Wednesday, February 21, 2018

As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us

Welcome back, Coffee Talkers,

     Lent is a great time to meditate on the prayer that Jesus taught us, The Lord's Prayer, "Our Father." If you are looking for some reading materials to help you with this meditation, consider reading the beautiful passages from the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the Our Father.


     For today, I'd like to reflect briefly on the part of the prayer wherein we ask God the Father to "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." It's easy to rattle off those words time and time again without really considering their implications, but when we really think about the meaning of this passage it becomes a bit mysterious. Why would we ask God to forgive us in the same way we forgive others? Especially for those of us who find it hard to not hold a grudge or to forgive someone who has wronged us multiple times, this doesn't seem like the most appealing option. Is Jesus saying that God can't forgive us if we don't forgive others, or that somehow God's endless mercy is dependent upon our forgiveness of someone who has wronged us?
     This passage helps us to realize that, while God's mercy does not rely on our own willingness to forgive, we cannot receive the mercy of God without a heart that is open to forgiveness and mercy. When we hold a grudge and refuse to offer forgiveness to another, we harden our own hearts and thus impede our own ability to receive and be healed by the merciful love of God the Father.
     This week, I will focus on being more quick to forgive and giving others the benefit of the doubt. I will apologize first, even in a situation where I believe that I am "right," because I want to put being in relationship above being right. I will consider all the ways that God has forgiven me, and all the ways that my friends and family members bear with my many imperfections. I will allow this self-knowledge and humility to guide me to a place of extending forgiveness in a difficult situation.
     As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Daily Aspirations - Prayers to Help You Through the Day

Hello again, Coffee Talkers,

     I hope you all enjoyed the long weekend (if you had one), and that you're ready to get back into the Lenten swing of things like I am! Today, I am going to write a bit about a simple way to fit more prayer into the routine and rhythm of our days. I know that many of us (especially parents and caretakers of little ones or the ill and elderly) don't have a lot of time to dedicate to quiet, uninterrupted prayer, and sometimes that may seem discouraging. One practice that I've found helpful is to incorporate aspirations - short prayers that can be committed to memory and prayed quickly and quietly any time, any place - to help center your day back into the presence of God and aid you in keeping a more prayerful mindset in the midst of the busy-ness of our daily lives.


     One of my favorite examples is "Jesus, I trust in You." Another is "Come, Holy Spirit." I find that if I pray these prayers, and especially if I'm mindful enough to pray one of them in place of some other less charitable interior response (in traffic, for example, or when dealing with a difficult person or situation), it helps me to center myself and remind myself of the presence of God with me in all circumstances. It also helps to keep me calm and slow my response time before possibly saying or doing something that I may later regret. Lastly, calling on God for assistance can change my perspective on the situation, allow me to sanctify my daily work (no matter how mundane or distasteful), and truly bring God's assistance to the situation. OurCatholicPrayers.com has provided a list of some aspirations here.
      As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Friday, February 16, 2018

Not Turning Your Back On Your Own: The Corporal Works of Mercy

Hello again, Coffee Talkers,

     Today's daily Mass readings are short, but action packed with rich Lenten reflection materials! I'd like to comment briefly on a passage from the first reading, found in the 58th chapter of Book of the Prophet Isaiah. After mentioning that a day of quarreling, fighting, and carrying out our own pursuits is not exactly the fast or penance that the Lord had in mind, the prophet tells us what we should be doing instead:
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own. (Isaiah 58:6-7)
     This touches on the corporal works of mercy , those teachings of Jesus which instruct us in treating the least of his people as we would treat Him. These works include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and prisoners, burying the dead, and giving alms to the poor. These are all very noble practices, and it's good to consider how we can up the ante of our corporal works of mercy during Lent. Some of these activities, of course, take some time and preparation -- for example, I used to volunteer as a visitor in ministry to the young men in the juvenile detention center in the high desert of Southern California. That took some time to get fingerprinted, trained, etc. Also, it may be a similar process to be a regular volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. These are really worthwhile outreaches to consider, but not all of us are at a time or place in life to do those things.
     However, the last line of the reading really touches on the one thing we can all do, right now, right away -- "not turning your back on your own." For example, my older kids are pretty self-sufficient in many ways but between them and our 18-month-old twins and a baby on the way, there's plenty of clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and giving drink to the thirsty to keep us busy for quite some time in my household! If I were to go out to visit the homeless, but to the detriment of my own family, this is not necessarily the fast or penance that the Lord desires. Yes, we can go beyond the scope of our own homes and families, but if we haven't met the needs there first then let's reprioritize. What are some ways I can be more present to the needs of my husband and children today? How can I meet the needs and extend care to my extended family members? What about my friends, and the people in my workplace? Are there needs that I can meet by making a sacrifice of my time, talent, and treasure?
     As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Shhhh... A Lenten Secret!

