by Jason Wilde
I watched the scenery from the back of Padre Carlos' tiny hatchback on our way to Mass at a distant Puebla on a rainy Sunday morning. As we slid through the muddy back roads, I noticed that the scenery was changing. The rough, unfarmed greenery was slowly turning into flat, grassy ranches lands spotted with cattle and an occasional horse. Another 20 minutes later, Padre pulled his car up to a tiny little store and we made our way to the even tinier chapel perched on a hill on the other side of the road. The locals were just starting to arrive by truck and by foot, and I noticed that the men were relatively well dressed compared to other pueblas that we'd visited. Most had clean blue jeans, boots and cowboy hats; they were clearly ranchers.
The Gospel reading that Sunday was about Jesus as the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). Padre Carlos was a very popular homilist, and he didn't let us down. He started by asking the men standing in the back of the chapel how they called their herds. We listened as each one whistled in his own unique way, and the crowd of about 20 people giggled each time.
"If I could imitate one of you"...(whistling feverishly)..."would I be able to call your cattle?", Padre questioned.
"No!", the cowboys all responded in unison.
"Similarly, then if Jesus is the 'Buen Vaquero', do we listen to His call?" Padre continued.
Everyone laughed and seemed to nod in agreement.
"....or do we also listen to others? Do we listen when strange gods call us - gods of money, drugs, alcohol, gossip, TV, internet...?"
The still silence was deafening.
I keep reflecting back on this homily as we stand on the precipice of another season of lent, trying to decide how we are going to prepare ourselves to receive the Good Shepherd whom we all claim allegiance to. But, we live in a world of gods: gods who are loud and in our faces, gods who all vie for our attention and for our support, gods who want us to follow them, to be like them, to reject all others. And while we might claim to only serve one God, in reality we all struggle with this, and unfortunately, our God is a jealous God. He doesn't like when we listen and follow the calls of those other gods:
Interestingly, when push comes to shove, it seems that the faith claims and institutions of one's political party generally trump those of one's religion.
Lent is a time to remove ourselves from the presence and grasp of those other gods. It is a time to clear away the noise that distracts us from His calling. Usually, this means we must sacrifice something that makes us uncomfortable so that we can feel His healing presence. Every year, I struggle to find 'what I should give up', but in reality, I should be working to free myself from the calls of these gods so that I can hear the angelic whistle of the Good Shepherd.
by Jessica Wilde
After my first chemotherapy treatment, my white blood count dropped really low, I was neutropenic and at high risk of infection. We decided to go into quarantine until my numbers improved. The kids went stir crazy being stuck inside all week. One afternoon, the kids decided to pull all the mattresses off their bunk beds and started playing the trust fall game.
The trust fall game is where you trust that someone or something will catch you. You fall backwards without fear and in complete faith that the person and/or object will catch you. The kids giggled and laughed as they fell freely over and over again backwards onto the mattress without fear. At the chapel that evening, I began to ponder what it would be like to do a trust fall with God.
I had been struggling with anxiety lately. And these questions kept haunting me. Will the chemo work? Will I get sick? Will I die young leaving behind a young husband with four kids to raise? Will I get to see God's dream of the Busita become reality? I knew these questions were Not from God. They were from the devil trying to cause me undue pain and suffering. The devil was actively trying to lure my peace away.
I left the chapel perplexed. All I want in life is to love Jesus with total abandonment to His will for my life even if it's a cross that seems to big or unimagineable. I want to trust Him who loved and knew me before I was even conceived in my mother's womb. I want my life to be for Him alone. I desire that every breath be in His service and filled with His love.
So why couldn't I just let these questions go? Why couldn't I let the fear go? No matter how much I prayed, it seemed like the questions kept coming back to disturb my peace. I wanted to be completely free from all my worries and fear and instead have an increased dependence on God. In despair, I cried out. "Why can't I do a trust drop with you God?' I fell to my knees in my bedroom and cried out to Him who loves me.
"Father I adore you..."
Since learning I had cancer, I had sung this prayer multiple times a day everytime I was in pain, upset or anxious. But it wasn't until this moment that I realized that when I was falling to my knees in prayer, I was doing a trust drop with God.
There are three aspects to a trust drop. The first aspect is faith that there is someone behind you that will catch you. In terms of a trust drop with God, this means Faith that there is a God and that He is with you.
"Father I adore you.
And I lay my life before you.
How I love you.
How I love you."
