Sunday, January 29, 2017

Flood of Tears

This weekend I experienced a flood of tears. A really big flood of tears. They actually followed me along the way.

On Friday we started to tell our friends that we will be moving. Padre Paco had asked us at the end of last year to pray about moving to another pueblo. When we first moved to Caspizapa we committed to living and working here for two years. Our two years will be complete in April. We can't believe it. It seems like only yesterday we moved here and started our missionary work.

Padre Paco asked us to pray about moving to the pueblo of Buenos Aires. This pueblo is on the other end of the zone of Picota. See map below. The pueblo of Buenos Aires is in need of missionaries to teach them how to have a relationship with Jesus. We will also have the responsibility of working with sixteen pueblos that are part of two valleys in the zone of Buenos Aires.
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When we went to the Lord in prayer we were conflicted. We love Caspizapa. We have friends here. Our children have friends here and we have ministries. Moving to Buenos Aires would mean that we would have to give all of that up once again. We would have to start fresh. The thought of leaving was painful. It also means that we will be turning over our current ministries to our fellow missionaries or to the people. We have loved our ministries. We have enjoyed our time in the other pueblos and we have also found friends there. Is the Lord asking us to give this all up once again?

Yes. We could hear the Lord asking us to once again give up our friends and family to follow Him. He called us to bring the Good News to those most in need. The people most in need now are elsewhere. It is time to say goodbye and to follow His plans.

Saying goodbye is never easy. It most often ends in tears. Well for me it does.
Ruth's friends Joany and Ivon are in the upper left. Charo is sitting in the middle of the picture in the upper right.

We decided to start with the first person in Caspizapa that understood us and offered to help- Charo. We have employed Charo since we have been here. She washes our clothes twice a week. Our relationship has grown to friendship. We watch out for one another and we enjoy taking time to just sit and talk. I knew this conversation was going to be difficult and I was dreading it.

It was really hard to sit and make small talk for Taylor and I. Charo knew something was up because we were not our normal cheerful selves. That was when we broke the news to her. It broke my heart to say the words. Charo grabbed me and we sobbed in eachother's arms. We just sobbed and the. She told her daughter Ivon. Ivon immediately grabbed me and sobbed too. Both said that they loved us and they didn't want us to leave. After we were done sobbing Taylor and I explained why we were moving. Charo understood that we needed to move. She agreed that the pueblo we were moving to was in more need and that the faith here was alive. She made us promise to visit and she offered to come to Buenos Aires to once a week to continue to wash our clothes.
Dilmer and Adela on their wedding day.

We decided it was best to continue telling our friends instead of putting it off any longer. We made our way to Dilmer and Adela's house. They welcomed us into their home as always. It was then that we broke them the news. They too were shocked and saddened that we were moving. They didn't want to hear it. Adela said "No you can't." As we explained why they understood but they still didn't like it. We explained that it was our choice and no one was forcing us into it. Again they understood but they didn't like it. As we talked they decided we would have to visit and they were going to visit us. We absolutely agreed this was possible since we are not moving to a different country. By the end of the conversation they were still upset but understood that this is our call.
Lleri and her husband Martin on their wedding day.

Lleri was the next person we talked with. She heard us but it took a few minutes for the words to sink in. Once it all registered she was concerned and sad. She was going to miss Adele and Faustina. Her family has adopted us and we are going through miss them. She knows of a good family that lives in Buenos Aires that can take care of us. She wants to make sure that we are not without family.

The last person we spoke with that night was Marta. Our amazing animador who has been such a blessing to work with.  We have been prepping her for the possibility of our moving for months now. The news was still a shock for her though. Just like Lleri it took awhile to sink in but when it did she started to cry. What are we going to do? Can you still help? Will you visit ever? Question after question through tears. Praise the Lord I can understand Spanish now because tears make it more difficult.

We have found comfort in moving through Jesus's teachings in Matthew.

Jesus said in Matthew 8:20, " Jesus answered him, 'Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head."' Our Savior has also called us not to put down roots and to be prepared to go when He calls.

Jesus said in Matthew 10:37-38, "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." Jesus has asked us to love Him more than anyone or anything. He has also asked us to follow Him. He asked us to carry our struggles, joys, and sorrows and to go where He leads. Without even knowing the way or the reason. All the faithful are asked to do this.

Jesus said in Matthew 19:29, "And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and inherit eternal life." We have left our family and friends in the States and the Lord has given us more here in Peru. We know that no matter where He calls us He will give us the friends and family that we need.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Leanor's Great Faith

Last year I was introduced to Leanor for the first time. I only knew her in passing. She was the lady who sat on the corner of our street watching the days action pass by. Much like my grandfather had done when he was alive.

I was not fully introduced to her until one day when her great-great niece Ivis came to our door asking for me to visit her. Leanor was not feeling well and she could no longer leave her bed. I went and prayed with the children who are always at our house. We prayed for Leanor and for her family. I knew instantly when I walked in that she was near death.

When I returned home I called Padre Paco and asked him to come and administer the Anointing of the Sick. That evening Padre Paco came after mass to administer the sacrament.

