The Joy of the Gospel in Honduras

Deacon Mike Mort gave a reflection one evening on the "Joy of the Gospel".  It is our mission to bring this joy to these communities in Honduras. Pope Francis has asked us to get our hands dirty and to be with "the sheep".  We have done that!  And in doing so - Christ has revealed Himself to us time and again through these people whom we have served.

Evangelization is our pathway to sharing God's love with others.  We must first be the Samaritan woman at the well and come to Him to be healed.  Then we must share our stories to spread the word about the glory of God!

Honduras Sunset

Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, paragraph 24

The Church which “goes forth” is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice. An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (cf. 1 Jn4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast. Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy. Let us try a little harder to take the first step and to become involved. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The Lord gets involved and he involves his own, as he kneels to wash their feet. He tells his disciples: “You will be blessed if you do this” (Jn 13:17).
An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others. Evangelizers thus take on the “smell of the sheep” and the sheep are willing to hear their voice.
An evangelizing community is also supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be. It is familiar with patient expectation and apostolic endurance. Evangelization consists mostly of patience and disregard for constraints of time. Faithful to the Lord’s gift, it also bears fruit.
An evangelizing community is always concerned with fruit, because the Lord wants her to be fruitful. It cares for the grain and does not grow impatient at the weeds. The sower, when he sees weeds sprouting among the grain does not grumble or overreact. He or she finds a way to let the word take flesh in a particular situation and bear fruits of new life, however imperfect or incomplete these may appear. The disciple is ready to put his or her whole life on the line, even to accepting martyrdom, in bearing witness to Jesus Christ, yet the goal is not to make enemies but to see God’s word accepted and its capacity for liberation and renewal revealed.
Finally an evangelizing community is filled with joy; it knows how to rejoice always. It celebrates every small victory, every step forward in the work of evangelization. Evangelization with joy becomes beauty in the liturgy, as part of our daily concern to spread goodness. The Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized through the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization and the source of her renewed self-giving.

A Three Year Old is Healed, then is Saved

In Mirador on Monday, Dr. Dave Cooper saw three-year-old Sindi who has infantigo, an illness contracted from a mosquito bite that progresses to a very contagious strep/staff infection.  Sindi had a fever and looked very sick - not lively at all.  She had weeping skin lesions all over her body and a very rapid heart rate.  

Pope Francis asked for the parish to become a "field hospital". We took him literally!

Pope Francis asked for the parish to become a "field hospital". We took him literally!

Dr. Dave gave her the appropriate treatment and when she was seen the next day, she was remarkably better!  What a surprise God had in store for Dr. Dave and his fellow Mirador missionaries at our mass held later in the day.  Sindi arrived in a beautiful white dress!  Her dad was holding her and her parents asked that she be baptized.  She was one of five!  

When all the parents and los padrinos (godparents) brought forth candles for the baptisms, our team was in awe.  For Dr. Dave, this story was a "full circle" experience as it linked together both a medical moment and a the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism.

When Medical Emergencies Turn Out to be Emotional Emergencies

Come to me, all you who are wary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.

Come to me, all you who are wary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.

On Tuesday, at the end of mass in La Colonia, the children just took off running!  One might have thought an ice cream truck had magically appeared in town.  Apparently, "word" had spread through the community that a woman who lived in a hut at the edge of town had died.  Father Luta was rushed to her bedside to administer last rites (The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick).  Doctors and nurses hurried to her also.  

Dr. Lourdes Flanagan determined that Maria Magdalena, in her forties, needed to be brought to the clinic (housed in the chapel).  Carried by a stretcher fashioned out of a blanket, she was examined and determined to be alive but unconscious.  After coming to, she was stabilized and then returned home.  

The next day upon their arrival in La Colonia, our team of doctors along with Father Luta made a "house call".  They visited with Maria Magdalena and she said:  "Let me tell you the truth."  She then told them that this also happened about 22 days ago.  While talking to her, she said the attacks have happened many times over the years. She thinks this last one was brought on by an upsetting incident.  Someone had come to her house very early that morning to demand that she tell them the whereabouts of her drug-addict son.  This has caused her extreme distress and she has a constant worry about her son.  

She was given nourishment, a time of prayer and a blessing with Father and those in the small group who made this medical and spiritual house-call.  Maria's son is named Augustine and we told her about St. Monica and her son St. Augustine.  We pray that our words have given her HOPE.  Later that day, Kathleen Stahl, (who couldn't help but glance down the road several times that day for signs of life at Maria's home) noticed that Maria was up and moving about in her yard.  

Farm of the Child, aka "The Finca"

The Finca is one of the closet places to La Colonia and Mirador that has a pharmacy and actual dental chairs. Our team was able to provide medical care at The Finca for people in the villages as well as the kids in The Finca.

The Finca is one of the closet places to La Colonia and Mirador that has a pharmacy and actual dental chairs. Our team was able to provide medical care at The Finca for people in the villages as well as the kids in The Finca.