Hello again, Coffee Talkers!

     In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus tells us to pray and fast in secret. There are a few things about this passage that I've been reflecting on this morning. First, the secret part -- a lot of people say, "If you're supposed to be doing this all in secret, why the ashes on the forehead bit?" Well, ashes on the forehead is a sign of the beginning of a penitential season -- read more about the Biblical theology of ashes here if you'd like -- but we don't display ashes on our heads every day of Lent. There are lots of things about praying and fasting in secret that could be said here, but the one thing I want to focus on today is the fact that praying and fasting in secret makes it completely possible for anyone, anytime, and in any place, to participate in the practices of prayer and fasting, regardless of our external circumstances. I've had a few non-Catholic friends even ask me if it's okay to participate in some (or all) of the Catholic practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving during this season when we recall Jesus' own fasting and prayer in the desert. The answer, of course, is yes! No one else needs to know, because "your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Mt. 6:18).
     Next, regarding prayer and fasting, I've been thinking today about how both of these practices are aimed at strengthening our reliance on the nourishment we need physically and spiritually from food and from God's Word. Lent is a time, therefore, to reevaluate our current relationship with food and with the intake of words or messages. When I say that we should examine our relationship with food, I don't mean in an Oprah-esque talk-show therapy kind of way, but rather to evaluate how we eat and to what extent we consider where the food comes from, how it nourishes our bodies, and to what extent we are grateful for the gift of food we have been given. This morning, this sight really brought to life the Scripture in which the Psalmist asks the Lord to "give success to the work of our hands."
Do I regularly appreciate the work, both Divine and human, that goes into producing the food I eat each day? Today, I'll give up one food that does not nourish the body well, and more thoughtfully eat and appreciate one that does.
     In terms of prayer, I now turn to my relationship with words and with God's Word. What kinds of words and messages do I take in each day, and to what extent do they give me upset or peace? How much do the words or messages offer me spiritual nourishment, or rob me of spiritual good? Today, I'll spend a few more minutes reflecting on the daily Bible readings from Mass, and a few less minutes scrolling through my Facebook feed.
     As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

THE BLOG IS BACK FOR LENT!!!

Hey, Coffee Talkers!

     This is directed to all two of you who will read this -- THE BLOG IS BACK FOR LENT! WOOHOO!!!! I've decided to take a little time to blog during Lent, and hopefully it will give a little time out for me to reflect each day in a very busy season of life. I used to answer people's questions about Catholicism and things going on in the world related to Catholicism, and I'm still more than willing to do that,  but be warned that I don't have the time I used to in terms of length and thoughtfulness of response. So if you still would like to hear an off-the-cuff Catholic perspective of Leslie, written in  her small amounts of available time, then be in touch! :)
     In the meantime, here we are on a day when Valentine's Day coincides with Ash Wednesday, demonstrating how soft most of us Catholics really are in terms of this whole fasting thing. Here's my favorite meme to commemorate this day:
     I've decided to stick with my annual giving up of eating out/fast food during Lent, which one would not think would be that hard but somehow is always really timely as the holiday celebrations beginning with Christmas seem to stretch a bit beyond the season for me, if you know what I mean. Anyway, this morning, after taking one of my kids to get braces on (that's a penitential Ash Wednesday activity, for sure!), I felt the pull of the Del Taco iced coffee, the tug of Dunkin' Donuts Valentine's donut specials pulling at my heart strings as I drove by, with a wistful bit of nostalgia for yesterday. While I am technically not bound to today's fast due to pregnancy, I really am able to observe it and giving up fast food is certainly not endangering anyone's health -- quite the opposite! But still, the emotional pull of everything given up for so short a time is a great reminder of why I need Lent.
     Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for the good of the faithful are the three traditional practices of the Lenten season. Each person is encouraged to take up all three, but in a way that is reasonable according to our state in life and realistic to achieve throughout the season. Also, our Lenten sacrifices should not be a burden on others -- you know, "Oh, I'm sorry I'm so snappy today but it's because I HAD TO GIVE UP COFFEE!" You get the idea. Don't make this a failed New Year's Resolutions list, but a way to draw closer to God and His people through some small practices of sacrifice, enough to hurt a little (oh, sweet Dunkin' Donuts, how I'll miss thee!!), but not so extreme that you'll be miserable to be around or that you know you won't be able to realistically maintain them. And don't forget that almsgiving, or charitable giving to those in need, is a great reminder of all the blessings we've received in our own lives. Give what you have, not just from our excess but from our treasures. If you don't have money to spare but you have time or a special talent, offer those. Everyone has something to give, and that can also tie into the practice of prayer on behalf of those who need prayers most.
     That's all the time I have for today. Thank you for re-joining me (or tuning in for the first time) after all these years! As always, thanks for stopping by, and please be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Come and See -- A Call to Explore Priestly and Religious Vocations

