by Jason Wilde
Every time I hear the story of Zacchaeus, I can’t help but think of this image of my friend and brother in Costa Rica who climbed to the top of a ladder in the middle of a street in order to tell the story of how we all need to be following Zacchaeus into that tree, looking for Jesus.
Luke portrays three kinds of followers in his Gospel, and it is appropriate because when we know Jesus is coming, there are only three possible responses to His presence. The first, and the preferred response, is that of Zacchaeus. He was the worst kind of sinner in the Jewish community - akin to anyone whom the crowds label as a sinner today - a criminal, an intoxicated beggar on the street corner, an LGBT brother or sister, a Hollywood atheist, or even your least favorite politician. But, Zacchaeus, even in his sinful life, was so much more curious about Jesus’ presence that he climbed a tree just to catch a glimpse. Like him, we should all see our own sinfulness and recognize that we should join Zacchaeus in that tree - if not in curiosity, then instead seeking God’s mercy. We should be standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity and in awareness of our own faults.
The second response is that of the crowd, who all knew Jesus was there, but just stood by, following others around them. There was no awareness of the need to reach out and see Jesus, but just knowing that He was there was enough. In many ways, this is a group of people who feel self-sufficient, “(asking) nothing from the Lord because he does not feel needy or in debt, but he feels that God owes something to him. He stands in the temple of God, but he worships a different god: himself. And many “prestigious” groups, “Catholic Christians”, go along this path” (Pope Francis, Mass for Closing of the Amazon Synod). I have been in this group before, not really looking for Jesus, but rather looking at the backs of people around me, the world, and just trying to follow what the world asks of me. I would seek out the group that I felt had the right political views and follow them, hoping they were headed in the same direction I should be going. I followed those who had wealth and power and wanted to imitate them because I had lost sight of Jesus.
The third group of people in the Gospel are those who stand at the front of the line or the front of church every day, but don’t seek Jesus at all - instead they grumble and try to condemn Him when He meets with Zacchaeus, for “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” (Luke 19:7) They affirm that Zacchaeus is a sinner, but aren’t really caring much for him, but rather to pin Jesus for a social crime. This is because in many ways, “we are presumptuous, able to justify ourselves, masters of the art of self-justification” (ibid). We forget that we are sinners altogether and instead seek to destroy the good that Jesus seeks out. How many times have we tried to argue that Zacchaeus doesn’t belong in the Church in our own justification of the Gospel message? How often do we try to criminalize clergy, bishops, or the Pope for accepting those who bring in different views, or even welcoming the outcast? How often do we applaud the ones who withhold Jesus from our perceived enemy? But even worse, are we doing it out of humility and holiness, or out of a desire to point fingers and de-legitimize the merciful one?
Like my brother, I would rather leave the crowd, acknowledge my sinfulness, and seek Jesus’ mercy in ways that no one else does. I call myself a “misionero loco” and will do whatever it takes to be in that tree with the sinner and the poor in spirit - because that’s who Jesus will be calling for. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10)
by Jason Wilde
It was Sunday morning, and I was at the ‘Super’ buying the last few groceries for our nice family lunch - a chicken breast, some sweet peppers, an onion, and some bananas for a snack. I set my haul onto the end of the counter where the cashier was ringing up the man in front of me. In front of him was a six-pack of beer and a liter of liquor that he requested from the well-stocked shelf behind the cashier.
“Cuatro mil ochocientos” (4800 colones), the cashier rambled out. The man handed a red 5 mil (5,000 colones) bill, got his change of two 100 colones coins, and then walked out to mount his waiting motorcycle at the curb.
“Cuatro mil ochocientos sesenta” (4870 colones), the cashier states after weighing my produce and finishing the sale.
Incredible, I thought, that the man just bought his day’s supply of alcohol for cheaper than a few ingredients for a single meal.
This comparison is a pretty good preface for the rest of my Sunday.
Walking back to our house, I could see Miguel* visiting with our neighbor missionaries. He tends to show up intoxicated on Sunday mornings, usually crying that he is failing God and asking for food. We usually offer coffee and a bowl of whatever food we may have in the refrigerator or crock pot.
This morning, I sat with him for a while on our porch while he asked if God will forgive him, and he expressed a desire to play our ukulele (he loves to play Phil’s guitar).
When it was time for our family’s lunch, I was asked if I could bring another family that we were visiting with back to their house. I agreed, but before I could leave, Miguel asked if he could get a ride too. I reluctantly agreed because I didn’t really know where he lived and I have a hard time understanding him when he is in such a state. When I returned from the first drop-off, another man who was visiting with the missionaries also asked for a ride home with Miguel. When we got to this man’s house, both he and Miguel jumped out of the van, and then I saw Miguel take a drink of the man’s homemade brew from a plastic bottle in his back pocket. Miguel jumped back in the car, and we drove to the other side of town (only a couple of minutes, really). When we got to Miguel’s house, he was noticeably more intoxicated than when we started. He refused to leave the van, crying that he wanted to visit his ‘rancho’, and that he was all alone at his house. After several minutes trying to convince him, his son and another man eventually were able to coax him out, crying.
