Tag: travel

May 27 2009

My trip to Nicaragua

By Suzanna Vermeul-Wilson, CFCA sponsor

I have traveled to many places in my life. I have met all kinds of people in many different circumstances. I have served the poor, and I have seen people living in poverty. In my job as a social worker, every day I see children in circumstances that they should not have to live in. I see suffering and sadness, I see human tragedy. The trip that I took to Nicaragua has had an effect on me that I cannot explain. Long after I returned home, I continue to be drawn to that place, to those people.

Suzanna, her husband and their sponsored childMy husband did not want to go on this trip. I asked him several months prior to the mission awareness trip if he would want to go. He did not answer me for some time. After about a month passed, I asked again, and he said that he really didnít want to go. I asked that he consider it, that I really wanted to go ñ that I really wanted him to go. He capitulated, and I bought the tickets the same day! At the first meeting with our sponsored child, my husband cried tears of joy. When we returned home and filled out our evaluations, he stated that this trip was a ìlife-changing experience.î I told him that seeing him there, with those children, his tears of joy and his strong feelings about it made me love him more than ever.

I keep wondering if this intense feeling I have will fade. There is not a day that has passed since our return that I have not thought or prayed for the children and people of Nicaragua. I feel compelled to do something ñ Iím not sure what that is. I have been finding sponsors for children, but that does not quench the thirst that I have. I feel indescribably drawn to these people, to this country, to the simplicity which is their life. I find myself considering things in a new way ñ questioning the day-to-day decisions that our society makes: the waste, the excess, the rampant consumerism and materialism of our society.

I experienced such an intense feeling of relationship with all the people that I met on this trip, with the country, with their ways, it is a feeling that I canít really describe. It was wonderfully satisfying to meet our sponsored child and to see what our monthly assistance has done for him and his family. I felt a connection with him, yes, a happiness from him to meet us after all these 11 years of sponsorship. I felt the warmth from his family and their gratitude and a sense of connection that only our good God can give to people.

I feel that there is something I am called to do. There is a longing inside of me, a constant tug at my heart. I feel like Iím searching for something in a fog. I keep waking in the night with an anticipation in my mind. During the day my thoughts constantly drift to Nicaragua. At home, at work, even in my leisure time, I feel a strong pull that Iím supposed to do something with these feelings. Iím not sure what this is ñ what it means, or how I can be of further service. Every day I want to be back in Nicaragua. Is it the Lord somehow calling to me? I am listening, Lord ñ what are you trying to say to me?

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May 21 2009

Bob’s notes ó Visit to Venezuela

Mission awareness trip to Venezuela
May 9-16, 2009

Welcome
We can be very proud of the CFCA families and of the staff. When I see how much the families are anxious to see us, to give us a hug, to ask for a blessing for their children, to so generously share with us the fruits of their hard work, I am reminded of the community of the early Christians in the Acts of the Apostles.

Motherís Day in Venezuela
Sunday morning found us at breakfast at the corner panaderia (bakery) in the town of Catia La Mar. CFCA-Venezuela Project Coordinator Sunilde Perez and staff member Yanin Castillo shepherded us well, and made sure we had a chance to get to know the members of our group.

Isabel Alvarez gave her customary fine introduction to Venezuela. Isa speaks with the passion of a well-educated yet ìstill poor Venezuelanîóher auto-description. She speaks of the pros and cons of the current government. One of the challenges she highlights is the strong political and social division within the country.

About the same time Isabel was speaking to our group, President Hugo Chavez made two statements on his weekly TV broadcast. The first is a warning to opposing TV stations and media who ìincite people to war.î They are in danger of being closed down and their broadcast license revoked. The second warning is to certain large land holders in the sugar cane area. He believes that they acquired titles to their land illegally. Therefore, these properties may be subject to nationalization. I cannot help but think of the effects of a similar nationalization program a few years ago in Zimbabwe.
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May 18 2009

Focus on the personal

Chris Palmer, a member of the international programs department, traveled on a mission awareness trip to Nicaragua. Here are some of his thoughts:

On the drive back to the hotel for the evening, I was reflecting over the weekís events. I am sure the rest of the participants were doing the same thing. Seeing poverty for a week isn’t necessarily easy and trying to understand the reasons behind it can be not only confusing, but somewhat discouraging.

Yet, amid the seemingly negative situation there continues to be an underlying optimism and joy among the people we visited in Nicaragua that, when seen, can only bring a sense of wonderment. It is something that can’t be communicated easily through words. It isn’t until we walk with the people at their pace for awhile that we start to learn their journey Ö from where they came to where they hope to go.

CFCA is providing more than just $30 a month for necessities. CFCA has an intentional focus on the personal aspect. From staff members and social workers, to the local communities and families, CFCA understands that money can only do so much for someone, but sponsorship is personal. After seeing it for week I believe it is that personal aspect that provides the hope Ö it is a hope for themselves, their family, their country and our world.

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May 8 2009

Reflections from a new mom

By Kristin Littrell, communications department

A month before I found out I was pregnant, I traveled to Guatemala to see CFCA’s work there. A home I visited has frequently returned to my mind since having my baby girl late last year.

We visited a sweet mother with a few children. She was cradling an infant, probably about 6 months old – the same age my little girl is now.

