by Grace Wilde
We were walking through the flower markets to a museum in Bangkok, Thailand. The flowers were beautiful. They were colorful and were braided into wreaths, table toppings, and ropes. Everything was quiet as we wove through the streets. Then we turned onto a crowded street full of kids dancing and playing. It was children's day! There was free ice cream, toys, and medicine. There was a band playing and everyone was smiling. We were practically covered with stuff. We each had a bag filled with stuff. Then my Dad checked the time, we needed to get on a plane soon. We started walking to the airport as it started to rain. As we are walking by a bridge I see a mom and her baby huddled on a mat with nothing but the mat, a cup, and each other. I stopped and thought how much I had, and how much they had. I gave my bag to the mom, and Mom and Dad did the same. As we walked away, I looked back to see the little boy smiling at his new toys. We had more toys than we needed and saw God in the Mom and her boy and gave away our riches and made ourselves poor. But, do you have to be poor or rich to love God in others? This question can be explained slowly through the course of time.
The Kings of Israel are thought of as powerful and rich. They loved the Lord. This was true, but, they let riches and power substituted their love for the Lord.
King Saul thought that he was powerful and could make the sacrifice just as good as the prophet Samuel. So, Israel lost the battle because of Saul’s desire for power. Saul was very angry and upset for the rest of his kingship. Then, David became King and coveted a soldier’s wife. She said she was married, but David still wanted her. He intentionally used his power to kill her husband and take the lady as he wife. Then, came Solomon. Solomon’s wives led him to worship false idols of gold and priceless metals. He was led away from God and let the riches block him from worshiping God.
Can you love God while you are rich if you make yourself poor? Yes, it takes a lot of perseverance to continue to give, but, it is possible. For example, St. Margaret of Scotland was a queen, with many riches and powers. She stayed a queen all her life and the power and riches never overpowered her. How did she do this? She put the needs of others before her own. For example, every day before she ate, she would hand feed some of the orphans with her golden spoon. Whenever she went out into the town she would give away everything on her and come back almost naked. That is how she became a Saint.
Not everyone has the time and patience though to love the Lord while being rich. Many people give away everything and make themselves poor so it will be easier to love God. For example, St Ignatius of Loyola was the son of a rich duke and became a knight for the king. When he decided to spend more time loving God, he saw that it is harder to love God with so many possessions in the way of Him. So he sold all of his belongings and made himself poor and ragged so he could love God. When he did that he could appreciate what God had given him as a blessing. Today, nuns, priests, missionaries, and many more people do the same.
Do you have to be poor to love God? Yes, it is impossible to love when you are rich. Like the kings of Israel, when they were rich, power and riches blocked God from their view. Like St. Margaret and St. Ignatius of Loyola, the rich must focus and give all they have to God and other people.
But woe to you who are rich,
But, when you are poor it is easy to love because you can appreciate what God has given you as a blessing from Him. You can find all the little beauties in the world. You share what you have so that others can enjoy it. Then go out and love God and people. Throw aside all of your riches and power and serve God and others.
by Jason and the Kids
I remember a time when news organizations were criticized for being biased. I mean, this was really a bad thing, and these networks fought the claim. But in the past year, most people will now accept that some media outlets are biased.
Now, it's gone even farther. In the past year, terms such as "Fake News" and "Alternative Facts" have become so rampant that it has really lost its real meaning. I've seen "fake" posted on anything that someone personally doesn't trust, know about, or agree with, as a way to automatically discount any such information. We've gone from believing that a story may be biased to not believing it at all, and with no apparent regard for the qualifications, sources, or quality of the reporting. It would seem that many people cannot tell the difference between a headline, an editorial, and a rambling blog post, and therefore, all are treated equally...if it falls inline with my own personal opinion.
I spent too many years in graduate school, and if I learned anything from writing pages and pages of thesis and dissertation proofs, it is that all information must be individually verifiable if it is to be considered as a scholarly publication. I also believe the same holds true for our news media - and I honestly believe that most are still credible in this nature.
It is with this mindset that we decided to test this theory, and in the process, teach our kids how to trust, discriminate, and use modern news media to get a true story of what really happened.
The presidential inauguration was upon us, so it was a perfect opportunity to use a very public event that many sources would report on. In our experiment, we gave our kids one of three 'headline' articles from major news outlets, and asked them to create a spider web of major points, details, and takeaways.
We then compared and contrasted each spider web, identifying the unique and duplicate bubbles from each news source. Together, we created a histogram of points which were unique, repeated in two sources, and common across all three sources.
