Here is an update from the mission field in Picota, San Martin, Peru
We first want to thank everyone again for your prayers. Our mission thrives on the prayers and the sacrifices of our friends and family.
God has been ever-present in our mission since our return in October 2015 after the World Meeting of Families. Shortly after our return to Peru our fellow missionaries returned to the United States for three months leaving a mission full of work. This time was so blessed for our family. We spent much of our days traveling to different pueblos evangelizing. We also had the opportunity to teach the people about advent and to help prepare them for Christmas. Typically in years past all of the present missionaries, priests, and sisters returned to their countries to be with family during this time. This left a big void for the people. Many had not heard the Nativity Story before, but God called us and Padre Paco Delgado to stay and minister during this time. We spent the weeks leading up to Christmas teaching the people about Christ's birth. We showed the movie "The Nativity Story" in the pueblos. We also helped the youth learn Christmas songs and showed them how easy it was to do a living nativity. For the first time in years the people had a celebration centered on Christ. Padre Paco spent his time saying three masses a day in different pueblos that are normally without the sacraments during this time.
We were also blessed to participate in their local custom of waiting up all night on Christmas Eve. The people sit outside their houses chatting until midnight. At the stroke of midnight they then go house to house wishing their neighbor's the sign of peace. They return to their homes open all of their doors and eat dinner. We asked the people why they did this. No one new the reason. It was just beautiful to see that God is imprinted on their hearts even when they do not know it is Him. We spent the time explaining how when you add Christ to these customs everything makes sense. The doors a flung open to welcome Christ into their home. They are the first to celebrate the birth of Christ with a feast at midnight. The waiting reflects the waiting of advent. And wishing people the sign of the peace is for the Prince of Peace.
We also learned in December that we had been approved for a five year religious visa. This gives us the opportunity to stay in Peru for five years without having to leave the country every six months as our tourist visa required. With this new found freedom we could free up much needed funds to bring the Gospel to those most in need of it.
In January 2016, our family spent a week on retreat to reflect on our mission in 2015 and to ask the Lord's guidance for our mission in 2016. It was during this retreat that we heard the Lord ask us not to return to the US to visit. Throughout the week God kept bringing us back to the focus of our mission- to evangelize and to make disciples. We reevaluated our ministries to make sure they met this focus and proceeded to prepare our schedule for the year. It was also during this retreat that God put it on our hearts to officially disciple a young Peruvian man named Max. During 2015 he had grown much in his faith and God led us to continue to help him grow and possibly one day participate in our mission with us.
At the end of January 2016 our fellow missionaries returned to Peru. We also welcomed two new families, a single man, and a single woman to our team for the first time. Our month was very full with our continued ministries as well as helping the new missionaries adjust to their new life in Peru. Most days had Taylor leaving to help the new missionaries while Katie and the children went in the other direction for our ministries. This month was exhausting but God was preparing us for the months ahead.
We spent much of February tending to the sick. Katie travelled back and forth to help provide the funds needed for the medicine and specialist care for a premature baby. Praise be to God that little Ascencio was healed and is doing well. Through Katie's witness of God's love during those long days Ascencio's whole family came into the church this past year. His parents were married and the three kids all now are baptized. On February 9, 2017 Ascencio will celebrate his first birthday.
Katie also ended up needing medical care in February. Due to her travels to the hospital in the rain Katie came down with pneumonia. We are blessed to serve with a Salesian sister from Africa who is a nurse. She was able to direct us to a doctor who could treat Katie and after two weeks of bed rest she was able to return to her duties of wife, mother and missionary.
During Katie's illness Taylor also had to help with someone's medical needs. A young man in our town was in a motorcycle accident and he suffered a brain bleed because he was not wearing a helmet. When Taylor found out about this he immediately went to the hospital to be with him. As he arrived the hospital staff was in the process of discharging him because his family was unable to pay the bill. Taylor quickly paid the bill and they brought him back into the room to continue his treatment. After a few days he was able to return to Caspizapa but his mother was given the instructions to keep him up during the night because of the bleeding on his brain. The doctor warned her that if he fell asleep he would not wake up. This woman is a single mother. Angela was exhausted from helping him during the day and also staying up all night. When Taylor noticed she had no family to help he offered to take the night shift to keep Jhoel awake. Every night over the next two weeks Taylor would leave our house at 9:00pm and return at 3:00am. During his nightly visits Taylor would tell stories of his childhood and also share the faith with Jhoel. They would also read the Bible together. At the end of the two weeks Jhoel was preparing to have surgery to stop the bleeding. Angela asked Taylor to pray that the bleeding would stop on its own. The three of them went to the Lord with this petition and the next day the doctor confirmed that the bleeding had stopped with a brain scan. God heard their plea.