Dear Coffee Talkers,

In my last column, I reflected on vocations -- our calling in life from God -- and mentioned that, while we all have a divine calling in this life, that most of us are not called to be priests or nuns. Of course, the flip side to that coin is that some of us are called to be priests or nuns (or called to some other form of consecrated life in the Church)! What this means is that if we are still free to be called to the priesthood or religious life, we should be open to exploring that possibility, and not just sit back on our laurels thinking that the call is certainly for someone else.

I remember as a child occasionally hearing prayers in church that had to do with young people responding to the call to the priesthood and religious life, and I remember thinking very distinctly that someone else must be called to that life, but not me. However, when I was in college and deciding what to do after I graduated, I realized that I really had met very few women in religious life and felt a tug on my heart to go check out some communities. I thought that maybe I'd like to go volunteer for a year after college, and maybe there was a community of nuns who needed some help with their work. I wanted to go meet some Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa's order of sisters) and some other orders as well, but genuinely had no idea how to do this or where to start my search.

Eventually I did go to visit a couple orders (Missionaries of Charity included), and while I ended up volunteering with a young adult retreat team instead, that tug on my heart to check out religious life more remained on my heart for some time. I realized that the feeling I had as a child that the call to consecrated life was for someone else might just have been because I knew nothing about consecrated life in the Church, not necessarily because I was not actually called to it. In the middle of graduate school I finally made a decision, namely that the only way to test the call was to go, to 'come and see', to live for a time with a community of religious sisters and see if their life was for me. So I left everything else behind and headed for convent life.

I lived for one school year as a postulant (or one who asks the question) with a lovely community of Dominican Sisters in Nashville, Tennessee and while I did not end up being called to live as a sister, I can honestly look back at that time as one of the most valuable moments of spiritual and human formation in my life. One great surprise to me about religious life was how much fun the sisters had! They worked hard and prayed hard, but they also played hard and their life was filled with the kind of deep and abiding joy that only God can give us. I'll never regret taking that risk to come and see what religious life was like, and now find it a joy to tell others about the experience. Also, if my children ever feel that tug in their hearts, I'll know better now how to support them in testing that call.

I believe that many people feel a call in their hearts to see what consecrated life is like, to check out a call to the priesthood, brotherhood, or sisterhood, but that like me they do not know where to start. This is why Holy Innocents Catholic Church in Victorville, California will be hosting a Vocations Fair on Sunday, October 19 from 2 - 4 pm. The Fair will include representatives from a number of communities of priests and sisters, a chance to speak with these men and women, to hear their stories, to ask questions, and to get more information about their communities and how to visit them if you feel called to 'come and see' like I did.

There is no regret in testing the call to priesthood or religious life, only in not having responded to Jesus' call to 'come and see' and then wondering the rest of your life if you missed out on the truest calling of your heart. Sure, not everyone is called to give their lives and hearts to God in such a radical and undivided way, but some are and maybe one of those someones is you.

