bapchule bound 2006: save the date

June 17-25th, 2006 will be the next installment of the Bapchule Bound mission trip to the St. Peter’s Indian Mission in Bapchule, AZ.
Mark your calendars now ladies and gentlemen. This is a great service program that provides a real need to this Catholic community.
If you would like to donate or for more information, visit We also receive a small percentage of purchases made at if you use CareCode “KraftFoundation”.

bapchule bound 2005: virtues

The Bapchule Bound mission experience, unlike the University Catholic Center’s Mission Trip to Arteaga, Mexico, focuses virtually all efforts onto pastoral work with the community. The construction aspect of this trip used only three staff full-time with the occasional person helping out at night.
Upon much thought and prayer, the concept of virtues and their importance seemed to fit well with our expectations for the mission.

A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.

Above, as the Catechism (1803) introduces us to virtues, I feel that this explains my feelings towards the subject matter and the community of young people we were serving.
“…but to give the best of himself.”
I have only worked directly with the older kids in Bapchule, those in 7th grade and above. In the two short weeks over two years that I have spent with them, I am convinced that this line best explains the purpose of virtues in their lives. Each and every single one of them is an amazing, great individual. Some of them have had bad raps or found themselves involved with some unsavory things or whatnot; however, talk to them one-on-one or in a small group and you’ll quickly see how each of them are truly precious. Many, if not most or all, of these young people live in unbearable situations. If they themselves don’t, members of their family or their close friends do. I firmly believe that those who find themselves wrapped in on the wrong side of drugs or alcohol or sex or violence are not bad kids at all; most of them have been dealt a bad hand and are trying not to allow them let that bad hand limit them to not giving the best of him or her.

We focused on seven virtues over five days: the four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues.

We gave each cardinal virtue a day and combined the theological virtues into a fun-filled Friday.
How much did we reach the kids with these virtues? Who knows. We had a “Skit Squad” do a great job with a different skit each day for each grade level (more or less) that gave everyone something concrete to connect the virtue with, we discussed Bible stories and saints that highlighted the virtue and we gave talks about each.
At the same time, my goal was not to provide catechetical instruction to the youth. If virtues are to enable us to let our best out and to help us show others what we’re really made of, being able to recite the Catechism’s description of each is not the goal.

What is the virtue, to use the word in a different way, of taking a week out of our lives and finding ourselves in Bapchule with these kids? Quite simply, it is to make a connection with them. It is just to be there with them. Sure, it’s about giving a talk on justice and helping them to see that we all have a calling of making things right in the world. Sure, it’s about giving a talk on temperance or faith or hope. Above that, it’s about being ourselves just while there. It’s about being examples of temerance and faith and hope ourselves.
We were there to preach the Gospel at all times, and when needed, we used words. Our actions had to reflect, above all else, the virtues we taught them. I think we did a good job of it.

As I type all of this, I can’t help but think how is that any different than what every day should be like? It’s not. We didn’t spend a week out in Bapchule to serve these “needy kids who need to hear from us about virtues”. We spent a week in Bapchule to serve kids who hopefully we helped by giving them an outside examples of virtue and to serve kids who gave us hope in tomorrow.

