Ali's Mission

Dear friends, This web-log has been created as a public witness to the transforming love of Jesus Christ in my life. It is the greatest desire of my heart that all may know, love and serve Him who is so worthy of praise. I invite you to read my personal testimony of the joys and challenges I encounter as a Catholic missionary in Belize, striving to take the Good News to the ends of the earth.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Bash it up Church style!

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Here we are "bashin' it up Church style" as the teens like to say at the Charismatic Youth Conference in Belize City. It was great to be able to bring some of our teens over to the mainland and see other young people who are active in the Church from across the country. Praise and worship was definitely a cultural experience, bringing Belizean flair to the whole day. Alison and Courtney were our hosts and I gave a workshop on dating and a pep-talk encouraging the youth to go to confession. I felt like a Gospel preacher up there with all of the "amen"s, "ummmhmmmm sister"s, and "alleluia"s coming from the crowd. It was hilarious, especially considering that I was one of the only white girls there. I felt like I had arrived at being one with the Belizean people. :)



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Here is our group of teens waiting to catch the water taxi back to San Pedro after a full day at the Charismatic Youth Conference in Belize City.


Church Girls

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Here we are, the "church girls" as the San Pedranos like to call us. I am on the far left with one of our beautiful candidates for confirmation, Courtney, Ann, and Alison.


The line-up

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The boys

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The girls

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Courtney and I were just beaming with pride.


Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Clothed with Power from on High...

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I couldn't believe that these were the same kids that I had been teaching all year when I saw them dressed up for their Confirmation day. They look like such ladies and gentlemen, don't they? If you could see the homes some of these kids live in and understand how poor many of them are, you would be amazed that it could be possible for them to be dressed in such finery for this day. They are steeped a culture that assigns great significance to setting the Sacraments apart in this way. Nothing less than the best will do. Although this can be frustrating at times, when it feels like the clothes or party is more important than what takes place in the Church, overall the visible manifestation of the wonder God is working provided by this tradition is beautiful.

Full Initiation

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A few of our Confirmation students were also preparing for the other sacraments of initiation. It was such a joy to see them be baptized into the Catholic Church, receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and be sealed with His Spirit all in the same week. It is in those moments that I am reminded that being a catechist is the most wonderful job in the world. How could anything be more fulfilling than that?

Photocopies


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I love that this moment is captured on film.  It gives you a little glimpse into lives that consist of doing a bit of just about everything.  Preparing for Confirmation didn't just involve teaching the students, organizing retreats or planning music.  We also typed the program, photocopied it, compiled it and stapled all 14 pages for about 300 people the night before the big day.  Sometimes I laugh to think that there are actually machines that do all of that work for you!  Oh, the things that don't come in the job description and they never mention in methods class ... days spent sharpening hundreds of pencils by hand for the students to have something to write with; going outside and chopping down palms to decorate the hall for a jungle theme; cutting hundreds of flyers to invite teens to youth group with scissors in the absence of a paper cutter; writing tests by hand instead of typing them when the computer is down or the printer at the high school you work at is broken for a few months... ironically, I think I'll kind of miss those things when I return to the efficiency of life in the States.  Who would have ever thought that those little inconveniences would actually become endearing to me over time?  Crazy.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Confirmation Retreat

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Here is the whole gang of kids with the Franciscan team, totally fired up for their Conrfirmation. Seriously, I have never seen these kids have so much fun. From singing at the top of their lungs at praise and worship, to running around playing soccer, laughing at skits, participating in ice breakers and listening to the talks throughout the day, everyone involved had a great time.

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Here are Johnny and Kenny being boys. This kid can always put a smile on my face. I knew that he would keep class interesting on the first day when I asked everyone to introduce themselves by saying their name and one interesting fact (it could be anything) about themselves. This little guy stood up and said, "Hi, my name is Kenny and my friends call me Kenny with the big, fat belly". What's not to love?


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Fr. Scott donned some snazzy shades during and impromptu football game on the beach.

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Here is my small group enjoying lunch.

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With Paul on guitar and some very cool college kids not afraid to bust out the hand motions, these kids couldn't help but wave their hands in the air to praise the Lord.

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Who says that introductions have to be boring? I think that it was clear from its acrobatic start that this was not going to be your average day.

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With coffee in hand, I am gearing up for a great retreat with the kids on our boat heading to the Essene Way.

