Monday, December 28, 2015

Waiting on the Lord

Christmas in Peru was anything we had ever experienced. For one there was definitely no snow, but there wasn't any in Wisconsin either this year. It was the first time we didn't participate in at least one mass Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Our Christmas Feast didn't consist of what Americans normally eat. None of these things were missed though! The joy that we experienced over the week of Christmas was much greater than any of these things.
Preparing the chapel for Christmas
Preparing for Christmas
The wait is almost over

We started Christmas week with two masses on Sunday. The first was in Nuevo Egipto followed by one in Nuevo Chimbote. It was the first time Padre Paco celebrated mass in the future spot of the church in Nuevo Chimbote. The town has given the people land to build a church. Right now we are working on clearing the old broken building from the spot to build. Taylor and I are working at finding the last of the funds to build this amazing community a church. To learn more about Nuevo Chimbote please read the two blogs here and here.
Monday we were blessed to have mass in Caspizapa. It was our first mass in a month and also a sacrament mass. We had been preparing five youth to receive their sacraments since we returned in October. It was so exciting to be apart of this special mass. Not only did they receive baptism but the four older youth received first communion as well. We will also be preparing three of them to receive confirmation next December. This mass was also our Christmas mass for Caspizapa. We were able to light all of the Advent candles and celebrate the coming of our Savior.

Tuesday was a very special day. Faustina and Adele turned one! I can't believe how big they are. It is hard to imagine how fast the time has gone. The girls and I went for a home visit. The family we visited was the first family to welcome us in Caspizapa. They were so happy to be able to spend time with the girls on their big day. We celebrated with animal crackers and soda. We then headed to Nuevo Chimbote for our sacrament prep and then off to mass in Picota. Padre Paco said a special mass intention for the their first birthday. We had a small party with Padre Paco after mass. We had a special dinner and we ate the carrot cake I made for them. To our surprise Padre Paco had a gift for each of them. Faustina and Adele received their first doll from Padre Paco. 

Wednesday was another busy day. We went to buy special Christmas dispensas for the people in our community. It was so much fun purchasing the food and other needed necessities for them. Our cart was overflowing and our joy was overflowing as well. We couldn't wait to hand them out on Thursday! Wednesday night we went to our Bible study in Nuevo Egipto. With us we brought the Nativity Story. We were excited to share the beautiful depiction of Saint Joseph and the Holy Family. The church was packed with little children, some of whom had never heard the story before. There were also many adults who joined in on the movie. After the movie Taylor shared a little about why this movie is so important and he became overcome with emotions. The people were very excited to share in this and so happy for us to share some time with them before Christmas.

The best gift of all God's Word
Thursday is the day so many people wait for. The day in which kids are super good because they know who is coming. But Christmas Eve has a different meaning altogether here which we found out as the afternoon turned into evening. Our day began with packaging up the Christmas dispensas we had purchased. We then all loaded into our car and headed to each house. We were so blessed to bring a little Christmas joy to the families we visited. We spent some time visiting with them and inviting them to the Christmas service that evening. I spent some time while the kids were napping wrapping the remainder of the Bibles and some last minute gifts for the neighbor kids. Taylor and I then headed to the church to see how the preparations for the living nativity were coming. The youth group was ready but they didn't know how to make the fabric into costumes. We spent some time putting the costumes together and then had a quick run through before the liturgy service. The run through went great and I ran home to make a few sheep ears for the sheep. We put the kids in their costumes and waited for 7:00 to come.
Sheep have ears

Gabriel and Joseph
During this time we asked what is the normal custom for Christmas. At this point we were told that everyone stays awake until midnight. Midnight? All I could think was how am I going to stay up until midnight without a nap and why midnight? Before any of these questions could be answered it was time to begin our Liturgy of the Word service. It began with the reading of the Nativity Story over the town loud speaker with the youth acting out the story in the town plaza. As Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem the found the perfect place to have Jesus in our town chapel. Our nativity concluded in the chapel and led into our Liturgy of the Word service. The youth did an amazing job leading the whole service and sharing on the importance and necessity of having Jesus in their lives. 

Pastores y Ovejas
We left the service exhausted and hungry from a long few days. We were welcomed once again into one family's home to eat with them. Our Christmas meal was delicious and we were blessed to celebrate with friends. We brought the children home and they gladly got ready for bed. They were tired from the exciting day and they also didn't want Santa to find them out of their beds. During this time exhaustion started to set in but by the grace of God I was able to join in the waiting game.

We sat with different people throughout the community. As we sat we drank some wine and beer. We talked about Jesus and why Christmas is so important. What Jesus has done in our lives and we shared our testimony with many people who had yet to hear it. We then asked why? Why do you wait until midnight? Why do you eat at midnight? The answer we received was stunning. They wait up until midnight to be the first to welcome the Lord. At midnight the people walk around the whole town giving the sign of the peace to everyone. They walk blocks to no miss anyone. They then have a Birthday Dinner for Christ. Fireworks are lit off to celebrate the coming of the Light of the World. This is the most beautiful Christmas custom I have ever participated in. Waiting on the Lord to welcome His birth. The beauty and joy of it still brings a smile to my face and uplifts my heart. I am humbled to be here in Peru to celebrate with people who truly know the reason of Christmas! ~Katie

Visting Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus
The Wisemen
Christ our Savior is Born!!!!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Feliz Navidad


With the fast pace Christmas day here, a house filled with wrapping paper and kids fighting over toys, and road rage on the highway as people head to grandmothers house is anyone still really thinking of Jesus?  Is this still His birthday?  Has Santa taken over, does he have victory over Jesus?

