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15
Jan

Day 5 Browning 2016

DSC_2302In honor of it being the one and only Day 5, we all woke up at five in the morning. We then proceeded to clean up the bunkhouse while meditating on the meaning of life. We then hopped into the van and car and dance partied our way the school. We all took part in making the most scrumptious breakfast whilst bumpin’ the tunes for the students. We were making such a fabulous breakfast so that the children would be well nourished before the infamous MAP testing. All of the children departed to their rooms and, for once, settled to a semi-low roar, sounding similar to the distant rolling thunder of the rainy season. After Mr. H fixed any and all technical issues with the iPads, the students began testing and we started to settle in to the first peaceful activities of the week, including pastel drawings and reading of literature. Suddenly, our ruthless leader, Dan, violently tore us away from the one peaceful moment we had experienced all week. Dan was able to make up for his violent actions by taking us to a super interesting speaker named Darren Kipp. After a week where it can be easy to become discouraged by all of the struggles and hardships that these people have to go through, Darren was able to instill hope in our hearts before we headed home. His father, Darrell Kipp, started the school Cut Woods to save the Blackfeet language. They’re goal was to take around 20-25 children and immerse them into the language and culture in their lessons and games that they play during the day. Then, you know, we carried on with the normal school day…oh my goodness I forgot we went to mass before that! The mass was hosted by the seventh grade class. The students crushed the final song, belting out the refrain to Eagle’s Wings. After enjoying a nutritious lunch and blowing off steam at recess, the students prepared to take the reading portion of the MAP tests. By the time they were done, it was time for us to head out. We said goodbyes and had lots of hugs and fist-bumps with the students and teachers before hitting the road. We made one more stop on the way out of town to the Cut Woods school that Darren had told us about. We were able to get a tour of the classrooms and kitchen while we were explained how each day goes for the students. They told us about how it’s not only the language that the students learn, but also the traditional games. Another important aspect of their education is to talk to elders in order to save and preserve the whole Blackfeet culture. Before leaving the school, we were able to listen to Robert Hall, one of the teachers. We were all captivated by the amazing conversation about the Pikani (Blackfeet) language, and our desire to understand grew tremendously.

We piled back into the cars for our trek home to Helena, saying goodbye to two of our own along the way. We left with a mission. The De la Salle children and the Pikani people left a mark on our hearts and we know this was only a “see you later” not a “goodbye.”

Colter and Anna

14
Jan

Day 4 in Browning 2016

DSC_2289Today was another action-packed day at the De La Salle Blackfeet School. We arrived prior to the beginning of classes and had time to play with the students. What started as shooting around, slowly transformed into a highly competitive game of lightning. Although our basketball skills are still lacking, we managed to hang in there for much of the game.

Following morning assembly, we moved into our respective classrooms (4th for Kaycee and 6th for Kurt). The excitement from shooting around carried into the classrooms and brought an energy you could not overlook!

In 6th grade, the day began with science which is difficult for the best of us, but especially so for these riled up kids. After the previous discussion on mitosis and meiosis, the kids were ready for something…more. So of course, the teacher rolled out Magic School Bus to illustrate the formation of a baby chick in detail. This video surprisingly encapsulated all the energy the children contained and brought their focus to a deeper understanding of the chick life cycle.

Back in fourth grade, we also were struggling with this difficult subject and were treated to a Magic School Bus episode on plant growth. This helped with the students understanding of plant nutrition, and brought me back to my days in elementary school.