The second aspect is trust. Now that you believe through faith that God is there, do you believe that He loves you and would never let you fall. If so, then you are able to make the drop.
"Jesus I adore you.
And I lay my life before you.
How I love you.
How I love you."
But there is a third aspect...
Have you ever done a trust drop with a friend and when you realized that you were falling reached out and grabbed the floor or tired in vain to catch yourself. This usually ends up with not only a failed trust drop but with a clumsy attempt to save yourself.
I had faith that God exists. I believed He loves me whole heartedly. But when the moment came and I realized that I was falling, I began to reach out with my strength to save myself through worrying about the 'should haves' or 'maybe I could' or 'what ifs'. And then googling in attempt to find the answers or 'phoning a friend' for the answers.
I realized that the devil was trying to make me stumble and fall by having me attempt to save myself instead of relying on God's providence. The secret to a successful trust drop is abandoning our fears to His Sacred Heart so He can save us. We can then place our full trust in His timing and His will which is love. Sometimes we surrender a particular fear once in our lifetime, other times once a day and during difficult times we maybe in a period of continual surrender. But Jesus rejoices every time we trust Him to save us and free us from our fears. After turning to Him to save us, we are then filled with His peace which allows us to be open and docile to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps us to live in God's will for today without fear of tomorrow or regrets of yesterday.
"Spirit I adore you.
And I lay my life before you.
How I love you
How I love you"
Now I look at these hard moments as an opportunity to draw closer to my Lord and choose Him as my Savior . At first this song was done through tears because the unknown can be scary. But after much practice, it has become easier to surrender these fears through prayer because of the beautiful fruits I've seen in my life. These fruits include freedom from worldly anxiety and the joy of living everyday in His will. Because when I abandon my fear and place my trust in God, I can see Him more clearly and feel His love more tenderly even when things don't go my way. His will is always far better mine.
I am terrified of needles. Thankfully Jason has always been there with me when I get my blood draw except for one time that I'll never forget. The phlebotomist walked in the hospital room to draw my blood. I was terrified and Jason wasn't there. I was alone. But I breathed deeply and choose to do a trust drop with God. As she walked in, she began to pray "Divine Physician take care of Jessica heal her...". Her prayer continued the entire time she drew my blood. Her prayer filled me with His peace. Afterwards she asked me "Do you believe in Divine encounters?" As I looked in her eyes, I saw Jesus looking right back at me. I nodded. I was not alone. He was there and always will be. The phlebotomist continued praying, turned and walked out of the room.
Jesus I trust in you.
Jesus I trust in you.
Jesus I trust in you.
By Jessica Wilde
As a missionary, we are all called to go out to the ends of the world to minister and care for the suffering flesh of Christ in our brothers and sisters. So this has been a humbling season in our lives as we became the suffering flesh receiving the Father's love through the service of our neighbors.
Jesus came to earth in solidarity with us to teach us how to live, how to suffer and ultimately die. But God the Father never let Jesus suffer alone. Simon helped Jesus carry His cross. The weeping women mourned Him. Veronica wiped His face. Mama Mary, Mary Magdalene and John never left His side providing their loving presence at His crucifixion. During the celebration of the Eucharist, we have the opportunity to join them with our loving presence at His crucifixion too.
Just like with His beloved Son, our Father doesn't desire us to suffer alone either. For us, it has been amazing to see our Father pour out His love during this difficult season through family, friend and even strangers.
Thank-you to the Good Semaritans that have loved us through our cancer journey. Thank you to the stranger at church who gave us $20, a smile and a prayer for health. Thank you to the anonymous lady who adopted our family over Christmas, bought us groceries (even a turkey!) and a whole bag of presents for the kids. Thank you to Anita from the Levi Cancer Association whom I had never met until she approached me at church and told us that the Holy Spirit prompted her to give us $500 to help us with cancer related expenses.
These random acts of kindness from strangers has taught us How to be Christ's hands and feet. Like the Good Semaritan, it takes eyes wide open to the see the suffering stranger in need. It takes courage to approach them admidst their suffering. It takes openness to the Father's will to understand how to serve them and then Christ strength to serve them.
Brothers and Sisters - Don't be afraid to be the good semaritan of our time. Reach out with courage, boldness and love to the stranger in need. You might just be the tool God uses to fill them up with His grace, courage and strength that will equip them to carry their cross for another day.
