Dear Friends and Family,
We have been working hard in DC. Now that Clark is in Kansas City, Ryan and I are learning a lot about running the ministry. We have been blessed with many new volunteers and seminarians. For Easter, we gave baskets to 150 moms and 400 kids.
I've known Claudia since she was eleven and our relationship with her family has had ups and downs. Claudia is now sixteen and having her second baby. Claudia's life has been difficult, and her challenges will increase with motherhood. We recently helped throw her a baby shower.
When we arrived, Bianca and I were met with excitement and put to work preparing and arranging food. The music, commotion, games, and soul food made a good party. As I looked around, I became misty-eyed. It was an honor to be present at this moment. The circumstances of her pregnancy were not perfect, and nobody at the party was perfect. A family which is not always "together," was coming together in an extraordinary way to celebrate motherhood and new life. Her family and friends honored the occasion with dignity and joy. Amidst all this, I was put to work as if I was part of the family while simultaneously being treated as a guest of honor. There was something very humbling about the whole situation.
In February, we went on a week-long retreat. The Beachner family hosted us on a beautiful property with fields, woods, and a big lake in southeastern KS. It was a great setting for exploration and reflection. We read the Catechism on prayer and studied the gospel of Luke with a focus on how Jesus ministered. Our days were spent in silence except for our nightly discussions on the reading. At the end of the week we celebrated with the Beachners and roasted a pig. The retreat was a great preparation for Lent.
I am finally beginning to grasp the beauty of fasting. At the start of Lent, my spiritual director said, "If you are going to fast, you need to feast on something else." My prayer life grew as I fasted from snacking and asked God to be my sustenance. Instead of challenging and frustrating, this Lent was comforting and exciting.
Sacrifice is not for its own sake, but a preparation for something greater. Catholics are sometimes accused of doing penance because we like suffering or are trying to earn salvation. It is easy to believe these accusations when we practice our Lenten observances as a set of weird rules. Instead, Lent is meant to open us to God's joy and peace. My sacrifices were small compared to the joy I received. I couldn't have earned it! My sacrifices clear the clutter and get me out of God's way.
Your generosity makes our mission possible. This mission has recently become more public. The Washington Post Magazine featured A Simple House as their cover story. Senator Sam Brownback invited us to meet with him at his office, and we are looking forward to him visiting our ministry. In addition, a number of schools and churches invited us to give talks to their youth.
More Good News:
We need a car! If you have a reliable used car to donate, please give us a call.
Please pray for us. With Love,
Laura Cartagena with DC volunteers: Sarah Burkey, Ryan Fredrickson, Ryan Hehman, and Bianca Tropeano.
Easter was cold and rainy. After we finished our outreach in the projects, we brought chocolate bunnies, hot drinks, and Burger King gift cards to a few guys living underneath a bridge. Despite the brutal KC winters, they never sleep inside. George was the only one there. We had been friends with George for a few weeks, and we were hoping that he would come to our house for Easter dinner. He is an alcoholic, and he drinks 30 beers a day to not feel sick. When we arrived, George was wet, cold, inconsolable, and barely coherent. He had been vomiting blood for a few days and was groveling to be taken to detox.
Death by hypothermia was a real threat. George needed to go to an emergency room, but if we called an ambulance, the police would come too. The men living under the bridge would feel betrayed and lose their belongings if the police came. So we started the long coaxing process to get George to our car.
His grief at his friendless and desperate state was terrible. If emotion and desire could cure alcoholism, George would not have a problem. He desperately wants friends and not to be a 'dysfunctional' human. Our urgings and long negotiations wandered between joking, threatening an ambulance, talking about his kids, and his threats of suicide.
During the strange exchange, I struggled to find the right words. I asked if he was raised Christian. He laughed and cried. My naïve question, was interpreted as 'Do you know God?' As such, it was asking a man who talks, resists, begs, pleads, and argues with God in his hardship, 'if he knew God?'. The question was ridiculous to him, and his crying and laughing made this obvious.
When Sylvia pulled the van up to the bridge, we got George into the van and started driving to the hospital. An undercover cop, who we now realize had been watching the situation develop, followed us to the hospital. This became especially nerve racking when George decided to have one more beer before detox.
George stayed at the hospital until his immediate sickness subsided, and he left before his vomiting was treated. He is now seeing a doctor to help with the vomiting, but he has not made it to detox. George did not get under the bridge by one day of bad choices, and he isn’t going to leave the bridge after one day of good choices. Nothing as simple as a job, an apartment, or a chocolate bunny will solve his problems. George needs love, friends, and God. Even if he never fully 'gets better' or becomes 'functional,' his life is of infinite value.
Our first KC outreach was a success. The families in the projects have warmly welcomed our presence, and we need to fully open the food pantry and mother’s closet. $700 a month gives groceries to 30+ families and about $250 a month allows us to help mothers with diapers and baby supplies. Our food deliveries provide a great relief and witness, but summer is the hardest time to find food and cash donations. Please help us help the poor.
Good News and Thank Yous:
Thank You for Supporting this Mission,
Clark Massey with KC volunteers: Sylvia Artilles, James Bechard, Kelly Deutsch, Jessica Hensle, and Heather Jacobs.