Her home was made of tin walls, a dirt floor and a tin roof. It was situated at the top of a very steep hill, in a neighborhood built in an area few people would want to live in because of fear of mudslides.

As I walked into her house, I noticed a couple of make-shift beds and a table. The air in the house was so hot and stifling ñ the tin just held the heat in. Hanging from the ceiling was this:

Baby bed

I asked the mother what it was used for. She told me that it was the babyís bed.

I remember being surprised at the time, thinking that few in America would allow their child to sleep there. But this mom didnít have another option, and she was doing the best thing possible for her baby.

Later, I returned home to the U.S., quickly found out I was expecting, and began the craziness that is American baby registries, birth classes, showers and more.

There were many times during my pregnancy that I would think back to families with young children I met in Guatemala. One night in my ninth month of pregnancy, as I sat in our decorated nursery dreaming about when our little girl would arrive, I pulled the picture of that motherís home up on my computer.

And for a few minutes, I couldn’t speak.

Sometimes the vast differences between my life here and my friendsí lives in countries like Guatemala are hard to process. Itís hard to make sense of the disparities.

In that moment, this prayer was on my lips:

I am once again humbled and beyond grateful for the many blessings we have in life.
Jesus, keep me from wanting more, when so many of your children have so much less.

Give me perspective. Donít let me forget.
Weave simplicity and abundant generosity into the fabric of our family.

This Mothers Day, Iíll be thinking about that mom in Guatemala, and the many strong women around the world weíre privileged to work with at CFCA. I stand in awe of these women.

And as I rock my little girl to sleep, Iíll tell her stories of these friends around the world and pray that someday she gets to meet them, too. And when she meets them, I pray sheís compelled to partner with them as they build a better life for their children.

This Mother’s Day, honor your mother and partner with CFCA to help other mothers build a better life for their children.

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Mar 17 2009

Bob’s notes – special report

Mission awareness trips and Colombia national encuentro
Nicaragua – Colombia – Dominican Republic
Feb. 21 – March 7, 2009

Sponsors grow in grace
From the moment we landed in Managua on this beautiful Saturday afternoon, we have been a pilgrim community. The sponsors of Nicaraguan children, youth and aging have a culture all their own. Many have been here several times in the past. They have formed strong relationships with their sponsored families and with one another. It is wonderful to see them grow in grace through walking with the poor.

My group had the pleasure of coming to know an admirable young family. The mother, Alba Luz, 27, has taken special courses in the cultivation and use of medicinal plants and natural medicine. She teaches the other mothers in the community, and her husband, Uricer, cultivates corn and beans on property owned by his father. Their 1-year-old Alvaro is awaiting sponsorship. Weíve been over 10 hours in the vehicle this day, much of it over slow-going rocky roads. One flat tire didnít slow us down much.

In the early hours of Feb. 23, we met sponsors Colleen and George MacKenzie, Alhambra, Calif., together with their granddaughter and outgoing 8-year-old sponsor, Danielle Shields. All three are advocates and have found and motivated over 200 new sponsors. George maintains that their relationship with three sponsored children has changed their lives.

National meeting held
In Medellin, Colombia, everyone has worked very hard to make this a dynamic learning experience for all. Each of the six Colombian projects plus our international team (Brenda; Sarah; my wife,†Cristina; and myself) covered a topic of keen interest to all. The topics included formal and informal education of children in Colombia, long-term and annual program planning, sponsored youth and their formation in values, and measuring the impact of our projects. I will add that the cross-project sharing and the CFCA spirit run strong in this group.

colombia-encuentro3

Music plays a big part in this encuentro (meeting) and all encuentros Ö and folkloric presentations by sponsored children and staff form an integral part of the meeting. The conclusions and resolutions of this encuentro are solid, balanced and heartily embraced by all.
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Jan 9 2009

Bob’s notes – Visit to Guatemala

Mission awareness trip
Dec. 26, 2008 – Jan. 2, 2009

Trip†participants are special

Our sponsors come in search of many things, many times in search of their place in Godís loving plan for this stage of their lives. The sponsorship relationship between the two families in different parts of the world takes on an immense significance in the lives of both.

As much as we love her, we must realize that Guatemala is plagued with a series of very complicated and challenging problems. In this scene, we live and work Ö and into this scene we dare to invite our sponsors. They travel with confidence, knowing from experience that CFCA lives here. CFCA takes every precaution to watch over our guests. And yes, we pray.

To the highlands

We are gathered in a very pretty place in the highlands near Nahuala called ìCorazon del bosqueî (Heart of the Forest). The CFCA families gathered here today are praying in the Quiche language. It is close to middayóbright blue skies and sunnyóbut still quite cool.

dancers

We now have nine dancers, the girls with beautiful guipiles (traditional Guatemalan blouses), ìcortesî (wrap skirts) and ìtocoyalesî (headdresses), bearing colors and designs with centuries of significance. They carry the recently harvested corn in four different colors. Three dance with incense. The others have baskets of corn. The boys also wear the traditional dress: the ìsherca,î a woolen blanket wrapped around them secured with a leather belt, a typical ìmorral,î a decorated woven bag, and a straw hat.
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