Jericho March 2016: Life is Beautiful
A couple of years ago we caught the notion that praying, singing, and walking in circles around a village could make walls of sin and oppression come crashing down. That a miracle from the Old Testament could happen in modern-day Isla Bonita; that prayer and faith could free men and their families from the evils of alcohol addiction. (Read about our first Jericho March in Isla Bonita, inspired by our fellow missionaries in Mexico.)
GOD WAS FAITHFUL! And we’re calling upon that faithfulness in a special way again. This time, we’re begging for God’s mercy and healing and praying against depression, hopelessness, and suicide.
In the past two months, two young men from this very small community took their own lives. One woman attempted suicide. No one knew the depths of their inner struggles or imagined that they would decide to end their lives. Families, friends, and neighbors are shocked, devastated, and looking for answers.
At our weekly Bible study Sammy gave a beautiful teaching on the mercy of God. At the end, he reminded the community that these two young men weren’t and aren’t outside of that immense ocean that is God’s mercy, and that the Catechism encourages us to “not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives” because only God knows their soul (CCC 2283).
Sammy also encouraged those experiencing suicidal thoughts to open up to someone they trust about how they are feeling and to seek help. He extended an open invitation to anyone having suicidal thoughts to come to our house for prayer and counseling. After the Bible study, people started opening up about their struggles and it became obvious that the Enemy has been waging psychological and emotional warfare on Isla Bonita, and that it was time to enter the fight.
“Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive.”
– Pope Francis –
We hiked, we sang, we prayed. Many joined us along the way. Our God will have the victory!
Two Glory Stories from the the middle of our week:
First, Genevieve and I had an extremely blessed home visit with the family of one of the suicide victims who took his own life just one month before. Their grief was so tangible, like a physical presence in the house. The tears came easily as they spoke about him and how much they miss him. We listened, hugged, and offered them our prayers. We offered them encouragement and reminded them of God’s mercy both for them during this difficult time and for their loved one. Then last night, the victim’s brother joined the march! He was in good spirits and it was so good to see him reconnecting with friends and neighbors again. Praise the Lord! Please continue to pray for this family’s healing!
Second, a person from this community visited our home and confided in Sammy that they have been considering suicide a lot lately. Sammy immediately prayed with this person and contacted a wonderful priest, who will be meeting our friend for their first confession and counseling session today. Thank you Jesus! This could very well be one life saved due to everyone’s prayers for the Jericho March.
“Already I can see Him moving in the people that march with us: in the women who wipe away their tears as they intently pray the Rosary; in the old man who struggles up the steep mountain paths singing “Give thanks to the Holy One!”; in the children who run ahead of the group, guiding us and shouting with joy; in the young men and women who join us and take turns leading decades of the Rosary for the very first time!” – excerpt from a guest blog post written by my sister Emma (far right)
Post Jericho March Update:
It’s been almost two weeks since the Jericho March ended. We’ve scrubbed off the dirt and our muscles are no longer sore, but one thing still remains and continues to grow: the fruit borne by a week of sacrifice and prayer for Isla Bonita!
The last day of the march was so epic. A visiting priest celebrated Mass at the zone center at 8 a.m. and heard confessions afterwards as the march began: seven times around Isla Bonita praying, singing, laughing, and building up the Body of Christ! Oh yeah… and getting a work out, too. And getting soaking wet and super muddy because it RAINED! Usually Filipinos avoid going out in the rain at all costs, but that day, no one seemed to be deterred. The marchers were out in full force, the Spirit was so present, and come rain and mud and steep hills and tired legs, we were doing this thing together, for the Lord and for each other. It was one of the most unforgettable days of my missionary life!
I love the foolishness of God! I mean, a hundred or so people walked around in circles around a tiny village in the Philippines praying and singing for an entire week – what is that?! The world says its foolish! Pointless, at best. But with God, it’s powerful!
The joy was contagious. Rivalries and quarrels were put aside as neighbors walked and prayed side by side, even huddled under the same umbrella. Friendships were formed, because even in a small place like Isla Bonita it’s still possible to not know your neighbors.
The taboo but oh-so-important issues of depression and suicide were brought out from the darkness into the light of Christ; the light where conversation and understanding and change happen.
The light where healing happens!
At our Bible study we opened the floor for sharing testimonies about the march. It was incredible to hear about how God had been working all week! Many opened up about their struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts for the first time. Some had even attempted suicide and been caught by a family member or neighbor before it was too late. There were tears, but they were cried by friends who know they are no longer suffering alone. Friends who know that someone cares and that there is hope!
One young man in particular whose family was recently affected by suicide shared how touched he was after the group stopped to pray the rosary outside of his home the first night of the march. I guess he thought that would be the end of it, but the next day Genevieve, one of our missionaries, went back to his house to personally invite him to join the march. He shared that he didn’t really want to join, but she was very persistent and he didn’t want to tell her no! He found himself participating for all the remaining days of the march, and shared that it filled him with hope, happiness, and a desire to give his life to God. He implored everyone at the Bible study to continue to be there for one another and pray for each other so that suicide wouldn’t happen again in their community.
Thank you for praying for the Jericho March and for supporting our mission. JESUS will have the victory in Isla Bonita!