The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying:
Today we find in the readings on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception a peculiar story of Ahaz. Ahaz wasn't a particularly pious king of Judah and in the Book of Kings is known simply as one who "even immolated his child by fire, in accordance with the abominable practices of the nations whom the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites." (16:3) Simply put, he sacrificed his child to a foreign god-idol that promised peace and prosperity. But as if this wasn't bad enough, he also frequently asked for help from Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, instead of relying on God's own armies.
And so we read that the prophet Isaiah tells Ahaz to "remain calm and do not fear; do not let your courage fail", and to "ask for a sign from the Lord, your God" (Is 7:4,11). Isaih is telling Ahaz to turn from his idolatry and pray to God for help. Ahaz, in his defiance, says "I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord" (v12), essentially responding that he will not trust God, but rather in his own power and allies, the Assyrians. Further on, Isaiah then responds that in this case, the Assyrians will shave the Israelites, rendering them powerless and in suffering - "on that day a man shall keep alive a young cow or a couple of sheep, and from their abundant yield of milk he shall eat curds; curds and honey shall be the food of all who are left in the land...every place where there were a thousand vines shall become briers and thorns" (v21-23).
What does this mean for us? First of all, in the light of our current crisis, let me say that God, the author of goodness, does not in our time inflict evil on His children. Suffering is a fruit of man's pride and selfishness, and though God can and will save us, He will allow suffering as a refining fire to burn away our own idolatry. Just as Ahaz refused to give up self-control to God and desired instead to trust his idols and powerful allies, we will often choose to refuse God's help and instead rely on our own powers and allies in a time of crisis.
So, what are our idols?
But, even in the face of God's merciful judgement on Earth, we still have to choose to trust in Him and follow His commandment to love our neighbor. We must see the ways in which God is burning away our dependencies and idols so that we may 'burden Him', not trusting in powers and idols, as Ahaz did when Isaiah asked him to trust in the Lord. We must not sacrifice the lives of our at-risk brothers and sisters - the poor, the elderly, and the frail - to the idol of economy and money, as Ahaz did to his own sons in the name of prosperity. We must use this as a time of repentance for all that we worship in place of the Lord God Almighty who is all good and deserving of ALL of our love.
Our Father, who art in Heaven,
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 Jason and Jessica Wilde
This past week we hosted our second mission trip here in Coopevega. This group was from Bishop Lynch, a Catholic High School in Dallas.
On this trip, we focused our work projects on one small road in Coopevega. On Dona Mira’s house, we replaced a badly leaking roof and painted the exterior walls, while in another house we installed wood floors (they had only dirt floors before) and replaced an outhouse with a toilet and septic system. We ended the week in this community with an evangelization night, where we saw many new faces and were able to invite them to Mass. Philippe, one of the older sons of Dona Mira, stopped Jason on the road Saturday afternoon to tell him that he was attending Mass because of us bringing God’s love to their community. It was so encouraging to see many of the men attending our ministry nights and Mass this past weekend, which is unusual.
Jessica drove Father Salvador, Chi Yu, and some of the high school students to visit Dona Maria. Her husband passed away about a month after the missionaries installed a toilet in their house last year. She lives a good distance from Coopevega along a farm road and gets lonely. Like a usual home visit, we visited with her, prayed with her, shared a testimony, and gave her food to feed her family. We thought our home visit was winding to an end, but you never know what you will run into on a home visit. Out of the blue, she asked one of the high school girls if she would “kill a chicken” for her. It turns out that she sells chickens and eggs to feed her family. Within minutes, Father Sal was helping the squawking chicken into the bag and an hour later we were bringing home some fresh raw chicken to be fried up for an afternoon snack. Father also helped the girls cut down a cocoa fruit from a tree. He sliced it open with a machete and we chowed down on the cocoa seeds.
While it is essential for us as missionaries to feed the poor, it is equally as important to support their efforts to work and feed their families. So from now on, even though her farm is out of our way on a deserted dirt road, we will be getting our chicken and eggs from her instead of the supermarket.
