Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Hello from southern California and the L.A. regional team! We have officially been on the road for about six weeks and it has been one of the longest, but most fruitful, six weeks of our lives. We have the privilege of working closely with the NET office in Alhambra, where we have spent many days working on talks and getting to meet the carmelite sisters that live across the street.

I wanted to take just a brief moment to let you know who we are. My name is Mackenzie, I am 19 years old and from Kokomo, Indiana. Some of my favorite things are milk and kale! I am so excited to be serving a second year with NET! My name is Zoey Boucher, I’m 21 years old and I’m from Austin, TX. I love monkeys and cuddles, and by the end of this year I will have successfully convinced every single NET missionary to move to Texas with me. My name is Michael Castillo but just go by Mikey, I’m 24 years old, and I’m from a small west Texas town called Midland. I love exercise and being healthy. Heyyyy Hooooo Heyyyyy Hooo! My name is Francis Shackleton. I am 18 years old from a small town named Amesbury, Massachusetts. I love basketball and food! I love to laugh and spread good vibes and more importantly God’s love. Hola! My name is Alicia, but here they call me Alice because it’s easier. I’m from Barcelona, Spain and I’m 23 years old. It’s my first time in the USA and I love everything. I like to listen to worship music and I love to dance. I was born by the name of Javier De Alva Garza. HELLO HUMANS! I’m Bethany Szamocki. I am 20 years old from Springfield, IL. Fun facts about myself: 1. I LOVE sloths… real talk, I’m slightly tearing up writing about them. 2. I HATE belly buttons. Don’t know why. No, I don’t even like my own belly button. Oh! I’ve served with NET 16-17 along with an extra month in Scotland during June 2017. Hey guys, my name is Blake Flynn I’m 18 years old and I’m from a small town in Michigan called Belding. I play guitar and piano and I love music and art. I also love playing sports, hanging out with friends, swimming, fishing, ice skating and snowboarding. Hey everyone! My name is Hannah Lisson, I’m 22 years old and from Clearwater, Minnesota, though I lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota for the past four years going to college – Go Gophers! A few fun facts about me: I love to read, eat, play piano, hang out with friends, and I love math! Hi, I’m Katie. I’m from the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Growing up I loved to be outdoors, camping, playing games with my sisters, and going for walks. I have 4 siblings and I am the middle child, 18 years old. I love to read, Jane Austen especially. I also really love animals.

One of my favorite parts of being a missionary is all of the host families we get to meet along the way. Our team typically will stay at a home for one or two nights, but every family we have encountered has made their house into a home. One family in particular, hosted all 12 of us, where we had the house to ourselves for the first night of the two that we would be staying. It was an amazing gift to get to spend so much time with my team! If you have not had the opportunity to host a NET team, I encourage you to try to get involved in hosting!

Getting to drive around California has given me the opportunity to see many of the gifts that God gives to us through nature, such as the mountains and beaches. We have gone to the beach a few times as a team and hiked up one of the mountains in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. The beauty of God’s creation has realized how much He truly loves us. He has revealed to me that while these mountains are beautiful, He looked at them and said “it is good”, but when He created me, God looked at me and said “she is very good”.

Even though nature has been a gift, the biggest blessing God has given us is each other. Even though we have only been a team for two months, we are no longer friends, but rather a family. Like any family, we have our challenges, but at the end of the day, we come together as a family to love and to serve. We have a bond that cannot be broken, no matter how tired we are or how crazy the past retreat was. For example, a week ago, we did our first outdoor retreat, and it started off with us being late, but at the end of the day, so many beautiful moments came from that retreat.  

The ministry that we have been doing has been going very well! The talks are getting better with each time we give them, and the team feels more confident in dramas and our funny skits. I could continue to tell you about our ministry, but I want you to hear from one of the retreatants that God impacted through us! Julieta, 11, from West Covina, CA, followed up her NET experience with these words:

“I really enjoyed this NET retreat. I feel so amazing. I thought this retreat helped me open up and already I feel closer to God. I loved this experience. I feel so great! You helped me prioritize God before anyone. Thank you.”

These words are the reason we have all given up a year of our lives, to leave a parish or school knowing that at least a few of the youth have been changed, not by us, but through God in us.

We ask that you keep our team in your prayers as we spend time away from home, whether for the first time or the fourth time, especially as we travel from place to place. We are praying for you and will continue to pray.

God Bless,
Team 5, Hannah, Alice, Zoey, Bethany, Mackenzie, Katie, Mikey, Javi, Benjamin, Francis, and Blake

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