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.
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.
Colombia is fired up about my Pilgrimage of Faith II walk (from Guatemala to Chile, beginning Dec. 29). Recently on a cold rainy morning, staff from Project Bogota, accompanied by many friends and relatives, successfully completed a 59-kilometer solidarity walk over rough mountainous terrain. It was also a religious pilgrimage. They prayed many a rosary, asking blessings on all those involved in Pilgrimage II.
Trip continues in Dominican Republic
In Santo Domingo, coordinator Nelson Figueroa tells us the poverty index is 31 percent urban and 45 percent rural with the riches in few handsó10 percent of the population owns the majority of resources. Thirty-three percent of children do not finish elementary school and 62 percent do not complete high school.
We visited families in the rural area of Jarabacoa where there is a real need of mothers groups and livelihood programs. My group visited three homes, all in about the same conditionócrude and broken cement floors, worn planks for wall, no screens allowing mosquitoes at night, no running water, no bathrooms, and two had old propane stoves that didnít work.
In Los Almacigos, the sponsors and I were declared by the mayor as honorary citizens of the city. In a visit to one home, sponsored girl Maria, 15, is studying in the eighth grade. She is also nursing a beautiful 9-month-old baby boy. I think and I pray that by this evening, the baby will also have a sponsor.
We head home
These dear sponsors are now on their way home. They have had a full gamut of experiences that are not always easy. Cristina and I have a few days in the Guatemala projects before the arrival of the 29 sponsors on March 14. We ask your prayers and we wish you Godís blessings.