by Jason Wilde
When our daughter, Grace, was 2 or 3 years old, she was a bit of a night owl. We'd find her hovering over our bed at 5 o'clock in the morning, playing in her room just before midnight, or randomly wandering to and from her room at all hours of the night. But there was this one time when I remember checking on Grace just before going to bed myself when I found her huddled in the corner of the hallway, reading the story of the Annunciation in her Children's Bible. It kind of shocked me so much, not that she was clandestinely reading in the hallway, but that she was reading the Bible.
At the time, I don't think we actually had any other Bible in our house. Sure, I grew up always seeing the giant white book with gold embossed letters on our bookshelf, right next to the 28 volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia, but I could only count maybe a handful of times when I actually opened God's Word and read it myself (and all of those were part of either an assignment or trying to use it to prove myself right in some trivial argument). I guess I fell into the old excuse that "Catholics read the whole Bible every 3 years in the Liturgy". (While I can't prove or disprove this, it also requires one to actually read the Sunday AND all weekday readings to even be close.) Because of this, I can honestly say that I didn't have an intimate relationship with the Word of God, or with God Himself. To know God is to know His Word!
Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. - St. Jerome
The early Christians didn't have the Word of God in any written form - for about 300 years it was passed solely by word of mouth, tradition, and through teaching. Saint Jerome lived at the time of the Synod of Hippo, which identified the Greek and Hebrew canonical scriptures which we would come to know collectively as The Bible. However, Jerome himself didn't really know or read any of these scriptures, even though he was baptized and could read and understand Greek. Of course, he was a very learned and cultured young man. But in modern terms, he was a lukewarm Christian, far more passionate about Greco-Roman literature than about Christ.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. (John 15:3-4)
Then one night while sick with a deathly illness, Jerome had a dream in which he was being judged by God. He told God that he was a Christian, but Jesus countered that Jerome was actually a Ciceronian because he knew more about the Roman philosopher and his writings than about the Gospel of Jesus. This shook Jerome so much that when he recovered, he resolved to put all of his efforts into the Word of God, eventually translating it into Latin, the common language of the people at the time.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. (John 15:7-8)
Like Jerome, I called myself a Christian for many years, when in reality I was relying only on my knowledge and understanding of the Catholic culture and tradition I grew up in. I knew all about the fasts and devotions, rituals and prayers that are so prominent in a Catholic Church, but had very little personal experience with the Word, aside from hearing three short sections read to me every weekend.
This all changed when we signed up for our first mission trip to the Philippines. On the preparation list was a Bible (we actually had to buy one!) My eyes were opened to the Word as the missionaries directed us in reading, reflecting, and in praying with the Bible in various ways. For me, it was like spending time talking with a new friend whom I'd only seen in passing my entire life. After the mission trip, I was hooked! I began by reading through the entire Gospel of Luke, then Genesis and Sirach. My eyes were opened so much to the actual Words of God that I began to see things differently, to understand His ways and how He wanted me to follow. In many ways, it was the difference between visiting China without studying the language and visiting China with even a very basic non-conversational understanding of Mandarin Chinese. Knowing a few basic words really doesn't help you understand the announcements at the train station, or talk with the taxi driver, or even find the street you are looking for, but in learning those words, it helps you to understand how the traffic can seem so chaotic and yet organized, why people may seem to be so rude, and even why that elderly man is wanting to touch my child's hair.
If you immerse yourself into a foreign language, then you can actually rewire your brain...it affects how you see everything. (Ian Donnelly, Arrival)
Bishop Robert Barron explains how 'Arrival', a sci-fi movie involving an alien ship that suddenly appears on Earth, relates to the Word of God. In this film, the alien language is the central component that draws a linguist, a scientist, and an unhealthy supply of military involvement together to understand how and why the aliens suddenly appeared, and what they wanted with humanity. The language at first seems impossible to learn, but after spending time studying and exploring the strange figures in more detail, the linguist suddenly begins to understand and can even converse. She then comes across a word that causes great panic and alarm: "Weapon". But her study and understanding of their language allows her to look past the initial human response. She tries to explain that "The weapon is their language. They gave it all to us. Do you understand what that means?" to which the anxious Colonel answers "So we can learn (their language). If we survive."
Her response is pivotal, if not absolutely Biblical: "If you learn it, when you really learn it, you begin to perceive time the way that they do. So you can see what's to come. But time, it isn't the same for them."