Franciscan Dream Team

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Talk about an answer to prayer!!! I still haven't decided if this enthusiastic group of students from Franciscan University of Steubenville were more of a gift to us missionaries or to the people of San Pedro. I was both in shock and awe of all that they were able to accomplish in one jam packed Spring Break week by the power of the Holy Spirit. Although the main purpose of their mission was to put on a three night Born in the Spirit retreat for the Catholic Church here, we took their offer to help us in any way quite literally and that ended up being only a fraction of their ministry. They were giving testimonies on the radio, making appearances on the television, evangelizing on the beaches, helping to teach our classes, leading music for the school masses, taking over the most attended LIFE night of the year and leading the BEST Confirmation retreat ever!

That God was behind their ministry 100% was an unquestionable reality from the joy that radiated from all that they did to the incredible fruit their time here continues to bear. The Holy Spirit quite literally took this island by storm and the mission has not been the same since. It was a breakthrough that continues to affect those we are here to serve as well as giving us hope and encouragement to persevere in the work that God so clearly wants to do in this place. Many of them are planning to return this summer. Ann Benage has some big things in the works including a Vacation Bible School for the kids and praise in worship in the park led by none other than Bob Rice! The San Pedranos can't wait for them to come back. If they made such an impact in one week, I can't imagine what a summer will look like. Look out, Franciscan University is moving in!

Where to begin???

To say that "so much has happened" since the last time I wrote would definitely be an understatement. From a spring break mission team from Franciscan University coming to San Pedro for a week, a Born in the Spirit retreat, Confirmation, an ALPHA course for the teacher's at the primary school, and a national conference for the youth of Belize to traveling to some of Belize's most beautiful tourist destinations and celebrating Easter at Franciscan University before basking in the presence of the Lord during an eight day Ignatian silent retreat, God has been doing some AMAZING things in my life as well as on the island of San Pedro. I'd like to share some of the highlights and pictures with you. Allow me to start at the beginning... This could take awhile.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Lunch with Bernard and his Mom

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Friday, March 31, 2006

From the mouth of babes...

Marcos and Courtney
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Isn't this little boy absolutely precious? It certainly didn't take him long to endear himself to us at a VERY funny meeting last week. Marcos wandered in to the parish hall where we were waiting for our weekly debreifing with Fr. Jim. Marcos loves the priests at the Church and was eagerly anticipating some love and attention from a father figure. After wrapping his little arms around Fr. Jim's neck, this is the conversation that followed...

Marcos: "Fr. Jim, I love Jesus."

Fr. Jim: "That's good, Marcos. I love Jesus too" (Father then procedes to begin our meeting)

Marcos: (pulling on Fr.'s sleeve) Fr. Jim?

Fr. Jim: Yes, Marcos?

Marcos: "I love Mary too".

Fr. Jim: "That's very good, Marcos. She is our mother." (Again, Fr. attempts to get down to business.)

Marcos: Ummm, Fr. Jim?

Fr. Jim: (very patiently) Yes, Marcos?

Marcos: "I hate the devil".

Fr. Jim: "Me too, Marcos. Don't even talk to him, just talk to Mary and Jesus".

Marcos: "Yeah. The devil is a piece of shit!"

Fr. Jim: "Well, that's true... but let's find a nicer way to say it"

At this point, all of us including Father Jim had dissolved into uncontrollable laughter. From the mouth of babes, huh? I know this story is slightly inappropriate but it was just way too funny not to share. :P

Bernard's Testimony Photo

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Here it is...the picture that will remind us all of how good God has been to this kid. He is doing great by the way :) I've gotten a few very joyful e-mails and phone calls and I can't tell you how good it is to hear him laughing again. I am going to Benque next week to take both Bernard and his mother out to lunch to celebrate his return to LIFE. I'll take some photos so that you can see him smiling.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Bernard's MIRACLE!!!

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL OF YOUR PRAYERS!
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I am ecstatic to report that Bernard is out of the hospital with a clean bill of health. He is still a little weak but is more than well on his way to total recovery. This is an AMAZING story...
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So, all of the blood tests and exams came back to detect the amount of poison still in Bernard's system. Miraculously, all results indicated that his insides are "normal". This is totally unheard of in cases of Gramazone poisoning. In the VERY rare circumstances that someone lives after consuming it, there are still traces that can cause significant organ damage in a person's system.
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The doctor was so puzzled that he asked Bernard's mom to bring in the bottle to test the remaining poison and see if it was truly gramazone. His only explanation was that it must have been an inactive or weak strand. After taking it to the lab though, it was proven to be gramazone with full potency.
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So wow seriously, the only explanation for this one is God's intervention! Praise YOU Jesus!!! He has heard our prayers and given this precious boy another chance at life. There is so much happening not only in his heart but the hearts of his family as well. It has been such a blessing to witness His hand drawing them to Himself.
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Bernard has not missed a day of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist since the night he became a Catholic in the hospital. He is now talking about becoming a priest and his mom took a picture of him hooked up to the dialysis machine to show people when he gives his testimony!!!
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Totally unbelievable.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Fellowship of the UNAFRAID

Time is flying and Confirmation is a mere two weeks away. With this final Sacrament of initiation just around the corner, I gave our candidates a major pep talk in class this week. I felt a little like a coach in the locker room before the big game...urging them to play like they have never played before. This is no game, this is life...this is eternity. Whose team are they on?