Feeling emotionally drained as I drove back to our house, I couldn’t help but notice the bar at that end of town already opening up for the day. We like to say that we live in a one-road town, marked at both ends by ‘bars’, referring to the two largest businesses in town that are no doubt doing well each weekend. Consumption of alcohol and alcoholism is a real chain around the people we serve. It offers a reprieve from the hard life that most men serve six days a week earning only about $15-20 a day in the best case. And as illustrated this morning at the ‘Super’, it is quite literally as affordable to live on alcohol as on food due to the high cost of groceries. We live in a town where an alcoholic or even casual drinker is constantly enticed and bombarded by their vice and there are very few barriers preventing them from partaking. So, they work all week, then stop by the bar or the ‘Super’ for some alcohol, and then drink away their earnings, leaving them with nothing left to help families or even buy food for the next week. In a way, there is a structure of sin that keeps many working men in constant alternative states of poverty and intoxication.
Of course, this is hardly a problem only here in rural Costa Rica. Even in San Jose, the large tourist capital city, the same structures of sin are there, but they sometimes get drowned out by the glamour and wealthy and beautiful mountains. Or, a slightly more affluent life and the expectations that go behind such a life allow the same person to resist or fight the urge, either through formal programs such as AA or through social norms that require one to be sober to have friends, family, and a job. Even in the USA, the same structures exist, and in many cases it is considered glamorous to live such a life. Many movies in the past decades are set in a life of intoxication, and supporting such media would be supporting this structure of sin, as well as sins of omission by not urging for more restrictive policies against such a life.
This is how structures of sin works - they are ignored until they become so ingrained in a society that they self-perpetuate and even cause sins in those who don’t partake in the sin first-hand (e.g. through sins of omission) to the point that people don’t even think sin is occurring. I suspect that most people wouldn’t even consider drinking in such a way as a sin because it doesn’t affect anyone.
Until it does…
That afternoon, we were shuttling the kids to Casa de Jesus so we could prepare for our afternoon ministries - sacramental preparation classes for adults and our children’s ministry. I noticed a Jeep slowing down on the road, and as I waved, the driver began explaining that the boy in the back of his car was beat by his father and abandoned. The men found the 9- or 10-year old boy on the road, and he was crying, visibly upset. He had a backpack full of what I would guess are his belongings and was reasonably well dressed in a collared shirt. Through some encouragement and a helpful neighbor, we were able to get the boy out of the car and then I went with another missionary to inform the local frontera police. Unfortunately we don’t think there are very formal laws regarding such situations in the frontera, and the police really don’t care to do much other than keep the peace unless they find an illegal immigrant doing something that warrants deportation. It would be completely possible that they just drove him back to his home and dropped him off with a warning to the family.
Knowing very little about the boy’s situation, it is very hard to actually know what happened. But it would also be very reasonable to believe that the situation that occurred was not just an incident of anger, but instead involves some other social sin that keeps him from loving his son.
Fighting these structures of sin that are so intertwined with social norms is difficult and usually results in persecution. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings provides a good allegory for the life of such evil. Sin loves to live in darkness, slowly festering and growing, while those who could defeat it deny its existence. This continues to the point that people don’t even recognize the sin as evil anymore, and will tell anyone who fights it that it is a useless battle. In most cases, it is hard to even identify such structures because ‘that isn’t really a problem here’, or ‘that’s not really a sin’, or ‘he just makes bad choices’. I’ve found that if any of these answers come to my mind, then it is more than likely sin concealing itself.
One of our friends who is in most need financially recently confided in us that she had been taking birth control shots, and it was causing her to be sick. She didn’t know what to do because she felt that she was so poor that she would be sinning by trying to raise another baby when she couldn’t afford food for tomorrow. Here is another structure of sin that has caused the birth rates in Costa Rica to drop significantly since poverty aid organizations entered the country several decades ago providing free birth control as a way to fight poverty. But to argue this case with most of the world would incite dissention and persecution.
Unfortunately, the same sentiment exists in the United States, and it has even manifested as a sin among Catholics. Most people know that Catholics believe abortion is a sin, but we haven’t really been very upfront with promoting programs which would address the same concerns as this friend. Most of the time, Catholics like to focus on things like ‘sexual promiscuity’, or ‘glamorizing’, or ‘free will to have sex’ as the reasons why people want to have birth control and abortions, but in reality, poverty and exclusion are major factors. We live in a society that is anti-family and anti-poor, and so most women don’t see how bringing up a child in such a situation is just. Focusing on the individual sins of doctors or prospective mothers is almost hypocritical when at the same time, we tell the mother that she is not guaranteed paid maternity leave, and that she must either choose not to work (in which case we don’t want to pay welfare or medical care, i.e. meritocracy), or she must put her baby in a daycare that costs more than she makes per hour at her minimum wage job. We claim to be pro-life and pro-family but at the same time, we won’t go out of our way to help a parent with ‘an unruly child’ and instead isolate them in the little glass room at the back of church. And as an ultimate sin of omission, we fail to speak up whenever families are forcibly separated by world powers.
So what can we do to fight structures of sin? First of all, we do not judge the sinner for what they do, lest we be judged (Mat 7:1), we must offer no resistance to one who is evil (Mat 5:39), and we must be a light shining before others (Mat 5:16). In fact, we must ‘lean in’ to persecution, offering the other cheek. What this may mean in many cases is to go out of our comfort zone, become uncomfortable, meet the sinner, encounter trials and risk, and ultimately, live in solidarity with those affected by these structures. Living in solidarity is the “responsibility of everyone to everyone” (Pope Benedict); it helps us to find out the real depth of such problems, and therefore helps us to keep from judging the sinner and instead begin to solve the problem by changing the culture. In other cases, it may mean that we need to sacrifice our own treasure to put our heart in the place of the blessed poor. Using meritocracy, for example, as an excuse to not support the unemployed is just another way these structures of sin entangle the rich along with poor. Instead, we must offer to pay more for goods that are produced by people who have no other means of employment, and pay a fair wage that is based on the cost of living. We must relax our grip on our own riches when it comes to providing infrastructure or safety nets, and when we have to take care of our own planet.