Throughout the day, we were reminded of all the blessings that come with assisting in classrooms full of bright, excited children. One was a blessing of patience. In the sixth grade classroom, Leah somehow found it funny to repeatedly splash me (Kurt) with water throughout their religion lesson. Even though at first I thought about telling her to knock it off, I tried my best to contain my frustration. I knew that she might never stop no matter what I said, so I decided to take it from her perspective and laugh at myself. This reminded me that I shouldn’t always take the moment so seriously and it helped me to patiently find the humor in moments of frustration. Another blessing I (Kaycee) experienced was the seemingly unending energy of children. While this sometimes seemed like a curse (especially late in the day), it was refreshing to remember to find excitement in every aspect of my day—even boring science classes. One particular student, Brooke, seemed to always be laughing. I loved the joy she contained and the reminder to me to take the time to enjoy myself regardless of the situation. As well as patience and laughter, another blessing we experienced was a blessing of awareness. When sixth grade was in the language lesson, Mr. P asked if I (Kurt again) could work with a student named Shawn. Previously, from our interactions I did not believe that Shawn wanted anything to do with me. While we were working one-on-one I decided to give Shawn a little break from his schoolwork and I asked him if he had made an origami fortuneteller that he picked up off the ground. He told me that he did make it and explained to me how to use it. I asked him if he could make anything else, and he said he could make a paper crane. I told him about my attempt at making a paper crane and how the wings couldn’t flap. So he proceeded to show me how to make a proper paper crane, and then gave it to me when he was done. We carried on a short conversation before we had to return to class. This conversation made me aware of what a nice and courageous gesture this was from Shawn. Even though I had only been around for a few days, he was able to open up about himself and teach me a few things along the way.

Although this is our last night here, we are looking forward to a full day tomorrow and more blessings to come!

Brought to you by, Kurt and Kaycee

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13
Jan

Day 3 in Browning 2016

DSC_2247Thank you for checking in with us today!! It is such a blessing to be able to work with all of the students at De La Salle Blackfeet School and learn about one another’s gifts this week. We all greatly appreciate your kind thoughts and prayers of support from back home as we aim to touch the lives in the Blackfeet community.

This is the second year I have served on this immersion trip, and I believe it is important to talk about some of the stereotypes or thoughts that may not necessarily be true regarding the Pikuni people. First and foremost, these individuals are just like you and me. Any crime, such as domestic violence or drunk driving incidents that have happened here, might as well have the same probability of occurring in any other town. It is far from the truth that the people in Browning are unfriendly or prejudice to visitors. On the contrary, most of the Pikuni people, as well as the students at DLSBS, have asked the immersion students whether or not we would like to hear their stories. Some of the tales are heartbreaking, while others are heartwarming. One of the greatest gifts we can offer in our service to this community is the ability to LISTEN.

When I engage in a conversation with a person from Browning, they tell me they do not hold any hatred in their hearts regarding the results of assimilation and the early European settlers’ passion for Manifest Destiny. However, there have been detrimental effects from these events on the ways the Pikuni people live their daily lives. Many have lost their cultural identity, original language, and even some of the sacred items that are necessary for specific ceremonies. Across the board, all students have some sort of a discrepancy between their ability and achievement in the classroom. This also goes to show that the students who are thriving in certain subject areas, may not be given enough differentiation in the classroom to grow in their talents. The only way to better understand these peoples’ ways of life is to COME HERE AND SEE THE INJUSTICES firsthand.

Yes, some of the people in this town have resorted to substance abuse as a means to end the long treachery referred to as historical trauma, only because they cannot break the cyclic behaviors. What you may not know is that the U.S. Congress passed a law in 1889 that forbid Indians from practicing their spirituality. This was, and still is today, a major contributing factor responsible for the families who live below the poverty line in Browning. The Pikuni desire to practice their SPIRITUALITY is comparable to the basic needs any human requires to sustain life: FOOD, WATER, SHELTER, AND LOVE.

As a Church community we are being called upon to reach out and help these people in Browning with whatever burdens or injustices may be holding them back from experiencing the true relationship between love for Jesus and love for neighbor. We cannot ignore the fact that there are communities, such as Browning who need not only our empathy, but also, the commitment to fulfilling their basic needs.

I ask you to consider the following in your own lives: Where do you shop? How do you shop? Has there ever been a time when you went without a meal? What is your main method of transportation to work? How long does it take you to shower in the morning?

“You know who you are,

You know where you come from,

You know where you are going.”

– Darnell RidesAtTheDoor

What is GOD calling YOU to do?

Megan

12
Jan

Day 2 in Browning 2016

DSC_2256What. A. Day.

Oki Nee Stew Nae Donny Kew (Hello, my name is _________), Baili.Ne Tutu (I’m from _______), Carroll College in Helena.

Our Immersion group started our day bright and early, shooting hoops with our PikGunii (Blackfeet) brothers and sisters. We were introduced to the boys, girls, and teachers of the De LaSalle Blackfeet School. Some of us had volunteered at the school in years past, while for some this was a new experience. We were all in for a treat, no matter how it came.