    I think to answer these questions we need to first think through what each of these situations look like.  First off I will admit that my kids are the first to go from saints to brats when given an abundance of presents on Christmas morning. It never seems to fail, receiving all those gifts at one time is a recipe for disaster.  I also think we have placed such a huge expectation on us and our loved ones as to what Christmas should look like. So that we are all running around with fake smiles while inside our stress is through the roof as we try to get to everyone's house on time and worry if they will like the gifts we have given.

    Is this what God intended for the birthday of His son Jesus?  Lets take a look, know the Holy Family did travel for the first Christmas but it wasn't to Florida and they didn't stay on a five star resort.  NO the resort was full so they stayed in a stable for animals, his bed was a manger and his new christmas outfit was some stylish bands of cloth!  WHAT?? that can't  be right. Where are the ribbons, bows and wrapping paper; big Ham, sweet potatoes and pie? Where are the mountains of toys, tree with lights, fake snow and little villages of winter wonder land? Where is Santa???    I looked in the book of Luke 2:6-7 none of it is in there so little, so simple,  just a baby lying in a manger. Yet there is such Joy such excitement,  suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom He favors!!! (Luke 2:13-14).  I don't know about you but to me that sounds better than anything I could think of for Christmas morning and then later on He did receive gifts from the three kings (Matt 2:1-12)

    Now that we have seen what the first Christmas looked like, lets take a look at Santa. Is he really trying to steal Christmas?  Again know the person of Santa Claus is no more than Saint Nicholas Bishop, his name was changed to Santa Claus for the Dutch Sinterklaas. For a while he stayed as the Bishop for Turkey whose love for Christ was expressed through giving to the needy.  He also strongly defended our Lord at the council of Nicaea against Arius and against Arius' belief that Jesus was not fully God.  The story goes that Nicholas was so enraged at what Arius was saying against Jesus that he got up, walked over and slapped Arius across the face. After that the other Bishops had him thrown into jail and removed his Bishop garments from him. Later on that night Jesus and Mary appeared to him and asked "Why are you in jail?" Nicholas answered "Because of my love for You!" Upon this reply Jesus gave him the books of the Gospel and Mary gave him his Bishop garments back.  In the morning when the guard returned his chains were loosened, he was quietly reading the gospel and dressed in the garments they had stripped from him the night before.  With amazement they took him to Pope Constantine who restored him as Bishop and the council decided to go with Nicholas' belief and not Arius.  So you can see Saint Nicholas is both joyful, giving and a fierce defender of Christ.

   You see if we want to truly celebrate the birth of our Lord it should be simple, little and with our family.  If you want to add on the spirit of Santa Claus AKA St Nicholas just defend Jesus at all cost and give the gifts you get to the poor.

     Merry Christmas Taylor

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

5 more years!

It is official! We received our five year visas for Peru! Praise be to Jesus!

What does this mean for us? We are able to just focus on the mission without having to leave the country every 3-6 months to renew our visas. We now have the ability to stay in Peru for 5 years without leaving the country during that time if we choose to.

This is such a wonderful blessing for us and the communities which we serve. Why is it such a blessing for them? Because when we have to renew our visas the people are without missionaries for a week. For people who only receive mass once a month or once every two months this is a big deal. We bring Jesus to them weekly through Bible studies, music, and encouragement.

Imagine how this would impact your life! Imagine yourself as someone who has just heard about the Good News of Jesus Christ! You long to know more. Each week you attend class to hear more about Salvation. You are excited to hear that you have a part in it. You received a Bible for the first time. You are learning to praise the Lord with song. You have also been taught the Lord's prayer and the rosary for the first time. Each week is new and exciting. You look forward to celebrate with one another.

Now imagine that the missionaries will not be in your town for two weeks. This can be difficult especially for people with a new found faith. Living in a community where your faith is not practiced is discouraging. For a community that is so new celebrating the Liturgy of the Word is foreign and scary. It is also difficult when you have questions and no one to ask.

"We are a sheep without a shepherd. Please be patient with us." This is what we were told by the people of Nuevo Chimbote. When I think of this I am drawn to the passage from John 10:27 "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." When I hear this passage I think back to the days we raised goats. When a new kid is born you spend time with it and you talk with it. You want it to trust you and to follow you. This can only be done by spending time with it. Gradually the kid learns your voice, begins to trust you, and will follow you. But how does this pertain to Jesus? To be able to recognize the Lord and to follow Him you need to spend time with Him. This is done by studying the Bible, daily prayer, and also attending mass or Liturgy of the Word celebrations. Just like with our goats, through implementing these steps in your life you learn to recognize God's voice, you trust Him, and you follow Him. We desire to help the people come to know Christ and now we have more opportunities to do so!

Taylor giving a talk on the Theology of the Body for three communities
 Tres Unidos, Mishquiyacu, and Pilluana
This is the first time that some of these kids and adults have heard about
the real meaning of love and that they have dignity.

Preparing for Advent. We bought Caspizapa Advent candles. This is the
first time they have had them. We have also introduced Advent to the people
of Nuevo Chimbote. It is so exciting to explain that we take this time to prepare
for Jesus. 

We are so blessed to be able to participate in and witness the sacraments. So many
people have received baptism this year. Praise God! We will be celebrating another
sacrament mass in Caspizapa on December 21. Praise God!!!

We always carry prayer cards with us. You never know when you might find
someone in need. We were at the park in Nuevo Union when we started sharing
with the kids about the Divine Mercy. Every moment is a missionary moment!