Mercy Tree Adventures
An Invitation to Parishes, Schools, and Ministries
Carlos and Elena Tejeda are offering families an opportunity to experience the “joy of the Lord.” The couple, along with their four children on earth and two in Heaven, is endeavoring to revitalize families through their new ministry Mercy Tree Adventures (Mercy Tree Adventures). Mercy Tree Adventures purpose is to evangelize men, their families, and communities through encounters with God’s word. The Tejeda’s have immense faith in God’s providence and want to help communities and the individuals within the community become “agents of the New Evangelization.”
Marriage, Degrees, and Job Opportunities
Carlos served our military services and retired after the tragic events of 9/11. He attended the University of Madison, WI, graduating with a degree in Forest Science. Eventually, he took a job in California as a Wildland Firefighter. Coincidentally, Elena was finishing her degree in Social Work from the Franciscan University of the Steubenville. As they developed a friendship, over what is now Catholic Match, they decided to meet at a Polish Hall in Pittsburgh for salsa dancing on Valentine’s Day with a group of Elena’s friends.
Carlos had a real desire to be a husband and father. As he began his work in Wildland Firefighting, he found himself dispatched for six months at a time. Being a distance away for ling durations was incongruent with his vision of family life. He was unsure what to do next since his plan was to marry Elena and start a family.
Just before their marriage in 2008, Carlos read Christopher West’s book Good News about Sex and Marriage. After reading the book and doing some research, Carlos was convinced that he wanted to follow in Christopher West footsteps. He wanted to study Marriage and Family Life. Carlos and Elena, newly married, decided to move to Washington DC in order for Carlos to study at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Catholic University of America. While in Washington DC, Elena began working for the Archdiocese, but unfortunately lost her job because of the economic recession in 2009. She began looking for other job opportunities and the doors opened for her to begin work at the United States Catholic Conference for Bishops (commonly known as the USCCB).
As Carlos finished his degree, Elena began researching jobs in Marriage and Family Life. After much research, they found one job in Springfield, IL. The job description was for Associate Director of Marriage and Family Life. The job had been posted for nearly a year. At 8:30 AM Carlos sent in his resume, 2 hours later he had a job offer. The job at the Diocese afforded Elena the opportunity to stay at home with their children. Carlos and Elena homeschool their 4 living children. Carlos worked in the Diocese of Springfield in the Office of Marriage and Family Life for 11 ½ years.
An Idea is incarnated
While serving in the Diocese, Carlos came up with the idea for Fulcrum Fatherhood. Carlos believes that “the degree to which the father is involved in faith life the family is transformed.” These Fulcrum events would involve doing physical activities to bring to life Gospel passages. The events were dynamic. He did not invite the men to sit around discussing their feelings on topics pertaining to the Gospels. Instead, he invited them to events where they might enter into physical activity together to bring to life the Word of God. Consequently, Carlos had become aware of the Encounter School of Ministry and in the last two years has been engaged in their two year training program. In addition, his children were growing and engaging in the reality of faith. The family began ministering together; even praying for people’s physical healing. Carlos and Elena had a growing conviction as a family to minister to families. Carlos and Elena’s type of ministry was not conducive for diocesan work. While Carlos loved his job and the people he worked with, he was being drawn into a specific ministry and “convicted to aid men and their families.”
Carlos and Elena, together, with their children decided to combine a family past time they enjoy, climbing trees, with the love of arborist work, studies in Marriage and Family Life, and the learned ministry experiences of the Encounter School of Ministry. The Lord brought them through each development stage, each hobby to create this one ministry: Mercy Tree Adventures.
Mercy Tree Adventure
In Romans 12:4-8 we hear “For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” We hear this Scripture and sometimes are unsure of how to implement it. As a faith community, we struggle with evangelization. How do I know my gifts and talents? How do I use them in my every day? How do use these gifts in community and not alienated from them?
The Tejeda family is offering communities the opportunity to grow the whole family’s giftedness. Mercy Tree Adventures accomplishes this through what they called “Lived Lectio Expereinces.” They want to fill the family’s tool box to come back to their parish or school or the different ministries the individuals are involved in. The Lived Lectio Experience hopes to draw out the individual’s giftedness. Then combine the individual’s gifts to be used as a family for the greater community. As the family does the physical activity of climbing a tree, like the Scripture of Zacchaeus, their strengths and weaknesses are drawn out. The way they each support each other is drawn out. The way they each respond is drawn out.
For example, the family may find through the experience they are great at hospitality. Each member of the family may illustrate hospitality in different aspects. One may be good at reaching out to individuals, one may be good at smiling at people, one may be good at cooking for large groups, and one may be good at giving small gifts to people. The Lived Lectio Experience lends an opportunity to see strengths and weaknesses through a new lens. The family then can take their gift of hospitality and use it in a concrete way in their parish community. This is just one example.
Elena stated: “we want to help the parish use their gifts to their greatest potential, help identify where to place someone in ministry so they can accomplish a task well and not feel overwhelmed. In this way, the family can identify their gift and share it with others. We enter into prayer with them, learn about the pastor’s vision, and help the community to partake in it. We give help by walking with them and accompanying them.” They invite parishes, school faculties, or even groups such as the Knights of Columbus to contact them to begin the process of encouraging men and their families “climb a tree to see Him.”
This will bear much fruit. Far too many are not operating from their giftedness and become disillusioned and frustrated. When we use God’s gifts as ordered, planned and designed we are closer to fulfilling the will of the Father.
I'm excited about Carlos and Elena's ministry. I am hoping to be working with them in the near future planning on a retreat for our parish. Everyone here knows that my drive is evangelization and the proclamation of the gospel and we need new ways of reaching people, especially men in our communities.