"Building Bridges Across Borders"

Happy New Year from SPO Arizona and asuCatholic! As we enter 2018 and look forward to an event-filled semester here at Arizona State, I’d like to fill you in on what we’ve been doing here lately.
Early in December, students (including myself) and staff at asuCatholic drove south to spend the first week of our winter break serving the community of Nogales, Mexico. Much like the trip last spring, we spent time at HEPAC, at the San Juan Bosco shelter, and in the community walking door-to-door in some of the poorest neighborhoods in Nogales.
Sign as you enter HEPAC. English translation, "HEPAC home of hope and peace"

Sign as you enter HEPAC. English translation, "HEPAC home of hope and peace"

This year, however, we had a new mission theme: “Father… I pray that they may all be one, as you Father, are in me and I in you… so that the world may know that you love them as you love me.” Instead of focusing only on the service work itself, the goal of this mission trip was to unite two groups of people in solidarity by, to borrow a phrase from HEPAC, building bridges across borders. We placed more of an emphasis on personal interactions with the people of Nogales, whether it was walking through the neighborhoods, inviting the community to join us for mass, spending time with the ill and disabled in their own homes, or visiting the immigrants at San Juan. Even with what little Spanish most of us had, the people in Nogales were so patient and generous, and almost always offered to make or give us food at the houses we visited.
Our team and the youth of the Nogales community getting ready for the "Olympic Games" that they competed in

Our team and the youth of the Nogales community getting ready for the "Olympic Games" that they competed in

We were also fortunate that the mission trip overlapped with the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the largest and most celebrated day in almost all of Mexico. The level of excitement and celebration we witnessed downtown and in the Nogales Cathedral was unlike anything most of us had ever seen.
I gained a lot personally from this mission trip, but if I had to sum it up in one point, it would be that I left Nogales with a great love and appreciation for Mexico as a whole, and a deep desire to return.

Pictures (and videos) from the trip can be found at the links below. We hope you will keep us and all the students at ASU in your prayers as we enter this new semester!
- Connor Companik

True Uncomfortability

Do I have your permission to be honest right now?

Alright, I am going to proceed assuming you are intrigued and responded with a “Yes.” However, I do not want to neglect any of the “No” responders out there; in the off chance you responded “No,” feel free to disregard the rest of this post.

In all honesty, adjusting to life in Arizona as a missionary has been harder than expected. To provide a bit of context to this statement, I am a first-year missionary with SPO and moved from Minnesota to Arizona in August to serve at ASU. In all seriousness, although I love the weather in the midwest, I have always wanted the adventure of living in a warmer climate. Knowing my heart, the Lord called me to Arizona where I have enjoyed many days of … warm … above 100 degree … weather. Sidenote, I am just realizing how Minnesotan it is for me to be talking about the weather right now. Anywho, between the high temperatures and trapped arid desert dust, the valley of Phoenix has proven to be deadly for my allergy-prone immune system as I have battled several bouts of illness in these first few months. Besides the weather, there is a culmination of adjustments that anyone must go through when moving to a new place such as learning the “lay of the land,” building new relationships, and adjusting to new cultural norms (language, unwritten rules, common behaviors, extremely impatient and aggressive Arizona drivers, etc.). It is important to note that I share these things not to complain, but with a joyful and light heart as these things are all part of the adventure of life! However, these minor adjustments and challenges have been accompanied by a new influx of spiritual attacks (which comes with the territory of serving the Lord and is to be expected) that have proven to test my faith in a way I haven’t experienced before.

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Maybe you can relate? Have you experienced a time where for one reason or another, you were repeatedly stretched? Stretched to a point of true uncomfortability?

From my experience, it has been during these times of my life where the Lord loves to “show up” in a powerful way. In these moments, He reassures me of His love, reveals His closeness, and asks me to trust Him. Last week, the Father again “showed up” in a powerful way during our household morning prayer. I want to share this encounter with you for two reasons: as a way to give thanks to the Lord and glorify His name, and to offer an encouragement to remain steadfast during any trials or difficulty, for our God is a faithful and all-loving Father who takes care of His sons and daughters.

Here is the journal entry I wrote recounting my experience during prayer:

“During our time of worship in morning prayer, I received a closeness to the Lord, and it was a sense that I was worshiping the Lord face to face in His kingdom. The image wasn’t clear, but I was singing to Him as if He were right in front of me. As worship closed, the Lord was there and I approached Him, kissing the wound in His left foot. As I prostrated before Him and held His foot, He picked me up and held me in His arms. I was a young boy. But I felt His heart beating against mine - He held me so close. This is the intimacy the Lord wants with me and all His children - to bring me so close, chest to chest in embrace, where our hearts can beat together, mine receiving from His.

In His heart is found all of the grace, desires, and will of the Father. And He wants to bring me close to hear His heartbeat in the silence. It beats for all of humanity; it beats to bring healing, restoration, and love.

The quiet heartbeat of an all powerful and all loving God is one that overcomes all sin, insecurities, lies of the evil one, fears, and all things which try to pull away His children. Coming close, drawing near to the Heart of Jesus is where my life becomes free, restored, true, and in accordance with who I was made to be. Without union with Jesus, it is impossible for me to flourish as a human, to live the life of joy, purpose, and love in which the Father intends.”

Will you allow Jesus to pick you up, hold you close, and listen to His heartbeat?

- Alex Spanton, first year missionary


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