Saturday, January 26, 2019

Kid Interview

I asked the kids some questions about our upcoming move to Peru.  Here's what they said...

1. What are you most excited about in moving to Peru?
       Alaina (5 yo): “It's warm a whole bunch!”

       Annabelle (6 yo): “Going to the beach and wearing our new clothes.” (I reminded her,
      “But we're not going to live near a beach.” She replied, “I know, but when we visit one.”)

       Michael (4 yo): “Getting new shoes.”

       John Paul (8 yo): “New things to see.”

       Merrilee (2 yo): “Jesus. Mommy. Daddy.”

       Robert (11 yo): “Just getting there and that it'll be warm.”

2. What are you nervous about?
       Michael: “Talking.” (in Spanish)

       John Paul: “Mosquitoes”

       Robert: “Getting a bad sickness.”

       Merrillee: “Two!”

       Annabelle: “Mosquitoes and getting a bad sickness.”

       Alaina: “Mosquitoes and getting sick.”


3. What do you think is going to be hard about moving to Peru?
       Annabelle: “Not seeing my friends.”

       Alaina: “Not getting treats on the ride because they're too sticky.”

       Robert: “Not seeing Zack and no warm water.”

       John Paul: “No warm water.”

       Michael: “Not getting treats.”

       Merrilee: “Not getting treats.” (repeating what she heard last.)


4. What do you think is going to be fun about moving to Peru?
       John Paul: “The bugs! Playing with them.”

       Robert: “Our free times are going to be awesome and bonding with Augustine is going to be
       awesome too!”

       Michael: “Eat bugs!” (Who knew that a kid who turns his nose up at enchiladas would think to
       say that eating bugs is going to be fun. Also note that it is unknown where he got the idea that
       bugs are a popular protein source in a Peruvian diet.)

       Annabelle: “The pretty beach at sunset.” (This girl can't get her mind off the beach.)

       Alaina: “Going hiking in the jungle and going to the beach.”
 

5. How do you feel about learning Spanish?
       Alaina: “Happy!”

       John Paul: “Happy.”

       Robert: “Nothing. Not excited but not bummed about it either.”

       Michael: “Happy.”

       Annabelle: “Happy.”

       Merrilee: “Learning Spanish!”


6. What's something you already know how to say in Spanish?
       Michael: “Uno, dos, tres” (one, two three)

       Robert: “Hola! Me llamo Roberto.” (Hi! My name is Robert.)

       John Paul: “Hola! Cómo estás? (Hi! How are you?)

       Alaina: “Buenos días! Alabare a mi Señor Jesus!” (Good morning! Praise my Lord Jesus!” <---
       part of a song they learned while in Mexico)

       Merrilee: “Buenos dias!” (Good morning!)

       Annabelle: “Baja al rio.” (Go down to the river <--- part of another song we learned in Mexico)

 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Recap of the Past Two Months

 

 
It's been almost two months since our last blog post so I'll give a quick recap of what has happened since. We ended our time in Mexico with another group of Americans that came down for a week-long mission trip. This was over the week of Thanksgiving. It was a busy week of work projects during the day and visits to the neighboring ranchos in the evening. One of the traditions at the mission house in General Cepeda is to invite the townspeople for a traditional Thanksgiving feast on Thanksgiving Day. It was estimated that more than 200 people showed up to eat turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, cranberries, and more. One older lady said on her way out the door, “Here, I never go hungry.”

Serving guests at the mission house on Thanksgiving.
Once we got back to Big Woods (FMC's home base in Louisiana), we had time to learn a little more about our new mission post in Peru. We were also given the opportunity to meet most of the missionaries who have been serving in Peru for the past year or longer as they were back for a “Year in Review” retreat. The group in Peru will consist of a women's team of four, a men's team of four, and three families, after all of us newbies get there.

Some of the Peru missionaries.  Missing 1 family, 1 single guy, 1 single girl, and a bunch of kids.
On December 5th, our family along with all of the people we've been going through Intake with, were formally commissioned as foreign missionaries. The next day started our month-long break. We went back to Florida to stay with Robert's parents during that time. It was a busy month full of finalizing our packing, continued fundraising, getting necessary documents for the visas we'll need, and even a week-long visit from some friends. 
 
Getting some time at the beach with friends.
 
The boys helping Robert load up our car with all our suitcases to head back to Louisiana.
We came back to Louisiana this past week to finish the last two weeks of our training. During this time we're getting talks that are pertinent to the transition period that we'll go through after moving to our mission post.
 