From this histogram, we could easily tell that two of the news sources had a higher ratio of 'unique' points. We explained that these weren't necessarily bad sources or points (or Fake), but that they alone may need to be verified with another sources if we were to trust them. However, having a source with many unique points was also a good thing, because it provided a unique perspective, and if you read many such articles, you can get a better idea of what really happened. It is, after all, these unique points that makes a story colorful or stand out.
We then proceeded to color each point according to political bias - red/blue if it was biased (meaning that it painted one party in a better light), and blank if it was neutral or considered just a common fact. From this visualization, the kids immediately noticed that the organization with fewer unique points was also most biased in the points that it did publish. To our surprise, the other two stories were fairly balanced in biased points in both directions and in neutral points.
Finally, we were able to identify general themes or impressions that each story gave to its readers - one was very descriptive, and another was notably holistic in explaining events surrounding the main story.
What we learned from this exercise:
by Grace Wilde
We all love our Lady of Guadalupe. A bush of roses miraculously appeared in the middle of winter! A picture of Mary appeared out of nowhere on Juan’s cloak! But why did Mary come to Mexico? How were the apparitions effective? Why did she pick the miracle of flowers coming out of winter? What were some of the reasons that our Lady choose Juan? There are so many more questions asked about our Lady of Guadalupe. Every detail means something to us. Every detail is a secret waiting to be discovered. But to tell all the secrets, that would turn this into a book, so let's just go over a few.
Mary came to Mexico for a very important reason. During that time most of the people in Mexico were Aztec. Aztecs were Native Americans who practiced human sacrifices. 12 years before, Hernan Cortes and the Spanish had conquered the Aztecs. After many battles and capturing the Aztec king Montezuma, Cortes and his men forcefully tore down every Aztec temple and turned them into churches. This made the Aztecs mad and most of them stuck to their religion even more than before. For the next decade missionaries worked hard to convert Mexico. But, baptisms were rare, until Our Lady came to Mexico.
The question that many people ask about Our Lady of Guadalupe is, ”why did Mary come to Juan?” One reason she chose him might be because Juan was not a Catholic from birth but an Aztec convert. So when he became a Catholic, he could understand the culture of both Spain and Mexico. So, he could talk and act with any culture in Mexico in their own language.
Mary came dressed in a special way. First of all, Mary always comes dressed as the culture in the area. So she dressed like a native princess. But, her appearance was more than that. She had stars on her dress and was standing on the moon, These were old Aztec symbols of power. This shows us that she is as powerful as the stars and the moon, but she is not God.
Our Lady of Guadalupe spoke in a special way as well. She spoke as a mother would to a child. She spoke in the native Aztec language. When Cortez conquered Mexico he forced much of the Aztec people to speak Spanish and Latin. The only people who would speak the Aztec language were, Moms who probably taught their children to keep their native Aztec language by speaking it to them. Another way Mary spoke like a mother is by calling Juan “my son.” So Mary showed us that she is the mother of all people and of the whole world.
Mary picked the miracle of flowers coming out of winter as a special sign. It resembled good things coming out of hard things. Winter is a very hard time especially for farmers like Juan. Then all of the sudden at the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe a rose bush sprouts. A rose bush is a joyous, happy sign of spring that was coming out of something bad like winter. Mexico was in a hard time, just like that.
After our Lady came to Juan a church was built on the spot she had appeared. But, did she keep her intention of converting the Aztecs? In ten years thousands of Aztecs were Baptized. In one hundred years, human sacrifices were not seen in Mexico, and most of Mexico was converted.
I celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe by going to my church where they have a Mariachi band, a play during mass about her, then a procession when we take flowers to a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe. After Mass we have cookies and Mexican hot chocolate. It is very fun. This year we went and I was an altar server. I was not supposed to be an altar server on that day. I was just called up because there were not enough altar servers. But, before altar servers were called up to serve I had a feeling that I was needed to be an altar server. Then I was called up, I was amazed.
In conclusion, Our Lady of Guadalupe came to show that she came for the conversion of Mexico. She shows us that she is powerful but not God, loving, and the mother of the world. Here is a poem I wrote on Our Lady of Guadalupe,
My Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, you have shown us your secrets.
Loving Virgin, you have shown your love for everyone.
Powerful Lady, you have shown us your power.
Mother of the world be a mother to us.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pray for us.