A generous attitude towards the sick is salt of the earth and light of the world. May Our Lady of Lourdes help us to practice it, and obtain peace and comfort for all those who suffer. (Pope Francis)
By Grace Wilde
When I last wrote a blog a year ago, people made it feel like it was too dramatic, too crazy, and plain wrong. Those persecutions hurt, so I was afraid of writing again. Costa Rica came and went, so did cancer. I wanted to write, but I still felt the suffering of the year come and gone. So I stayed silent and did not write. This Christmas, my mom got sick again twice! It all hurt. After experiencing, praying, and talking with my mom about it, I realized that suffering is good! Although, it does not come from God in the first place, God uses it as a crucible to burn away everything that is not of him.
This third I will put into the fire;
In biblical times, people would take gold and melt it down in a metal pot called a crucible. Then anything that is not gold would burn away which is same thing God does with us when we suffer. He uses suffering to burn away anything that does not belong to Him. It does hurt though, but Jesus uses suffering to make us even stronger. And during the pain, all we have to do is trust in Jesus to not take away the cross that we bear, not to make the cross lighter either, but for us to be crucified, buried and raised with the glory of God from the dead in his arms.
So this next year, I’m not going to let lies or persecutions silence me. I’m not going to let suffering take control of me. I am going to let Jesus take over the wheel and let Him speak through me. This is my letter and gift to Jesus this New Year .
By Jessica Wilde
All Fall my friends have asked me the same question... "How are you doing?" I always responded "good". But having cancer with a young family is like running a marathon. And while Jason and the kids took care of my physical needs 24/7, I took care of their spiritual and emotional needs 24/7. Unfortunately, I never really had the time to sit down and process the hard realities of cancer and the weight of its cross on myself. I was just surviving day to day. The last two weeks we participated in FMC's Year In Review retreat. My personal goal was to see how I was really doing emotionally and spiritually.
On the first day, they had us pick out a picture that described our present state. The picture that captured my heart was completely gray with what appeared to be a lifeless tree in a field of dead grass with a cloudy gray sky. The picture was quite depressing. "So why was that picture me?", I wondered
As I looked at the picture, I remembered all the losses I had experienced this year. There were times when I had to fast from all the things I love like chocolate, Dr. Pepper and coffee to times of isolation from neutropenia when I couldn't be near or hug my family to times when we couldn't join in my favorite community events like Lord's Day or Praise & Worship. Out of his intense love for me, my beloved husband stopped kissing me to prevent me from getting sick. I had to hide behind a mask. I lost my hair. We had to leave our home and friends in Costa Rica. I suffered cancer pains and chemo pains. I imagined my losses and sorrows as the leaves in the picture falling to the ground, the grass dying and the sky turning gray.
But then I looked at the tree again. It was standing strong amidst everything it had lost and endured. Despite all these real hardships, Christ was always there for me, thus my love for Him and reliance on Him during this time grew more and more till the time when He was all the pleasure that I had left in this world. And praise the Lord, the joy He brings is not temporal but eternal. Thank you Lord for allowing all the temporal pleasures of the world to disappear this year so I could focus on You.
As I looked back at the tree, it wasn't depressing at all but beautiful, just like me. In fact, it reminded me of some of the scenery from our first international date to Ireland many years ago. And I realized that I am not just good but great. Not because my cancer is in remission, (although that is awesome!) but mainly because the cross of cancer drew me close to the one that I love the most. That night when I used the bathroom, I looked at the cross that I had fallen to my knees in front of so many times with cancer pains. Now that the cancer pain is gone, I miss the times on my knees talking to Jesus. I locked the bathroom door and fell to my knees this time in praise and Thanksgiving.
Nothing whatsoever but the love of Jesus could have made me face these difficulties and others which followed, for I had to purchase my happiness by heavy trials. (Thérèse de Lisieux) 🌻
by Jason Wilde
Today is World Missionary Sunday, but I'm not going to share stories about building grass huts in Africa, or hiking through the jungles of Ecuador, or avoiding the eyes of governments in “Asia”. Here, you won't read about how the poor only eat rice or beans for every meal and sleep under a leaky roof. I'm not even going to ask for money. In fact, you could say that I'm about to make the world's least effective mission appeal.
Today, I'm going to tell you to be a missionary. After you leave church, follow the words of Jesus: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15), Love God, Love your neighbor, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you...Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back” (Luke 6:27-30). “Don't be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul” (Mt 10:28), forgive, do not judge, do not be angry or envious, give what you have to the poor and follow Jesus (Mt 19:21). Take what you hear and pray about every Sunday, put it into action and live your life every day as a mission!