In Genesis, "God said: Let there be light, and there was light" (1:3). God literally spoke 4 words, and all light now exists. Think about that! God's Word, His Thoughts, and His Breath all have power unimaginable to us. If we, as people of God, truly believe this, and we believe that the Bible is the very Word of God, then why would we use it? Why wouldn't we try to use the Bible as our language course to understand God's Ways, how He works, how He thinks, and how He loves? And even more, why wouldn't we speak it out loud as defense against Evil and Darkness (also known as 'Executing the Word')?
Language is the foundation of civilization. It is the glue that holds a people together. It is the first weapon drawn in a conflict. - Arrival
For the past three years, I have tried to understand the Language of God by reading it every day. Some days I forget, or get distracted or sidetracked. But I try to read it every day, from the Original Source. Even 15 minutes is powerful. In fact, if you read only 15 minutes every day, you can finish the Bible in a year! Now, I can admit that I have not consciously read the Bible in entirety, but I challenge myself every year to do so, and I believe it has truly changed me and my family. Every day, I learn the Ways of God and how He wants me to live while exiled from my Home. If you do not already, I challenge you to become more intimate and familiar in some way with God in this way. Some simple ideas are:
1) Pick a Gospel and read from beginning to end (over several days or weeks is fine!)
2) Do the same for an historical Old Testament book.
3) Read a Psalm each day for the next 6 months.
4) Even better, EXECUTE a Psalm out loud each day! "So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me empty, but shall do what pleases me, achieving the end for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11)
5) Play Bible Roulette - open your Bible to any random page and begin reading for 15 minutes.
6) Practice Lectio Divina - read any daily reading, think and pray about something that catches your attention, and then read again twice more. Refrain from reading another person's reflections or thoughts.
In addition, if you'd like to join us for a virtual Bible marathon to proclaim His Word around the world, we are looking for readers to fill 144 slots - 30 minute slots over 72 hours (the time it takes to read the entire Bible) - on the days leading up to Palm Sunday, 2020. Please see the link here for details and to sign up. We will be simultaneously hosting a live New Testament marathon at our parish in Littleton, Colorado and would appreciate the power of your readings of God's Word. Please contact us for more details if you'd like to join the live marathon.
by Jason Wilde
Every time I hear the story of Zacchaeus, I can’t help but think of this image of my friend and brother in Costa Rica who climbed to the top of a ladder in the middle of a street in order to tell the story of how we all need to be following Zacchaeus into that tree, looking for Jesus.
Luke portrays three kinds of followers in his Gospel, and it is appropriate because when we know Jesus is coming, there are only three possible responses to His presence. The first, and the preferred response, is that of Zacchaeus. He was the worst kind of sinner in the Jewish community - akin to anyone whom the crowds label as a sinner today - a criminal, an intoxicated beggar on the street corner, an LGBT brother or sister, a Hollywood atheist, or even your least favorite politician. But, Zacchaeus, even in his sinful life, was so much more curious about Jesus’ presence that he climbed a tree just to catch a glimpse. Like him, we should all see our own sinfulness and recognize that we should join Zacchaeus in that tree - if not in curiosity, then instead seeking God’s mercy. We should be standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity and in awareness of our own faults.
The second response is that of the crowd, who all knew Jesus was there, but just stood by, following others around them. There was no awareness of the need to reach out and see Jesus, but just knowing that He was there was enough. In many ways, this is a group of people who feel self-sufficient, “(asking) nothing from the Lord because he does not feel needy or in debt, but he feels that God owes something to him. He stands in the temple of God, but he worships a different god: himself. And many “prestigious” groups, “Catholic Christians”, go along this path” (Pope Francis, Mass for Closing of the Amazon Synod). I have been in this group before, not really looking for Jesus, but rather looking at the backs of people around me, the world, and just trying to follow what the world asks of me. I would seek out the group that I felt had the right political views and follow them, hoping they were headed in the same direction I should be going. I followed those who had wealth and power and wanted to imitate them because I had lost sight of Jesus.