We worked with the 4th through the 8th grade classes of De LaSalle. Each class brought unique experiences, both trials and triumphs. For me, with the excitement and chaos of the kids I worked with today, it wasn’t easy finding God directly in each moment, though He was definitely there. From our shared stories that He graced our day with, it was clear that God presented Himself in a variety of ways. Whether it was working individually with a student, hearing their young perspective on any topic, or constantly quieting down a classroom full of energetic students, God was visible in each moment in each and every child. These kids come from all different backgrounds and families, all with different trials and triumphs. Just simply being with these kids, showing them God’s love and compassion, was an inspiration to both being given to and receiving from the beloved PikGunii children.

Back at the Mission Bunkhouse, Dillon and Megan kindly prepared dinner for us. We shared stories and reflected on the big day behind us. We then prepared our hearts for our guest speakers for the evening, Darnell and Smokey RidesAtTheDoor. The two of them have a beautiful ministry, and they shared with us the wisdom of Blackfeet Spirituality. No matter what you hear about Browning, Montana, they spoke to us of the truth, the divine love, and the respect the PikGunii people have for each other and for each of us. There was great spiritual and resourceful wisdom to soak up from their inspiring words. If we were to take away something from the talk, light and love for each other was one of the major highlights Mr. and Mrs. RidesAtTheDoor spoke about. “When you meet a friend in Browning, you will have that friend for the rest of your life,” were words directly from Darnell and Smokey.

Quite a full and inspiring day we had! I can’t wait for the rest of the week and all that is to come!

Baili

11
Jan

Day 1 in Browning 2016

DSC_2231None of us really remember getting up. We just awoke an hour into our trip on the road. Pretty sure Dan kidnapped us all. The first thing we remember is him asking us what our spirit animals are. Still not sure how all nine of us fit in a single van…

But seriously, at 6:45 in the morning, none of us were exactly wide awake! Dan zoomed up to the sidewalk in a sleek black Chrysler van, the bass booming and vibrating the entire vehicle. We tossed our bags in the back of the rental cars, and just like that we were off.

On our way, we stopped in Valier to pick up the last member of our fellowship, the MVP, Kurt Parker. We arrived at the Little Flower Parish in time for 10:30 mass. This was our first real encounter with the Blackfeet spirituality. They were truly a family, united not by blood, but by the Spirit of God. Walking into that Church was walking into a home. Throughout the ceremony we listened to the peaceful noise of a family, sharing a meal together.

The sign of peace was a special expression of this familial love.   There was neither end nor boundary. It was a continuous sharing of the joy of community. And again, we were not excluded. Though no one knew our names, they came from across the Church to share with us just as they did for their other brothers and sisters.

Our next encounter with Blackfeet spirituality came at the top of a cliff. This cliff represented a plateau in our journey to seek God. It has always been a sacred place for the Blackfeet people. It was a buffalo jump, where the people first received communion with God through the buffalo.

Though our encounter came to completion on top of the buffalo jump, it began at the bottom. The trek was not long, but it was difficult. Though we could see what was in front of us, it still surprised us. We did not know how the terrain would react to our presence. The snow was sliding all over the place, leaving us wavering, unsure how to proceed. But we all made it to the top. In many ways this is a reflection of the week to come. We need to be open to what God has planned, and the journey He wants us to take.

We are excited for the adventures ahead!

Courtenay and Dillon

16
Mar

Day 7 Friday Denver

Shakira Shakira!  Greetings from Denver… House of the Beatitudes!