For more information on the Holy Innocents Vocations Fair, contact Owen Carroll at (760) 948-4177 or Nabor Manriquez (in Spanish) at (760) 985-4776.

One final note: considering religious vocations is NOT just for Catholic Christians! There are many people called to priesthood and the religious life, and I have several friends who are now priests and religious brothers and sisters who did not begin their journey as Catholics. In time, they did convert to Catholicism and then embraced their vocations. There are many paths to finding God's calling for you!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Reality, Love, and Suffering of Vocation

Hey there, Coffee Talkers,

What's presented below includes an abridged and edited version of an old post that I came across and realized that I needed to hear again and meditate on at this stage in my spiritual journey. When I write about the faith I see that God is often speaking most directly to me even if I'm answering a question that someone else has asked, and if a few people out there have been also been helped in their life of faith by my writings then I'll count that as an added blessing. So here's one on the concept of vocation because I need to revisit it, and maybe you do, too:
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When Catholic Christians talk about vocations, most people think only about priests and nuns, but a vocation refers to a person’s calling from God. This means that every one of us has a vocation, or a divine calling, and the fact is that most of us are not called to be priests and nuns. In my own spiritual journey I have reflected a great deal on the concept of vocation, and have summed up God’s lessons to me in three major themes.
1. Vocation is always rooted in reality, and in the present moment.
Have you ever known someone who was always 'discerning' their vocation, or a person who says, “I’ll pray about that” as a way of side-stepping even the most simple decisions or commitments? Don't get me wrong; discernment and prayers are very important, but I think that sometimes we use prayer as an excuse to be perpetually non-committal and confuse discerning with fanciful daydreaming. These daydreams don't necessarily have to take the form of something glamorous, for even the dream of suffering or martyrdom can be heroic in the mind's eye.
Ultimately, the most important aspect of any vocation is rooted in our present reality – God is not going to ask us to neglect our obligations to our current state in life to pursue another. A widowed mother is not likely to be ‘called’ to a cloistered convent while her children are still young and relying upon her for their care and formation, for example. Each of us is called to continue dedicating our lives fully to those tasks at hand until such a time as the Lord presents something else to us, puts something or someone clearly in our path and asks us to take a different direction. When that happens, we should act on it, and promptly. Until that time, however, there is no use spending countless hours (or even minutes!) thinking about what could be or what might have been. Vocation is reality, plain and simple, and often that involves our lives being very different than we might have wished them to be.
2. Vocation is always rooted in love, and in loving again and again.
Whenever I think of vocation, I think of little St. Therese of Lisieux, a young cloistered Carmelite nun whose feast we will soon celebrate on October 1. Therese wanted to be so many things, but in the end realized that her vocation was love. What does this mean? Some think Therese to have been a syrup-y sweet little saint who always had life easy, and so her joy and happiness and vocation of ‘love’ must have come to her with ease, as well. However, anyone who has read her ‘Story of A Soul’ can assure you that this was not the case, nor is it the case with any sincere disciple of Christ. No, we are asked to choose love and to live love again and again in the face of countless sufferings, as Therese did.
The act of loving in the face of hatred, persecution, malignment, and every form of human suffering is a discipline that is possible not by human effort alone, but by grace. Just when we have reached the end of our own strength, it is then we are called to love again, and to be willing to take the risk of loving not just once, not twice, but an infinite number of times. I suspect that this is part of what the Psalmist is referring to when he says, "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts." Do you hear God's voice, even in the midst of your pain and suffering? Open your heart to the possibility of loving again, to hurting again, to being healed again, and then once again to loving.
3. Vocation means being God's, even on the Cross.