Both of these are great examples of how missions provide so much more for the local community than just a new roof or a week of food - in both cases we are able to use the newly formed relationships to achieve our true purpose of walking with the poor and bringing them along with us on our journey to God’s Kingdom.
With love and prayers,
Jason and Jessica Wilde
by Jason and Jessica
This powerful statement and our nation’s motto, though always controversial, seems to be something that we can always turn to in times of need. I mean, what else could give us a greater peace of mind than knowing that our Lord has everything in control, guiding us to our final destination with Him? I know that whenever I have faced a stressful situation, or have been worried about the health of my child, I am completely calm and collected, just falling down and telling God to take control.
Ok, so maybe this last part is a stretch.
One of the many little things that I’ve learned about myself throughout our formation here at Family Missions Company is that I am a control freak. I’ve survived much of my career by always trying to handle everything myself, knowing every answer, every solution, and every possible outcome. In chess terms, I like to always have an ‘end game’ in mind (Jessica still won’t play chess with me for this very reason).
When traveling, I had every logistic travel component planned down to the specific bus stop saved to a Google Doc on my phone, ready to be armed with it when we stepped foot on foreign lands.
But then we let God slip into our lives, and everything went haywire.
As we’ve shared before, Chi Yu’s adoption was anything but predictable. We never really knew what was going on until we received a frantic fax needing our signature before being sent back to China. And we really didn’t fully know his medical situation until at least six months after he had been home with us. But, from the first moment we met Chi Yu, his limb difference was not a disability for him. In fact, his limb difference is his greatest strength. Because of it, he is the most determined and energetic kid we’ve ever met.
But he did have health problems. His pancreas was not working properly resulting in poor growth. To us, this was his greatest need. We knew that it was God's will that Chi Yu was our beloved son. It was God's will that we were becoming missionaries. So we placed our trust in God that he would provide the means to care for Chi Yu in missions. We knew that there is no better place to be than in the center of God's will.
But when the reality of paying for God’s trust hit, it shook us. It turns out that Chi Yu's pancreas medicine costs $1000 per month without medical insurance. We frantically searched for every alternative possible - and still it would cost about $450 per month in Costa Rica. For a missionary family living Gospel poverty, this would use up all our financial resources quickly.
Many suggested that we tried medical insurance. We started with a very promising and morally-oriented Christian healthshare plan, and they denied Chi Yu from the start. Think about that - our orphaned foreign-born son was rejected by an organization that claims the same book that says “He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing.” (Deut 10:18)
Now don’t get me wrong - I am not downplaying the role or importance of any kind of insurance as a safety net for many people. But, I am concerned when it replaces the trust that we should be placing in our Savior, or when it replaces the standards of charity that we are called to live by as Christian witnesses. Many of the now successful insurance companies were at one time just an organization of brothers who decided to care for the least of them when times were tough. But somewhere along the way to modern day maturity, they have instead become financial contracts of trust and safety that we have all learned to depend on religiously (most literally) to replace the trust in God and our neighbor. I can’t help but think that placing the phrase “In God We Trust” on the very dollar bill used to buy insurance is a powerful image of this idolatry.
For three months, we prayed for a miracle. We prayed that God would provide the medicine at a low cost or do the impossible - heal him completely. We knew this was God's mission not ours so we knew He had a plan for us to care for our son and to go on mission. We just had to trust Him, which was extremely hard. To be honest, the complete trust wasn’t there - we also kept worrying and working on our own solution in the background.
(Jessica): Over our Christmas break, we took Chi Yu to his gastro doctor for his regular exam and she was pleased by his growth. When I asked her to order a test to see if his pancreas had started producing the missing enzymes, she hesitantly reordered it but wasn't very optimistic of any change due to his birth defect.