In February we also had the privilege of celebrating an Ash Wednesday service in three of our communities for the first time ever. It was a great honor for us to explain Ash Wednesday to them and to give them this opportunity to participate with the faithful throughout the world.
February also brought us our first overnight missionary trip. Padre Leopoldo had asked our family to also pray about visiting a valley further in the jungle. These pueblos only receive mass once every year or every other year depending on the weather. When we went to prayer we felt the Lord confirming that this was His will for us. Why else are we hear other than to bring the Good News to those who do not have access to it? Taylor did a scouting run on his motorcycle with Max, the young man we were discipling, a few weeks earlier. They learned that indeed the valley was very much in need of God's Word since many pueblos had never been visited by a priest, sister, or missionary. We loaded up our car with water, Bibles, rosaries, prayer cards, and anything else we thought we would need and we headed out. Over those two days we encountered two pueblos who had no Catholic Church community. It was during those visits that we explained we are here to help start one if they wanted. Joyously they said yes. We also led a celebration of the Word service for each of their communities. We gave out bibles and taught the people how to read them for the first time. We scheduled return visits and classes. We have never felt more like a missionary than when we went to bed at the foot of the cross on the floor of the church exhausted from working but filled with God's joy.
March brought a visit from ten of our friends from Holy Family Parish Brillion WI. Our ten friends stayed two weeks and helped with the construction of two churches in pueblos who had none. During the two weeks our friends also had many opportunities to participate in our daily ministries as well as visiting with the poor. They also had the opportunity to participate in the day of adoration that Pope Francis asked all of the faithful to participate in. Through the many experiences our friends explained that they had felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and also could see Jesus in the poor for the first time. Many of our friends had been going to the Dominican Republic every year but they said this was the first time that they were able to actually be with the poor. At the end of the two weeks you could see a change in our friends. They were radiating joy. Since their return to the states many of them have continued seeking out the Lord in their daily lives and have been boldly proclaiming His Good News. We are looking forward to their return trip to Peru on February 23 just 22 days away.
April brought us the opportunity to prepare our communities for Easter. We once again had the opportunity to celebrate firsts for our communities. Holy Week gave us many chances to bring the saving message of Jesus Christ to the people. We spent the week driving to our many pueblos trying to bring this message to as many people as possible. For the first time in the community of Nuevo Chimbote they celebrated Good Friday. We gathered in a house since the church wasn't complete yet. As we read the readings solemnness fell upon the whole house. During Taylor's sharing he continued with the Salvation Story. It was during his sharing that Hope once again filled the air. As everyone went to kiss our Lord new meaning came upon this story. They fully understood what He did for us in that moment. The sorrow was their but the light of hope was burning in their hearts because they knew now that He rose again and He did it for them.
In May we decided to try to go into the deeper part of the jungle because the rains had stopped and the road was dry. Typically this doesn't happen until June but God had made it possible. We loaded up some things we thought we would need for our one night trip five hours into the jungle in the Bombonajillo Valley. God had different plans for us. As soon as we arrived the rains started. This meant that our time there was probably going to be longer than we expected. To make the most of our time we decided we wanted to walk to the next pueblo which was only a few hours away up a mountain, covered in wet slippery mud, in the middle of a rainstorm with six small children. We quickly realized that this was not possible since everyone including Katie was having a difficult time staying on their feet. We turned around and started our climb back down the sloppy muddy mountain. Needless to say the way down was much worse. It was during this part of the trip that Katie fell and broke her tailbone but just at the moment she thought she couldn't go on God sent her an angel to help. One young girl from the town was hiking back and she gladly took little Faustina down the mountain so Katie could slide down without worry. It was then that we realized that we were there to minister to the town of Nuevo Chanchomayo so we planned to offer talks throughout the day for the community. At one point during the day we looked out over the plaza and we felt we were in the Wild West. The houses were made of faded wood, horses were tied to posts and people were pitching chamber pots out the window. After an extra day God blessed us with an opportunity to head back home. It came right on time since we were out of dry long clothes and the babies were catching a cold. We learned that the journey to Nuevo Chanchomayo was a ministry better suited for Taylor and Max on their motorcycles than it was for our family. Taylor and Max continued to head out once a month for four days until Taylor got sick.
