Blog

We Turned Five Years Old

13403335_10103988485155604_7415061308841758508_o

June 12, 2016: Fremont, CA         By: Kelly Kao

“Our task now is to learn that if we can voyage to the ends of the earth and find ourselves in the aborigine who most differs from ourselves, we will have made a fruitful pilgrimage. That is why pilgrimage is necessary, in some shape or other. Mere sitting at home and meditating on the divine presence is not enough for our time. We have to come to the end of a long journey and see that the stranger we meet there is no other than ourselves—which is the same as saying we find Christ in him.” ~Thomas Merton

I cannot seem to adequately express how proud I am of our courageous volunteers and devoted staff over the past five years. We have been on the mission field for three of those five years now and have completed eighteen mission trips, caring for over 4,000 patients.

Reflecting upon Thomas Merton’s insights on pilgrimage, I have noticed that I have been given the opportunity to take on the role of pilgrim the past few years. In 2013, I lived like a nomad, residing in over sixty different places. In 2014, I traveled on over fifty different flights, most of them being international. And in all my wanderings, Christ was simply leading me to Himself. It is precisely through my serving of the aborigine on mission trips with See the Lord that I found myself. And in finding myself, I found Christ.

Today, I am truly in awe of how God works through See the Lord. He really can never be outdone. My soul is constantly flooded with intense joy and may we continue to translate that joy into strength to serve others. May we be the hands and feet of Christ and may we continue to see Christ in all those that we serve.

Serving Our Home Country

DSCF3432

May 16-17, 2015: Sanger, CA          By: Erica Liao

Over the past few years of its existence, STL has been able to send a multitude of teams on successful mission trips to Taiwan. Last year, we even ventured into new territory by sending our first group to the Philippines. Our biggest development in 2015 has been serving in our home country, in the humble city of Sanger, California.

Sanger is a city of Fresno County, nestled in the Central Valley of California. The population consists of mainly Latino migrant workers who work in the agricultural industry. The median income for a household is $32,072, with about 23.7% of the population below the poverty line. Many of the inhabitants have been heavily impacted by the drought, losing work as farming production declined and packaging facilities closed down. The unemployment rate was 11.3%, more than double the national average, as of April 2015. In response to the need, STL commissioned a team of nine volunteers in May 2015 to serve the people of Sanger.

Clinic was set up in the community center of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, where we examined 195 patients and distributed 110 pairs of glasses through a combined effort of four optometrists, five STL volunteers, and eight translators/facilitators from the parish. Since most of our patients work long hours outside in the harsh sunlight, we not only provided prescription glasses to help them see, but we also provided many safety glasses and sunglasses to protect their eyes from the harmful UV rays. Some had suffered injuries to their eyes or their systemic conditions, like diabetes and high blood pressure, were affecting their eyesight. Many did not have any vision insurance and were relying on our weekend clinic to provide them with the necessary care and glasses.

In addition to clinic, STL develops and presents public health seminars that are tailored to the local population. Our Spanish-speaking volunteers were an amazing help, jumping from patient to patient to assist in translation. They also helped deliver our presentations on management of sugar intake in both Spanish and English. The presentations explain the effects of sugar in a person’s diet and how it can lead to higher risks of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Our mission is not only to equip our patients with eyesight, but also provide them with the tools and education to live healthy and thriving lives.

Location was not the only new development on this trip-- we were able to purchase a new piece of equipment and use it for the very first time. Through the generosity of our donors, STL was able to purchase a portable autorefractor, a device that provides a measurement of a person’s refractive error. This device helps streamline the exam process, giving the optometrists baseline readings to be able to more quickly measure patients’ prescriptions. The portable autorefractor has traveled to Taiwan on two of our mission trips this summer and has been an invaluable addition to our equipment base, improving accuracy and productivity. We look forward to using it during our future mission trips.

This trip was especially worthwhile from the perspective of our STL staff, as it was the first mission trip for two board members and one officer. Having been quite accustomed to working in the back-end in preparation for trips, it was certainly a different experience to be working face-to-face with the people we serve. Although much of STL’s time and resources are spent serving those abroad, we have become increasingly aware of those in our very own neighborhoods that may need our help. Going to the Central Valley provided an opportunity for local friends and supporters from California to dedicate a weekend serving those in need, and gave many optometrists who normally would be unable to take off multiple weeks to travel abroad, a chance to volunteer as well. Our hope is to inspire more U.S. residents to volunteer their weekends, experience the work that we do, and even motivate them to consider joining future trips abroad.