bapchule bound 2005: getting to bapchule

The Friday before the mission week rolled around. During the day, nothing exciting too place. I caught up on a couple of e-mails, sent some postal mail. Really, there was nothing exciting to mention.
Around 5 p.m., Vanessa and Teeney, a student from Texas A&M who had previously served at St. Peter’s, arrived from The Woodlands. We made our way to the van rental business and picked up our brand new 2005 Chevy 15-passenger vans. These vans were so new that they still had the temporary plates on them. After dinner and a trip to J&J’s Towing, we sit down and go over in too brief of detail what was going to happen the next week.
Around 1 a.m., I went home. I packed until 2:30 a.m. and left to drive to DFW. I made good time and pulled into DFW’s remote parking just before 6 a.m. My flight takes off on time and I land in Phoenix along with Amelia and Greg. Two of the sisters, whom I never had any personal interaction with before, pick us up from PHX.
We pull into St. Peter’s Indian Mission. If you were to go to Mapquest or Google Maps or one of those websites and look up Bapchule,AZ, you would see exactly where we were at. For whatever reason, the mission school is where all the various online map sites believe Bapchule is exactly located.
The school was much like I remember it. They had added a blue tent/tarp type thing over the basketball court, thanks to a NIH grant. The church now had air conditioning suitable for a building of that size. All in all, the site was just like last year.
We prep the site somewhat; getting a feel for what we had access to, collecting keys, determined location of classrooms. Nothing too exciting but the type of stuff an advance group should handle.
At 4 p.m., I found myself back at PHX with a school bus to pick up the various students from the University of Notre Dame who were flying in. Almost everyone was already there. One person was bumped to a later flight and we had to wait on him. We leave the airport missing one person, completely unsure as to where she was. Later, we learn that she misbooked her flight for the wrong day. I can’t say too much about this- I did the same thing last year when flying to ND to visit Vanessa.
I’m horrible with icebreakers. I’m not a fan of them; I don’t enjoy them. They simply aren’t my cup of tea. That’s fine except when you’re in charge of 15 people, virtually none of them knowing anyone else, all about to start a week-long project that requires them to know each other. A good number of people seemed to have started to talk amongst them. After seeing this, I just let everyone go to their own devices.
Amelia demands that I take a nap. I had dozed off for a few minutes at a time on the plane but that is not nearly enough sleep after being awake all day, driving all night and starting to coordinate a mission. While I’m off sleeping too heavy to dream, Amelia has the troops sort through all of the various supplies that we inherited from the previous church’s leftovers.
That evening, I hosted a very informal, very quick and very unofficial Ethics workshop. This was one of the more confusing aspects of planning this experience. The Bishop of Austin said that everyone from his diocese had to confirm to Diocese of Austin protocols, i.e. a workshop and background check before working with minors. The Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, home to Notre Dame, said he had no preference. The Bishop of Phoenix wanted everyone to have some type of training with various key points taught without question. The Austin requirements completely fulfilled the Phoenix requirements. For everyone coming outside of Austin, there was no training we could have our staff go to in order to meet Phoenix requirements. After chatting with the Phoenix Diocesan offices, my quick training would be good enough. They also asked that Austin people would be matched up to ND people to whatever level was possible. We tried.
Still very tired, I forget now of what the rest of that first day consisted. The two vans had left that morning and were now in El Paso stopping overnight. Without any other immediate concerns, I fall asleep.
At an ungodly hour that I do not know, I hear a constant knocking on my door. It is one of the sisters. One of our staffers who I had thought would be arriving around noon was already there and no one knew where she should go. Honestly, I have no idea what I said or what happened. I think I may have suggested that they go take a nap. I don’t remember.
I receive a phone call- the vans were almost there. Moments later, Van Wilder and Van Halen pull up and make their new home St. Peter’s. Later that day, I pick up the last of the staff from the PHX airport. Through the air, on land, with detours, delayed flights and missed turns, the staff of Bapchule Bound 2005 had all arrived.