That evening, I noticed a fog hovering around my back door. But this wasn’t a cool wet fog from the humid air. No, it was a cloud of gnats hovering over our heaping pile of trash by the back door; one that was in danger of attracting much bigger insects and animals as well. I looked out at the 55 gallon drum in our backyard that was to be used to burn trash. I can’t stand the smell of burning plastic, and yet it seems to constantly hang in the air around our town because there is no trash pickup for over an hour’s drive, and the nearest recycling center that we can find is nearly two hours away. It’s not that people don’t know the fumes from burning trash are harmful, it’s that there is no feasible alternative. It’s a structure of sin that exists in most of the poorest and most remote areas of the world and is ignored by many who have the resources to battle it.
I am going to do something about it.
Instead of judging people or telling them what they are doing is wrong, I am going to do something better. I don’t even have a fully-developed plan yet, but I know I am going to try to do something about this sin. My first step began almost two months ago when we started to focus our family’s roadside trash pickup on plastics with the intent of bringing them to a recycling center. Last week was our first drop off in San Jose. At the same time, we are trying to figure out how to compost in an area where wild dogs roam the neighborhoods and insects that look like they came from Jurassic Park beg to invade your home. Maybe sometime in the future our witness may spread as a way to generate better soil in an area where dense red clay makes many fruits sour and tasteless. Maybe we’ll work with a local farmer to create a landfill or have a regular recycling pick-up service. I don’t know, but it’s all I can do to fight sin, and I’m sure I’ll reap the rewards of persecution and/or rejection. People will say that this isn’t the ‘most important’ thing to do, or that it is useless, or that it will cost too much.
We should all take the same attitude when it comes to abortion, alcoholism, poverty, drugs, atheism, gangs, etc., all of which are intertwined in a nasty web of social sins.
by Brecklyn Wilde
At the mission post in General Cepada, Mexico we helped with home visits. Home visits are when you visit someone’s house, talk with them, read from the Bible, pray with them and give them food and medicine.
During our first home visit, all we knew about where the person lived was that it was green and by the market. It was easy to find houses near the market, but the problem was that all of them were green! We knocked on two people’s houses and they both said to go further. So we went around the corner, and there was the one green house amongst the red and orange houses. We came in and a nice lady greeted us. Her husband has Parkinson’s disease, but the missionaries knew that beforehand, so they had bought him some medicine for it.
One of the single ladies that went with us on our home visits name is Shayna. She ties her rosary around her arm. I do too! When we walk to the different houses, we hold hands and carry each other’s crosses. We pretend to ‘help carry each other’s crosses’ along the way.
Another time, we met a lady who owned a candy store. She had two girls. One of the singles that was in our group was talking in Spanish to the youngest girl. Then she saw the girl’s sister get some candy, so the younger girl started crying. Then the mom gave the girl a big big marshmallow in the shape of a flower. Then she offered it to all of us. We took it and ate it. It was so good! I wish we could have them again.
Another house we went to there was a man who had a wheel chair. His house was full of flies. Grace, Alex, and a couple of the other kids with us had to go to the bathroom.
I didn’t have to go then, so I stayed in the house. When I came out, I found out that all the kids had climbed on top of the man’s roof. There was a big barrel. They used that to climb down. I found out that Alex had fallen into the barrel and couldn’t get out!
And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said:
by Jason and Jessica
Eight years ago, we remember thinking that our study days were over. We probably had the (wrong) assumption that enduring over four combined decades of classrooms and earning five degrees allowed us to say that we knew everything that we needed to live our lives together.
As usual, God proves us wrong.
It has been 3 weeks since we arrived at Big Woods, Louisiana, and we have been spending a lot of this time learning about our faith and how it applies to us as missionary disciples. Every day, we spend time in prayer, praise and worship followed by studies of Acts of the Apostles, Mission of the Redeemer, teaching workshops, and Sí Señor classes. Sí Señor covers a multitude of topics specifically about missions including Serving the Poor, The Call to Holiness, and Arrival on the Mission Field. This week, Grace has even decided to opt out of the kids ministry and is now participating in all of the mission formation classes with us. Next week, she will be delivering her own Kerygma in our teaching workshop.
After lunch as a community, we have time to work on chores and the kids work on their homeschool assignments. Jason spends his afternoons fixing up a missionary house.
Thursday is our service day. Our assigned ministry is visiting a nursing home. We pray a rosary in the lunchroom and then visit as many rooms as we can before lunch. It is such a blessing for us to be able to meet, pray, and talk with the residents. Chi Yu’s exciting personality is a natural ice breaker, allowing many to open up and tell us about their own children. One beautiful lady couldn’t speak, but her face lit up when she saw Chi Yu. She pulled up her blanket and revealed her feet which were formed as uniquely and beautifully as Chi Yu’s hands. You could see the joy on her face to be around him and to share that cross with him.