These interactions are a living testament to all of the hard work that STL does in the name of Christ. A big thank-you to all of our supporters-- both financial and spiritual! We are extremely grateful for your continued support and contributions, and look forward to exciting new developments in the year to come.

STL’s Second Country: The Philippines

  • IMG_2383

May 6-9, 2014: Manila, Philippines

In May, STL entered into uncharted territory for only the second time since our missions began in 2012. A developed country like Taiwan gave us a safe environment to learn and gain experience. However, it took a giant leap of faith for us to venture out to the Philippines.

Our mission in this new country took place in Bagong Barrio, a neighborhood known for poverty, crime, drugs, and prostitution. It is the second most dangerous area in Metro Manila due to gang violence. The optometric work took place over two days at the Our Lady of Lujan Quasi Parish, run by the IVE (Institute of the Incarnate Word). Approximately 25 Filipino volunteers (consisting of 1-2 ODs from the Philippine College of Optometrists, 2 faculty ODs from Centro Escolar University, 5 practicing ODs, and 18 5th year optometry students) examined the patients and the 4 ODs from the US acted as attending doctors. We had the help of 7 parish volunteers with registration and directing traffic. We examined 453 patients and prescribed 268 glasses.

The Holy Mission of the IVE priests/brothers and SSVM sisters took place from May 2-11. The US team spent two more days after the optometric work helping with the Holy Mission. In the mornings, we would do home visits with Mother and the other sisters (blessing homes, praying, asking about needed sacraments, and inviting them to parish events). To provide some perspective, a typical home may be 6ft x 8ft with 10-15 people (multiple families) living within the close quarters. The homes are usually dark and full of trash. Since there are too many people, sleeping usually occurs in shifts. Children sleep during the day and adults sleep at night, leaving the children to roam around the streets at night. In the afternoons, we helped with children activities. We delivered care packages (diapers, milk powder, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, and lice shampoo) to 60+ mothers with young infants on Thursday, 5/8.

On Saturday, 5/10, the 4 ODs from the US were invited to lecture to 4 out of the 6 optometry school deans in the Philippines, along with other optometrists.

The finished glasses were all delivered on Wednesday, 5/14, to very appreciative patients.

The trip was certainly worthwhile. The average income of the patients we saw (if they were employed) was less than $50 USD a month. Access to medical care and a pair of glasses was quite out of reach for a vast majority. In the Philippines, the lower class and upper class discrepancy is very apparent. Many of the doctors, students, and family members of our US team mentioned that they had never set foot in an area like Bagong Barrio, despite the fact that they may live less than 10 miles away. Another obvious characteristic of the Filipino culture is the Catholic faith. Churches are so abundant that it is not uncommon to find Catholic mass celebrated in shopping malls. However, despite high volume for mass attendance, there can still be much improvement in living out the Catholic faith in this modern age.

We would like to thank each and every one of the STL staff members for your help and support. Your prayers are much appreciated and have born much fruit. The safety of our volunteers and the success of the mission is a testament to your service and love.

CROSS Radio Lecture

  • cr9

March 2, 2014: San Francisco, CA

Back on August 17, 2013, Kelly completed an interview with Cross Radio, a Chinese Catholic radio program in the San Francisco Bay Area. STL had the honor of being invited to present during Cross Radio's annual fundraising event at Saints Peter and Paul Church in San Francisco this past Sunday. Staff members (Andy An and Judy Chang) and volunteers gathered to support Kelly in her very first technical eyeball lecture in Mandarin. The title of the lecture was Healthy Bodies, Healthy Eyes, Healthy Sight (健康身體, 健康眼睛, 健康視力). Keep in mind that most of the audience members were Cantonese speaking, not Mandarin. We were very blessed to have Frances Wu, a Cantonese-speaking registered nurse, to translate some of the technical terms for the audience. Through the grace of God and the encouragement of all present, Kelly was able to lighten the mood about serious eye diseases. Surprisingly, the audience was very intrigued by the disease process of glaucoma and how antioxidants are important for eye health. By the way, it took Kelly quite a long tome to memorize that antioxidants are 抗氧化劑: kàngyǎnghuàjì. Pinyin has been her best friend the last couple weeks.

