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Turn to Jesus (Article)

On Mission with the Legion of Christ
A young man from Michigan tells of his recent experience on mission in Mexico.

Joe Carlson
This past summer I was able to go on a mission trip to Mexico with the Legionaries of Christ. I had been involved with the Legion from time to time prior to this trip, but I soon found out I had a lot more to learn more about them and myself. I took a closer look into the Legion this past spring when I went out east to visit a few of my cousins who are in the seminary. It was there where I was informed about a mission trip that was taking place in Mexico with Father Juan Guerra L.C. heading the trip and my cousin Patrick Leahy as the mission leader. I was extremely excited about going on this trip.

Upon getting ready for the mission, I had to get packed physically, mentally, and spiritually. Physically, I had to get clothes, religious items and candy for the kids, along with the ever-important handy-wipes. For those who have been on missions before, you know how valuable handy-wipes can be. Mentally, I wanted to be ready to work, and to be prepared for the roughest living conditions I had ever been in before. Spiritually, I was hoping to give the people there a stronger faith by being an example to them in the way I worked, played, and prayed.

I started my journey for this mission from Petoskey, Michigan by automobile. From there I traveled to Detroit, Michigan. It was at the Detroit Metro Airport, where we met up with Father Juan Guerra and many of the other missionaries. From Detroit we took a flight to Phoenix, Arizona. To say the least it was quite a climate change from northern Michigan. We then packed ourselves, all twenty of us, into a fifteen-passenger van and headed for the border. The scenery was nothing like I had ever seen before. It was a vast, arid, sand-covered area, with majestic rock formations shooting out of an area covered with cactus and tumble-weed.

After reaching the border we all got on to a Greyhound-type bus. I have been on a bus many a times but this was unique in the fact that at every stop you didn´t know what to expect. For instance, for the first time in my life I had to pay money to use the restroom, and it seemed that at other every stop the power was out because of storms. All we could say to ourselves was "that this was missions."

Ten hours later the bus ride was over. We had arrived in Los Mochis. There a Regnum Christi family invited us into their home to shower and for something to eat and drink. The stay was very refreshing -- but short. Within two hours of getting to Los Mochis we were on the road again -- or should I say we were on track, as our next mode of transportation was by train. This was a new experience for me that I would love to do again and would highly recommend others to do the same. Heading into northern Mexico in the state of Chihuahua I was expecting much of the same type of scenery and climate I experienced in Arizona. Come to find out it was quite the opposite. Just imagine being six thousand feet above sea level gazing at some of the highest mountains in the world covered with thick, green, almost jungle-like foliage, and holding your breath as you weave along the mountain´s edge looking into valleys deeper than the Grand Canyon with scattered railroad carts that have fallen off some of the trains, possibly because they were going around the curves a little too fast. Along with the fear that somewhere along the tracks some bandits could stop and take over the train at any time was just an added bonus of riding a train through remote parts of northern Mexico. But the excitement of the view was much too great to be distracted by our fears of what could have happened.

After fourteen hours on the train and two days total of constant traveling, we had reached San Juanito, home of the parish where our mission was based. From there we were dispersed to many of the surrounding villages. I was sent to a small village called Yeposo. To get to Yeposo we had to take a truck with three people sitting inside but the other three bouncing on the flatbed in back -- and I mean bouncing. Yeposo was only two hours away, and I figured that I could handle that since I had already been traveling for two days straight. Well after several wrong turns, being stuck in foot deep clay, carrying all of our luggage and food down a mountain side on foot to the wrong village, and sitting in the back of a pick-up truck with all our luggage in the pouring rain ... it took us seven and a half hours to reach Yeposo!

The journey there was chaotic but well worth it. The village was in the most beautiful lush, green, valley, surrounded by the most picturesque mountains I had ever seen. Even though the view was great, our group had the roughest living conditions. The house we stayed in had dirt floors, a leaky cardboard roof, no electricity, no bathrooms, no shower. This is what I had hoped, prayed and was mentally prepared for: as you can see there was a lot of work to be done.

We had two main goals to accomplish on our mission to Mexico. The first was to bring people back to the Catholic Faith, and to give them the spiritual direction and guidance needed to continue and deepen their faith after we were gone. Our second goal was to find out what their physical needs were, and to take care of them if possible, or to help them with their everyday chores. We went door to door talking to people about their faith and letting them know the activities we were planning, whether it was Mass or catechism class for the adults or the children. For example, at one of the villages we did a skit of the Good Samaritan, and that is something that the adults and the children said they will remember and cherish for years to come. With adults we would read from the bible and talk about some of the points it brought up. Everyday we were there we gathered the village up for a daily rosary and would process around the church with candles and a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe leading the way.

You could see in their deep, dark, eyes the yearning to hear stories about Jesus´ life and what they can do to improve their own faith lives. These sorts of activities combined with door-to-door evangelizing enabled us to leave an imprint in their minds and in our own for years to come.

For the most part the people there were very receptive to us and were very interested in what we had to say. When we arrived there the people of the village told us it was three months since they had Mass. It was sad to hear this because some had fallen away but at the same time we were able to see them come back to the Church, and that was a very special and rewarding feeling to see not only adults come back to the church but also the excitement and enthusiasm that the children had when they were with us. It was an awesome experience for me and everyone else that went on the mission.

To accomplish our second goal of fulfilling the people´s physical needs we asked them what they needed, whether it was tin for their roofs, cement for their floors, lumber, or any miscellaneous items they needed -- whatever we could help them with. For example, one day we dug a four-foot by four-foot hole that was also four feet deep. We then we built a wooden box to surround the hole. This became our new latrine. Another time we hiked up into the mountains to find dry tree trunks and other logs for firewood, because wood was our only source of heat for warmth and the only way we could cook our food. When we found the wood, we put it up on our shoulders and carried it down the mountain to a house. We then got a crash course in the special art of chopping tree trunks. Many of us also helped put roofs on people´s homes using corrugated tin. It was easy to tell which houses the Legion roofed, because there were a couple extra dentsin the roofs, but it kept the rain off of the people and that was what really mattered. Some of us also had the opportunity to spread cement over the dirt floors in some homes.

There were many other odds and ends that we helped out with: cooking or cleaning, carrying cement bags or tin -- all part of our daily mission work. It was hard work, but I think that we all found it equally rewarding. I was shocked at how generous our hosts were to us even though they did not have much to begin with. But believe me they gave me more than I could ever give to them.

If there is one thing that I´ve learned from this mission trip to Mexico it is that our Catholic Faith is universal. It does not matter what language you speak, what nationality or country you are from, nor your financial background; our faith is the one thing that binds us together and the one thing that that we can show others how to live in the way we work, play, and pray. Even though I went into this trip knowing very little Spanish, I discovered that throughout the trip I began to understand their faith. And that my dear friends is our mission.

Joe Carlson



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