Farmofthechild.org  is the name of the organization that provides care for local orphaned Honduran children.  Missionaries from around the world apply and discern for positions there - medical and education in nature.   Their commitment is for about two years.  They must raise their own funds of approximately $15,000 to live and work at La Finca del Niño.  About 12 missionaries live in a community house where they eat, sleep, and live.  

Food and propane for cooking are rationed, meat protein is offered twice per week, and there is minimal opportunity for Internet service.  The children live in "casas" on the property that are "parented" by "Tias" with same age groups of same sex "niños".

Kit, Kevin, Natalie, and Laura - who currently live and work at Finca - warmly welcomed us and freely shared their "stories".   They believe that when we share our stories, we can bring to others an awareness about this part of the world and feelings of compassion for the people we are here to help.  They struggle daily with the purpose of suffering. Redemptive suffering versus why do I see it if I cannot help... because at home you can just "change the channel" if you see suffering.  They see physical and mental abuse, extreme neglect as well as alcohol and drug problems.  

Prayer is very important to this Catholic Lay Apostolate Group and they would say that their spiritual life is on "fast forward".  They live in a Mission House named after St. Therese - a saint who inspires us to help others "in little ways".  

Explaining Down Syndrome to a Parent

Dr. Dave Cooper and Dr. Teresa Romero worked with two families who had daughters with Down's Syndrome.  Sadly, healthcare for these girls will be limited due to their "lot in life".  Elsa gave us our first "local smile" each day since her home was at the base of the mountain.  Still dressed in a pink and white stripped shirt that missionary Laura Foy gave her early in the week, Elsa also gave us our last "adios" when we left the mountain for the last time on our last day.  

Maria Elizabeth, our sweet Down's child seen in La Colonia, especially touched the heart of Ruby Garza.  It was Ruby who helped Dr. Teresa explain to her mother in simple loving terms that:  Maria Elizabeth is the child God wanted you to have and she is normal in God's eyes!  Heartbreaking to share with another mother that her child has a  life challenge such as Down's.  Tears are a universal language. . .

A Day in the Life of a Missionary

Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - Thursday, October 9, 2014

Bless the Lord, O my soulI'll worship Your holy nameO my soulSing like never beforeWorship His holy nameO my soul

The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning. Let me be singing when the evening comes. Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before meIt's time to sing Your song again

(10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman)

Our Mission team rose well before the sun each day this week!  😊. Here's a snapshot of "a day" in the life of a St. Anthony of Padua Honduran Missionary:

5:00 a.m.  Wake up

5:30 a.m.  Morning Prayer at the Gazebo using iBreviary (Logistics team up the mountain to set up and check road conditions.)

6:00 a.m.  Breakfast / Prepare for the Day

7:00 a.m. Team departs for the mountain communities of La Colonia and Mirador and the local orphanage La Finca del Niño.

Our 50 ?! minute journey up crossed approximately 12 miles of road with an elevation of ??? feet.  At some points, our roads had a grade of  about 32 degrees.  We used four 4 wheel-drive trucks to transport a team of 56+ team (including local helpers).

8:00 a.m.  Work begins in our three medical clinics, two schools, and two chapels.  We continued non-stop until 3:00 p.m. 

3:00 p.m.  Mass at Mirador (La Iglesia Católica de Candelaria) and at La Colonia (La Iglesia Católica de Suyapa) for the local communities together with our team.

4:30 p.m.  Down the mountain before sunset! Each night, four team members remained on the mountain to sleep in the chapels.  The reason was multi-purpose:  set-up for the next day and an opportunity to get to know the locals.  This helped extend our mission time with patients for our medical team.  One evening, Father Luta and a group of locals prepared an evening meal of roast pig (yes, from beginning to end)!

5:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.  Arrival at our base camps:  Campamento and Tranquility Bay.  Our hosts were lovely people!  We were able to enjoy cold drinks and fellowship along with delicious breakfasts and dinners.  Our accommodations were simple and clean.  Water was often (always for some) cold but wonderfully cleansing!  The opportunity to take a quick dip in the ocean was a great way to have a "first rinse" and to release our energy!

6:30 p.m.   Evening Prayer at the patio in Campamento.  We also had a chance to share some "glory stories" with each other!

7:30 p.m.  Dinner is served!

9:00 p.m.  Showers and Bed!

Snapshots of Grace

"The shepherd must smell like the sheep. That is why they follow him when they hear his voice." -Pope Francis 

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Cecilia teaching the kids how to pray the Rosary. 

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A packed house for Mass!

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Deacon Mike leads worship

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Fr. Luta doing what he does best, ministering to people's hearts right where they are. 

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Fernando left Houston a good Catholic. He returns a fisher of men!

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Outdoor worship with Deacon Mike Mims!