bapchule bound 2005: the beginning

On what is very much becoming an annual experience, I spent last week in Bapchule, Arizona serving at the St. Peter’s Indian Mission. Last year, I was a retreat leader for the Jr. High retreat aspect of the Vacation Bible School staffed by Sts. Simon and Jude parish in The Woodlands, TX. The parish had served at this location for three years previous and as far as I knew, were going to continue this program.
After the calendars flipped over to 2005, Vanessa Gonzalez told me that the parish had opted to not continue their relationship with the mission church. Vanessa, with a passion I have yet to see from anyone else, was set on continuing some presence to these kids at St. Peter’s. Soon enough, she was telling me about ideas for a two-week program, a Jr. High-High School program one week and a VBS program the second week. I thought we were taking on more than we could handle with a one-week VBS and Jr. High-High School retreat.
The Brandon Kraft Foundation, created exactly for this purpose, by virtue of the decision of our Board of Directors, approved a measure offering any and all of our services and resources to see to the completion of this program. Vanessa talked with Sr. Martha, principal of the St. Peter’s School, and set a date. The Foundation offered a web presence, such as it was, as well as e-mail and financial management resources. Stephanie Elliott and I brought the issue to Fr. Dave at the University Catholic Center. The program was approved and given the same rights and privileges as any other student organization at the Center.
Vanessa found money in places I didn’t know existed and recruited on top of that. At Texas, we raised some funds, nothing close to what we could have if we put our full effort into it. Our recruitment efforts weren’t as fruitful as we had hoped; too many people, it seemed, had already had their summer plans set. I don’t blame them. We didn’t start this process until after Spring Break. At Texas, we were the new kids on the block and we did not want to get on the bad side of the Mexico Mission Trip. This very established trip was vital to the social justice mission of the University Catholic Center and while our mission trip fits into the puzzle that is the UCC, we did not want to impact the success of our previous programs.
In either case, it worked. People signed up. Checks were received. Sr. Martha said kids were signing up.
Personally, I found myself in a personal funk. What were we doing? We were short-staffed. We weren’t reaching our fundraising goals. I had forgotten the importance of this program to this community. I know I didn’t do nearly the amount of work I could do in order to make this program successful. I don’t like to have regrets. I feel that you should make all your actions something that of which you are proud. If someone acts about your actions, you should be able to recall them proudly. You might have mistakes but they should be mistakes that were executed while giving all the effort that you’re able. To be completely frank and honest, I did not do what I could to make this project successful. My personal faith was lacking what was needed to see a project like this to completion. In either case, Vanessa made it happen despite my issues. I don’t like to have regrets but I do regret not putting 100% into this program.
I think Vanessa is too humble to accept my praise of her efforts; nevertheless, here it is: despite her weaknesses and because of her strengths, she was able to make this thing happen. Stephanie and I did a lot of prep work without doubt, but without her, this would have never happened. Her love for this community ensured that it would be served.
In either case, no matter my doubts or our current status, it was go time.

bapchule bound 2005 completed

Bapchule Bound 2005, the summer mission trip that I coordinated along with Vanessa Gonzalez and Stephanie Elliott, is now complete. Over the next few days, I’ll go into more depth and reflection, but for now, it was an amazing trip. We had over 200 kids in either VBS or the Jr/Sr. High retreat- an all-time high. We only had about 30 staff.
It worked wonderfully.
Stay tuned for the Bapchule Bound 2005 reflection series.

foundation growing

The Brandon Kraft Foundation is slowly getting more and more off the ground. Form 1023, the IRS form to be formally declared a non-profit entity, is a long, painful form to fill out. Thankfully, the IRS revised it in November giving a much more user-friendly form for me to use. I don’t know if I would ever get the old one done- it had all these references to tax law and asked questions about if you apply under that provision or not but it never explained anywhere what was actually the provision. For example, if would ask something like (just making this up):

Does your organization meet any of the following provisions?
If you selected none, please attach an explanation.

Thankfully, they ask all the same questions but they explain what they’re asking for. The problem is now not figuring out what they’re asking but simply writing out what they want. The biggest roadblock now is the lack of a formal budget. The form requests a projected three-year budget (for an organization that is so ‘young’) and frankly, your guess is as good as mine on what kind of donations the Foundation will be able to pull in over the next three years and to what programs we would expand.
In July, when I filed the original articles of incorporation with the Texas Secretary of State’s office, I made one extremely important blunder: I did not include certain provisions about our chartiable purpose that the IRS requires. I was somewhat impulsive on getting it started, what can I say? After learning that lesson, today I filed the proper amendments with the Secretary of State’s office.
I am really looking forward to seeing where this all goes. Stay tuned for more updates…