For all the specific prayers or practices or rituals that you do every Sunday are meaningless if they do not implore you to share the love that Jesus gives you in response to those things. Faith is so much more than just a one-day commitment or a cross on your wall, and “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:14), and works that are done out of love, charity, and mercy are those that will bear witness to the Kingdom of Heaven. It is these things that will share the Gospel message, not debating, bragging, gossiping, or being envious or self-righteous.
So, today I invite you to be a missionary and to live your life as a mission. Be patient with one another. Invite a stranger to have lunch with you. Be kind while driving. Think less about the financial cost of each decision in your life and more about the impact it has on one another, our planet, and your own soul. Spend less on yourself and give more to those in need. Refrain from using Facebook as a political battlefield and try to listen to another's point of view with an open heart. Go out of your way to meet a non-Christian, someone from a different church, or someone who is just different, and love them! Love them not by trying to correct or educate but by becoming friends and sharing your life with them. Dampen your pride and sharpen your humility by allowing yourself to suffer just a little. By living your life as a mission your are offering salvation to yourself and to those you meet along the way, because “Mission revitalizes faith” (Redemptoris Missio, 2).
By Brecklyn Wilde
Ever since we found out that Mama had cancer, we have had many challenges. We have also had many blessings, and Jesus has helped us see those things. At first, Jesus gave us our community, who prayed for us, and helped comfort us. Then it was the people we served who cried when we left, gave us donuts, and took care of us. They were so sweet, and we still miss them, but God has shown us the way to see through all of the ocean of trials. This reminds me of one of the verses in a song called “Oceans”.
You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown, where feet may fail. And there I find you in the mystery in oceans deep,
Picture this: you are Peter. Jesus tells you to go to the other side of the sea of Galilee, but he doesn’t tell you why. So you go across, but when you are in the middle of it, a storm comes up, the boat is rocking, and there is water all the way up to your ankles! You are so so scared, and then, on top of it all, you look up, and see a ghost, walking on top of the water! You are really scared now! Everyone is screaming around you, when the ghost calmly says, “Take courage, it is I. Do not be afraid.” Then you realise, and yell back, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water”. Then he says, “Come”, and you have no choice to do, but walk through the storm. You step out of the boat and hold onto the railing, expecting to fall, but you don’t! The water feels as if it is concrete! You start walking, but then you remember the wind, the waves and water, and you feel afraid, and then you start sinking! You cry out “Lord, save me!” and you feel someone reach out for your wrist and lift you out. It’s Jesus! When you are back in the boat, finally the wind dies down, and everything is calm. Then Jesus says “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt me?” Then everyone in the boat around you starts saying “Truly you are the son of God”.
Even though the ocean is sometimes windy and stormy, we can also look around, and see Jesus, walking on the scary, windy waves, helping us to keep on walking, and picking us up from the storm. He helps us to see where the end of our journey is, in heaven, where there are no storms, no wind, and no rain.
Whenever you have a trial, always look to Jesus, and trust in him, and Jesus will give you blessings, even more blessings then you will ever have troubles. I have so many examples of blessings, but I can only tell you a couple.
When we came back from Costa Rica, we thought that nobody would really care that we were back, but God knew what we needed, and when we came back, everyone greeted us, and when we went inside our house, we saw that they were taking care of us, by giving us things, like toys, and pictures, but most of all love. Even today, people are always coming to our door, to give us food, play with us, visit us, and best of all, love us and pray with us.
Whenever you are scared, or something bad is happening, always ask Jesus for help, and he will send you blessings. God has taught us how to see his son through the storm, so whenever there is a trial, we can see Jesus through it.
Right away Jesus made the disciples get into the boat. He had them go on ahead of Him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-33)
We are praying for you.
By Jessica Wilde
When I look in the mirror, I do not recognize the face I see. Then I look again, this time a little more closely, and I see three different faces staring back at me: My own face, Anne and Maribel.
The first face I see in the mirror is my own. It is the face of a cancer victim. It is the face of pain from a disease that is attempting to destroy the fiber of my being. It is the face of a cross that seems to be unbearable at times. It is the face that fears what the future may or may not hold.