Later that week, we were at the movies when a trailer for The Miracle Season caught my attention. My heart leapt for joy at the hope that this would be our family's season of miracles. Then my flawed human nature set in and I started to doubt. Would we be able to care for Chi Yu in missions? Or would we have to go home, find Jason a job and rebuy everything we had given away? My heart sank. Were our dreams of being Jesus's hands in the world serving the poor coming to an end?
After the movie, I turned on my phone and saw a voicemail from his gastro doctor. His pancreas was now functioning normal, and now we could wean him off his medicine! God had completely healed him!
What is impossible for human beings is possible for God. (Luke 18:27)
We can’t but think that this was yet another lesson for us in this season of formation - that true faith and trust in God leaves us free to do so much more for His glory during our limited time in the flesh.
“Do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span? If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest? As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides.
Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Luke 12:22~34)
by Grace Wilde
Thanksgiving in General Cepeda is fun. We invited everyone we met in General Cepeda to a gigantic feast that we serve. The feast was delicious. But, afterwards I was very tired.
To prepare for the feast, they put 5 turkeys in the pila to defrost. (The pila is an empty fountain where we brush our teeth.) On Thanksgiving, we worked all morning on cooking and setting up. We worked on the decorations. We set up little bobble head turkeys at each of the tables. We also wrapped up silverware in napkins. We made a poster that said all the things we are thankful for in Spanish. We also helped peel potatoes - enough to fill a bag that was bigger than Chi Yu!
When the people arrived there were two shifts, so once you were done eating you took over someone else’s job. There was a greeter who greeted people and counted how many people came. By the end, around 250 people had been fed. Then they were seaters. That was our job. We were supposed to lead people to empty seats in the mission house. Then there were people who served drink, food, and dessert.
When it was time for us to eat, the food was delicious. But, my favorite food was the desserts. There were chocolate cake and brownies. There were also pumpkin muffins!!! I had a pumpkin muffin and it was delicious. It had chocolate chips and raisins in it!!
Thanksgiving was really fun and General Cepeda was awesome. I was very sad when we had to leave, but, I look forward to Costa Rica.
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: Jessica Wilde
Our short term medical mission trip to the Philippines was over. Genevieve dropped us off at our hotel in Cagayan de Oro, we walked upstairs to our rooms, and we fell on the bed and cried. We didn’t want our mission trip to be over. In fact, Grace said it took all the self control she could muster to not grab on to the back of Genevieve's car and hitchhike back to Canossa. We had all fallen in love with mission life.
The next day we took a short flight to Cebu. It was a shock to our system. We went from the beautiful simplicity of a convent to a lavish 3½ star hotel. For a quite reasonable $100/night, our executive 2 room suite came with a hot Asian-style buffet breakfast. We had an adequate supply of bottled water, two bathrooms (one with a large tub), and most importantly, hot water. But after spending a week bringing God’s mercy to families who could barely afford basic necessities or critical medical care, staying here felt so hypocritical that we fought to only use what we needed and keep living simply. Even so, it felt like we were missing something. We were missing the endless love of sisters who always had a hot meal ready promptly at 7am. We missed the wake-up call of a missionary crying out “Rise and shine and give God his glory…”. We missed the extra special prayers in pain as we poured ice cold ladles of water over our heads.
The next day, we took a Jeepney to the Basilica where the beloved statue of Santo Nino is kept. Magellan brought this statue with him on his voyage around the world in his quest for the spice islands. He gifted the statue to the locals in Cebu. It was the first image of Jesus in the Philippines and now a major pilgrimage site.
We walked into the dark church where Santo Nino sat in a side chapel for veneration. Long lines of people processed through the church to lay their hands on the glass surrounding and protecting him. We knelt down outside the chapel but within view of Santo Nino. He was stunning in his regal robes.
Santo Nino is dressed like a king. His robes are royal red and embroidered with gold. This was not the image of baby Jesus that I hold close to my heart. I tend to think of him as a poor boy swaddled in a manger. I think of his homeless parents searching for a safe home for their son first in Bethlehem and later when they fled to Egypt. As a young boy, I imagine him playing with his friends and getting dirty like little boys tend to do.