May also brought the completion of the churches we had been asked to help fund. It was so amazing to see the completed projects especially since a lot of our blood, sweat and tears went into the projects. Our friends from Holy Family Parish Brillion were so excited to see the pictures of the completed churches. We were very elated that Bishop Rafael came to the small towns to bless the churches. It was especially special for the town of Nuevo Chimbote since prior to our ministering to their community, they had been forgotten about. Now they were celebrating a flourishing Catholic community as well as the first mass celebrated in their first church.
On June 1, 2016 Joseph Summers, director of Family Missions Company, called us to ask if we could become the community leaders for all of the FMC missionaries in Peru. The family that had been community leaders asked to step down and he felt that we could handle the challenges of the new role as well as to continue with our regular missionary activity. We both thought we did not want to do this. We enjoyed our missionary life as it was but we took the question to the Lord in prayer. Both of us felt that the Lord was asking us to say yes to this new responsibility. We found peace in the decision and we accepted the new role. We quickly transitioned into the role at the request of Joseph. At that moment our mission changed slightly. Our mission field was no longer just the local people we had come to serve but we felt the Lord calling us to also minister to our fellow missionaries.
The next few weeks we were busy trying to manage our new responsibilities with our old ones. We determined that we needed to revise our schedule. In our new schedule we wanted to include more prayer time. We penciled in more individual prayer time as well as family prayer time because we know that with all the new responsibilities we needed to rely on the Lord even more.
June 23 brought the first baptisms to the community Nuevo Control of Bombonajillo Valley. Padre Leopoldo celebrated the mass in the humble carpenter's shop where the people gather to learn about Jesus through our classes as well as to celebrate the Liturgy of the Word on Sunday's. We were honored to be there to celebrate the first mass in their community. Our friends Rafael and Exhilda were so excited to open their home and his workshop for the community. Padre, the Salesian sisters, and us were so blessed to share a meal with them on this joyous day.
July brought more consistency for Team Peru as well as for our family. Our schedule was a big help in bringing this consistency especially for our children. Taylor and Max once again went back to the far pueblos in the Bombonajillo Valley along with a visiting nurse and another single woman missionary. There they were blessed to find that a woman who they had prayed over had been healed of her flesh eating disease. Her foot not only was healed from the disease but she also had full range of motion and feeling through all of the scar tissue. The nurse determined that all of this should not have been possible. She should have died from the illness. The only thought that came to our mind was your faith has healed you.
In August Taylor and Max once again headed back to the far pueblos in the Bombonajillo Valley. This time they ran into a problem. As soon as they arrived a rainstorm did too. For five days it rained and they couldn't leave. Eventually they determined that if they didn't leave during the next break in the storm they could be stuck for a month. They left at the next opportunity but their journey home was not a walk in the park due to all of the mud. It took nine hours for them to return home much of that time was spent removing the mud from their tires but they made it.
Taylor also had the opportunity of meeting with Bishop Rafael to discuss our mission and ministries, our desires to form missionary disciples, the possibility of having a missionary training facility here, and also our desire to form local people as communion ministers. Bishop Rafael was so kind to make the time to speak with Taylor. Taylor was very blessed by his conversation with him. Bishop Rafael said that he has been very pleased with what we have been doing. He was in agreement with our desire to form missionary disciples and also for having a missionary training facility here in the future. He also has seen the need to form local communion ministers. We presented him with our three year formation plan and he approved it.
September brought us the opportunity to celebrate with us once again in Nuevo Chimbote. This time we were able to celebrate the first wedding mass in their community.