The kids were excited to come back and see their friends.
Although our training ends on the 19th, we likely won't be flying out to Peru until late February or early March due to the long processing time for one of the documents that we need in order to get our visas. We were disappointed about this to begin with but have come to accept it as part of God's plan, and that He must have some reason to keep us back for a little while longer.
 
Some things we still have to figure out (which may not happen until we get there) are: when and where we'll go to language school, if we'll have a house ready for us to move into or if we'll have to find one ourselves, how soon we'll be able to get a vehicle, and making a preliminary daily, weekly, and monthly schedule.
 
We welcome any and all prayers for a smooth transition to Peru, for the spiritual and physical needs of the people we will meet, and for our spiritual protection as we attempt to claim the area we live in for Christ!
 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

We're going to....


On our “desert day” (a day for extended prayer time) this past week, we found out where we're being placed for our first mission post! Since we've been in Mexico, we've gone out into the beautiful country here to have our desert days. This past week, we caravanned on crazy bumpy roads through the foothills into the mountains. It was an incredibly beautiful drive, passing through a quaint little rancho, an old, old man riding a donkey, a man herding goats with his dog, and a family riding a cart pulled by a donkey. 
 
Once we got to our destination, each of us were handed an envelope which contained the information we were anxiously anticipating for the past few weeks: which country we were getting sent to. The boys were praying for jungles and mountains for the past few months. Our oldest son, Robert, had been hoping and praying specifically for Peru. We eagerly took our envelope and make a short hike to an area where we could lay out blankets to eat lunch and pray.

 
 
 
Gathering together to collect our envelopes containing our future mission posts.
 
Going for a short hike to find a place to park ourselves. 
 
Our cozy spot.
The view from our cozy spot.
 
After eating and talking about the readings for that day, we let Robert open the envelope since he was the only one in our family that actually had desired a specific country. He barely opened the letter before announcing that we were going to Peru. We thought he might be teasing since he had hardly opened the letter (and because he likes to tease), but he wasn't! Our family erupted into laughter and cheers.

We don't know too much yet about the area we'll be going to. We do know that it's a small town near a larger town named Picota and that it's in a moderate jungle area at the foothills of the mountains. The town itself has a chapel but we're not sure how often the priest makes it to that chapel; people most likely have to go to Picota for Sunday Mass each week. The church in Picota is less than 50 years old, and the surrounding towns are still largely uncatechized. The local priest is a Spanish missionary and has specifically asked for a missionary family to come to the area. We are so excited about this opportunity to get to know the Peruvian people and be Christ to them, and encounter Christ through them!

We still have 3 more weeks of training left (this last week being in Mexico) before we take a month-long break for Christmas and New Years. All of us “Intakers” will meet up at the Big Woods mission in Louisiana again in January for about 10 days before we start flying out to our mission posts. Please continue to pray for us as we begin making some preparations for our move to Peru, such as figuring out housing, and when and where to go to language school. Please also pray for the people we will be meeting there and for the Holy Spirit to move in their hearts.
 
Here's some blog posts from some of the missionaries serving in Peru right now:
 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Our First Week in Mexico



We just finished our first of three weeks at FMC's mission in General Cepeda, Mexico. We left after dinner last Friday evening and drove through the night, arriving at the Mexican border around 8:00 Saturday morning. We ended up getting stuck there for five hours because there was some kind of issue the people at the immigration office were having with the vans we had rented.

As four of the guys sat in line after line and tried to work things out, the rest of us prayed and interceded for them and the people that didn't want to let us through. For some of the time, a large group of us sang praise & worship in the parking lot. Rebekah, one of the girls riding in our van, brought out her ukulele and sang praise with the kids and the others in the van with us at the time. I was edified by her prayers of praise and thanksgiving to God for giving us the opportunity to offer up the circumstance we found ourselves in amid our tiredness from the night of driving and our restlessness to get to our destination.

Just the week prior, we had been given a talk on praise, thanksgiving and rejoicing, and how central they are to the Christian life, and essential to being a missionary. Scripture is full of verses about praising and thanking God (particularly in the Psalms) and rejoicing in all circumstances. St. Paul exhorts us in Philippians to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again: rejoice! ...Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:4, 6-7) The Catechism tells us that “every joy and suffering, every event and need can become the matter for thanksgiving which, sharing in that of Christ, should fill one's whole life” (CCC 2648). It references 1 Thes. 5:18 which says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” This talk was a potentially life-changing one for both Robert and I – if we can truly live it out! And getting stuck at the border was the perfect opportunity to practice praising, rejoicing, and thanking God when we wouldn't normally feel like it.