Saturday is our work day, desert day and Lord’s Day dinner. We work on cleaning the community or on the various projects around our community. Grace joins Jason on Saturdays to help with the house. This is followed by desert day, two hours of quiet prayer in the fields around the mission house. It is a time of reflection, study and prayer. In the evening we dress up fancy, break bread as a community and celebrate our Lord’s Day in fellowship. The Lord’s Day dinner follows a traditional feast day celebration, which always began at sundown on the night before. We light candles, bless the bread, share it and give prayers of thanksgiving. Then we bless and share sparkling grape juice. Afterwards is a time for fellowship.
As for the kids, Brecklyn has formed a band called the Ukeladies. It consists of Brecklyn, Libby (one of the girls that lives below us in our house) and a wonderful single missionary named Rachel. They have performed several times now, and it is a joy to not only see her pick up another instrument but to get in front of the entire mission community to play. Alex is in little boy heaven with all of the new kids to play with. Chi Yu has made friends with all the missionary girls. His favorite is Shayna; he calls her China. Grace has fallen deeper in love with Jesus and is eager to learn all that she can about missions.
by Grace, Brecklyn, and Alex Wilde
While we were on our mission trip in the Philippines, we helped in a village called Isla. Isla is a beautiful little farming village where the people spoke Vasayan. The houses are made of braided bamboo. Some of the people ate a simple meal such as rice. The roads are made of dirt, so when it would rain, it would get very muddy and slippery. Two days before the Bible study started, our friend Irene, from Isla, invited us to teach the kids from Isla a song for the children’s ministry. We decided the song should be a VeggieTales song called “I’ve got shoes”. The lyrics to the song are:
“I’ve got shoes, you've got shoes, all of God’s children’s got shoes!
When I get to Heaven gonna put on my shoes,
I’m gonna walk all over God’s Heaven, Heaven, Heaven!
Everybody’s talking ‘bout, Heaven, I’m going there, Heaven, Heaven, Yeah!"
We ran in the rain to a big pavilion by a church for the Isla Bible study. It was very muddy from the rain, and dark so it was hard to get there. This is what the pavilion looked like: There were wooden rooms with a space for doors, benches all around the edges and at the back of the benches were short walls. After a while more people came. Irene said that not as many people would come because it is so hard to get there in the rain.
We started dancing and singing to some fun Christian songs. One of the songs was called: “I wanna be a sheep ba ba ba ba”. Another song was called “This little light of mine”. Everyone was dancing and singing together. Some of the kids, including us, were running around in circles, while everyone else ran around us. The kids were then assigned to go to a separate pavilion with two nursing students, and Irene and her husband, Ricky. That was were the children’s ministry would be.
It started with us teaching the kids the VeggieTales song called “I’ve Got Shoes.” We taught all the kids how to act it out with movements. After that, we told them the story of Jonah and the whale. Irene's husband acted it out. Everyone laughed when Jonah,got eaten by the whale. He covered his head with a towel when he pretended to get eaten by the whale. Everybody was saying “Whaale, whaale.”
Afterwards, we asked them questions about the story. Some of the questions were “How long was Jonah in the whale?” and “What did Jonah say to the people?” Next, we sang another song called “The Banana Boat Song.” After that, we asked them if they wanted the next story to be David and Goliath, or Noah. Everyone said Noah, except two kids. One of them said David, and one of them said Goliath. But even though mostly everyone wanted Noah, Irene decided that the story should be David and Goliath. Alex acted out David and Ricky acted out Goliath. Then we asked some questions about David and Goliath.
Then Irene gave out bread to the kids as a special snack. Some of the bread had spices. Some of them were plain, but the best ones were the ones filled with cream. Everyone loved them.
The best part about it all was when we gave some of our own stuffed animals to the kids as a present. Our friend, King, got Snoopy Small, which was a small snoopy that had a shirt on. His sister, Princess was given a stuffed animal Ballerina, and our friend Drizzle got Moosy, a puppet moose. King did not want his stuffed animal, so he traded his stuffed animal for Spotty, a dog with spots and bows on her ears. Princess got Ballerina bear, and she carried it everywhere she went. Everyone loved their stuffed animals.
When we were finished, everyone ran back to the big pavilion and played the attack of the stuffed animals. Alex asked one of the kids what he named his stuffed animal that was a Texas Tech monkey, and he said that it's name was Walla. King and his cousin taught us a handshake that was really cool.
And then we went back with our friends to Canossa. But, our friend Lolei had not come to the bible study, so we gave her our big Snoopy, (it was already like she was owning it because she loved to play with it!) She loved Snoopy so much, that when we gave Snoopy to her, she asked us “It’s mine? Really?!”
Giving our stuffed animals to people fills us up with unexplainable joy. It is the virtue Joy that just stuck to all of us. Joy is one of the best virtues ever, and it seemed to stick to us for the rest of the week, it seemed to never come off. The Joy helped us through the rest of the week to do the impossible.
by Jason and Jessica Wilde
One of our family’s favorite movies of all time is Up, an award winning CGI animated film about an old man who suddenly decides that he must follow through on his lifelong goal of an adventure to Venezuela, in a very unconventional way.
In the movie, we meet Carl as a little boy who is scared of his own shadow just as he meets a very charismatic and daring girl, Ellie, who introduces him to a new adventurous world. They grow up reading stories of a famous explorer who shows off the wonders of South America, and from these stories, the young couple dreams of visiting one day. They get married, buy an absolute dump of a house, fix it up into a very charming abode, and then they get jobs at the local zoo - a pretty predictable and typical lifestyle. But they yearn to fulfill their dreams of visiting the picturesque Paradise Falls in South America, and so they set up a change jar, and add to their “Stuff I’m Going to Do” adventure scrapbook. Inevitably, every time the change jar begins to gain some weight, it is smashed open for life’s unexpected detours - a flat tire at first, then a broken leg, and a new roof on the little house. As they grow old together, they eventually fall into a routine and enjoy their lives together, until one day Carl finds their travel dreams again and decides to book flights to Venezuela. As fate would have it, Ellie falls ill and is hospitalized before they can leave, and so the journey never happens.
