2023 Tijuana Ministry Reflections
Monica Rising 2023
Love builds miracles. That’s BASICS motto. How do you build a miracle?
Christ’s commandments are to love God with all our heart and the second is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Our neighbor is any of God’s people. So, loving those are hungry, thirsty, mourning, naked, despised, frightened are loving those God needs us to love the most.
When we say yes to God and are willing to answer his plea, we are then open to being used by God to create miracles. We saw miracles in our week in TJ.
Roman- came to the AIDS clinic as a patient and an addict. Antonio the director received him with love and he was healed and loved others who arrived at the clinic. He saw the problems that came with not having a lab. It took up to a month to get results. He went back to school and ended up with a PHD and is a professor in a TJ University. At the same time, he worked with the clinic and worked to get testing equipment. He dreamed about a lab that would give him results in minutes. TB was a problem as well. He dreamed of having a clinic to help those who had a 56% death rate. We helped him make those dreams come true and the death rate for TB is now 5%. What a beautiful love chain.
We built a house for Yartiza in 2012. She was in a mold ridden house with her 3-year old, no running water in the house and had just lost her leg to cancer. She prayed a novena, and we came to build her a house. Because we had built a house for a neighbor, the neighbor Bertha came to help and share some love. After we left, she taught Yaritza to sew and she then had the confidence to learn to drive and she is now very independent. Another miracle because of a chain of love.
Meet Our families this year. They all prayed for a home and thought it was impossible. Elizabeth, a single mom of three whose house burned down. Maria Jesus, a grandmother who is raising her grandson’s because her daughter and son in law were killed in a car accident. And Vicki and Pablo who are struggling with a son with a brain tumor and 2 other children. Vicki is suffering with severe arthritis and uses a wheelchair and walker. We shared love and support. I am sure God will continue to bless them with more miracles.
There is a scholarship program at the parish. They had a celebration of the graduates this year. Local children, extremely poor, were shown love and the belief that they could do more than work for little pay. People who believed and loved them enough to support and inspire them to graduate as Psychologists, engineers, social workers, nurses, teachers and in Technology. Those students loved their neighbors enough to return and help and build miracles in their neighborhoods.
Those miracles of new homes, a new clinic, a new lab, independence, education and helping the poorest and the sickest of all happen with prayers and people saying yes to Christ’s commandment of loving our neighbors. We saw miracles. We were part of miracles
You all have a chance to build some miracles, too. Say yes to God. There are opportunities to help others. Reach out with love and build a miracle here in San Jose. The homeless, the hungry, the despised, the mourning, the lonely. Say yes to God. Loving God doesn’t end in church It starts when we leave church. I have some ideas of how you too can build miracles if you need them.
To the 2023 Tijuana mission workers:
Thank you so much for all you have done for the people of Tijuana and for BASICS. It was an extraordinary week with so much joy and we built some miracles. I hope you all find more ways to build some miracles here in the Bay Area. Check for opportunities at your parish. Catholic Charities has food distributions around Santa Clara County. They also have a program that provides showers for the homeless. There are food pantries, social justice groups and many other options. Look around and find what speaks to your heart. Try a few things.
Lorin Peters 2023
The Kingdom of God in Action
2023 July 9
The United States, by all accounts, worships money.
We dominate the world economically.
We invade countries which threaten our domination.
We behave like all the empires before us.
We have a greed problem.
We honor Jesus of Nazareth for his crucifixion and his resurrection.
But for our greed, it is his message that can save us.
The first sentence of his first sermon was his mission statement.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”
What is “poor in spirit”?
Clearly, it is not worship of money.
For me, it has come to mean detachment from money.
That is what Jesus told the rich young ruler who wanted to join him.
It means living as simply as possible.
Think of St Francis.
Well, I‘m not in his league.
I try to live on just my “share” of the world’s wealth.
Global income per person is about 18,000 dollars.
Last year I spent that amount, and gave away the rest of my income.
My wife Lacksana and I spent the last week in eastern Tijuana (Mexico), helping a group from St Julie’s and the Diocese of San Jose, build simple homes for three of the poorest families in its poorest neighborhood.
We were hosted by Fr Jesse Esqueda, and the Maria Immaculada Parish.
Fr Jesse is a very high energy, yet profound, preacher and leader.
They have numerous programs to help the poor, the left-out, and the abandoned.
They help fund education for many who otherwise could not afford it.
After their Thursday evening mass last week,
they celebrated the achievements of this year’s graduates:
Two graduated from medical school,
Several graduated in engineering,
Many come back “home” to Tijuana, to serve their struggling community.
And a number of their parents have been inspired enough to come back to the Church.
As I watched, I suddenly realized I was seeing Jesus’ Kingdom in action.
I have dreamed of this Kingdom for years.
But I never expected to see it so clearly.
At the end of the ceremony, I sat and wept for joy…
Joanna Thurmann 2023
Some of you may know the story of the starfish. It goes like this. A young girl was walking along a beach where thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. She began to pick up each starfish and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement as she threw one, two, then a dozen and more back into the water. Then a man approached her and said, “Listen little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! There’s too many of them. You’re not ever going to help them all.” The girl seemed really crushed at first. But then she picked up another starfish and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. She looked at the man and simply replied, “Well, I can help that ONE.” And she continued about her work.
That story is how I think about our work in Tijuana. This is the 19th year of the mission trip and my 15th year going. 34 of us went to build 3 houses. In total, we have built 67 houses. That’s amazing.
But of course… there are a lot more starfish left in Tijuana.
Life for the people there is really difficult. Every day is a struggle, especially for those living in shanties, without electricity or running water, those working long days in the factories for $15/day while their young children take care of the even younger ones.
And of course, it's not just in Tijuana. We have poverty here, too. We have the unhoused, underhoused, or marginally housed. The ones living in creek beds or in their cars. Poverty, in Mexico and here in San Jose, is a really big, difficult, overwhelming complex problem.
But our mission there is very simple. Love the one – the one standing right in front of you. Do for them what you can.
It reminds me of a couple lines from the prayer called “Prophets of a Future Not Our Own”. Here is an excerpt.
“We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us. This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.”
Both the tale of the starfish and this poem speak to the incredible power of LOVE in action.
Monica mentioned to you the AIDS and Tuberculosis clinic that we support in Tijuana through our fundraising and donations. She also told you that after they constructed the clinic and the lab, their death rate decreased from 57% to 5%. Their mission statement is so simple – have less people die.
The man who works there, Ramon, is incredible. Fr Brendan McGuire who traveled with us this year called him the “Mother Theresa of Tijuana”. There is so much light in his eyes and love in his heart that he glows. He truly loves those people that no one sees. That no one helps. His love is more infectious than the TB he helps to treat.
I know that the issues of poverty and homelessness are complex and overwhelming. I know that trying to carve out time for a week-long mission trip can seem overwhelming.
But that’s what the starfish parable and the poem can teach us. We don’t have to do everything. We just to do something, to love the one in front of us right now, and to do that very well. And then like Monica said, miracles happen.
Three houses are raised. Bridges are built among us, despite the differences of language, culture, education, and opportunity. We begin to see not with our eyes but with our hearts. We begin to understand what was previously unknowable.
That we have a hand in bringing about the kingdom of God. We experience it each year we go. That glimpse the kingdom of God, even for a short time, is everything. If you haven’t yet, I hope you can join us next year, and experience it for yourself.
Andre Sosinski 2023