Matt and Bryce here and we want to just evangalize via the blog-o-sphere! So by now I’m guessing you are wondering if we took advantage of some of the new legalization laws here in Denver, but I want to let everyone know we are just very tired and full of the Holy Spirit which as many of us know fills us with great joy.  After an adoration filled night, the day began with Mass and Lauds.  The sisters sang to our hearts and nourished ours souls for the day.  Once again we were late to Christ in the City and after much discernment the group decided to meet at Holy Ghost Church in downtown Denver.  From there we began a pilgrimage to all the different churches in the city.  Let me tell you Denver sure knows how to “Church.”  Some highlights from the walk included; walking in the pouring rain without appropriate gear, Matt slipping on a banana peal, and praying a Rosary through the busy streets.  After the pilgrimage lunch we ventured back to Christ in the City to break bread as the group decided to fast together in observance of Lent.  Grace, laying in her bread crumbs proclaimed, “LENT!” thus making her the poster girl of all those fasting.  After a period of down time the group began the penetant task of making rosaries.  Let’s just say my purgatory will be spent making Rosaries, Bryce began to contemplate pagan beliefs.  However, after seven hours I (Matt) have completed a rosary.

We now want to take this time to inform you about the big city driving experience.  Katie and Matt change more lanes faster than shakira’s hips don’t lie. Let me tell you, Matt set the record for the most consecutive days of being honked at, which could barely be heard over our screams. One time Matt nearly killed a man, we were pulling out of Christ in the City and like a Gazelle, this runnner jumps in front of us. We all scream and Matt hits the breaks barely missing the dude. I peed a little. I will tell you though, Matt may be our best driver, I still have not stepped foot into Katie’s car. Especially, after watching Katie cross a double white line to make an exit cutting off some people…. I-was-horrified. I am still here so it leads me to believe that my many prayers to our guardian angels protected us. We are not home yet, but so far so good, right. Lets not even talk about Tessa and driving……. let’s just say speeding tickets in Wyoming are very expensive.

Tonight in the Jewish tradition Shabbat is celebrated as the sun sets welcoming the Sabbath.  The Community of the Beatitudes celebrates Shabbat as a way to remember our roots in Judism as Catholics.  After all Jesus, Mary, and all the Apostles were observent Jews.  During the Shabbat meal the group prayed in Hebrew different psalms.  We then sang and danced around the table celebrating the arrival of the Sabbath.  While the praying lasted three hours Bryce felt the prayer was more of a celebration.  If you have never heard of Shabbat you need to google it is truly amazing and our words cannot do justice to the grace of the meal.  Father Gregory pushed the wine a little too much, but no one fell to their weaknesses.  Overall the Shabbat meal will be a fond memory for all involved. The evening came to a close with many stories and much laughter by all.

On a more serious note today was a day designed for us to remember all the graces of serving in Denver.  I (Matt) have been so blessed to be apart of this group.  As the only senior on this trip I can now say I have so many new friends both in the Carroll Family and here in Denver in the streets… Ask me about Lawerance if you want a good story! In prayer I have been very “focused” on the importance of presence while loving others.  To be fully present to another is very important to making others feel loved.  While on this trip I really learned how unloving I can be.  Those experiencing homelessness are very easy to judge, but after encountering people in a more intentional way I came to the realization that it would be very hard to tell which one of us truly was poor if you only could hear our conversations.  Mother Teresa once said that, “We have forgotten that we belong to eachother.”  While on this trip I met brothers and sisters who will forever hold a place in my heart because of the love they helped me come to know.  One of my favorite quotes is from Toni Morrison is, “If I had known more people. I’d of loved more.”  I’m reminded of this quote as I prepare to leave Denver and know God has graced me with the ability to love more because of all the people I encountered.

Bryce here on the more serious note. As we have journied through this week it has led me to understand alot of things. Before this trip I feel like I was a dry root of a fruit out of soil and for the Lord I did thrist for his love and will. By the end of this trip (and tomorow we leave), I feel as if i have quenched this thirst. I came here to do what I could in his name and I cannot leave happier. You see, what I have learned from this trip is a type of recognition, a new sight, spiritual sight  and my human sight that blinded me was washed away. I began to recognize that God’s will is in me and everone around me and as a whole we are a part of a holy community, a holy family. So instead of walking up to a man that was homeless , I instead was walking up to a brother in Christ and in recognizing this I no longer was just trying to serve this man but instead I was bringing two humans together to share a story. It is in other’s experiences, not just our own that we must learn how to live the life that we are in. This is our call to the human experience to be in union with one another, so that we can grow with one another. This trip taught me a lot and I am thankful for every second God gave me on this  trip.

