Since becoming a missionary, I’ve had a lot of doubts and sometimes don’t know what I’m doing here in the Philippines. It’s a lot harder than I ever imagined, and I don’t know why God chose me to be His missionary. Even as I sat down to begin this update that I was basically forced to write, I had thoughts of giving up and going home. Missions is the hardest thing I've ever done. But God always has a way of reminding me of why I'm here.
During our In-take training last November in Mexico, we were told of a super typhoon named Yolanda that had hit the Philippines destroying many small islands and killing many people. We all knelt down and prayed for the victims and prayed for our fellow missionaries, the Leano family, and Father Joe, a Filipino priest, who were trying to get to the affected area to bring relief.
As more information came to us in the following days, I felt extremely sad for the people and wished that I could help. Being from South Louisiana, I’m no stranger to devastating storms and wanted to help the people in the Philippines because that’s what we Cajuns do after the storm---help each other recover. Little did I know that God was going to grant my wish. A few days later, we were told that we were being sent to Malaybalay in the Philippines for our first mission post.
One of the first things that came to mind, after the shock of being sent to the other side of the world, was that I might be able to help with the typhoon relief. The Leanos and Father Joe had been bringing food and water to some of the islands. (Read about it here, and here, and here.) I hoped to be able to join them once we got to the Philippines, so we kept in contact with the Leanos as we began to prepare to leave the states and learned that the main thing the people one island, Hilantagaan, desperately wanted was for their chapel to be rebuilt. They had no electricity, no food, no water, but asked for their church to be rebuilt because they knew the real necessity during this time was Jesus.
Before we left in January, we had a bake sale at our home parish in Jennings to raise money for the chapel and began planning a trip to the island with the Leanos. In March, after taking a month to get settled in Malaybalay, I made my first trip to Hilantagaan to begin the rebuilding of the chapel. We were blessed to have extra missionary men come with us to the Philippines and were even more blessed when they agreed to join the trip to the island.
Although it had been four months since the storm, I was shocked to see that there was still so much devastation and still no electricity on the island. Yet, the people were happy. We set up tents and hammocks inside of the shell of a home and spent a week there with no amenities like electricity, running water, or a bathroom. It was a tough, but no one complained because we knew these people had been living like this for months.
During the week, we helped haul cement blocks and mixed a lot of cement by hand in order to get the foundation of the chapel laid before we left. The people were so gracious and thankful not only to have the funds to build their new chapel, but to have the missionaries from the U.S. there working side by side with them. I wanted to stay and help finish the chapel, but knew that I needed to get back to my family and mission post in Malaybalay. I hoped that I would at least be able to come back to see the finished chapel one day. (Read about this first trip here.)
|Thank you OLHC for helping to get our new chapel started!|
By the end of July, the chapel was complete except for some finishing work. Ramon Leano and I were able to plan a trip back to the island to help celebrate their first Mass in their new chapel. This time I decided to take our two boys, Joshua the Filipino boy that we are trying to adopt, and my friend Ricky. We arrived at the island to find that after nine months they still had no electricity and still lacked so much, but the people were even happier than before because they now had a place to celebrate Mass once again.
|March: The BEFORE|
|July: The AFTER|
The morning of the blessing and Mass was filled with excitement. All the ladies were sweeping, cleaning, and decorating God’s new house. I kept thinking about how long those eight months must have been for the people to wait to have a place where they could receive Jesus again. Once the ladies were done, I took a moment to look at the beauty of this simple chapel and felt so blessed to have been part of making this happen and to have been able to return to be part of this day.
The people began gathering for the blessing very early. And even before the priest had arrived from the main island, the chapel was packed. The kids even left school to attend this very special celebration. Afterwards, everyone came to thank us for the new chapel and to tell us how much it meant to them to have a place of worship again. I will never forget the true joy on their faces.
Now as I look back and remember their joy, I wonder, “How long would it have been before these people were able to rebuild their church if I had not said “YES” to His call? How long would they have had to wait to receive Jesus again if I had not said “YES” when God asked me to be a missionary? I still don’t know why He chose me to be His missionary, but I know that His plan is always better than my plan.
Thank you to all who helped in the building of the Hilantagaan chapel and all those who prayed for the typhoon victims. And thank you for your “Yes” to God’s call to support our call missions and our mission work.