Brings people to Jesus, forms disciples, and sends them to transform the world.

Mrs. Castillo (Elena)

Heyo! 12th grader Elena Reyna aqui! I'm a missionary at the Cactus House in El Cenizo, Texas where the dogs are cute and the people are friendly. I just wanted to stop for a moment and express the immense gratitude I feel for being able to serve Mrs. Yolanda Castillo. 

Mrs. Castillo is an elderly widow who owns a chihuahua named Cannelita. She speaks no English and The Cactuses (my small group... yes, we know the plural is cacti, it's funny) are replacing Mrs. Castillo's roof, water heater, sink and cabinet, painting her house the color of the sky, and any other odd jobs the Construction Dads find. By work day 1, I already had a soft spot for her as she insisted we all drink the limeade she made for us because — as she puts it — "ustedes es tan dando, pues yo doy," which basically means "you all give, I give." 

These last couple of work days, I haven't exactly been physically working... (save VBS in the morning — kids have energy!) mostly, I've been learning. My Spanish has improved because I've become Mrs. Castillo's personal translator for all who speak no Spanish — even though my friends Aron speaks it way better than I do. I also just love to talk to Mrs. Castillo and keep her company. We have great conversations in my broken Spanish, and she never makes fun of my Spanish. She's extremely patient with me, which is great. I've learned so much about her, and I've also learned how to make her famous limeade — which I go offer to all the missionaries every 30 minutes or so.

Limeade: 6 limes, 2 spoonfuls of sugar, and about 2 liters or so of water.

She dotes on us, constantly trying to give back, whether it be tea, limeade, cookies, candles, and CDs — all of which I've received. She is so similar to my Mami Lucy (my grandma) that it's scary. They both love to feed me or to make me relax. They both make delicious limeade (it tastes exactly the same as my Mami Lucy's) and hibiscus tea. And I love to talk to both of them.

Every couple of minutes, she tells me she is incredibly grateful for all the work "the young people" do. She also says that she thanks God every day for us coming into her life, and that she'll never forget us. I'm incredibly grateful too, for the fact that I have met her and been given the chance to spread the love of God to her as well. Every time I see her, she gives me a hug and asks if I want "aguita."

I'm so glad that for my first and only Mission Laredo, I get to converse with and work for an incredibly sweet, caring, cute, and humble woman. Mrs. Castillo has truly touched my heart, and I'll always remember our random conversations, her killer limeade, and her insistent desire to give us things. She is absolutely a gift from God, and I won't ever forget her. 

Adios de Laredo, 

Elena Reyna

P.S. I have pulled some nails... I'm not just talking all day. 

The Impact of HSM (Andrés)

Being apart of St Ann's HSM has changed my life. I used to have no religious life at all. I thought that learning about God was just cliché and boring and all came to the same conclusion: that God loves each and everyone of us. But after Laredo in 2016, my life changed. No longer did I just want to walk "through the motions" but wanted to know each and every little thing about God and the Catholic Church. And HSM has allowed me to do that. From retreats to talks to guest speakers to mission trips to a entire mass dedicated to the NOW of the church, Joey and company have allowed me to reach a new level of faith that I would have never imagined. I still wonder sometimes when I have time to myself, "How in the world did I get myself to this spot?" I mean, I really didn't have a consistent religious life a few years ago (the only thing I would do is go to mass). But now, with HSM's help, I now enjoy the little things that God does, as well as Churches traditions and customs, such as adoration. HSM has been such a life changing experience, and the knowledge and love I have received here, I will remember forever.


Andrés Morales

Part of a Miracle (Abby)

Hi! I'm Abby King, and this is my second year in Laredo — and my second year working in the San Francisco Javier neighborhood of south Laredo.

(I need to start this off with saying that those ladies slaving away in the kitchen to serve us three meals a day deserve a medal for managing to satisfy the stomachs of hungry teenagers. Also, Mom, I expect empanadas and tostadas every single day for the rest of my life — please and thank you.)

I am serving the Blanca family, who resides on the "House on a Hill." Our job is to build a ramp out of wood so that the mother of the family can exit the house more efficiently with her walker. I had the privilege to talk to Nora Blanca and her mother today about their family and their history in Laredo. God willing, Mrs. Blanca will be turning 93 in September — which in my opinion, if you've been praying the rosary for that long you should get a one way ticket to heaven! Being in Laredo really puts a lot of things into perspective. I have been worrying and anxious about my future due to senior year coming up in the fall, but I haven't thought about how lucky I am to be serving people who are so grateful for all the little blessings that happen day to day. The House on the Hill is very small, the floor is cracked and in great need of repair, there are no doors from room to room, and the size of the one bed in the house is the size of the cots we sleep in and complain about while we stay at St. Patrick's.

