Jul 22 2011

‘Amazing grace’ of a mission awareness trip

Ron Bliss sent us this testimony of his mission awareness trip to Guatemala. He decided to take the trip after receiving a cancer diagnosis and eventually going into remission. His story is amazing, and we’re honored to share excerpts of it with you.

Ron Bliss, CFCA sponsor, and Elida in Guatemala

Ron Bliss visits his sponsored friend, 8-year-old Elida, in Guatemala.

For the past five years or so I have sponsored two needy children through the Christian Foundation for Children and the Aging (CFCA) ñ a young man in Nicaragua and 8-year-old girl in Guatemala.

I thought of a mission awareness trip (MAT) to see one of my sponsored children, but have always found some reason to say, “Not this year … maybe next.”

Well, I think the good Lord gave me a wake-up call with the cancer diagnosis!

One year ago I was in Arizona, facing the fifth of six chemotherapy treatments to combat a rare type of lymphoma cancer in the lungs.

A PET scan showed the tumors had shrunk and the cancerous activity appeared low, but still there. We returned to our home in Washington to wait until my next PET scan.

Days later I experienced the same symptoms as when I received the cancer diagnosis. I was running a temperature every day and experiencing night sweats.

My wife, Vonnie, and I rescheduled my PET scan for an earlier date.

During my illness I was blessed with prayers from around the country and as far away as Europe and Japan. Before my scan, I received special blessings from Holy Spirit Parish. Father Auve visited me twice, brought communion and prayed for my complete healing.

The day before we left, my daughter, Nicole, said her friend Megan wanted to give me something.

Over a year ago Megan had received two crucifixes that had been blessed in Medjugorje during one of the Holy Mother’s appearances there.

The man who gave them told her to give one to her mother, who was suffering with cancer.

He told her she would know when to give the second one to someone else in need.

Through God’s “amazing grace,” Megan presented the crucifix to me and prayed over me. I prayed for faith “the size of a mustard seed!”

My temperature continued to climb as we boarded the plane and continued until my scan, a few days after we arrived in Arizona.

I carried the crucifix to the scan and follow-up visit with my oncologist. Through the grace of God, I believe I was healed that day!

My high temperature ceased and has not returned. The doctor said my tumors continued shrinking and the cancerous activity was nil.

Since then my cancer has been in remission, which allowed me to travel to Wisconsin one month later to attend my daughter Stacey’s wedding.†What a blessing!

As soon as I felt somewhat normal, I tried to discover what God had in store for me.

Because of your prayers and God’s “amazing grace,” my son, Joe, and I completed a week-long MAT to Guatemala to see how CFCA works and meet my sponsored friend, Elida.

It was an amazing, eye-opening, life-changing event!! Neither of us was prepared to see firsthand the poverty of these beautiful people.

We visited several homes of sponsored children, and it was not something we were prepared for. These “homes” have corrugated metal roofs, and often the walls are made of mud, sticks or cornstalks. The floors are dirt.

Most have no electricity and if they have “running water,” it means there is a hose bib somewhere nearby.

Most have no indoor kitchens, and the cooking is over open fire pits outside. An indoor kitchen means that the fire pit is indoors. In the six homes we visited, I saw two chairs and no tables.

We saw as many as six people sleeping in one room with only one bed. If the walls will support them, hammocks are used. If not, the children sleep on the dirt floor.

Available beds are made of wood with no pad or mattress, just blankets. There are no indoor toilets, only crude outdoor latrines.

Firewood for cooking is such a precious commodity I don’t believe water is heated for bathing. I never saw a tub large enough to bathe in.

Yet they seem the happiest, most gracious people you would ever want to meet.

The highlight was the day I spent with Elida, her mother and 28-year-old sister. They arose at 4 a.m. to be driven in a CFCA van to the facility where we met them. What a day!

Elida is a beautiful child who lives with her parents and six siblings in a house similar to the ones I described.