Anyone who preaches a Gospel solely based on prosperity and success in this life preaches a lie; we must realize that the Christian vocation means following Christ even unto death, and that means accepting the Cross. If we are humble enough, many people of faith will admit that while we may have followed a number of paths to which we surely felt God calling us, we ended up in a place entirely different than the place of our imagining or choosing. Even in the face of uncertainty, embarrassment, disillusionment, pain, and suffering we are always God's, and God is always present, always. 'Being God's' is the one vocation that never ends. For both in life and death we belong to God, and we know that the story of the Cross is one of unimaginable and seemingly senseless suffering bearing the greatest fruit of redemption that the world has ever known.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Thursday, September 18, 2014

On Love Expressed and the Christian Life

Dear Coffee Talkers,

I was recently reading an article talking about the importance of expressing our love for our family and friends, and citing some examples of ways to express our affection rather than just assuming these relationships would continue to run on auto-pilot from the efforts we'd perhaps made in the past or simply from an ongoing feeling of mutual affection, un-fueled by current expressions of kindness. Some of the ideas for showing our affection included sending a text message or an e-mail, giving the person a phone call, and sending a letter or a simple gift.

While I liked the idea of the article, there was something about it that seemed incomplete to me. In grappling with what ideas might be missing, I considered an important thought about the Christian life and love: that true love expressed always seeks the good of the other and is sacrificial, not selfish. This is not to suggest that the ideas of communicating with another person in simple ways or sending cards and gifts is not part of an expression of someone's affection, but to point out that, despite Hallmark's persuasive marketing scheme, perhaps simply giving someone a greeting card does not truly represent 'the very best' that love has to offer.

I think it's fair to say that most people have experienced the development of a new friendship, a fresh crush, or a blossoming romance and the ambivalent emotions that can accompany this experience. At first, we might see the other person entirely through rose colored glasses, so to speak, and we can be easily carried away by the excitement that accompanies every smile, text message, phone call, and card we receive. Soon, however, we may find that the relationship is put to some kind of test and that it has either grown stale or has become one-sided. Maybe we are the only one sending texts and cards, or perhaps the other person is giving 'gifts' that do not really consider our good but are intended to manipulate and get something from us that they want. We may realize that one or the other of us has a need that the other party is not willing or able to meet, and we realize that perhaps this was never really love at all but instead an arrangement of feel-good convenience at best and mutual using at worst.

While some may think that hate is the opposite of love, a Christian worldview offers the possibility that using another person is that which is most contrary to loving them, or caring for their ultimate good. When I merely use someone to meet my own selfish needs, true love can never enter into the picture.  I must stop using, and being used, if I ever hope to enter into a truly loving relationship, one in which both parties truly consider the good of the other and enter into a love of reciprocal self-gift.

In Christianity, we see this ultimate model of sacrificial, selfless, and life-giving love in action: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son..." This is agape love, the love of self-sacrifice. This type of love does not seek to take anything, and while it is open to receiving back an offering of love from the beloved, it never demands or requires reciprocity for its gift to be given.


Next time we consider how to express our love for our family and friends, let us truly consider the needs of the other person, place their good above our own, and put into action this love of self-sacrifice. Let us be willing to give the gift of our very selves, and to take the chance that even when sacrificial love is unrequited it is its own reward because it is the most true to our highest calling and destiny. Because when we care enough to send the very best, it will rarely involve a greeting card but will always require self-sacrifice, a sacrifice that will bear fruit in both this life and in eternity.

As always, thanks for stopping by. Be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

On Failed Prayers, Action, and Waiting: Opening A Spiritual Door

Dear Coffee Talkers,

A journalist recently asked Pope Francis, "Given what has happened in Gaza, was the Prayer for Peace held in the Vatican on June 8 a failure?" Pope Francis responded by saying it was not a failure, but rather that "the door of prayer was opened." He continued by saying that the encounter of prayer "is a fundamental step of the human attitude" toward God's gift of peace and that while "the smoke of the bombs and the war do not let one see the door ... the door was left open at that moment."

The two ideas that struck me most in this interview were the concepts of failed prayer and of opening the door of prayer. I believe that many of us can relate to the experience of a 'failed' or seemingly unanswered prayer and the accompanying pain that goes with the experience. Sadly, this is why many have abandoned the practice of any faith or prayer at all -- the risk of being hurt again by God is simply too much to bear. This seems to be part of the experience of the prophet Jeremiah who in the midst of intense sufferings and an interior crisis proclaims, "You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped...All day long I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me." Thankfully for Jeremiah, that was not the end of the story, but his feeling of being misled and mocked as a result of his efforts at prayer and faithfulness ring in the hearts of the faithful through the centuries.

