Hello! As Holy Week begins, it's become a good time to share an update.
Local Ministry and Projects
Immigration Retreat Group
I've had the opportunity to gather some Latino friends together, mainly from St Anthony Shrine in Boston, to form a small group of 8 people and finish the immigration retreat that we had started to plan last March. It fell through when there were coordination problems with the staff at the Shrine, and it seemed dead in the water. But there had been good progress already made in the planning, and some of us still wanted to do the retreat. It occurred to me that it would be better to do it in a small, casual group first, instead of the plan (last year) to open it up to the whole Shrine community. Since it's a new retreat and concept, it became obvious that it needed some "beta testing", as the engineering term goes. So we have been meeting at someone's apartment in East Boston, and a week after Easter, we will have the retreat.
The goal of the retreat is for immigrants to identity, share, and memorialize their personal migration story in communion with others, by relating it to the Israelites' crossing of the Red Sea and the Paschal mystery of Jesus. The experience of God in the Israelites' migration results in a new covenant of relationship, and it forms the basis of their relationship with Him going forward in their history. It is memorialized continually in the Passover celebration, which Jesus celebrated on Holy Thursday evening, and which is the basis of the Eucharistic celebration, which continues to be the memorial and basis of the Christian experience of salvation. Each migrant can find, in their own "passover" experience, a new basis for their relationship with God, and a memorial of that to base their spiritual life on going forward in their new life. The retreat aims to guide participants along in unpacking that experience, noticing the action of God in it, sharing it, and memorializing it with a tangible, durable sign that can be taken home and serve as a memorial for the rest of one's new life.
This idea for a retreat fits well with Lent and Easter. I have ideas for follow-on retreats that address the forming of communion and language-cultural integration, which fit well with Pentecost. So, I hope this goes well and we'll go from there. If these do pan out, the next step would be for the group to take on a type of "mission", bringing these retreats to parishes and communities and accompanying others through the same process. So, we'll see!
Youth Group at Most Holy Redeemer, East Boston
A friend, Fr. Americo Santos, was ordained last year in Boston and is now in a parish in East Boston that is full of fellow Salvadoreans. I've been accompanying one of the Latino youth groups there since before I last left for Ecuador, and recently had an opportunity to share a presentation on mission. Since it was lent, I shifted the theme a bit towards my own testimony and what it is to be agachado, or crouched down. The theme was, 'crouched down and ready to be raised up', which got a good laugh. (I used some of the content from this recent blog reflection. But I included my own story and testimony of having experienced that, and that opened up a great discussion in groups. The details of what I do in Ecuador were saved for hopefully a follow-on presentation near Pentecost on mission. So, the first talk was essentially about the experience in Lent and Easter of being ready to be raised up by God's coming down, and the second will be the response to that: giving what's been received. I hope it follows through!
Gathering and Fundraiser
I am hoping to have a meeting soon to share about this mission and what I am doing here and in Ecuador. I also am hoping to have a fundraising dimension to it. If you or anyone you know is interesting in talking about that and getting involved in organizing, please contact me.
I hope to give an update on the vision and perspective of the mission, what is happening and what is planned and what is possible - not so much covering all the background story that I shared in the first meeting in October. It will be based in the Gospel. There are still many things happening in Ecuador and much to be done in terms of bringing the Gospel, growing relationships, healing hearts and minds, and bridging between here and there.
I hope to open up more participation as a body. A simple way I look at a body of people is Face, Hands, Heart, Legs. A person can be more than one part. In fact, I've been all of those parts in this activity.
Heart: Prayer. people who want to pray for all involved. The heart is great and necessary, but it is the most popular because it is the easiest! We can't be all heart, we'd be a caricature of a body and not a real one.
Face: Visitors. I would really like to bring people down for a trip. In fact, this is a high priority, along with the Legs. I'm looking for people who would like to talk about this, so please contact me if you've even thought about taking a trip!
Hands: Ministries and Projects. To do this in Ecuador, of course you'd have to be a Face, too! But you can get involved in local language and culture exchange that I am doing. I can talk more about this in person or in a gathering.
Legs: Support and Mobility. Any administrative, resource, or financial support is appreciated. For example, I've run the numbers, and I need $5-10K annualized. The $5K would be the barest of bones existence, without petty cash for much of anything in ministries or projects, and essentially living off the people. At least $7.5K would give me more mobility and resources to do the activities I think can happen. And, while I'm in Boston, any assistance pruning and streamlining my stay - e.g., living situation and costs of living - would be helpful. The ideal for me would be a simple room to stay in while in Boston, with internet and public transport access.
OK, this one is pretty straightforward: both Barriers To Bridges and myself are very low on financial resources and looking for support. My personal finances are what I use for cost of living in Boston (excluding ministries/projects that are related to B2B). I'm aiming for part-time work, especially online. So far, it's been a process, so I'm not sure how it will pan out. If I can't get something sustainable, through adjusting income and living costs, then I will need to either stay in Ecuador, or stay in Boston working full-time. In either case, there would be a need to essentially reinvent B2B as a local-only activity, which I hope won't be the case!
Passport and Visa Renewal for Return
I've been in ongoing contact with Jason Healy of Family Missions Company about the new visa renewal process in Ecuador, which he is currently going through. The costs and complexity of the process have risen so that now the total cost of a 2-year visa can be $700. Add in my passport renewal, it's almost $850 this time. When I first went in 2013, I simply got a letter from the local bishop, paid something like $90 (if I remember correctly?), and I got a visa. But the government has been gradually making a lot of changes, and those have reached the migration department. These new costs are factored into my budget that I mentioned above. So, it comes with the effort….
New Books Coming
I've been trying to print two new editions of the book Flowers In Winter, which I published in 2010. It's a collection of 150 of the spiritual reflections that I post on my blog - you can purchase copies online here at Lulu.com. I sell at face value - Lulu's default cost of printing and shipping - and look for donations. (Neither the Gospel nor my own meditations are for sale.) I am currently cleaning up some editing on that version, and getting two new books, each of 150 more reflections, into print, too. The two new versions really pick up from my first visits to Ecuador in 2010 until September 2017, and so there is a whole story line - including my own changes - that unfolds amidst the reflections. The most tedious task is updating the Scripture passages to the New American Bible version, so that everything goes smoothly with copyright permissions.
You may have noticed a lot of the word "hope" in this update. What comes to mind is what Paul wrote in regard to hope, which is a good way to put things as they stand now:
I'd really like to do the gathering and get together everyone who'd like to hear more, and share the experiences with them. Please feel free to contact me and reach out.