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Monday, October 6

Our first day "on the mountain" began bright and early.  Reflecting on Fr. Eamonn's words from last night's mass, we know that being a missionary means three things:  Prayer, Sacraments, and Service.  We are well to be here.  Our hope is to bring Christ to the people we meet today - but it is us who will encounter Christ through their simplicity.

Three teams were delivered to "the mountain" to bring medical care, catechesis, fellowship, comfort, prayer, and the Sacraments to the people who live in or near the villages of La Colonia and Mirador.

Some special encounters for us today were:

Our mission team was able to help a patient bring her daughter to the local hospital in Trujillo so she could deliver a baby.  The patient herself had walked for over an hour to get to La Colonia.  The pregnant daughter had been carried by villagers down the mountain in a hammock - her "transportation" from home - a place unreachable by truck.  The steep and bumpy ride only added to the tension of the need for a rushed trip to town.  Comforted by pillows that had originally been used to transport parts of a new altar for chapels in both Mirador and La Colonia, young Hannah breathed her way through strong and frequent contractions.  

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Franklin Marsan carefully drove us - Hannah, her mother, and this contributor (Therese Abib) rapidly down the mountain.  With inspiration surely brought to Franklin by the Holy Spirit, he led us all through several prayers.  This brought a sense of peace and calm to Hannah and helped us to focus on God's glory and the beauty of the gift of life.

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We decided we would visit some of the local people in their homes.  One of our visits in Mirador was to the home (shelter) of Felipe and Maria.  Felipe is 67 and suffered a paralyzing stroke five years ago.  He is also thought to have a stomach tumor.  By his bedside, Father Eamonn offered this suffering family a prayer blanket, a rosary, prayers for healing and a blessing.  Tomorrow, Dr. Dave Cooper will make a "house call" to see what other assistance we can offer.

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We were sweetly invited into the kitchen of Suyapa, a resident and leader of the community of La Colonia for atole de maiz - a warm drink made with corn grinds, milk, sugar, and cinnamon.  Mmm - Laura Foy had a second cup!  We were also offered freshly cooked corn for an afternoon snack.  Seconds were had on that, too!  Our corn cobs were passed along to the clucking chickens just outside the door awaiting their portion.  We are in a different world here - one must help chase piglets out of the houses!  Table conversation covered all things moms might say.  Suyapa also expressed concern for the welfare of her neighbors - concerns about their health, education, and availability of resources.

In La Colonia, after a day of doctoring and teaching, we gathered together to celebrate an outdoor mass.  It took so long to set up our medical clinic in the chapel, Father Luta thought an outdoor mass would be a wonderful idea!  It was very emotional as the children of La Colonia arrived well before mass was to begin bringing with them the excitement of the opportunity to praise and worship together with our mission team.  Because the preparation necessary to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist (for those we are here to serve) has not yet happened - only our mission team could receive Our Lord at communion.  

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We witnessed that it seems to be "our children" who bring us closer and closer to Christ and The Sacraments.  One boy cried out "Yo quiero a Jesùs." ("Jesus, I want Him!")  To every prompt that Father Luta gave, these precious children answered joyfully . . .  Then, warmly coaxed and invited by our missionaries, almost every child came forth to Father Luta for a special blessing during communion.

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Let us pray:
St. Anthony, your love for the infant Jesus made him present to you to see and hold in your arms. Help us to see and love Jesus in all the poor and suffering of the world. Move us to clothe, feed and help Jesus, in all unwanted, abused and abandoned children and people. Lead us, for the sake of Jesus, who became a child like one of us, to reverence and protect all human life from its beginning to its end. Amen.

Est 4: 17  Within Your will, O Lord, all things are established, and there is none that can resist Your will.  For You have made all things, the heaven and the earth, and all that is held within the circle of heaven; You are the Lord of all.

I Have Been to the Mountaintop!

About three weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel with Deacon Mike Mims and go to Honduras. I saw the communities that we will be serving. This is going to be one of the most exciting trips you will ever take in your entire life.

And this is ALL MOUNTAIN!

The treks to La Colonia and Mirador are straight up a steep dirt road. You can only get there via truck and the truck has to be fully off-road capable. This is going to be an incredible feat, which is why we have a dedicated logistics team.

The people that we will be serving are poor, but they're not in destitution. Their homes are extremely humble, but at least they have homes. They have a little farming land and little chickens running around everywhere. They are incredibly generous with what they do have, opening their homes to receive all of us fancy Americans. 

When we travel up there we will be staying in a resort at the bottom of the mountain called Tranquility Bay. This is run by two Canadians, a husband and wife, and they are absolutely delightful. The accommodations will be great and the food even better.

When I first went up there I was nervous about the water situation. But because were staying in Tranquility Bay, we will always have access to bottled water and filtered water. So that means every morning when you head up the mountain you will always have clean, fresh water.

So there are no worries! It will be a beautiful time to receive God's gifts and be Christ's hands and feet.