As we approached General Cepeda, we were struck by the beauty of the area with all the mountains (which the locals apparently call hills as they are technically foothills, but to a Minnesota girl, they're mountains). We were told that the altitude here is one mile high. The town, which has a population of roughly 11,000 people, is what I would think of as a stereotypical Mexican town: colorful buildings, mariachi music playing outside store fronts, and warm, welcoming people. We are staying at the mission house in the downtown area, which was originally built in the 1700s as servants quarters. The night we got here, John Paul said, “I could get used to this!” and as I was tucking Annabelle in for bed, she said she wanted to live here forever.


Throughout this past week we have continued some of the same things we did at Big Woods in Louisiana: community prayer and meals, assigned chores, our Acts of the Apostles and Mission of the Redeemer studies, and a weekly “desert day.” But the biggest difference is that most evenings (and some days) we go out to the “ranchos” (small, rural communities) in the vicinity to hold Communion or prayer services at the local chapel. This has been an awesome experience and opportunity for us to meet the people here and learn a little bit about their particular needs.

Community meals
A General Cepeda neighborhood
Most of the time, when we get to the rancho, we go door-to-door inviting people to come to the chapel for the communion/prayer service. Unlike in America, it isn't considered rude to bang on a person's door and yell, “Buenos dias!” to get them to answer the door. The people we've talked to have been so kind despite us not knowing Spanish and having t
o read our invitation to them (completely botching some of the words).

A rancho chapel
Lots of kids have been coming to the chapel at most of the ranchos we've visited. At one, they
Lauren playing Duck, Duck, Goose with kids
gathered outside and played loudly while the adults were inside for the prayer service. I went outside with our kids not long after the service started because they were getting antsy and it seemed to draw even more kids over. It's amazing how the language barrier doesn't seem to matter with kids. They interact and play just as well as if they spoke the same language. I had many girls coming up to me asking questions about baby Aaron (What's his name? How old is he? Can I hold him?). Lauren, one of girls going through intake with us, organized a game of “Duck, Duck, Goose” for the little kids while Robert, John Paul, and some other missionary kids played another made-up game with the bigger kids. That prayer service lasted particularly long because most of the people there asked to be prayed over, so the kids were able to play for quite awhile.


Someone shared that at a rancho they visited, an older woman was out of breath as she came to the chapel after they rang the bells indicating that there was going to be a communion service. She said she had been out in the field working with her 99-year-old father when she heard the bells ringing and came running. She shared that she has been feeling forgotten by the Church because the priest rarely visits that rancho and there's a lack of presence at the chapel there. At the mission house, there's a map of all the ranchos in the vicinity and there's simply too many for the amount of missionaries here to effectively minister to
them all. Just another reminder that the Church is in desperate need of more missionaries!!

Playing outside with kids after a Bible Study at a rancho chapel

Gathering outside a rancho chapel to talk with people
Singing fun songs just before a prayer service starts

Inside a rancho chapel
This coming week, we will likely be finding out which country our family will be getting sent to for our first mission post. We'll try to write another post next week to make the announcement! The
following week, we will serve alongside people coming here for a week-long mission trip. We'll be celebrating Thanksgiving during this trip by inviting the poor to come to the mission house for a feast!

Throughout this coming week, I encourage you to practice praising and thanking God in every circumstance and in all things, and rejoicing even – no, especially! - in your trials and hardships. It's hard to do when you feel like complaining, but not only will it glorify God but it will change your perspective. It's harder to feel upset or worried about something when you're praising and thanking God for His Providential care for you and for all the good things in your life, even simple things that we take for granted like a warm house, indoor plumbing, and clean drinking water.


An outhouse at someone's house on a rancho

Be grateful for all that you have.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

A Glimpse into Intake


We just finished our sixth week of Intake, the 3-month training that we're going through with Family Missions Company. We arrived here on Sept. 8th, which happened to be our 12th wedding anniversary. If you had told me even 3 years ago that we would be celebrating our 12th anniversary driving to a small town in Louisiana to start training to become foreign missionaries, I wouldn't have believed it!

There are 5 other families and 15 singles going through Intake with us this year (60 people total). Next year's Intake will be even larger. In fact, it they won't be able to house everyone here at Big Woods (what they call the home base where we're at); it will have to be split between Big Woods and another location nearby.

