In the the gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Go forth and make disciples of all nations.” But how? According to Mr. Frank, the co-founder of FMC, we just need to “bring ’em Jesus!” But how? Although, at times, the abstraction is baffling, the other day our mission was crystal clear as we celebrated a very tangible victory.
Charo, the lay leader of the Catholic community here in San Hilarion, was installed as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. The significance of this title is immense as Charo accepted the responsibility of guarding Jesus, present in the Eucharist, with her life. She will also ensure that He receives proper respect and adoration, which includes educating the community, keeping the church open for an hour a day for prayer, and providing weekly opportunities for adoration.
Along with the grave responsibility of protecting Our Lord, came the immeasurable privilege of having Him present in the tabernacle – even when we’re gone. As an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, Charo can now lead a communion service EVERY SUNDAY ON HER OWN, during which she’ll share not only the Sacred Word of God, but also the Body of His Beloved Son.
This is an amazing victory because, as of a few years ago, the folks in our town could only receive Jesus when a missionary priest was visiting. Historically, some pueblos in our region have been blessed to see a priest several times a year, while others have had to wait years between visits. In addition to the shortage of priests, there were neither missionaries nor qualified laity able to distribute communion.
Two years ago, when Chris and I were installed as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, a tabernacle was put in the church and we began celebrating a communion service each Sunday. It was a HUGE blessing for people to receive Jesus more frequently, although at times they missed out because either the ciborium had run empty between pastoral visits or our family was unavailable.
A few days before Charo’s big celebration, our friends walked from house to house, passing out invitations to all 700 homes. At the same time, we were stopping in to visit folks and inquire as to who could help us with food preparation, music, decorations, etc.
The day before the big event the teens decorated the church with hundreds of balloons. Jack and Jose had a lot of fun playing with the balloons.
Kids came to help decorate that don’t usually come to the church, which was encouraging. It has been our experience that going to the church for a fun activity helps people overcome their apprehension. Then, they feel more comfortable and more welcome to go for prayer or even for the service on Sunday.
While Anna was finalizing the inside, Chris and the others were finalizing the outside. It was SO, SO exhilarating to put up the words “Gracias Charo!” We’ve been waiting for this for two years!
When we were finally done, Jose was super-duper proud of how beautiful the church looked and couldn’t wait for Charo to see it!
I thank God for the gift that this little boy is to me. As part of one of the poorest families in town, he has nothing, and yet he feels like he has everything because he has found the love of Jesus inside of our relationship. Despite the neglect and abuse that he suffers both inside of his home and on the streets, he radiates a joy that is unexplainable outside of our faith. I cherish the time I get to spend with Jose because he is a constant reminder that the ONLY thing we really need is Jesus!
As soon as we were done at the church, we went to check on the team that was preparing the lunch we would enjoy the following day. When we arrived we found several people working hard together.
We also found a pile of 50 cut chickens waiting to be treated with salt, vinegar, oil, and a mixture of spices so that they could stay as they were, out on the table in the 90+ degree weather, until the next morning when a neighbor would bake them in her big clay oven.
When we first arrived two years ago, such an arrangement of preparing chicken upon obviously contaminated surfaces, in the scorching heat for a meal that would be enjoyed 19 hours later would have given me reason to excuse myself from eating. However, we’ve grown accustomed to their ways, knowing that everything usually works out fine. When things aren’t fine, it’s nothing more than a two-day bout of gut wrenching diarrhea that everyone laughs about until it passes. The people here are totally transparent about their health and are thankful to experience life communally.
Sunday morning we woke at 4AM so that we could go to Ranel’s house to help with the meal preparation. Our task was to help Loita and Ranel peel a mountian of yucca.
While we were working we laughed and shared funny stories. We also talked more seriously about Ranel’s desire to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. We talked about his mom’s desire to be baptized and how our family could go about preparing them for their sacraments. In most cases people need to be evangelized before they can be sacramentalized. However, Ranel, his mom, and his sister Jeni already love the Lord. His one brother is known as a town drunk and usually sleeps wherever he passes out. His other sister Neli is a prostitute here in San Hilarion. Please join us as we pray for the grace we need to bring each of the members of this family into a deeper, more fulfilling relationship with Jesus.