Every time I see this movie, I think of our own journey and our dreams, and the graces that God gives us to make it all happen. I think of how easy it is to get swept up in everyday life and to stop thinking about our dreams and our real talents to help people. It is too easy to dwell on the risks and put everything off, waiting for some magical day in the future when the stars will align and everything falls into place. It is in these times that we fall prey to the selfish vices which give us the temporary happiness that we all desire. But, you can’t let your dreams always be in the future, and you can’t let your graces serve only yourself. At some point in your life, your dreams have to happen now. Sometimes, this means you need a catalyst, and usually, you have to make a sacrifice.
As we celebrate the one year anniversary of Chi Yu’s ‘gotcha day’ (the day we signed his adoption paperwork in China), we have been reflecting on what exactly brought him into our lives. As we’ve shared before, it wasn’t a single reason, but a cascade of events and rocks that led to our decision to adopt.
The problem with being graced with the love of God is that it seems that you can never do enough - once we suppressed our own personal ambitions and began helping people, we couldn’t stop. Even as we worked and sometimes struggled to help Chi adapt and learn about his new home, we found ourselves still on fire, wanting to help everyone around us and show them the love and grace that God had shown us.
We took the kids to our local homeless shelter to hand out water and hygiene kits. We joined our local refugee services organization after watching the horrible stories of migration due to wars around the world. We advocated for the undocumented families who were stuck in limbo nearby. It truly seemed like a never ending struggle, but it was a struggle that we had to keep fighting because of the infinite grace we were given - a grace that burned like fire inside of us such that the more we helped, the more work we found.
But even this wasn’t enough. We continued to pray every day for an answer - “Where did He really want us to go? What was our next step - or where should we look for it?” Every homily and every tweet from Pope Francis seemed to make us break down and cry for the poor, the homeless, the neglected, the forgotten, and the mistreated. We felt that there was something bigger out there that we were destined for, but it hadn’t yet been revealed to us.
In this movie, the symbolism of dreams and personal desires is thick if you know where to look. Carl faces a dilemma when he is forced to leave the life that he had become so familiar with. This is something he had dreaded all his life, and a court mandated order is exactly the catalyst he needed to literally rip up his entire house and fly it to South America. He refuses to let it go, and so his house provides a vehicle to travel in. The story focuses on the house that he drags along, with all of his personal possessions and memories. He holds on to this house while it slows him down and keeps him from really succeeding or helping others. Along the way, Carl has to throw all of his memories and possessions out of the house in order to keep it afloat, and still it weighs on him while he tries to fight for his dream.
So it is with our own lives. How often are our dreams held back by familiarity and possessions? What would it take for you to give it all up? What if it was necessary to give everything to save your life? To save the life of your child? What about a complete stranger?
In the end, Carl finds that his dream wasn’t just to have an adventure and live a quiet life on the top of a picturesque waterfall, but to help his newfound friends. In a final moment of triumph against his lifelong dream of personal happiness, he has to sacrifice even the house that he so painstakingly dragged across the world. But this sacrifice is what sets him free and allows him to devote his entire self and all of his talents to helping the vulnerable (a dodo family, a friendly talking golden retriever, and a nervous boy scout).
How often do we find ourselves lamenting the problems of the world, and then doing nothing to change it? Can our possessions hold us back, making us selfish about our own safety and greed? Even worse, do we find ourselves like Carl, sitting on the front porch of our own property barking condemnation at anyone who comes within steps of our property line?
I Found It!
Set a fire down in my soul that I can’t contain, that I can’t control. I want more of you God. I want more of you God.
Our fire burned so strong that when we heard His call, we were ready to act without hesitation. When we found Family Missions Company, an organization that trains and sends out lay missionary families to share the Good News of Jesus and serve the poorest of the world, it was as if we found our lost coin - we rejoiced and held our own party celebrating how we found our joy. It was a joy that no lottery or prize could give us, a joy that is only matched by the little picture of Chi Yu on the adoption list. With a big smile of sheer joy, Jessica shouted “I found it!”
In our hearts, we knew this was the answer to our prayers. This was God’s call for our family and the answer to the burning fire that was consuming our hearts. While we knew this was our path, we still spent the next 8 months prayerfully discerning this call and working through the logistics of a foreign missionary life. Is this really God’s plan for us? How do we live without a salary? Are we ready to sell everything we own? Are the kids ready for this? But every time we asked, God answered affirmatively, telling us to stop worrying, give up everything, and follow Him. We became even more determined after we attended the week long medical mission trip in the Philippines and the Come and See orientation in Louisiana for potential full time missionaries. These hands-on experiences helped finalize our discernment.
The Wilde family has committed ourselves to working for the Lord. We are already in the process of selling everything in preparation for Intake training, which begins in September. We are looking for mission partners, sponsors, and prayer support. If you are interested, please follow us using the link in the sidebar on the right, or directly invest in our mission at our Family Missions Company page (a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization). We will be sending out updates on our mission periodically, including our foreign post location once we are assigned in December.