But through this statue of Santo Nino, God pulls aside the veil of poverty and shows us our King. Santo Nino is a beautiful depiction of how God sees the poor. God is often hidden behind a veil as seen in Jesus’s presence in the Eucharist. If only we could see with God’s eyes, I wonder how many poor, sick or imprisoned people we see on a daily basis are really princes and princesses in God’s eyes.
“Seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening; This is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world. Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.” (Mother Teresa, In the Heart of the World)
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 and Jessica Wilde
Jesus said, “Eat what is set before you.” The food is prepared with care and love. Missionaries trust God and receive His gifts.” (From FMC Missionary Heart)
A couple of months before leaving for the Philippines, Family Missions Company sent us an e-mail with various forms and information about our upcoming trip. One of the pages was titled “Missionary Heart”. On it was a list of rules to be followed by missionaries, and included what I thought were some critical items like “No Grumbling!”, “Smile!” and “Respect their culture”. But the rule that we knew we had to work on a little bit with our kids was “Eat what is set before you”.
To be fair, our kids are some of the least picky kids I know. They have visited 5 Asian countries and have lived through some of the more unique local specialties such as durian, stuffed baby squid, and fried bugs. They have even started asking for dragonfruit and gochujang (Korean spicy sauce) when we go to our local Asian supermarket. But, being kids, they still have their moments. So, we practiced this rule at home with diligence. We explained to our kids that when we are the guests, our host goes to great lengths with a generous heart to prepare a banquet just for us, so enjoy your meal and be gracious.
It turns out that every meal on our trip was pretty much everything a kid could ask for. Typical Filipino delicacies include fried chicken, rice, eggs, various stewed pork, some fried fish, and lots of fruit. In addition, the sisters at Canossa spoiled us with unlimited Milo (malted hot chocolate) at every meal.
These daily feasts made it even more sad for us to see the food, or lack of it, that most of the locals lived on. Many of the local Filipinos just don't eat meat because of the cost, and having milk is a special treat that one family enjoyed only when they celebrated. We watched a mini-documentary on a flight that showed most farm workers living off of one single meal of a scoop of rice, a boiled egg, and a dried sardine, wrapped in a banana leaf to keep fresh, per day!
On one of the many drives through the countryside around our mission post in Malaybalay, we passed by a grain elevator on the edge of a rice field. Hung on a wall just outside the elevator entrance was a sign that simply said:
This reminded me of a reference in Laudato Si in which Pope Francis notes that about one third of all food is discarded, “as if it were stolen from the table of the poor” (Catechesis (5 June 2013): Insegnamenti 1/1 (2013), 280.) I couldn’t help but imagine the couple grains of rice, (or in the case of our kids, entire spoonfuls), that spill on my floor at home, or the rice that I’ve left on my plate at a restaurant after gorging on a main dish.
One day, our family was asked to join a home visit to a family near the retreat center. We walked down the road about a block, turned onto a smaller road which soon turned into a mud path because of the rainy season which had just started. We walked past some of the most gorgeous green farms with cattle and pigs. A little farther, and we found ourselves in the middle of a village of little bamboo houses.
The family we were visiting was a farmer, his wife, and their 6 children. We were invited to sit under a tin roof protecting a few chairs serving as their main living space. We presented a bag of rice, they smiled in thanksgiving, and through some translation, we learned that at one time, he worked on a nearby corn farm, but now is unable to work. Then, he shared with us his favorite Bible verse, Proverbs 3:9.
Honor the Lord with your wealth,
Imagine the contrast between our family, who had never starved for nutrition a day in our lives, now being fed God's word by an unemployed farmer whose heart was filled with His word telling us to give the best of what we have to Him. We were reminded that Jesus is the bread of life. His word is the nourishment for our souls. Our plan was to provide food for a family in need, but instead we were graced with a spirit that would keep us from going thirsty or hungry again, if we remember this farmer's gift of God's word.
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.