All the preparations were finally done. It was time…
After Chris read the official letter of installation from our bishop, the service began.
We listened intently to Sacred Scripture and allowed the story of the cured lepers to penetrate our hearts. Charo stood before the congregation and shared her reflection, as she had done so many times before, but something felt different.
When Charo approached the altar, tears were streaming down her cheeks as she continued to repeat quietly, “Lord, I am not worthy!” In this moment, people started to realize that things didn’t just feel different, they were different
As Charo raised the consecrated Host she trembled and wept. Ever so gently she spoke the words, “This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb…”
When it was time, the congregation eagerly lined up to receive communion. Even those unable to receive joined the line to get a blessing from our newly installed Extraordinary Minister of Communion. The gratitude and excitement were tangible.
I couldn’t stop crying. Every time I wiped away my tears, my eyes overflowed all over again. I wanted to wait to go up for communion until I was able to control my emotions, but it seemed that was impossible.
As I moved slowly through the line I contemplated the significance of this moment and just kept repeating to myself…to Jesus…. “For this we were sent!”
After the service concluded everyone signed a big banner that Anna made. Charo is excited to hang this memorabilia in her home. As some were signing the banner others hugged Charo and shared their sentiments.
Everyone walked together to a nearby park for lunch and games. It blessed me to see the community united and having so much fun together. I’m not sure how much the people understand about what transpired this day, but they definitely know something is different…and new!
Ranel’s family is often asked to help with all the “behind the scenes” type tasks in our town. For example, Ranel collects garbage for the city and his sister Jeni washes the mayor’s clothes. However, they don’t usually get to be the faces that are seen. When I asked them to serve the food that they had worked so hard to prepare Jeni timidly asked, “Are you sure? I think people would prefer to receive their lunch from your family.” I assured her that people would be delighted to receive her love, disguised as a delicious meal and she started laughing. Jeni and Ranel nervously, but excitedly piled each plate high and distributed the food to the masses.
Katelyn had coordinated the use of the town’s sound system with the folks at the municipality. As such she had everything she needed to blast hours of fun music that she had previously mixed and organized with a DJ app she loves.
Katelyn also oversaw the volleyball competition which lasted all day. Knowing that there were cash prizes for the winning teams, the fight for each point was intense.
In the end the winning team received s./120 ($35) to be split between six players. They were super geeked as this is the equivalent of a full day’s wages for most women.
The second place team won s./60 ($18) to be split between six players. They too were excited as this is enough money to buy a family food for a few days.
In an adjacent field we also held a soccer competition. The men gathered and organized themselves into teams. One by one, groups were elimated until the final match which went into triple overtime. I’m constantly amazed at the skill level of these simple folks deep within the jungle! As the overseer of this event, I had lots of fun!
The winning teams won s./120 and s./60 respectively and were just as appreciative as the women’s teams. I couldn’t count on all my fingers and toes how many times they said, “THANKS!”
As our busy, busy day came to an end I had a few minutes of quiet prayer time. I thought about how awesome it is when someone works themselves out of a job. Although we have no desire to leave San Hilarion, it’s amazing to know that if we did, that Jesus could stay! During my prayer time I could hear Mr. Frank saying, “Just bring ’em Jesus!” A huge smile came across my face as I realized that WE have done just that. “We” doesn’t mean my family, it’s means Team Carmody. Together we have done incredible things for Jesus!!!
As I contemplated Jesus’ Great Commission in the gospel of Matthew I smiled again realizing that Javier is just the disciple that Jesus desires. He humbly recognizes his need for mercy and forgiveness. He is eternally grateful to Jesus for lifting him up out of the pit of hell and looks for opportunities to share his story with others. He is just one of the many people we’ve been working with and pray that all the others develop a similar passion for Jesus and become the intentional disciples that Christ has called us to find.