These past few weeks have flown by! Most days, we have meals and prayer in common with the other Intakers at the “big house.” There are two morning sessions (a study on Act of the Apostles, a study on John Paul II”s encyclical “Mission of the Redeemer,” a teaching workshop or a teaching class). The afternoon is spent on work projects, assigned chores, prayer, and study. Thursdays are a service day where we go into town for different works of service. Saturday morning is designated for work/cleaning projects and the afternoon is a “desert day” for extended prayer time. We celebrate a Lord's Day meal that evening, and Sundays are our day off.

Some of the things our teaching class has gone over is the Great Commission (Mt 28:16-20 & Mk 16:14-20), evangelization, to love and serve the poor, living the charisms of Family Missions Company, preparing for missions, what to expect at our arrival in country, working with the local people, and forming disciples. Our teaching workshop gives us the opportunity to develop 5-10 minute talks on a certain themes that we give to our teaching small group. These themes have been: our personal testimonies, giving the kerygma, the “5-point catechism” (prayer, God's Word, sacraments, community, and service), Bible teaching, and explaining Catholic teaching.

The kids have loved developing new friendships with the other kids going through Intake. There are 25 other kids besides ours, along with about 20 more kids belonging to the missionaries on staff at Big Woods.

One particular blessing of our time so far has been meeting some of the missionaries that have come back temporarily in between mission posts. It's been great to hear about their experiences in the countries they've been in (both the hardships and joys) and to be able to ask questions and solicit words of wisdom to us newbies. We've been able to meet the Carmody family, the Herrmann family, and the Wilde family (who are currently living just a few houses down from us!).  I've linked their blogs to their names so you can read about where they've been or are now. 

This coming week, we will be preparing for our 3-week trip to the mission in General Cepeda, Mexico. During our time there, we will continue with our formation in the morning but in the afternoon/evening we'll be able to enter into the ministries that the full-time missionaries are doing there. Our last week in Mexico will be serving in conjunction with a number of people who are coming for a short-term mission trip. Before coming back to the States, we will also be finding out which country we'll be getting sent to for our first mission post! It probably goes without saying that we're really excited for this part of Intake!

Please continue to keep us in your prayers and let us know how we can be praying for you!

The new chapel


Sunset at the "big house"

Robert playing guitar with Jason Wilde.

Many of the girls playing dolls & dress-up together.

Walking to the "Big House"

The Big House

What community prayer time looks like (this is a portion of the group)

Intake pals


Goofing around with the Carmody boys.


Lord's Day at the Big House.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Burden of Stuff and the Rich Young Man

Going through all the junk in our bedroom

The stress of getting rid of all of our stuff apparently took its toll on me. Soon after we came to Florida, I had dreams about us going back to our house and finding piles and piles of stuff that had been forgotten about and left there, and I'm frantic trying to figure out how to get rid of it all. In one of my dreams, I opened a door to discover shelves and shelves of towels and bedding set up like a Home Goods store. I thought about taking a picture of it to post on Facebook and on this blog to say, “Look at all this stuff we still have to get rid of!!! It's practically a store!!” Later in the dream I was relieved when I realized it actually was a store, and I decided to put all of our stuff in boxes outside of it for people to take.

Getting "organized" for the garage sale.  Stuff was everywhere!!
Since we've been here, we've gone through the boxes of clothes, books, toys, electronics, sentimentals, and other things that we brought down here to organize it better, and we still had more to purge. We had five big bins just of shoes!

I didn't realize just how overwhelming it was going to be to go through all of our belongings and get rid of it all. Through this process, the very thought of all of the stuff we've accumulated over the years has been a mental burden. What do we need to keep? How are we going to get through all of this stuff? What are we going do to with the stuff that doesn't sell?

We spent countless hours going through every thing we owned, had the garage sale, brought stuff to consignment stores, donated truck-full after truck-full of stuff, and gave a bunch of it away to family and friends. Even then, in the last days before our move, we still had so much stuff left that we resorted to filling up huge garbage bags to just throw it all away, including a hefty pile of big items for the garbage man to pick up and haul away for us. It killed me that we had to pay someone to get rid of our stuff!

I've been thinking again about the burden of our stuff with the gospel readings from the beginning of this week about the rich young man in Matthew 19. Jesus invited him to “sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (v. 21) but the young man walked away sad because he had many possessions. Jesus then tells His disciples that “it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven,” (v. 23) which is difficult for them to understand. 