The untimely death of a loved one; the loss of a job; the end of a romantic relationship or long-time friendship; a breach of trust within a family that can perhaps be forgiven but not forgotten -- where was God in the midst of these situations? Were our prayers a failure? And if so, why bother continuing to pray at all?

The image of a door being opened, and then remaining open, as a result of our prayer is very powerful, especially in considering some of the more tragic moments of our lives. The first way that the image moves me is that the idea of the door being opened reminds me that, while the work of grace is God's, I have a part to play in the divine action by walking toward and through that door. Yes, prayer is important, but in most cases if it is unaccompanied by any action on my part it is unlikely to bear much fruit. While certain situations do not allow for a great deal of human action, most of the time we should be moved by the Spirit of God to do something practical that would move us toward the result of our prayer.

The second way that the image of the door of prayer inspires me is that it causes me to consider how many doors are still open from prayers that I have already initiated but given up on. There are times where the human action accompanying my prayer is flawed or insufficient, or where I simply have to wait upon the Lord and for much longer than I am willing. Maybe I think that prayer failed or was unanswered, and I'm so busy looking at the 'smoke' left behind by a series of unfortunate events that were simply not according to my plans. But God has not given up, and the door remains open, perhaps to be answered in a different way and  time than I was originally prepared for. That is part of the mystery of grace --  freely given, wholly unexpected, and far surpassing our wildest dreams.

Am I ready to look again for that open door, to open myself to the risk of prayer even after being burned before? When I ask this question, I hear the words that the Lord spoke to Jeremiah after the prophet's crisis of faith: "For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for woe, plans to give you a future full of hope."

As always, thanks for stopping by. Be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,
Leslie


Friday, August 22, 2014

Guatemala 2014 - A Thank You to Our Benefactors

I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you, praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:3-6)

Click here for a link to many awesome pictures of our mission, taken by our sound technician James! :)
I am writing to express my profound gratitude for your partnership in the mission of Celebrant Singers, and to share with you a bit about my team’s recent outreach in California and Guatemala. As one of our benefactors, I consider you a very important part of our mission team and want to assure you of my team’s daily prayers for you and your intentions.

The Guatemala Team of Celebrant Singers came together for 4 intensive days of rehearsal and spiritual preparation, and then started out on our 3-week mission. I originally traveled with Celebrant Singers on a 10-week summer team to Trinidad 14 years ago, and so I was amazed not only by the invitation to travel with the ministry again, but by the idea of preparing for the mission so quickly. Any musician knows how long it can take for a group to come together musically, and even that preparation does not take into account the need for spiritual readiness and learning to work together as a ministry team. Also, our team was extremely diverse in every possible way – we ranged in age from 17 to 79 years old and came from many different Christian churches, work and family backgrounds, and countries including USA, Canada, Mexico, France, Bulgaria, and Slovenia. Even before we set out on mission, I could tell that the Lord had something very special in mind for our team, and I can truly say that by the end of the mission we had become a family deeply bonded in faith, hope, and love.

Our ministry outreach in Guatemala far surpassed any of our expectations. We were hosted by a charismatic community of Catholic Christians who had been greatly anticipating our arrival and welcomed us with open arms. The hospitality we received was extraordinary, and our presentations of music, testimonies, and presentation of the Gospel message were received by more than 5,000 people in Guatemala City and Antigua. In every place we presented, we were greeted by a large crowd of people, usually with standing room only and long lines of individuals coming forward for prayer. The great sincerity and faith of the Guatemalan people was very moving, and it was clear that the enthusiasm they had in receiving us was their way of welcoming Christ himself into their midst. We were certainly undeserving of such hospitality, but truly honored to be welcomed as representatives of Jesus.

We returned to California to conclude the ministry with the France team at the 37th Annual Homecoming Concert in Visalia and the World Touch Partners Banquet and Concert. During this time, we were able to remember the larger scope of the ministry and the importance of all of our sponsors in a very special way. Of all of the music and ministry experiences I have had in my life, this summer’s was one of the most powerful and I cannot express my profound gratitude to you for making this possible. While words may fall short, I pray that grace will suffice and I assure you of my grateful prayers.

In Christ,

Leslie A. Elliott