The third group of people in the Gospel are those who stand at the front of the line or the front of church every day, but don’t seek Jesus at all - instead they grumble and try to condemn Him when He meets with Zacchaeus, for “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” (Luke 19:7) They affirm that Zacchaeus is a sinner, but aren’t really caring much for him, but rather to pin Jesus for a social crime. This is because in many ways, “we are presumptuous, able to justify ourselves, masters of the art of self-justification” (ibid). We forget that we are sinners altogether and instead seek to destroy the good that Jesus seeks out. How many times have we tried to argue that Zacchaeus doesn’t belong in the Church in our own justification of the Gospel message? How often do we try to criminalize clergy, bishops, or the Pope for accepting those who bring in different views, or even welcoming the outcast? How often do we applaud the ones who withhold Jesus from our perceived enemy? But even worse, are we doing it out of humility and holiness, or out of a desire to point fingers and de-legitimize the merciful one?
Like my brother, I would rather leave the crowd, acknowledge my sinfulness, and seek Jesus’ mercy in ways that no one else does. I call myself a “misionero loco” and will do whatever it takes to be in that tree with the sinner and the poor in spirit - because that’s who Jesus will be calling for. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10)
by Jason Wilde
“Hey, I noticed y’all’s shirts say you’re Catholic Missionaries…”
Not exactly a quote I get every day, but nonetheless, it helps me get past my fear of encountering a stranger. The stranger was a lone fisherman sitting by his pickup truck on a quiet beach in Louisiana. We had walked his way and briefly chatted about the 30 lb fish that he caught moments earlier and then gave to a nearby family sitting on the beach. His bait now wet again and line taut in the waves, he called us over to tell us that he too was Catholic, that a relative of his was a Jesuit missionary who he thought ‘did some good stuff’, and that he liked seeing us walking around the beach with our kids instead of watching TV or something else.
As we talked, I noticed an interesting looking contraption made out of PVC pipe. As I stared at it sitting by his truck, he began explaining how some guys had once caught an 8 foot Bull Shark while standing next to him, waist deep on the sandbar about 100 feet from shore. This terrified the fisherman as he didn’t like that one of the most aggressive sharks was swimming just feet away. And so, he built this PVC contraption which ended up being something like an air-powered potato gun for frozen squid slugs that he tied to his line and then shot beyond the sandbar from the safety of dry land. It really was a genius solution that would have never come about if he wasn’t placed in such an uncomfortable situation.
“Are you an engineer?”, Jessica asked.
The fisher smiled broadly. “No, I’m a Cajun.”
There are two responses to fear - fight or flight. This man could have wrapped up, sold his tackle, and found another way to live, or he could continue to do what he wanted to do in the face of a trial. But in the end, he did something better - he chose to look at the trial as a way to spark something new and better.
One of our conversion moments came in India when we were also placed in an uncomfortable and possibly dangerous situation. But instead of saying that we’ll never travel again, we turned to God, and He told us that we should lean in to our fear, traveling for His purposes.
Sometimes God uses these situations to allow us to revisit our life, step back, and turn to Him for a better answer. It gives us the chance to really depend on His wisdom and providence to rescue us, instead of thinking that we are in control and can work our way out of the predicament. As we begin the Easter season and listen to stories of the early Church from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, we can really understand the uncertainty and fear that was going through the minds of these poor fishermen. Their Rabbi was crucified for His teachings, and they were next if they were caught. But the Risen Jesus changed all of this - He told them to put away their anxiety and do the opposite of what human reason would have suggested. He told them to go and be courageous. With no leader and no home, they boldly stepped out and God rewarded them with miracles of healing, preaching, and conversion. When they were forced out of the city walls, they didn’t scatter but instead camped out and shared everything they had with each other.
One of the biggest dangers of our modern lives is that it is too easy to depend on ourselves, to place our security in the hands of reason, technology and insurance companies instead of in God’s hands. It becomes impossible to see Him working in our lives, and therefore become closer to Him, when we are constantly looking for the human solution to any insecurity. Our Church is not suffering because of lack of religious freedom but because we have freed ourselves from needing God’s help and therefore have lost our witness of a life truly dependent on Him.
In the end, the fisherman’s solution was an inspiration to us...a witness of sorts...that went beyond his worldly needs. It taught us that we too need to give our fears and our plans to God and allow Him to give us the blueprints that we need in our lives.
The old man stayed all night, sleeping in his truck on the beach with his pole and squid cannon. Then as we watched him pack up his tackle and drive away the next morning, I couldn’t help but remember that St. Peter was a fisherman...
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 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.
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.
When we announced our new mission post back in November, we described how the Holy Spirit is known as the wild goose in Ireland. It is only through the Spirit of God that one chooses to ignore the other gods of this world and do things that the world will say are crazy and dangerous. Like Saint Paul writes, “When people are saying, “Peace and security,” then sudden disaster comes upon them...and they will not escape.”