This was one of the readings that spoke powerfully to me while I was praying about whether God was calling us to do foreign mission work. While we have never been rich by American standards, we truly are considering how most of the people live in the rest of the world. We've never gone hungry for lack of food, never gone thirsty for lack of clean water, never been cold for lack of clothes. Not only have we had all of our human needs met at every moment, but an overabundance of stuff that filled our house.

Check out the Pew Research Center statistics on the world population by income.  Most Americans are part of the 7% of the richest people in the world, living on more than $50 a day. Meanwhile, 71% of the global population lives on less than $10 a day (15% on $2 or less). A person considered “low income” (not even “poor”) would have had to work 15-75 days to earn the amount of money we paid
someone to haul our leftover junk to the garbage dump.  While we think nothing of spending an extra $20 at the store on frivolous stuff we don't really need, people all over the world go without the basic necessities of life. Is this “just the way it is?” Is this excusable in the eyes of God?


Although God doesn't call everyone to sell all of their stuff in the way that we did, all are called to be detached of material things and give generously to those in need. Consider these verses in Scripture:

“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:15

“But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?” 1 John 3:17
South Sudan
“For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that. Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains.” 1 Timothy 6:7-10

“Tell the rich in the present age not to be proud and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth but rather on God, who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, ready to share, thus accumulating as treasure a good foundation for the future, so as to win the life that is true life.” 1 Timothy 6:17-19

These are some quotes taken from the catechism that challenge the American idea that God has blessed us with material wealth for our own use without taking into consideration on how we're supposed to use our wealth:
House in the Philippines
Living the American Dream

“In economic matters, respect for human dignity requires the practice of the virtue of temperance, so as to moderate attachment to this world's goods; the practice of the virtue of justice, to preserve our neighbor's rights and render him what is his due; and the practice of solidarity, in accordance with the golden rule and in keeping with the generosity of the Lord...” Paragraph 2407

“St. John Chrysostom vigorously recalls this: 'Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs. The demands of justice must be satisfied first of all; that which is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity.” Paragraph 2446

“How can we not recognize Lazarus, the hungry beggar in the parable (Luke 17:19-31), in the multitude of human beings without bread, a roof or a place to stay? How can we fail to hear Jesus: 'As you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.'” (Mt 25:45)? Paragraph 2463.

India
I think it's safe to say almost every American falls into the consumerist mentality of our society, where we find happiness and pleasure in buying things, even when our houses get filled up with more than we actually need, even when we buy beyond our means. The focus on ourselves and our own wants blinds us to the needs of the poor around us, whether they be in our own city or in a far away country. All people everywhere are our neighbors, as Jesus teaches in the parable of the Good Samaritan. I challenge you today to open up your Bible and read the story of the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-30. Ask the Holy Spirit, “What do you want to say to me through this reading?” Is your heart stirred by a certain sentence? Stay there and reflect on it. What do you sense the Lord saying to you, personally?




Sunday, August 12, 2018

How to Donate to Our Mission


We have been getting questions from people about how to donate to our mission. As you may know, we are committing to serving the poor and proclaiming the Gospel with Family Missions Company (FMC) for two years. In order to do this, we have to raise 100% of the funds, which includes airfare to and from the country we will be working in, living expenses for our family, and money to serve the needs of the poor whom we'll be living alongside. For our family of nine, Family Missions Company suggests we raise at least $3,000 a month.

We consider those who support our mission as Mission Partners as it is only through their prayers and donations that make the mission possible. Therefore, they - along with us - respond to Jesus' Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19-20). John Paul II reminded us in his encyclical “Mission of the Redeemer” that this missionary mandate is the supreme duty of the Church and is incumbent upon all Christians. Since not every Christian is called to physically go out to the nations as Jesus commands, supporting missionary activity is the way every Christian can respond, and it's an integral part!  We, in turn, will be lifting up our Mission Partners and their particular needs and intentions in prayer through our Morning Offerings each day and at Mass.

Donations can be made online through our bio page on Family Missions Company's website: www.erismanfamily.familymissionscompany.com. There are options for making a one-time or monthly donation. One-time donations will help with individual expenses such as Intake fees, language school (if needed), and airfare. Monthly donations are our greatest need, however, as these make our mission sustainable.

Donations can also be made by mailing in a check. They should be made out to “Family Missions Company” with “Erisman Family” written on the memo line. If you would like to make it a monthly donation, please indicate that on a separate note along with the check. Mail it to:

Family Missions Company
12624 Everglade Road
Abbeville, LA 70510

If you have additional questions that aren't answered here, please contact us at 
erismanfamily9[at sign]gmail.com.