16
Mar

Day 6 Friday East Los Angeles

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Departure from East LA, Slot Canyon at Snow Canyon State Park

An interesting bit about the church of Dolores Mission is that it houses the homeless during the nights. When this practice was first starting there were some people of the community who’s noses weren’t too pleased. For the church was originally covered in carpet and after many nights of homeless men sleeping there with their various ailments and such, you can imagine the smell that began to arise within the church. The community then gathered to decide the fate of this practice and if the homeless should be moved. The very first person to grab the mic began inhaling deeply while standing in the smelly church and in front of everyone said, “To me and my mother, it smells like roses.” That was the end of the conversation, from then on the church became a shelter for the homeless and the community of Dolores Mission fully surrendered to the will of God. It has been a blessing to be a part of this community and to see great things happen just by allowing the Spirit to move freely.

This morning we had to say goodbye to our host families and start on our journey to Helena. After eating delicious pancakes made by our wonderful host mother, we set off into the sunrise for the vans parked at Dolores Mission. As we were walking, Cory had noticed that all around this community it smelled of roses. He had a great reflection tying it all together with the story mentioned above. This community does smell like roses and it is beautiful with a goodness that is difficult to describe. God is with this community in a very real, authentic way.

Before leaving LA, we got to pray one more time with Fr. Ted as he led us in a reflection over our journey through Dolores Mission. It was here that for many of us we were able to see God and start to prepare our hearts for our own mission. I ask that all of you reading take time to reflect with us and look to your own life and your own journey and ask God to prepare you for the mission. He asked us to journey back through our lives and our time in East LA looking for God’s call to live the Gospel in our own lives back home. It was during this time that I realized this week had not just opened my heart but ripped it open. The people of this community had tilled the soil of my heart.

As the mini vans headed for Snow Canyon State Park, Fr. Ted’s reflection remained planted in our hearts. While at the slot canyon we were able to soak in God’s creation and let that seed start to grow into something concrete and real. And it was something else! We all got to take some time to look and really see, touch and really feel. Through God’s creation we were able to open up our senses to be more attentive to His voice. This then prompted a discussion on our car ride home that really bore some amazing fruit. One reflection in particular was that of the Gospel where the widow gave to the treasury not from her excess but from her poverty (Mark 12: 41-44). We realized that we met this woman of the Gospel while at Dolores Mission. We encountered people and had host families that gave their all. They were in extreme poverty and yet they still gave. How many times do we give from our excess and think that we’ve “done enough” or that we’ve made our weekly sacrifice? These people gave all that they had and even if they seemingly didn’t have anything they would look harder and find something. They are the women from the Gospel, they are all living the Gospel completely and therefore living fully. Once again, I’d like to go back to Fr. Ted’s last conversation with us where he was frank and said that Dolores Mission is not there because of the wealth of the rich but because of the love of the poor. We are all called to don the spirit of the poor. This means that we are called to give not from our excess but from our poverty. It is here that we begin to experience the love of the poor in our own hearts. This love is one that is deeper than I, and most of us, have been able to encounter. We’ve been moved to compassion, to suffer with, and carry these people with us. We’ve been called to a new depth of love.

I hope that our story has begun to till the soil of your own heart and opened it to new growth ignited by the Holy Spirit. Become the face of the faceless in the Gospel and don the spirit of the poor.

15
Mar

Day 4 Wednesday East Lost Angeles

Wednesday March, 11DSC_1237

Dolores Mission School, Father Ted’s talk, and the screening of American Crime

God has already blessed this week in more ways than I can count. Whether this was through providing us the opportunity to serve the homeless at the Saint Francis Center on Hope street, or allowing us to see the generosity of those who are serving the homeless on skid row in the Cardinal Manning center, God is good.

Today, God was no less generous. Our main task of the day was to work in the Dolores Mission School in a designated classroom. Being an education major myself, this was right up my alley. For my placement, the Dolores Mission School had me help out with the 1st grade class. Coming into the school, I expected the children to reflect the difficulties that they faced during their home lives, and to have many issues in the classroom. However, when I entered the classroom, all of the students were filled with joy and compassion, and were so willing to learn. One thing that really stuck with me from this time spent in the school was a conversation I had with one of the teachers, Mr. S. In this conversation, Mr. S. explained how his placement at Dolores Mission could not be described as a job, but rather a vocation. Our careers that we decide upon shouldn’t be based on our wants, but rather on what God is calling us too, and what He needs most from us. Mr. S. was the perfect example of someone doing their job in order to serve the Lord, and it was apparent through his enthusiasm and passion for what he was doing.