The second face I see in the mirror is bald like me, but because of oppression, she had no hope for a future. The second face is Anne Franke and the thousands of other woman, men and children who suffered the shame of having their heads shaved due to racism, and most faced death shortly afterwards. It is a face of tears as dreams and lives were cut short. And now, the lock of my own hair that sits next to my Mary statue reminds me of the mountains of hair from all the victims heaped up at the museum in Auschwitz...victims who were sheared like sheep before being slaughtered like animals. It is a face of horror and oppression.
The third face is the face of Maribel. She too is suffering from cancer. But, she has hair; a sign that like Anne, she also has no hope for a future. She is the face of the poor and marginalized in our world. Just like Anne, she too is oppressed. She is in pain and is dying from a cancer without treatment because she was born in the wrong country or in the wrong social class. I've seen many faces like hers before--in a small adobe Mexican house, she writhes in pain from a cancerous tumor growing in her belly as the priest administers the Sacrament of the Sick, while in Costa Rica, she spends days in a crowded hospital waiting room. Even though health care is available to her, she is still sent home with pain medicine to die while the rich with the same diagnosis would be treated and live.
So yes...the faces in the mirror haunt me. I can't help but look back at my own bald head and be sad for Anne and Maribel. Unlike them, I am not oppressed. I am receiving treatment and I freely choose to lose my hair to have a chance at a future. While cancer is a huge cross, it turns out that my baldness is a gift from God and a sign of hope. So please do not pity my baldness but instead help me to fight for and pray for the other faces that I remember when I look in the mirror...the faces of the poor, the marginalized, the victims of war and violence, often forgotten and oppressed.
Today, please join me in praying for all the other faces in the mirror besides my own that suffer and die from oppression.
Dear Lord I pray for the souls that perished in Aushwitz and the many other concentration camps, prisons, and ghettos during wars of the past century. I pray for the poor who are oppressed and suffer and die due to neglect. Dear Lord please end hate and oppression. Please open our eyes to truly love and care for each other, regardless of race, religion, place of birth, or class. Thank you Lord for the opportunity to receive medical care. Thank you for the wonderful doctors and nurses who take care of me. Thank you Lord for taking my hair and giving me a future filled with hope.
By Jessica Wilde
But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
The first symptom of my cancer was intense burning and frequency when I urinated. After ruling out a urinary tract infection, the oncologist in Costa Rica said it was likely because of a tumor in my small intestines that was pressing on my bladder. He reassured me that the pain would go away after chemo started and the tumor disappeared. But the pain was debilitating. It left me running to the bathroom at all hours of the day and night. It left me feeling tired, frustrated and at times in despair.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit when we moved to the Big Woods, I hung a picture of a cross that Brecklyn drew in front of the toilet. I was drawn to the anguish and pain on Jesus's face. I was moved by the angels lovingly ministering to Jesus on the cross.
I don't know when it happened, but again, likely with the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I began to fall to my knees in tears, prayers and petitions to Jesus every time I had pain after using the bathroom. After about a day, the despair and frustration left and I was filled with His spirit of perseverance. I continued to fall to my knees in tears everytime I used the bathroom but it was different. As I united this suffering to the cross, I understood that my pain had a purpose. Soon I found myself falling to the ground in prayer at any bathroom I found myself in, including the Big House, friends' houses and even at Chili's.
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church (Col 1:24)
It is Christ who gives me strength. It is Christ who will defeat cancer. He is all powerful. He will and can do more than all the medicine on the Earth combined. If I say, "I am strong" or "I can defeat this cancer", then I am only fighting with my own limited human strength. But if I am humble, weak and let Jesus be my strength, then I am fighting cancer with the power of our almighty Father.
so that every form of suffering, given fresh life by the power of this Cross, should become no longer the weakness of man but the power of God. (Salvifici Doloris, 26 (Saint John Paul II))
Our God is a healer!
The intense UTI-like pain that I've experienced since March has been gone for over a week now. I am no longer running to the bathroom. I no longer need Tylenol or Ibuprofen to get me through the day. And this pain miraculously went away before my chemo even started! Praise be to Jesus Christ!
While humbly turning to God for His strength, I also desire to live a fearless life for the Lord. I desire to trust in the Lord with all my whole heart and soul. One of my friends had a vision of me walking through a swamp and right before my feet sunk into the ground, a stepping stone would appear. She said I was walking boldly without fear.