On March 27, sixty some Standard Five students in San Pedro will stand before the Bishop and the Church with all of heaven as witness to declare their “YES” to God. Confirmation means “with strength”. Their “I Do” in the renewal of each of their Baptismal promises cannot be a wishy-washy, lukewarm profession. They are called proclaim with FIRMness their decision to follow Christ...that they believe in all that the Catholic Church has passed on to us through the ages, that they reject Satan and all of his empty promises.

They will be anointed with oil, and sealed with the Spirit for all eternity. There is no going back. An indelible mark will be placed upon their soul that they belong to the family of God, that they are fully Catholic, that they are of the light and that darkness has no place within them. The inward grace worked in their hearts will be real and effective. They will be different when they go forth from their Confirmation than they were before. The gifts of the Holy Spirit WILL be given to them...

BUT, what they do with those gifts when they go forth from the Church in two weeks is up to them. Initiation into the Church does not remove free will and so, there are some whose gifts will remain unopened and unused...who will by all appearances be the same and this day of heavenly significance will seem to be no more than an excuse for a new dress or a party. This knowledge causes my heart to ache with what I can only imagine must be a mere shadow of a mother's care for her child's salvation. What are we to do for those who refuse to arm themselves with sword or shield...allowing them to grow rusty with disuse, exposing themselves to danger and death?

We cannot fight for them. All we can do is teach them and hope that they learn their lessons well. We can pray and plead with heaven to grant them the courage to accept the challenge of the Gospel, knowing that everything they need for heaven has already been given to them. They are equipped with the armor of God to be soldiers for Christ. May they have the strength to take up their sword and fight!

There is an incredible story of a spiritual warrior that I shared to end class yesterday. You may have heard it before. Even so, it is worth hearing again.It is a story about a man in Africa who was working in a factory. Everyday he would take his Bible with him to work. He was teased and persecuted daily for doing so. Finally, a day came when someone told him that if he brought his Bible to work with him again, they would kill him. He went home and prayed that night. The next day he went to work with his Bible and was killed.

When people cleaned out the place where he lived, there was barely anything there. He had very few possessions. However, there was one thing they found – a paper taped to the back of his door. They later learned that he read this paper every morning before going to work...

“I am part of the fellowship of the unafraid, the decision has been made. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense and my future is secure. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded or rewarded. I NOW LIVE BY FAITH.

Lean on His presence, love with patience, live by prayer and labor with power. My face is set, my pace is fast, my goal is heaven. My road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my guide is reliable and my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised or lured away, turned back, divided or delayed. I will not run from sacrifice or hesitate in the presence of hard times. I won't give up, shut up, let up, or slow up until I have stayed up, stirred up, paid up and spoken up for the cause of Christ. I AM A DISCIPLE OF CHRIST.

I must go until He comes, give until I drop, preach all I know and work until he stops me. And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. My banner is clear, I am part of the fellowship of the UNAFRAID!!”

Whew, that's pretty amazing isn't it? Just reading it gets me all fired up...ready to take on the world. (haha, I guess that's why I've earned the nickname “chicken hawk” in my family. Sometimes I forget how little I am and am ready to storm the gates of hell for souls...) BUT, the good news is that it isn't quite as crazy as it sounds. Like St. Paul says, I boast of my weakness because when I am weak then HE is STRONG! “He that is in ME is greater than he that is in the world.” “The task ahead of us is never as great as the power behind us”. Should I go on? :P (You know I can't resist.)

For if, “neither life nor death, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor powers, neither height nor depth nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39), what have we to fear?! This African martyr was right on, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! May we all have the grace to join him in the fellowship of the unafraid.

This is my constant prayer... for my own soul, for all of you, and for the people of Belize. Please join me in this intention for those preparing to be confirmed on March 27, 2006. May they fan the fire of the Holy Spirit into flame in their souls so that they may be witnesses to the truth. May they have the courage to persevere, to use the gifts given to them to spread and defend the Faith. May they become SAINTS, in Jesus' Holy Name! Amen.