Praise God and God Bless!
by Jason and Jessica Wilde
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
He was hidden in the shadow of the stairs, his palm outstretched, face shielded under his tunic in shame. Most would hardly notice the grey figure hiding beneath the staircase, focused instead somewhere else with a more important task on their minds. Or maybe you do subconsciously notice, but your aversion to the conditions causes him to be removed from the scene, to make him not exist anymore, in an attempt to not feel repulsed by the sight of him. Yes, a conscious acknowledgement of the figure would be the first step. But, if you were to even notice him begging for life, would you approach him? Would you come close enough to see the dark shadows under his eyes, the look of pain and suffering, asking for just enough to live another night? Would you reach out and grab his hand before noticing his scars, the scars of a tortured life, the scars of punishment...the scars of crucifixion?
It was an image, a statue to be exact, hidden under the staircase to the basement of a church that still flashes in my mind every time I see someone hiding from existence. In fact, I think half of the challenge exemplified by the parable of the good Samaritan is just this - seeing and then acknowledging the person in need. Look him in the eye and smile. Sometimes the biggest gift we can give someone is to make them feel human. Ask him what his name is; you wouldn’t believe how long a homeless person can go without hearing his or her name spoken, a dire sign of dehumanization.
My child, do not mock the life of the poor;
Here in the U.S., it is hard to miss the beggar on the street corner or the shack in disrepair that someone lives in on the edge of town. But, for every person you see on a corner, there are communities where the poorest are hidden out of sight. In one case, this can be by force - such as by law, or less forcefully, such as when a ghetto is bought and redeveloped into commercial property, effectively forcing those living there to move to the fringes. In another case, it is because they have given up any hope and have stopped asking for help.
One of the saddest adoption stories that I remember was used to explain why an orphanage nursery is so quiet...not by fear of punishment or force, but because the babies had learned that crying didn’t help - they had given up any hope of their voice being heard.
Manila was like this for us. Walking the busy streets, we saw many families living on the sidewalks, children waking up in the seat of their father’s peditrike, or running around naked while their mother was busy cutting fruit to be sold for 5 pesos per serving (less than 3 US cents). Groups of older children ran around in the middle of the school day, hitchhiking on the back of a passing Jeepney. Westerners might call these examples of ‘hard working people’, when in reality, they had no other choice. They were a part of the large population living a homeless existence in extreme poverty and had given up any hope of a handout. Worse yet, the cycle was never ending since they couldn’t even afford the supplies, transportation, or food to send their children to the free public schools.
The poorest people in the world were literally all around us, and if we traveled like a typical tourist - hailing a cab instead of walking a couple of blocks, avoiding public transportation like the plague, and only visiting the popular tourist sites with a guide, - we would never see them. We rob them of their dignity of life.
We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”. (Evangelii Gaudium, 53)
On our mission trip in Malaybalay, we visited the local public hospital. We prayed, visited and provided supply bags for patients in the pediatric ward. After seeing all of the patients in our ward, we decided to join the other missionaries in their wards. Suddenly, our missionary leader for the day, Junar, noticed a mom and her daughter sleeping underneath a staircase on a piece of cardboard. I would have completely missed them, but Junar, with the eye of a missionary and the heart of the good Samaritan, stopped to see if everything was ok. He bent down and felt the little girl's forehead when his smile quickly turned to concern. She was burning up. After talking with the mom for a little, he found that her sister was in the maternity ward upstairs, and she was there as an advocate. They had been there for 3 days when the little girl got sick. We had already given away all supply bags, so another missionary ran to get one from another team in the hospital. Jason ran to the pharmacy for some children’s fever suppressant. In the meantime, Junar talked with the mom, prayed over the little girl, and advised the mom to let a doctor see her if she didn’t feel better soon. Unfortunately, seeing a doctor may have been out of the question for this family, but we did all we could to see, acknowledge, touch, help, and pray for the girl under the staircase. Once again, I couldn't help but think of the image of Jesus in the church in Toronto, hiding under a staircase.
It is so easy to become lost in our own personal plans that we don’t notice, acknowledge or help God’s children hidden in the shadows. Even when they are in our sights, we put on blinders so we don’t see them or help them. Instead, we need to be like Junar, living as the good Samaritan and always on the lookout for Jesus. We must not only stop to help but also be on the lookout for God's precious children who are most in need of our help.
We have to state, without mincing words, that “there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor”. May we never abandon them. (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 48)
by Jason Wilde
I've always had an awe for the many revelations when God shows himself at just the right time in order to make his point. It is in these miracles that Jesus frequently gets to play the part of an illusionist after his resurrection, staying hidden from perception until just the right time, when one of his disciples have said what they needed to say and then 'POP', "Hey, it's me!"
My favorite is Saint Paul's story of revelation and conversion. Who else but the Holy Spirit would lead Christianity's number one nemesis out into the desert, not to be left for dead, but to blind him by the full-on light of God with the sole intent of building him into to Christianity's bulldog evangelist? Maybe the reason I have fallen in love with Paul's revelation is because in my own life, I have been shown the light in such a way that it completely turned me around, pointed me in the right direction, and then gave me a kick in the rear for good measure. Of course, it didn't all happen overnight, but I can point to a few times in my life where I was changed, or even had a revelation, you might say.
June 2015 was one of those times. I thought we had it all figured out - a good salary, a manageable house, small enough that we could have an exciting travel life with our 3 kids, and a weekly Sunday routine that included an hour of God.
