound.

(Chris will be publishing a blog soon which tells about the compound.)


The boys were eager to make friends with Jack and were happy to help him carry the mattresses and tables.



I'm not sure who coined the phrase, "Many hands make light the work", but we saw this in action.


Everything that the parishioners donated was taken to our house in one trip....not because there were few items, but because there were MANY hands! 


When the kids got to our home they were allowed to go in to look around, which was super exciting for them because they hadn't been allowed to enter during the construction.



After the kids left we began putting the beds together.


As you may know, one of my greatest struggles in Peru was the isolation I felt during our first year as I learned the language.  When a funny thought or story came to my mind I just clamed-up and wallowed in my own sadness because I knew I couldn't explain myself and I felt like I was never going to make any real friends. 

It is truly a blessing that there are people here in our compound that speak English!!!  Although I am committed to learning Swahili so that I can communicate with the less educated, general population, it's a HUGE relief to be able to talk with people from the get-go.  I have been telling funny stories and sharing my feelings.  I ask people questions and we've been talking about real issues. It's AMAZING because we've only been here for about 10 days and all of us feel like we're already making friends. 

Before arriving, we had NO idea what life here would be like and we tried really hard not to have any expectations.  We praise and thank God that everything has been so wonderful so far.  The people here at St. Massimo have gone above and beyond to make us feel welcome and Father Bernard has worked hard to make us comfortable, as he promised.  We ask for your continued prayers as we continue to get adjusted. 

Thank you!
God bless,
Karen

Monday, July 22, 2019

We Arrived in Kenya - AT LAST!!

In one translation of Psalm 33:10 we're told that the Lord frustrates the plans of the nations. In another, it says that He foils the plans of the people.  So, what's the point of making plans if they're just going to be disrupted? 

I hold firm to the belief that it's necessary to have a plan, especially when preparing to leave the country for 3 years with 4 kids.  However, I've accepted the reality that those plans sometimes usually change.

On July 6th, after 3½ weeks on the road, we arrived in Louisiana with a plan:

  1. Sunday the 7th we'd hustle to get Katelyn, Anna, and Jack packed for camp in between attending our beloved Spanish Mass at noon and driving to/from New Orleans (which happens to be 3 hours away from FMC) to meet with Fr. Lawrence, the Kenyan priest coordinating our mission.  
  2. Starting Monday, Chris and Michael would begin their "Daddy/Son Time" and I'd write our June newsletter, catch up on correspondence, and begin packing for Kenya.  In between those activities, we'd work together to make the necessary preparations for our girls' upcoming confirmations.
  3. When the kids returned from camp on Friday evening we'd have a relaxing dinner and hear about their adventures. 
  4. Saturday was dedicated to finalizing the preparations for the confirmation party.
  5. On Sunday, Anna and Katelyn would receive the Holy Spirit in a powerful way and then we'd go to the activity center at church for lunch and an afternoon of kickball fun.   
  6. Monday, after completing the packing puzzle, we'd drive to Houston so that we were ready to depart for Kenya on Tuesday.  
Doesn't that sound like a good plan?  We thought so!  If only we had known a bit more about what was happening in the natural world, we could have planned things differently. 

This is a satellite image of Hurricane Barry approaching the Louisiana coast.


On Wednesday we learned that Hurricane Barry was making its way toward the Gulf of Mexico and was expected to hit Lousiana Saturday afternoon.



Obviously, there would be no Confirmation on Sunday. I felt disappointed but Katelyn told me not to worry because surely God would understand!


I turned my attention to the piles neatly stacked throughout our trailer and began solving the packing puzzle.  Each piece of luggage needed to be filled to capacity with exactly 50 pounds of life's essentials.  Achieving the perfect combination of light/heavy, big/small, fragile/durable items was made more complicated by the fact that Katelyn, Anna, and Jack had a bunch of their stuff with them at camp.  Speaking of which, when was I supposed to launder and pack their stinky camp clothes?  ???  Ugghhh!


As the storm got closer, the likelihood of mass destruction seemed negligible, but the possibility of severe flooding, which would make the route between FMC and the Houston airport impassable, seemed highly likely.  We were considering our options when the camp leaders announced that everyone would be sent home on Thursday night.  Around the same time, we received news that those living in the vicinity of FMC's campus were advised to evacuate to avoid being stranded in their homes without power for an unpredictable amount of time. So, instead of leaving Louisiana on Monday evening, like we planned, we would be leaving Friday morning.


Many people have told me that they find great comfort in the well-known Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Neibuhr. I suppose that if I only read the first stanza it might help me to feel better:

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference..."