That is their reality.

And still, they love.

They bring us watermelon and popsicles. They smile at us and greet us every single morning. They offer assistance and open up their home to us. They never waver in their hope of assistance. Nora told me that she had been praying for someone to come and help them with her mother — that she had been hoping for a miracle.

I don't think I've ever felt more important than to be considered part of their miracle.

Although the space we work in is compact and restricts us from all working at the same time, I find that praying for our family, getting to know my small group more and more each day, and showing the grace of God to this family is what Mission Laredo is truly about.

Please continue to pray for us as we continually are praying not only for our family here in Laredo, but for our friends and family back home. 

Carrying the Cross (Kassidy)

Hello friends and family of those on the Laredo trip! My name is Kassidy, and I am an incoming freshman at the University of North Texas! This is my second year on Laredo, and I can say in full confidence, even though it is only Sunday, that this year's mission trip is much different than the last. In just the 48 hours that we have been here, we have had praise and worship, twelve hours of silence in order to prepare for Sunday Mass, and a time of silent adoration.

But there has been one thing weighing on my heart that we've done differently than in years past. Each small group received a small crucifix on Friday night that they were in charge of for the week. It symbolizes the cross that we are carrying for each of the families that we are working with this week. And the rules for this activity are simple: never put the crucifix down. 

It seems simple, but once we were faced with actually doing work on Saturday, I was struggling to stop what I was doing to hold Jesus. It's supposed to symbolize the sacrifice that we are making for our families. We had to stop what we were doing in order to truly bear the cross of our families. But, funnily enough, I found that this was not the hardest part... Saturday night, we had a 35 minute praise and worship session, and the crucifix had just been passed on to me. (...great.) I am definitely someone who enjoys singing with her hands wide open — ready to hear whatever the Lord has to give me during this time. And I would be lying if I told you that I was excited to be holding the crucifix during this time. Of course, I wanted to praise the Lord with my arms open wide — certainly not with a crucifix restricting my fingers from extending to the Lord. I wanted sooooo badly to place the crucifix in the chair behind me so I could focus on me — on what I wanted (selfishly enough) and then it hit me: there are times when I feel like Jesus wouldn't want to carry my cross.

When I sin, no matter how small.
When I don't spend my days radiating His love.
When I don't live out the Catholic faith.
When I don't proclaim that He is the Lord of Lords or the King of Kings.

But let me tell you — He did carry my cross all those years ago up to Calvary to die for MY sins. And He WILL carry my cross — for the rest of my time on Earth. So, the least... the very least I could do is carry the cross of those who I have chosen to serve this week. 

Thoughts from Emily D.

Hello! My name is Emily Dunn, and I am an incoming senior at Flower Mound High School. This week, I have the privilege of working in El Cenizo with an awesome core team member, April, and one of our fantastic interns, Luke. They have been absolutely great, and it has been incredible getting to work with them and getting to know them.

This week, we have been assigned to rebuild the roof on the “Cactus House;" as you can probably guess, there are A LOT of cacti on the site! The woman who lives there, Sra. Yolanda Castillo, speaks only Spanish, so it has definitely been a challenge to communicate with her; however, you can see how appreciative she is when we try to talk with her through her wide smile, and that in itself is encouragement enough to keep on trying. Thankfully, by the grace of God and a couple of years of high school Spanish, I have been able to learn a few things about her, such as the fact that she came over to Laredo from Mexico at the age of 5, she was married to her husband for 50+ years until he passed away at the age of 91, and she has lived in a variety of places from San Antonio to Minnesota! We have only worked on her house for one day so far, but I can’t wait to continue to get to know her throughout the rest of the week.

This morning, we had Mass at our work site’s home parish, St Monica’s. Again, the Lord put my communication skills to the test, as it was mostly in Spanish! However, it was a beautiful Mass, and I am SO grateful to have been apart of it! We then spent the afternoon at TAMIU — lots of people swam or played volleyball, but I enjoyed just getting to sit and talk to a ton of different people!

So far, my favorite part of Mission Laredo has been the time of silence we had after adoration. Last night, after session and small group, we went into the church and had a short time of adoration. Afterwards, Joey challenged us to remain silent until breakfast in the morning. It was not an easy task, but was absolutely incredible to take part in. Through the silence, I was able to really process all that had happened — not only during adoration and small group, but all throughout the day, and was able to truly appreciate the little blessings that God had intricately placed around me throughout the day that would have otherwise been overlooked. I am so thankful to have shared in this experience last night, and hope that I am able to do more things like this in the future.

These past few days have been absolutely wonderful, and I can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for us during the rest of the week! 

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