In the weeks leading up to the wedding our friends, Lider and Dolly, shared their testimony with us. Lider confessed that when we first came to town in June 2015 he was a town drunk. He drank away their money and he fought with Dolly all the time. He initially only came to see the gringos. He didn't want a relationship Jesus and he definitely didn't want to change. Taylor mistakenly assumed that Lider was the animador because he didn't realize that his name was actually Lider. This forced Lider into participating in our bible studies and our liturgy of the Word services. Week by week he came and slowly God's Word and mercy penetrated his heart. Over time he drank less until he didn't drink at all. He started studying the catechesis books and reading his Bible everyday. He fought with Dolly less and he started to be a father. He found what he was missing in Jesus and he desired to change. Dolly initially was skeptical of Lider's change. She didn't believe it because they had been living together for so long. She started coming to the Bible studies to see what they were about and slowly the Lord took her heart as well. It was then that they both desired marriage and for all three of their children to enter the church as well. Lider and Dolly still have struggles in their life but they now know that the Lord is there with them through it all.
The beginning of October was very sad as we prepared to say goodbye to Padre Leopoldo. He had completed his four year commitment and his Bishop in Córdoba had assigned him to a parish there. We tried to spend as much time with him as possible. Our whole family were touched by his love for the people and especially for us. We will miss him terribly.
We also had the privilege of celebrating in a big way with our pueblo in which we live. This year Padre Paco celebrated eight weddings in Caspizapa. Many of the couples were our friends. It has been an amazing journey with them. We were so excited to welcome them fully into the church and they were so excited to finally be able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.
On October 14, 2016 our mission took an unexpected turn. Taylor had chest pains. We were very concerned since he had never experienced this before. Our teammates watched the children so we could focus on Taylor. We travelled to the closest clinic in Tarapoto for answers but all we got were more questions. Taylor spent the next week and a half visiting clinics and seeing doctors to determine what was wrong with him. It was also during this time that Katie found out she was expecting another baby. Initially the doctors diagnosed him with hypertension but through further testing they found that he needed to have surgery to remove his gallbladder. Unfortunately we would have to wait a month to ensure that there was no problem with his heart.
On November 14 Taylor had his gallbladder removed. It was an eyeopener for our family as we have only experienced medical care in the United States. The surgeon explained that Taylor's gallbladder was poisoning his body and it was very good that he had it removed when he did. It was determined that Taylor's hypertension was a symptom of his gallbladder problems. Since the surgery he has not had any more problems with his heart.
Taylor was told that he would need six weeks of rest before he could return to normal activities. This was very difficult for Taylor once he was able to take the hour and a half journey back home. He desired to continue his ministries and to play with his children. It was very hard for him to lay in bed and rest. As a result an infection started in the site of his sutures. We found out from many of our friends that the best place to rest is on the coast because the humidity and temperature in the jungle was a breeding ground for infection. Through prayer we determined that we would travel to the coast and spend three weeks in Trujillo. We were hoping this would give Taylor enough time to recuperate and our family to pray about the upcoming year.
During our time in Trujillo Taylor spent his time reading, praying and resting. The children and Katie did their best to occupy their time each day. It was during this time that we heard the Lord asking us to return to the States to deliver our baby. Katie has a bleeding disorder that requires special medicine after she delivers a baby. We also learned that it is incredibly difficult for foreigners to receive the baby's Peruvian passport in a timely manner. We learned that if we gave birth to our baby in Peru we would not be able to return to the States for the wedding of Taylor's sister.
As we prayed about returning to the States we felt that it was the Lord's desire for our family. This we not our desire though. We felt spiritually at peace but our desires were different from the Lord. We knew then that we would follow the Lord even though it made no sense to us. He has a plan so we will follow.
We will be returning to the States on April 19, 2017 when Katie is 30 weeks pregnant. We have purchased our return tickets to Peru for September 12, 2017. We will be in the States for just under 150 days. It is our desire to pursue ministries to participate in while we are there.
Please continue to pray for us. Our next few months are incredibly busy preparing the rest of our fellow missionaries before we leave. We will also be blessed again to have our friends from Holy Family Parish Brillion here to build another chapel.
In the Love of Jesus,
Taylor and Katie Schmidt
Malachi, Ruth, Leo, Anthony, Faustina, Adele