As the lenten season begins and as we are marked with ashes, may we always keep our eyes set on the ultimate goal of eternal life in heaven. In all the sacrifices we take on, know that suffering only brings us closer to Christ. If you would like some ideas on how to live out "a life of evangelical poverty," take a look at what Pope Francis suggests through this eventful calendar. Have a blessed Lenten journey.

General Meeting 2013

  • STL_GeneralMtg 121413

December 14, 2013: Berkeley, CA

Fourteen of our staff gathered for our first general meeting. Members from New York, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area united in person or via web conference. Our team has grown so big, so quickly this year that some members met each other for the first time that day. Our meeting was very productive, followed by a photo shoot at the cafe, lunch at the Cheese Board Collective, filming of our promotional video at the Berkeley Rose Garden, and then dessert at Fentons Creamery. When each and every one of our staff members recalled their inspiration for joining STL, we were reminded that it was not by accident, but by God's will. Our operations are expanding here in the US, Taiwan, and the Philippines next year and it is evident that all these graces are bestowed upon us by our Lord. We count our blessings and pray for continued courage and strength. God bless and Merry Christmas.

 

Called to Be Disciples and Make Disciples

  • IMG_0435

Each of us is called to be a disciple of Christ and Pope Francis directly called three million youth on Copacabana beach in July 2013. With the waves crashing along the shore and the sand beneath our toes, the Pope drew striking parallels between our summoning and the summoning of the first disciples. He helped us imagine Simon Peter and Andrew casting their nets into the sea, along with James and John in their boat mending their nets with their father, Zebedee. And with a single call, they left everything behind to follow Jesus. We too are called to be “fishers of men” (Mt 4:19) and to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19) – the commanding theme of World Youth Day (WYD) 2013.

The Motivation

The excitement. Latin America, as you may know, is the home of approximately 450 million Catholics, or half of the world’s Catholic population. Brazil is the country with the largest number of Catholics: 123 million. To see Papa Francis welcomed and embraced by millions of Catholics in his home continent would be the ultimate Pope experience.

The intrigue. The Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE) organized a 27-day pilgrimage for hundreds of international youth prior to WYD. In route to Rio de Janeiro, the pilgrimage would take us through Argentina and Brazil to seminaries and homes for the disabled, along with major churches, basilicas, missions and shrines. I saw the days spent as a pilgrim visiting holy places and living minimally as an occasion to grow in virtue. Since I work on See the Lord, a Catholic non-profit organization currently focused in Taiwan, a month in South America was a perfect opportunity to research future expansion possibilities for our mission work. A better understanding of Latin American healthcare practices, social norms, and most importantly, how Catholics there practiced and lived out their faith proved worthy of a visit. Lastly, the pilgrimage would allow me to spend an extended period of time with Taiwanese Catholic youth. I spend most of my time on missions with U.S. volunteers and elderly Taiwanese aboriginal villagers. My desire to learn more about Taiwanese Catholic youth comes from my missionary spirit. In order to properly evangelize in this country, I must understand them because they are the future of the Church in Taiwan.

The Journey

We were very blessed to have twenty devoted and enthusiastic members in the Taiwanese group – five religious and fifteen youth (or young at heart).  For the majority of our travels, though, we were actually part of a larger group of 240 American, Canadian, and Argentinian pilgrims. During the 27 days, we clung to each other and learned how to trust in God, the Almighty Provider. I’ve counted a few ways He provided for us below.

#1: All of us traveled safely. Our four large buses caravanned daily, covering about 3,000 miles across Argentina and Brazil. Sometimes our bus rides were 18-hours long. Considering we spent so much of our time on the road, it was a true blessing we were all safe.

#2: We never went hungry, physically or spiritually. There was never a shortage of bread and dulce de leche (a staple of Argentinian diets) or bags of Taiwanese snacks. I learned on this trip that the Taiwanese are very fearful of going hungry – there is a reason why Taiwan is the country with the highest concentration of convenience stores. Besides filling our stomachs with delicious food, we had the opportunity to fill ourselves with the Heavenly Host during daily Mass. This nourishment was a constant reminder that it is the Word of God and the Holy Eucharist that truly fills. Despite the regular chaos and noise of travel, we always had this one constant to steer us back on the path to righteousness when the constant rigor of the pilgrim life became too overwhelming.