In that month, Pope Francis caused a stir in both the secular and religious world with his encyclical Laudato si' (On Care for Our Common Home). I was on the side of many Catholic conservatives when I scoffed at the media reports of an environmentalist Pope who believed in climate change. "Why in the world would he be talking about this?" I remember thinking to myself. "Must be just media spin", I rationalized to myself.
Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity. (Laudato si 14)
It was such a strong conviction that it actually convinced me to download a copy of the heated encyclical (pun intended), with the sole purpose of confirming my beliefs.
Now, I wasn't exactly someone who would sit and read the Bible, much less a 184 page homily about the environment. And, like Paul, I didn't even make it past the first couple of chapters before I was hooked, blinded, knocked off of my pedestal, and, for the most part, proven wrong. I say 'for the most part' because the encyclical really didn't provide a lot of new information to me, but instead it linked together issues that I thought previously unrelated, and it opened my eyes to what God really cares about. I already had a minimalist mind, one that had downsized our family to living in a condo with a single car, recycled faithfully, and converted the bulbs in my house to lower energy versions. All these things were very environmentally friendly. But I only did them to serve a purpose - to save me money. I was incredibly selfish in this way, to the point of becoming fanatical about saving for the next trip, which I now think was akin to idolatry.
But, what Laudato si' taught me was that we shouldn't have selfless love for just ourselves, or for only the people whom we already loved.
Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society. (Laudato si’ 91)
What I learned from Laudato si' was that we should love all of humanity, and one of the ways we do this is by caring for the creation that God entrusted to us. We should be pro-life in the sense that all life is worth caring for, and countless lives are impacted by our environmental footprint. Pope Francis often refers to the 'throwaway culture', using it as a double meaning for a culture of resource waste and a culture which discards lives if they are not deemed worthy or valuable. This is an intentional joining of life and our environment. Caring for our common home is a part of this holistic fulfillment of Jesus's pro-life teachings that asks us to love one another. Focusing only on one aspect, or neglecting another, is akin to the misguided Pharisaic views about sinners, the lame, the weak, the dying, or Jesus himself.
If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who deal likewise with their fellow men. - Saint Francis of Assisi
We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the underprivileged, and at the same time protecting nature. (Laudato si 139)
As I found myself reading more of the church's teachings, and eventually cracking open a Bible myself, I found that like Jesus, Pope Francis's 'radical' views weren't really new or very different from any of his predecessors, or from the saints who lived exemplary Christian lives before him, or from Jesus Himself. If anything, the reason his views are considered so extreme by most Christians is because he is now explaining things in such a way that we are all listening.
(Bartholomew) asks us to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which “entails learning to give, and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs. It is liberation from fear, greed and compulsion. (Laudato si 9)
And so, in the spirit of Laudato si' on this Earth Day, I challenge you to do something selfless. Instead of thinking only of yourself, or the neighbor you already love, or your personal idol (whatever that may be), try to do something that will have absolutely no benefit for yourself but will help life and our common home. Try to do something that will form a new bond between yourself and God's creation, to allow you to love without expecting something in return. Maybe that is picking up trash on a random street, making a pledge to recycle, spending the entire evening outside with the kids (remember to turn off the lights inside!), slowing down to treat other drivers with love, turning up the A/C a degree, finding a way to use those last few carrots in the bottom of your crisper instead of going out to eat, sitting on the porch and read the first few pages of Laudato si, or walking to the mailbox instead of driving. Any selfless act of modesty, or kindness for someone or something in God's creation would be a good start.
Praise Be To God!
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
(St. Francis Prayer)
by Jason and Jessica Wilde
We grabbed our two backpacks and stroller from the luggage carousel and looked around the baggage claim with excitement for someone who might be waiting for a half dozen Americans. No luck, but maybe we had to go farther. The airport at Cagayan de Oro isn’t exactly overwhelming - we literally walked in the back door from the tarmac, and it would appear that the front door, not more than 40 feet away, opened to the driveway. So, we gathered up the kids, put a pack on each of their backs, and headed outside. The doors opened to a few waiting families and two smiling faces holding a sign that said “Welcome” in both English and Vasayan. I took a leap of faith and headed toward the sign to find our first fellow local missionaries, Genevieve and Kring.
While we waited at the curb for the rest of our missionary group to arrive on the next flight, we introduced ourselves and enjoyed some bread and bananas from the back of their van while our the kids ran around on the grass. Genevieve, Kring, and Kring’s husband Ramon were full-time missionaries living in Malaybalay, a smaller city about four hours away by car through a mountain pass, a few mudslides, rice and corn farms, and according to Brecklyn, 278 “four-legged animals, not counting dogs”.
A few more introductions were in order after the rest of the missionaries arrived, then we piled luggage and jet-lagged souls into the three missionary vehicles.
“Wow, they moved that rock from the middle of the road”, Ramon interjected as we avoided the deepest mud puddles on one of the switchbacks. Between the amazing conversations with Kring and the twisty path through the mountains, we were there before we knew it.
We pulled into the Canossa retreat center and were welcomed by a sister with the most loving smile - a smile that just draws you in like a mother. The center is run by the Canossian sisters in Malaybalay, and it appeared to offer youth retreats with housing, worship and fellowship. We were given our family’s room assignments upstairs and instructions for taking showers (which included a bucket of water from the cold faucet and a scoop), dropped off our packs and then rested for a few minutes in our quaint rooms, each of which held 4 beds bunked next to a desk on either side, some sheets and pillows, a closet, and a crucifix with glow-in-the-dark Jesus. The hallways were buzzing with chatter until the time came for prayer and dinner downstairs in the common areas. Every meal was preceded by group prayer and song, which was a great way to bring us all together and surround ourselves with God’s word. The food was a welcome treat - a variety of local dishes of chicken, pork, and fish, bowls full of white rice, soup, fruit, and the sweetest white bread I’ve ever had. The kids had Milo (malted hot chocolate) with every meal. That evening, the sisters welcomed us and told us that this was our home during our stay.