One of her brothers is 23 and bedridden. He must be carried by his mother or siblings wherever he goes.

Elida is in third grade and had never seen a lake before we met with her. Neither her mother nor her sister had been able to attend school. Neither can read nor write.

Education is one of the backbones of the CFCA program, and Elida hopes to become a teacher.

Elida’s father is a farm laborer, along with several of her older brothers. Their combined family income is approximately $150 per month.

We brought Elida a backpack with simple gifts like crayons, coloring books, a small stuffed doll, etc.†You should have seen her excitement and smile when she pulled out a package of pencils and showed them to her mother.

Her smile was absolutely contagious! We also gave her a soccer ball, and she carried it for the entire day!

Many of you have seen advertisements for similar programs and wondered whether the help really gets to the person you sponsor.

I can tell you unequivocally that IT DOES with CFCA! I have seen it firsthand!

CFCA has established an extremely efficient program in their offices around Guatemala.

Each office has a staff of indigenous social workers who meet monthly or bimonthly with each family. The family decides with the social worker how to spend the sponsorship funds.

They decide on such things as food, clothing, school supplies, medical treatment and even saving a little each month to purchase a pig, chicken, cow or sheep to help make the family more self-sufficient.

Most families are large and even though only one child might be sponsored, the stipend benefits the entire family.

You cannot believe how these families revere the sponsors. All the mothers and sponsored children clapped and cheered as we got off the bus and walked up the path to see them.

Talk about a humbling experience! I felt like we should have been clapping for them!

Everywhere we went the mothers and children said they pray for their sponsors every day. I’m convinced that we get more out of the sponsorship than they do since I believe God truly hears the prayers of the poor!

As long as my health will allow, I know what the good Lord wants me to do next. That is to help the poor through CFCA!

I have been given so many blessings by God; I know He wants me to return the favor by helping some of the “least of our brothers.”

Mother Teresa said a life could be changed by nothing more than a smile.

I know my life was changed by Elida’s smile and the smiles of the beautiful children we saw. I hope to be able to make more children smile!

If any of you want to do something, you can see the CFCA website, www.cfcausa.org.

In closing I’ll quote my son, Joe, inspired to blog about a boy in blue sitting on the stoop of a humble house:

“The boy in blue taught me a lesson on that hillside in Patulul by showing me the one similarity we have that I could not deny. I didn’t deserve what was given to me the day I was born. And for reasons only God could possibly know, he didn’t either.”

There but for the Amazing Grace of God go you or I!

God bless all of you!

0 thoughts on “‘Amazing grace’ of a mission awareness trip”

  1. Thank you for your beautiful testimonial. It expresses so well what many of us experience through sponsorships. And your son’s observation should inspire each of us to offer daily prayers of thanksgiving for ourselves and prayers of petition for all of God’s children. I have not yet made a MAT, but it is certainly on my “bucket list.”

  2. Today is one of my sponsored children’s birthday. She is sixteen years old. I think of her daily, but today I can’t stop thinking about her. I have been blessed to visit her three times. Ron’s story is near and dear to my heart. I can relate to everything he has written. My sponsored individuals have blessed me in so many ways. Thank you Ron for this beautiful story. I pray you remain healthy, and you are able to make more children smile! :)

    Hi Colleen! I hope you are well! Not only has my life been touched by my sponsored individuals, but by the sponsors I have met while traveling to Guatemala.

  3. Really wonderfully written! It expresses so much of what we all feel after being blessed with a MAT trip. Anyone who has not experience one should,, and take your family also. You will be blown away!

  4. Great article Ron! I often say the individuals I sponsor have saved my life. We can’t feel guilty because we have been born in America. God has blessed us so we can be the hands and feet of Christ in one way and the people we sponsor have been blessed another way to be His hands and feet to us. We may be helping release them from poverty but they are helping release us from materialism. Loved your story! Thanks for sharing.

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