After the school, we had the privilege of listening to Father Ted give a talk about the community of Dolores Mission and some of the struggles that they face. I honestly don’t think that I have ever met a man more passionate about what he was doing that Father Ted. In my eyes, I would consider Father Ted a walking saint. In this talk, Father Ted really gave us a deeper understanding of the flaws in our immigration laws and regulations. On this trip, many of the people that we met would be considered undocumented. With this, many people say that we need to deport all of the undocumented immigrants. However, these people have never actually taken the time to get to know and understand the situations that these people are facing. Many of the people that we met fled Mexico in fear of their lives, and the lives of their families. Personally, as a Christian, I don’t understand how we can morally say that we should send these people back to an area in which they are in constant fear for their lives.

One thing that really stuck with me in Father Ted’s talk was his explanation of one of the pieces of art in the Dolores Mission Chapel. In this piece of art, Mary is portrayed as carrying Jesus on a journey from a small Mexican village to the city of Los Angeles. Mary has one arm extended as if welcoming us to join her in the journey, and to explain to those who have immigrated that they were not alone on their migration. Father Ted then went on to explain that Mary and Joseph, as well as Jesus could be considered undocumented immigrants, as they fled from King Harrod into a new country, Egypt. This picture really summed up the journey that the immigrants have made with faith in hope to find a better life in which they can serve the Lord as well as promote the well being of their families. I don’t want anyone who reads this blog to think that I am telling you to change your opinion on the subject, however I do think that anyone who reads this needs to take a moment to consider what the people who immigrate to our amazing country are facing, as well as the moral and ethical implications of our actions in forcing these immigrants to return to their home countries where the idea of tomorrow is a hope rather than an opportunity.

I really give no justice to the talk that Father Ted gave, as it truly moved mountains in all of our hearts and really changed the opinion of not only myself, but many others. The last part of our day was spent at a screening premier of episodes one and two of the new drama on ABC, American Crime. This show is about the realities that many of the homies of Los Angeles face in their lives and many things that they have gone through. What was amazing about this experience was not the show itself, but rather being able to see the men and women who are going through Homeboy Industries in a more natural setting. These men and women are incredible people who were caught in unfortunate circumstances throughout their lives but are seeking to give up their old ways and to be integrated into our society. Being able to hear them talk outside of Homeboy was really powerful because it really showed the hope and joy that they had towards the pursuit of a better life. It is hard to look past what people have done in their past, however it is essential in the process of loving everyone as Jesus loves us.

To end the night, we got to go back to our host families and spend the night with them. When I got back to my host family, we all sat around the table and asked each other questions and those who spoke English answered in Spanish and those who spoke Spanish answered in English. The language barrier was definitely one of the struggles that I have had on this trip, however this experience was extremely powerful because we got to work through that and assist each other in that struggle. Overall, I think the theme of the day was; that we need to learn to love people based upon who they are rather than what they are. These people have gone through situations that I can’t even imagine, and to see the compassion and joy that they live with is still beyond my comprehension. These people have ignited a passion inside of me that I hope I can share with you, and I hope that as I mentioned before, you take the time to think about the situations that these people have faced, as well as who these people are before you jump to conclusions.

13
Mar

Day 5 Thursday East Los Angeles

DSC_1275Veronica and Steve

Today we went to mass at the Cathedral at 7 and then we went to the Santa Monica beach and reflected. It was our second time at the Cathedral, and we learned a bit more about its history from a tour guide. It was built only 12 years ago. It was easier to appreciate it the second time because we weren’t as caught up in looking at the archietecture or art, but more the religious aspect that is there. We did some team building activities at the beach and got to know our group better. We also took some quiet time to reflect on everything we saw and heard this week. (Side note-we saw seals and dolphins at the beach!) We came back and had a picnic with all of our host families at the park. One host mom said it was the first time a group had come and stayed, and had dinner with everyone and played at the park with the kids. We thought that was pretty special and were glad to be a part of it. We also learned very quickly that we should not take the power of God and his ability to control the universe and all of its planets for granted, because the sun was definetly sent our way and we all had sunburns. Overall, our experience in LA has been very eye opening. It’s clear that God is at work through the community and people at Dolores Mission. We could not have felt more welcome in such a restless place. They are a very clear testimony of faith. Once more the sun has risen, and another day begins, but we are enjoying the LA weather and nature on this beautiful morning! Roger. Over and out. Steve and Veronica.