#3: We always had a place to sleep. It didn’t matter if the place we stayed was the floor of a classroom, a bus, or a dark basement with leaky walls, we always had a place to rest our heads.

Reflecting upon some of the areas in which God provided for us on this journey, the necessities of life were clearly made evident. I am reminded of Mark 6:8 when Jesus sent the Twelve on their mission, “He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts.” We weren’t as brave as the disciples, being without food, sack, or money; however, we trusted to the best of our ability that God would provide. And surely, He did.

The Experience

In all honesty, the sites of the historical churches and the grandiose Iguazu Falls were of no comparison to my WYD experience of being in the presence of the Holy Father. It was during the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with Pope Francis that I understood why I took this journey. A magnificent ripple effect took place on the beach as millions followed the Pope by kneeling down in adoration. It was then, while I was on my knees alongside the Pope, that it hit me that we are all servants of God kneeling by the example of the Servant of the servants of God. Consider Luke 22:26-27, “Let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is greater: the one seated at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one seated at table? I am among you as the one who serves.” Jesus Christ humbled Himself to serve others even though He was the Son of Man. He is the ultimate example of complete sacrifice out of pure love. That evening, it was by the example of the Vicar of Christ that three million of us were once again reminded to humble ourselves as servants of Christ. Overcome with emotion, I wanted to rush the stage and give Papa Francis a hug. I managed to contain myself.

The Impact

Like most pilgrims headed to WYD, I had no idea what transformation God had in store for me. Yes, I heard the calling to be a disciple, a servant of Christ. Yes, I knew I needed to make disciples of all nations. But how? God is clever, and God is funny. He sent me on a tour of the other side of the globe to learn the answer: prayer.

The long bus rides were the perfect place for us to recite rosaries, share vocation stories, have theology Q&A sessions, and reflect on our faith with nearby passengers. The topic of plenary indulgences came up because we always prayed the rosary with the intention of seeking a plenary indulgence. We learned that indulgences could only be applied to oneself or a soul in purgatory, not a living person. This was the start of my rosary praying frenzy. To this day, I still pray a daily rosary for the petition for a plenary indulgence for a soul in purgatory.

Perchance a little background may be important here to understand the gravity of this transformation.  As a missionary overseas, I spend much of my time on corporal works of mercy, namely, visiting the sick or providing health care to them. Sadly, I had been devaluing the spiritual works of mercy. This pilgrimage allowed me to prioritize prayer for the living and the dead. Before the pilgrimage, I was constantly working and working but not dedicating enough time to prayer. I was so overwhelmed with trying to make more disciples; I neglected my own calling to be a good disciple of prayer. Even Jesus needed to retreat to pray according to Luke 6:12, “In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.” Without constant prayer, my works were not being done in communion with God’s will. Through the Holy Rosary, I am able to spend more time reflecting on the life of Jesus, and how Mother Mary was with Him every step of the way. We all have our own crosses, but we do not bear them alone. Just as Mary followed Jesus as He carried His cross to Calvary, she is our advocate as well.

The building of better spiritual habits has made a tremendous impact on my missionary life. Challenges come, and I find myself turning to prayer rather than my own intellect. God really is clever and funny. Clever: because it took the incentive of praying a daily rosary for others in order for me to understand the importance of prayer. Funny: because He brought me all the way to South America to learn this lesson.

To spare you a trip to South America, allow me to impart some lessons I have learned on this journey. That day we were on the beach, being called to be “fishers of men,” I wondered how each of us was supposed to “go and make disciples of all nations.” We stood there, clapping and cheering on the Pope, but did we really understand? We didn’t leave behind our sleeping bags to make disciples right then and there. We as Catholics are, however, each called to the New Evangelization, the very purpose Blessed Pope John Paul II instituted WYD in 1984. We are called to deepen our own faith and then proclaim the Gospel. Some of you may be prayer warriors; consider furthering your faith with 30 minutes of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament or scriptural reading (by the way, both of these are ways to obtain a plenary indulgence). Some of you may already be proclaiming the Gospel by teaching catechism classes; consider reaching out to a friend that is being engulfed by secularism or has fallen away from the Sacraments. Brothers and Sisters of Christ, there is much to be done and the world is waiting, so “go and make disciples of all nations!”

Written by: Kelly Kao, September 2013

close
Facebook Iconfacebook like buttonYouTube IconTwitter Icontwitter follow button