I have seen God's footprints ten steps ahead of me paving my way. He has gifted me a home for treatment. He has gifted me with hope for my future as a missionary in Busita de Jesus. He has closed doors along my path and opened others. He has sent angels to minister to me. He has showered me with love and prayers from friends and family all over the world. If God is with me, what is there to be afraid of? Absolutely Nothing!
This is easier said than done. My dear friend and community leader in Costa Rica gave me the idea of journaling. She advised me to list every fear or anxiety in my heart. Afterwards, she recommended prayerfully looking at each fear. If you personally can do something to fix the fear, then write out your plan beside the fear. If you know of someone that can help you with your fear, write their name beside it. Lastly if there is nothing you can do or no one to seek help from, give it to Jesus. Entrust him to take care of it for you. I have learned that this exercise works best in front of the blessed sacrament since Jesus is present in the Holy Eucharist and will help free me from my fears and anxiety. And yes, the fears may come back, but that is when I entrust my fears to Jesus again and again and again. It is in continually turning to Jesus that our Faith and trust in Him grows. Jesus I trust in you!
Lastly, I am empowered to be filled with His joy. Joy is different than happiness. While happiness is superficial and lasts but a moment, joy is a choice to be happy in the face of trials and hardships. Joy is to encounter others with the happiness of Christ despite the cross we ourselves are carrying.
We will have trials and hardships in life. This is not God's doing but the result of a fallen and broken world. What matters are not the trials or our pains but our response. Will we be defined by our trials or by the love of Christ?
This past week, FMC's founder Mr. Frank Summers prayed over me. In his prayer he reminded me to focus on the Big C, Christ, and not the little c, cancer. So as I sit here waiting for my chemotherapy to begin, I am focused on Christ because He will see me through all the little c's in my life (cancer and chemotherapy).
So here is my cancer treatment plan:
I choose to be docile to the Holy Spirit. I choose to embrace my human weaknesses, fall to my knees in front of my Savior, and ask Jesus for His all powerful help. I choose to trust in His providence and love those I encounter along the way of my cross with the joy of Christ.
A king is not saved by a great army,
by Jason Wilde
On more than one occasion, I have been asked how we heard God calling us to be missionaries, or to adopt Chi Yu. To be honest, I really didn’t have any good answers. I have never really been blessed enough to hear God whisper to me or have an angel stand in front of me in blinding light. Many times it is a series of events or feelings that come together over a period of time that point us in the right direction. That said, we also have to discern whether it really is the Holy Spirit working in us, or whether it is our own imagination taking over.
So without further ado, here are a few of the discernment ‘litmus tests’ that I think have guided us over the past years and are continuing to guide us today.
After we found out that Jessica needed to see an oncologist back in the States, we were frantically packing up everything we could for our move back from Costa Rica. It was a really difficult time emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I was really upset that we were leaving our home of five months, all of our friends and fellow missionaries, and our dreams of foreign missionary life, at least in the foreseeable future. I spent a lot of time in the Coopevega chapel, just trying to calm my emotions and regain a sense of peace. I remember distinctly an afternoon in the chapel in which I was really tired and found my mind wandering and daydreaming. And then, a crazy idea formed in my mind.
I knew Jessica would need to be somewhat tethered to our mission base in Louisiana for the next 1-2 years due to doctors appointments, but I also wondered about how we could still serve as foreign missionaries. Our FMC posts in Mexico came to mind, and I dreamed about serving back in General Cepeda, where we spent three weeks of our training last year. But the 16+ hour journey that we’d have to make so many times troubled me. I thought maybe we could use some sort of RV with beds and facilities for us to rest during the trip. It felt so crazy, that it just might work.
The next day was again hard for me. I found myself angry with my kids and anxious about packing. But this thought lingered and somewhat developed in my mind. It kind of made me hopeful and eased my negative thoughts. That evening, I decided to pass it by Jessica, just to humor myself and have a positive conversation. Surprisingly, she was completely at peace with the idea of serving in Mexico and traveling frequently back and forth, and we shared a little bit of consolation together at peace with a future hope.
This has always been a good starting point for really big changes for us. We find ourselves talking about something really crazy, and yet we have peace at the thought of living with such a radical change. Jesus was radical; He constantly broke social norms, eating grain on the Sabbath, forgiving the sins of untouchable gentiles, and then curing illnesses just to prove a point. His family was poor and insignificant. He saved the life of a condemned prostitute who became a faithful disciple. He journeyed to Jerusalem at a time when everyone knew he was on the wanted list, raised a man from the dead to convert a few hundred more, and then entered the city in plain sight riding a donkey. He was friends and dined with with sinners, oppressive government officials, and non-believers, all the while chastising the religious leaders that sought to challenge Him.