However, reflecting on Neibuhr's entire poem can be uncomfortably challenging because it reminds me that it is not enough to simply accept life's hardships; rather, I should embrace them and be thankful for the difficult times:

"..living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever and ever in the next. Amen."



On Friday, July 12th we left FMC and headed west in hopes of beating the storm.  At first, the drive was so uneventful that we questioned our frantic departure.  However, a couple hours later the sky blackened and the torrential rains almost prevented us from continuing on. Thanks be to God we arrived at the Red Roof Inn safely.

"What are we going to do here for four days? all the kids asked in unison.  "I don't know, but it's going to be great!" we responded. And it was!!

Our unexpected stay near the Houston airport was exactly what we needed: time as a family to relax, regroup, pray and discuss how everyone was feeling.  Without any external pressures and with the luxury of time, our kids were able to really open up.  We reflected on our last few months in the United States, resolved any outstanding issues, and talked about our arrival in Kenya and what we might expect in the weeks ahead.






Although packing our stuff into yet another vehicle was the last thing any of us wanted to do, we couldn't deny the building excitement to finally be on our way to Kenya!!



After arriving at the airport we settled in for a brief 5½ hour wait. We passed the time chatting with others and playing cards. 

When we were waiting we happened to meet another family of missionaries who had served in Meru, Kenya for 3 years. 

What are the chances??? 

They were incredibly patient as we bombarded them with questions and lovingly provided us with the information we had been so desperately longing for.
The first leg of our flight, from Houston to Doha, Saudi Arabia, was about 14 hours. 

When we landed all of the other passengers jumped up and prepared to leave the plane.  Anna, however, remained seated and asked if there was any way she could finish her movie while they were cleaning the aircraft for the next flight.  If that's not a plug for the movie 5 Feet Apart I don't know what is.



After a short layover in Doha, we jumped onto another plane for the second and final leg which was a mear 8 hours.

We arrived in Nairobi around 11pm local time.





Thank you, Jesus, for all of the opportunities to learn how to wait patiently!!

Even though our final piece of luggage didn't appear for almost an hour we resisted the temptation to complain because we know what a blessing it is to be able to claim every single one of our bags without having to interface with the folks in the Lost Luggage office.


Finally, it was time to go look for Father Bernard, the bishop's financial administrator who agreed to pick us up at the airport.


On the way out of the baggage claim area, we encountered a Coke machine with strange choices: ginger-flavored cola, tamarind tea, a coconut/mango-flavored Sprite-like drink and more.  No better time to start enculturating than at the airport.



When we stepped outside of the airport there was a sea of people.

Where, oh where, was Fr. Bernard?

As Chris wandered around searching for the priest we had only seen a photo of, he caught a glimpse of a sign that said, "Carmody Family"  which was a bit crumpled in the tired hands of a man who was definitely not Fr. Bernard.  Humm....

"Excuse me," Chris said, "I'm looking for Fr. Bernard."

"Oh, that is so good because he is looking for you too!" said the man we've come to know as Fr. Franklin.  Shortly thereafter we met Fr. Bernard and immediately began making jokes and sharing funny stories.  Fr. Bernard is a joyful man who has gone above and beyond to make us feel welcome!


FMC's tradition is that her missionaries kiss the ground of every place they're called to serve as an outward sign of gratitude for all that God has done and will continue to do there. 

So, we all got down on our knees (including Fr. Bernard) in front of the airport and thanked Jesus for inviting us to serve his children in Kenya.


Around 2 a.m. we arrived at a retreat house run by an order of nuns. They graciously welcomed us and insisted that we enjoy "something warm before climbing into the cold beds". 

This was our family's first, but certainly not last, experience having tea and biscuits.  We're quickly learning that this is a treasured tradition that the Kenyans acquired from the British many years ago.




Even though we were only at the retreat house for a short while, Anna quickly made friends with the nuns and felt sad to have to leave.  She is such a blessing to everyone she meets!!



The language school that we will attend is on the same
campus as the Seminary and includes a small school
of philosophy.  It is a quaint campus that includes housing
facilities and a mess hall for all the students. 
Before heading to Meru with Fr. Bernard and Fr. Franklin, we were able to get Michael's needed typhoid vaccine at the hospital.  We found Chris' thyroid medicine AND we were able to visit the language school that we will be attending in August.

The ride to Meru was long, but we didn't care.  It felt SO, SO good to finally be here! 


I will write another blog post soon which describes the compound we're living in, here at St. Massimo Catholic Church, in the town of Mikiduri.  Thank you for journeying with us.  Thank you for your love and prayers.  God bless you!!