Saints of the States by Dan Lynch
by Jessica Wilde
As 2016 comes to a close, I reflect on the tangle of mixed emotions we have experienced this last year. Obviously, we experienced tremendous joy when meeting and getting to know our son. When our kids bonded with him, our hearts overflowed. We experienced joy when seeing other families bring their adopted sons and daughters home. We felt loved by our village as they helped us adjust to life as a family of six. But through this joy, our eyes were opened to the deep sadness and pain that exists in our world.
There are countless kids in orphanages around the world who continue to yearn for not only the basic necessities for life but, most importantly, the love of a family. Kids are abused and neglected. War tears families apart. Hate keeps people from loving their neighbors, both foreign and domestic. Fear keeps many from even trying to help. But, it’s the everyday bullying and hate toward each other that astonished me the most this year.
"It’s been through our following the Lord in growing our family through adoption that we have experienced the most open, challenging and at times hurtful opinions from the world around us. There’s also nothing that makes my heart beat faster than having the world question my family or His call upon our family. I’m learning my response in these moments needs to always be first to refocus, rest in His call and stand…keeping my eyes up." (No Hands But Ours)
I keep my eyes up when I hear...
“He looks like T-Rex.”
“He looks like a deer.”
People have referred to our international adoption as “importing a need”.
“My family has two kids. We choose quality over quantity.”
I’ve been told that I “should hide his arms with long sleeves so nobody would know.”
Others just point and stare and then ignore him when he notices and tries to tells them “Hello”.
Some friends even stopped talking to me when they found out we were adopting internationally.
And the many racist comments…
One lady even put a soup bowl on her head and mocked Chinese farmers right in front of my kids.
I am a lover not a fighter, so these insensitive and hate-filled moments usually leave me tongue tied and heart broken. But, I’m learning to focus on what really matters - what the world thinks of our choice to adopt Chi, or what God thinks? What people think of Chi’s abilities or his potential, or how much God loves him just as he is?
Recently, our priest inspired us to look past the golden Byzantine icon of Mary surrounded by cherubs holding the infant Jesus. He suggested that we instead reflect and relate to her life as a Mother. She was not only criticized for being an unwed Mom but her heart was pierced with a sword every time her son suffered.
How did Mary handle all the hate and sadness in her life? How did she respond when she was ridiculed for being a unwed Mom? How did she endure the pain of watching her son suffered?
The answer is Faith. She had Faith in God and in His plan for her life and her Son’s life. So she stood by his side knowing that her heart would be pierced by the pains and hate her Son would suffer. But her love for Him kept her close to Him so she could help Him as only a Mother can with her presence. Sometimes that’s all a Mom can do. We can’t take away our kid’s pain but we can be there so they don’t have to endure it alone.
So as 2017 begins, I aspire to be more like Mary and put my faith and hope in God’s will. I will help my family learn to respond to all the hate they encounter on a daily basis with love and kindness. I will build up Chi Yu’s self esteem at every opportunity I get. I will teach my family to pray for those who have hurt us. I will continue to walk by my son’s side, and hold his hand through the good and the bad. I will remind him of all the many beautiful moments, and friendships in his life.
I will have him remember...
The beautiful little girl with golden pig tails who grabbed his hand, pulled him onto the dance floor, and became his first friend at church.
His friend, Josef, who is always the first to greet him at our co-op with a happy “ni hao” (Hello in Chinese).
The nurses who smiled at him as he kicked his soccer ball up and down the hall while we waited for his blood draw. They later said that watching his joy was the best part of their day.
The neighbors in our condo who told us that hearing our kids play outside is “like listening to the beautiful sound of birds chirping”.
The many people who stop me just to say that my “family is beautiful.”
Maybe my heart hurts like Mary’s did. And yes, I dread the day when Chi Yu will have enough English to understand all of these mean comments. But I realize that I can’t stop people from being racist or mean. I love Chi Yu so much. He is worth every sword to this Mama’s heart. He is beautifully and wonderfully made. He is my beloved son.
Now, if you’ve read this far, I have a New Year challenge for you. When you see someone who looks, thinks, or acts “different”, instead of staring, judging them, ignoring them, or whispering rude comments behind their backs, simply smile and say hello. It’s amazing how a simple gesture like this can brighten someone’s day.
There is no greater disability in society, than the inability to see a person as more. (Robert M. Hensel)
As for my family, I know He has more wonderful plans for our family in 2017. We just need to continue to listen with a prayer filled heart and not let fear get in our way of being God’s light in the world.
Happy New Year!
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.