When we entered the room you could sense the sadness from Leanor's family. As Padre Paco started preparing to administer the sacrament he asked her family for more information about her. Leanor was 95 years old and the only sacrament she received was baptism. Her husband had been dead for over twenty years. At that Padre Paco asked Leanor if she would like to receive Jesus' body in the Eucharist. She nodded her head. After a short lesson on the Eucharist and the sacrament of confirmation Padre gladly confirmed her and gave her her First Communion. He then administered the Anointing of the Sick. He encouraged her to continue to pray and to trust in Jesus. He kissed her head and left.

It was a week later that I returned with Communion. Leanor looked much better and by the next week she was back to sitting out front of her house watching the day past by. The Lord had healed her!

At the beginning of the year Leanor was in the hospital. Her body was shutting down. She couldn't eat or drink. She couldn't move or talk. All of her fingers and toes were incredibly swollen and blood was starting to pool on the back of her legs and arms. The doctors determined there was nothing left for them to do so two weeks ago they sent her home to die.

When she returned home her family asked if Padre could once again anoint her. Unfortunately he was on a retreat with the Bishop and he wouldn't be returning for a week. We offered to bring her Communion and to pray for her. That night after our Holy Hour we brought her Communion. Being that she couldn't eat or drink we brought her a tiny piece of out Lord. Through the grace of God she was able to consume him. During the prayers her family was crying. As we left we reminded her that she had just received Jesus and that she should continue to trust in Him. She should trust that He is either going to call her home to be with Him or that He is going to heal her. As we hugged her we told her we would be back.

The following week Padre Paco was able to once again come to administer the Anointing of the Sick. As soon as we stepped in the house I knew something was different. Her children were filled with joy and they were smiling. When we walked into Leanor's room she was sitting up and talking. She was so excited to see Padre Paco. She joyously replied yes when he asked if she wanted to receive Jesus.

God has healed her twice now. Many people have commented that she must still be around because she did something wrong. On the contrary, we know from the Bible that God blesses some of His faithful with long lives. He has chosen to heal Leanor to remind our pueblo that God still works miracles. He has also shown our town the power and graces of the sacraments. He also shows them how He works through those with incredible faith. How many countless times did our Savior say "Your faith has healed you?"

Friday, January 6, 2017

Ugly Evangelization

The Ugly Side of Evangelization

In this missionary life we love to share the glory stories and the happy times but sometimes there is no glory story, sometimes we just have a story of ugly evangelization. The mission in which we work has zones that have been without the presence of the church, without the presence of the Gospel and without the message of Mercy. When we come into these rare places what we often find is not beautiful but indeed very ugly, saturated in sin and to some without any hope.  For this reason I think they persist in this state because those who come to them, many times from the Church, look at them and say to them this is too ugly. There is no hope here and they move on to another place. They are passed over year after year, and their souls are ever longing for the mercy of Jesus to come to them.  Yet as the years pass they fall further and further into the pit of sin and despair with a lack of Jesus in their life. 

Now one could ask, Taylor how bad could it really be?  Well in one such town many of the people are living in polygamous homes, with many cases of normalized rape and incest. For me what was worse was they had no hope of salvation. When we first arrived they asked us not to waste our time with them. They told us they couldn't have a Christian community in their town because of their sin. After listening and getting to know them over the next couple of months we came to understand why they would say such a thing and why so many before us just moved on.  Their stories were filled with abuse and neglect, they were sad, ugly and I too thought of running away like so many have.  How do you find resolution to mend lives that are so twisted?  How do you bring people into the light that have been in the dark for so long?  There is only one answer… the Mercy of Jesus!  

So we started with the Kerygma, which is Salvation History 101. After hearing this a little spark of light appeared in the darkness and they wanted this Jesus and His Love. This Love was unlike the love they have known and they were very skeptical that they could receive it. They desired to know more and how they can be apart of this Love. 

As we studied they got more and more excited. It was then that they asked about the sacraments. It was during our classes on preparing for the sacraments that again things get a little ugly.  The norm here is that when adults come into the church they receive all of the sacraments they are missing in one day together (It could be a combination of any of the sacraments- baptism, first communion, first reconciliation, confirmation and marriage), but in the room most of the couples then asked, Who do I marry? You see in this room most couples were one man and two wives, both of whom have children with him and depend on him finically. So the discussion that followed moved to a brief and intense class on the Theology of the Body for beginners. By the end the wives were crying and very happy having heard about true love for the first time and the men were very angry and for a moment I did fear my well being.  Although this was a great moment for this community of new believers, it didn't make this easier but in fact just a lot more complex. Now all of these women want to enter the church and in full communion with God, but they all share a husband. The reality is like I stated in the beginning this is an ugly situation and to this day there is no good answer; just that they now have the message of Mercy, the Word of God and the never ending TRUE LOVE of Jesus (that they have always had but now can see).  

There is no magic button or perfect ending because there is an ugliness to sin and the longer we live in it the messier it is, but Jesus came, died and was raised from the dead for ALL.  NOW its our job to get down in the gutter and do some ugly evangelization with the people who others think are too far gone.  Bring them the message of Mercy and the Hope of Jesus Christ today!