And this is how it should be when God really wants to get your attention. You should feel uncomfortable, radical, and all alone in your decision. God’s ways are not of this world and are usually unconventional and illogical by any human social norms.
And yet, you are at peace with your crazy thoughts.
Peace in the storm
Every time the Spirit places our minds in the right place at the right time and put a solution right into our laps, we felt a ‘click’, a sense of peace and understanding that usually cleared away the clouds of frustration and despair. I distinctly remember these moments when we decided to adopt and when we decided to become foreign missionaries. Similarly, when things got hectic on the trip back to the States, Jessica and I would occasionally look at each other and smile at our dream and hope for our future.
But it also required that we endure the storm. Jesus calmed the waves when the boat began to rock, but He required absolute faith and trust in Him, and a bit of legwork - Peter had to leave all caution behind him and get out of the boat, all the while keeping his eyes ahead of him, fixed on Jesus. In a similar way, we can’t expect to live in a bubble, protected from any kind of turmoil and have the Spirit move us in a way that we can experience God's peace. The world’s peace can feel so much more enticing than God’s peace, and it makes it so much harder to discern which one we are feeling. Like Peter, we have to sometimes get out of our safety boat.
Directed by the Spirit, Who opens and closes doors
Soon, we were researching options for a home on wheels, and it didn’t take long for our plans to change. Traditional RVs are either notoriously expensive or unreliable, and this wouldn’t do for months of usage by a family with four kids. The spaces just didn’t work either with our family. We began looking at other options and kept coming back to (once again) one of the craziest options - a custom RV built in a used school bus.
Our mission also changed slightly as we began hearing more about the plight and oppression of migrant families in our country. General Cepeda gradually faded from our discussions, and we began to talk more about serving around Allende, Mexico, the FMC post nearest the Texas border, as well as the border communities on the U.S. side. Our custom RV began to become a focal point of our ministry, as we could use it as a mobile ministry, food pantry, and social gathering, similar to how we used the brick and mortar Casa de Jesus in Coopevega. We always imagined how it would work to take the ministries of Casa de Jesus on the road in Costa Rica, but it seems so relevant now in our new plans. Before we knew it, we had named our ministry - ‘Busita de Jesus’ (Little Bus of Jesus). The name became an instant hit within our family, and we could always just say ‘Busita’ and immediately regain our peace again.
God does an amazing job of opening and closing doors for us when we are actively seeking his plans. Our human selves want to constantly fight the impossible, repeatedly throwing our weight against the solid locked door, but God wants us to find the narrow gate - a path less traveled and yet so much better for His glory. But just like in the boat, it means we must keep working and searching. We can’t just sit still and wait for Gabriel to descend and give us a manual for our life with numbered directions. It just won’t happen. We have to go - even if it’s in the wrong direction. Just go. God will redirect you and give you the appropriate gifts if needed as long as you keep your eyes on Him and away from your own pride and selfishness.
For HIS glory
A month ago, if you told me that I would need to drive around Texas in a school bus to do God’s work, I’d say you were insane. I really don’t like to drive, and I never thought I’d be living back in Texas because...well...you have to drive so much. And I literally spent over a tenth of my time in elementary school on a yellow school bus - please don’t make me get in one of those!
All of this just tells me that it clearly isn’t MY plan - it is so crazy and so anti-me that it had to come from God. But more importantly, it is a path that glorifies Him. It is a path that allows me to suffer and decrease so that He may triumph and increase.
This should be the penultimate litmus test for discerning whether God is directing your life: Who is it lifting up? If it lifts up the other person, the neglected, the suffering, and gives glory to God for all of the work involved; if it lets me suffer and become more humbled as a servant to those around me, then there’s a good chance that I am on the right path.
Continuing on our journey
And so, a month later, I find myself driving a 12-year old yellow school bus that I acquired from Florida to Big Woods, Louisiana. Our ministry is still changing, though less now that we have our bearings. We have floor plans and ideas for how this will all work, but I’m sure He will continue to nudge us along in His path for us. Jessica’s treatments will hopefully begin in the coming weeks, and it will be difficult for her and for our family. But this dream that we have still keeps us calm and gives a divine hope and peace amidst the storm.
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.