I was a stranger and you welcomed me. (Matthew 25:35)
The nuns were smitten with Chi Yu. One sister told me that they used to run a home for handicapped orphans in his country, but they were kicked out of the country by the government. Chi Yu figured out that if he knocked on their study, the nuns would come out and reward him with bananas or more Milo. He was just a little spoiled that week.
There was also a small prayer room upstairs. It was the fanciest room at Canossa with couches, a large crucifix and a rainbow of bright colorful light. With a bright smile on her face, the nun told us a story of Chi Yu walking in on their prayers and turning on and off the colorful lights. Their eyes were closed in prayer so they didn’t notice until Chi Yu started giggling. From then on, they called him their little electrical engineer.
Later that week, our venue for the medical clinic in Isla, a nearby village, fell through. The missionaries asked the sisters if they could hold the clinic in the parking lot at Canossa. With loving hearts, the nuns opened up their home to the poor. Later, a sister told one of the missionaries that it was a blessing for them to host the clinic. She recollected that the founder of the Canossian Order was know for bathing the poor, and said it brought them joy to see us washing the kid’s hair and treating them for lice.
The lice station was my job. At first, the Mom in me panicked. I thought...Lice!!! No!!! But the missionary heart listens for where God’s calls us to serve and serves with joy.
Be hospitable to one another without complaining. (1 Peter 4:9)
Within moments, I began to look past my fear of lice and saw the beauty in this small act of service. The lice station ended up being a lot of fun. Grace searched the crowd for kids who hadn’t been to our station. The kids were shy and nervous at first, but before long they were laughing and giggling as we poured buckets of cold water over their heads. They left our station joyous, and their joy was contagious; it filled us with joy.
There was also an intake station with vitals, a diagnostic station, a pharmacy, and a prayer station which distributed goodie bags filled with vitamins, water, crackers, a rosary and a toothbrush. There was even a local barber cutting hair in the garden.
But, what struck me was the transformation in Grace’s heart. It started raining and she asked us for an umbrella. She gave herself the task of helping people get between the different stations without getting wet. She even went so far as to walk them all the way out of the gates of Canossa. Later that night during evening prayer, she reflected on the joy of helping others and prayed that everyone made it home dry.
Jason and Alex were gone for the first half of the morning on a roofing assignment for a home in Isla, but when they came back, Jason helped out with prayer over the families before they left Canossa. Then, it started raining and his assignment was scrapped due to lack of shelter. Thinking there was nowhere left to help, he sat down in the chapel to rest for a minute and in no time had three little girls fighting over horse rides around the chapel. Later, he said this time playing with the girls was one of his best experiences of the entire mission and a great lesson that we don’t have to be outgoing to be a good missionary of presence - you just have to be willing to see God in whomever comes to talk to you.
When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. (Luke 14:11-14)
This is how hospitality works. You give of yourself, your personal treasures, you open your home, and that kindness manifests and spreads itself to others. They in turn spread their hospitality.
Instead of being homesick, can I be Canossa-sick? (Brecklyn)
by Jason and Jessica Wilde
The dim hospital room was packed full of 15 or 20 Filipino families, each huddled around a bed or crib holding their sick child. The windows were open and a single oscillating fan in the corner provided some airflow to keep the room bearable. Our small group of missionaries had introduced ourselves and were tasked with sharing a testimony - a personal story about when each of us saw God in our lives.
Each testimony was unique and shared a story of enlightenment, hopefully providing a little bit of God’s light to an otherwise scary and tiring time in the lives of these families. Brecklyn shared a story from when she gave her own stuffed animal to poor boy on the sidewalks of Mexico City and how she saw God in the little boy’s smile. Grace's story was about seeing God’s love and compassion in a volunteer who comforted her on our pilgrimage to Lourdes when she was afraid of the baths. But it was Alex's testimony that shocked everyone in the room, including his parents. Earlier in the morning, while the girls were planning their testimony, Alex shrugged us off when we tried to help him prepare. He told us that his inspiration came from his beloved Lego Bible at home and that he had his testimony ready.
It turned out that Alex’s testimony was reciting from chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew...by memory.
Throughout each testimony, Junar, one of the full time local missionaries, would translate into Vasayan, the local dialect. At this point, I could see the shock on his face as he stumbled to accurately recount what Alex just said.
By now, the room was still with suspense. A few cell phones were trained on Alex as he continued to preach.
Junar again did his part, but I could not honestly tell if anyone was listening to him. Everyone seemed to be in shock and amazement, but Alex continued.
I began to question how he was going to wrap this up. Were we just finishing the chapter, or were we in for the long haul - were we going to hear Jesus’ persecution, crucifixion, and resurrection as well?
At the end of his testimony, everyone cheered and clapped. Alex said that this was why he loved to serve God’s people.
On a Mission
Two passionate parents and their four children are excited to bring His Word to everyone in need while living a life of Gospel poverty as missionaries. They invite you to join them on a journey to encounter our global neighbors that Jesus commands us to love through works of charity and service.