We started dreaming up a plan to build a fitness center and a school of faith and art to inspire local kids to live better. Many of the local youth only get one or two meals a day, and these are often just rice, noodles, plantains, or yuca.
In one of our local tribal languages, Kichwa, the word for a stranger is “chikan” meaning “separated.” The meaning becomes especially relevant when we consider that the Church is asking all of us missionary-disciples to build “bridges that foster a culture of encounter.”
It is not only in Baños—or any foreign city—that God calls people to holy encounters. There are amigos in the Holy Spirit awaiting us wherever we are. As we approach the great celebration of Pentecost, let us ask the Holy Spirit if there is someone one our path He might be calling us to befriend this week. Who might be needing a word of encouragement and prayers, or just someone to remind them that they are seen?
All my thoughts culminated in me screaming at God, “Why do you let this happen? Especially to those who love you! Do you even exist? If you do, YOU NEED TO DO SOMETHING!!” Then I heard it. The whisper of the Lord. And he said, “I did do something…I sent YOU!” Even as I write those words, my heart stirs in a way that it never did before, in all my years of missions. I prayed for God to comfort these people, to help them move forward after tragedy, to have food to eat, that they will not feel alone, that their needs can be met.
If I were to be honest, I would have to admit that sometimes it is very hard to walk, as Simon of Cyrene did, carrying someone else’s burden so that they can move forward. He did not even want to help! I admit I have felt that too! However, in the end I know that this cross is the path to salvation, and not just for me, but others as well.
The young man reached out his hand and I gave him a 50-cent piece. I went in feeling relieved as they smiled and said thank you. When I sat down I felt like a powerful rush came upon me and I could hear a voice saying, “Fifty cents? Really? That’s all you are going to give me?”
Ecuador. What a beautiful, raw, and wild mission post this is! A good two hours from the nearest city, you find yourself in a community of around 100 people…
Jonathan and his boys scouting troop – “Caballeros de San Jose” or “Knights of St. Joseph” – leave the jungle and enjoy a fun day in a big city. “With a population at around 45,000, it would be the largest city the majority of them had ever visited. What I experienced on that day I will never forget and I suspect neither will the boys.”
He ever so gently chimed in as soon as I was done with my questioning and said, “My daughter, won’t you slow down and look up?” And for a moment, I stepped outside of myself and my struggles and I looked up.
The life of a missionary is often humiliating. There I said it. I wanted to say it was a humble life but really it’s more like humiliation.
On July 6, 2018, we received a call from the FMC missions coordinator informing us that the Summer School of Missionary Evangelism, which was to be held from July 12 to August 6 in Haiti, needed to be moved to a new location (if not canceled altogether) because of violent riots prevalent in that country. She asked if we would be willing to host the group.
Last week, Jason and Jonathan went up to visit one of the farthest communities from us in Chonta Punta: Mango Playa, which means Mango Beach. They went up early in the morning with Fr. Freddy and two seminarians. It was a 15 min drive from Chonta Punta, then a 10 minute ride in a motor canoe. After that a 6 kilometer march through the jungle, up mountain sides and in the mud. They arrived bringing catechesis and songs to the community before Mass, while Father Fredy confessed people. After Mass the community blessed the five of them with – a monkey and blood stew!
Sometimes I ask myself why we are still here. Yesterday I was praying my rosary and asking God what He was doing. Our time here in Ecuador has been far from easy. I have rarely encountered so many obstacles in such a small span of time. Every step forward is hard and slow. People (including our pastor) do not fully understand why we are here.
Then, Marianna said to me: “I have never seen anything like what you guys are doing. You are out there working and sweating alongside the people. You are helping them.”