13
Mar

Day 3 Tuesday East Los Angeles

DSC_1205X: Buenos Dias! Our morning started off bright and early volunteering at the St. Francis Center on Hope St.

B: It was awesome and very humbling! Serving the homeless and low income was a great experience.

X: The St. Francis center was a different feel than any other soup kitchen I have volunteered at because they really focused on community. They had round tables with about 8 chairs at each and they welcomed in only three at a time. They did this because they explained that people would build relationships as they waited in line and then when they would come inside they were able to continue those relationships as they shared a meal together.

B: Then we were off to Denny’s for a very entertaining breakfast.

X: we parked on the top floor of a parking garage and dared each other to look down at the world below us. On our way back from breakfast, Katie was dared to climb a tree on the sidewalk of a very busy LA street! Some people said, “She’s like a tom cat!” Then, while we all wanted to fit in the elevator back up to our car, some were dared to run through the parking garage all the way up to the top floor. I can’t really explain how funny this was to witness.

B: After this Denny’s adventure, we went to the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels and celebrated mass together. As we toured inside and outside, we found there is so much diversity between cultures. It’s such an open and beautiful space where all are welcome to pray to God. Everything from the floor tile to the tapestry on the walls had so much architectural meaning.

X: My personal favorites were, the piece of the Tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the tapestry on the walls. The Tilma is the cloth that Juan Diego wore when he received the sign of Our Lady of Guadalupe and where the Lady of Guadalupe left her imprint. The Cathedral of our Lady of our Angels is the only other place besides the Cathedral in Mexico City to have a piece of the Tilma. The tapestry displayed saints from all the countries of the world. These saints were placed side but side but also were positioned to face the altar. Therefore when people walked up to the altar it seemed like the saints were walking with them.

B: After the church we went to the Cardinal Manning Center. We were 40 minutes late to our tour after experiencing mass and were afraid we wouldn’t be able to tour. When we got to the Cardinal Manning Center they understood and proceeded with our tour. The center is basically like a homeless shelter for men of skid row. They have beds, showers, and a community center room where they watch movies. This was a neat experience for us to see the community coming together to provide one of many shelters for the homeless to feel called to.

X: One thing that they said that really stuck in my mind was that there is a very identifiable line between skid row and “the other world” which is down town LA. On one side of the street you see people in tents begging for money or food, and on the other you see modern buildings with people that look like they are on their way to work. After running to our car for our next adventure that we were once again late to, we arrived at Jovenes Inc.

B: Jovenes Incorporated is another shelter for men ages 18-24 to find a place where they can get cleaned up and figure out how they need to change to work in the modern world. This is a very unique place because they look at all the individual gifts and characteristics that the men bring with them. They look at the dreams all the men are pursuing to get better, and they take these factors and help them work towards their goals and support them.

X: After this, half of us were off to the market to buy food that we would prepare and serve to the Guadalupe Homeless Project at Dolores Mission. I think we REALLY worked as a team and made some really great food. We proudly cooked chicken Fettuccini AlfredoJ with garlic bread and salad. After this we all walked away with memories of great conversation with the people we served.

B: At this dinner it was fun to practice my Spanish with those who spoke fluent Spanish. Ximena lead a great prayer in Spanish to the whole group. After this dinner we went back to our host families for the evening. They all provided great hospitality and truly shared their culture with us.

X: As you can see we had a very busy day however my night did not end there. Both Anna and Christina’s kids decided we should go to the park. A group of us played volleyball, tag, and many other games. It was so hot and we all ended up with grass stains and drenched in sweat. Our day that started off with an alarm (to the song Chainsaw) at 6 am ended at 11pm in our host family’s beds.

Thanks for reading and Hasta La Vista from East LA,

Con amor,

Baili and Ximena.

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