And so in this light, we have an announcement: We moved!
Ok, it’s not so crazy - we only moved 1 km down the road, closer to the ‘center’ of Coopevega. But it is still a pretty big deal for us.
When our mission team found out we were joining them in Costa Rica, the Brupbacher family lovingly reserved a home for us. And both families blessed us by fully furnishing our house. It was so nice to arrive on the mission field to a house with curtains, pots, pan, a stove, beds, bedding, etc
But then there was the house...
As little girl, I dreamed of a log cabin in the mountains of Colorado. While this isn't Colorado, our original home here is still my dream house. It has three bedrooms, hot showers, clean reliable well water, and wood paneling, which reminds me of a log cabin. Our backyard was literally a rainforest oasis with toucans, parrots, monkeys, and fruit trees. And all this for less than 130 colones or approximately $230/month to rent.
So why did we move???
The answer is simple...God! I've come to realize that most of the crazy 'Why' questions in my life can be answered with this one little word. God's ways often seem a little nutty in the eyes of the world.
One of the charisms of Family Missions Company is Gospel Poverty. This means that we are called to live a simple life so we can give our excess resources to the poor. This means living in solidarity with the poor.
Authentic Christians are not afraid of opening up to others, of sharing their living spaces and transforming them into places of solidarity. (Pope Francis)
For the first month, we were in awe with the beauty of our home. But slowly God opened our eyes.
Our neighbors were wealthy. They were land owners or work for the school. Our community was semi-gated. To get to the poor required us leaving our little community. When the poor would visit, we'd hear comments like "casa grande". While we were living simply, our house was not simple by local standards.
Another factor is that this little community was a kilometer (0.6 miles for non-metric gentes) away from the center of town on a farm. For us to serve the poor, get groceries or visit Jesus at church, was a long walk in the heat or rain. We quickly realized if it was this hard for us to get groceries, how much harder was it for the poor to reach us.
It is our call to live with and serve the poorest of the poor and this meant moving! So after a long month of text messaging with the landlord of Casa de Jesus, we officially moved into the apartment adjacent to it.
Now it is our chance to choose Gospel Poverty to choose to live truly in solidarity with the poor. This means sleeping under mosquito nets, using a public water system that fails daily, having dust from the dirt road cover everything, listening to loud music from the American boutique across the street, and taking lots of cold showers.
So is it worth it?
To know and serve Jesus in the poor is always worth the cost.
Luke does not speak of poverty “of spirit” but simply of those who are “poor” (cf. Lk 6:20). In this way, he too invites us to live a plain and austere life. He calls us to share in the life of those most in need, the life lived by the Apostles, and ultimately to configure ourselves to Jesus who, though rich, “made himself poor” (2 Cor 8:9). (Gaudate et exultate)
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 Brecklyn Wilde
At the mission post in General Cepada, Mexico we helped with home visits. Home visits are when you visit someone’s house, talk with them, read from the Bible, pray with them and give them food and medicine.
During our first home visit, all we knew about where the person lived was that it was green and by the market. It was easy to find houses near the market, but the problem was that all of them were green! We knocked on two people’s houses and they both said to go further. So we went around the corner, and there was the one green house amongst the red and orange houses. We came in and a nice lady greeted us. Her husband has Parkinson’s disease, but the missionaries knew that beforehand, so they had bought him some medicine for it.
One of the single ladies that went with us on our home visits name is Shayna. She ties her rosary around her arm. I do too! When we walk to the different houses, we hold hands and carry each other’s crosses. We pretend to ‘help carry each other’s crosses’ along the way.
Another time, we met a lady who owned a candy store. She had two girls. One of the singles that was in our group was talking in Spanish to the youngest girl. Then she saw the girl’s sister get some candy, so the younger girl started crying. Then the mom gave the girl a big big marshmallow in the shape of a flower. Then she offered it to all of us. We took it and ate it. It was so good! I wish we could have them again.
Another house we went to there was a man who had a wheel chair. His house was full of flies. Grace, Alex, and a couple of the other kids with us had to go to the bathroom.
I didn’t have to go then, so I stayed in the house. When I came out, I found out that all the kids had climbed on top of the man’s roof. There was a big barrel. They used that to climb down. I found out that Alex had fallen into the barrel and couldn’t get out!
And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said:
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.