Mission awareness trip to Guatemala
Mar. 14 ñ 21, 2009
Our special call
Sometimes in the daily work of creating communities of compassion, it takes a lot of faith. Even in our best efforts of faith-based service, human weaknesses make felt their sobering presence. This is the precious moment when the grace of our special call kicks in.
Almost 100,000 families invite us to walk with them in Guatemala. Sponsors want to see them and to learn about the reality in which their friends live. This reality is best communicated by the families themselves and by our Guatemalan staff who daily walk by their side.
Sunday morning found us at our headquarters in Mixco, a regional office serving about 6,500 families. Big on the agenda today is the ribbon cutting for a livelihood sewing project involving 10 mothers. With the sponsors as witnesses, the mothers signed the documents for their first loan. Their spirit, exhibited in a skit about feelings, augurs well for the future of this project.
It seems like all 1,200 families welcomed us to the CFCA center in Cuyotenango. We work in 18 communities of Cuyo. In this southern region of Guatemala, we have 8,990 sponsored children, 43 elderly, one seminarian and scholarship students.
We traveled a muddy road through the sugarcane fields to visit the community of Shacate with 55 CFCA families. Sponsors helped in the distribution and documentation of food. One of the little boys in this community will have a cataract operation this week, thanks to special need funds sent to the subproject.
We then divided into three groups and visited families. My group visited DoÒa Paulina, her three sons and one daughter. The oldest boy, Hector, 19, works among the rubber trees making about $216 per month. The father died 12 years ago. Paulina struggled to raise the children on her own by cutting sugar cane with a machete. She now suffers from a stomach ulcer. To complete this full day, we stopped to visit DoÒa Josefina, a widow who received a new home through the CFCA housing program. This community insisted we take fruit and two live chickens back to San Lucas.
San Antonio Palopo
On Wednesday, we boarded an aging lancha for the trip north across Lake Atitlan to San Antonio Palopo. This town of nearly 10,000 goes way back among the Kakchikel people. Their work ethic is very strong, devoting themselves to the onion cultivation, fishing, lake transportation, boat rentals, weaving and tourism. CFCA began sponsoring children and aging in San Antonio Palopo in 1993. Today, the subproject serves 471 children and 48 elderly. Over the years, 75 young people have graduated as professionals. Many are working in their own town.
Project Coordinator Father John Goggin spoke about how this program has brought out the best in people. CFCA mothers from San Antonio danced to a haunting melody of the chirimiya. We broke into three groups to visit families. My family expressed gratitude for the program. The father is deceased, and two children are sponsored. Their home has dirt floors, adobe walls, no storage and a very primitive stove at ground level. The sponsored girl of 13 wrote for her mother, ìWe greet you in the name of Our Lord, wishing that you have a sweet trip to our country and our town.î
The Mayan story of creation
We began this day with our traditional Mayan morning prayer. The day continued to take form with our visit to the mission projects: the womenís center, the parish clinic, the housing program and the new community of San Andres. After dark, the entire staff of Hermano Pedro put on a memorable production of the creation of the world, according to Mayan sacred writings. The waters were separated from the dry land. Light was provided with the creation of fire, sun and moon, all the animals and the three stages of the making of men and women from clay, wood and corn. All of this was masterfully done in Kakchikel, Spanish and English. I feel proud of the staff and grateful for this day and this trip filled with meaning and learning.
San Juan Comalapa
On our last day in Guatemala, the 1,600 CFCA families from the highland area of Comalapa swept us into their culture. Every village had its folkloric performance, very authentic and never rushed. With all the ceremonies, which showed signs of continuing after our departure, we were able to spend only an hour or so in Antigua Ö and even with that, it is dark now and we are not yet at our hotel in Guatemala City. We will enjoy one final meal together tonight and then begin the early morning shuttles to the airport. Cristina and I travel directly to San Jose, Costa Rica, tomorrow.