Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 12, 2004
Columnist bound for Guatemala
Fr. Jacques needs truck to visit isolated villages
A Missionary's Musings
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
After four months in Guatemala I'm back in Alberta for a few weeks to put my affairs in order as soon I'll return to Guatemala to begin a new missionary venture after having served as a priest in Alberta for 40 years.
I look forward to this new challenge and I can hardly wait to be there as a member of a team of three Oblates serving 65 villages with headquarters at Chicaman, a community of some 2,000 people in the northern part of the country. I've already spent four months in this Central American country, mostly studying Spanish and getting to know the country and the people I will soon begin to serve.
A friend asked me: "What will you do there? Why a Canadian? Why you?" Good questions. The Oblates are an international missionary congregation serving in about 60 countries worldwide.
Missionaries from various European countries have established the Church over the past few hundred years in all areas of our vast country. For a missionary congregation such as the Oblates, to go abroad and live with the people and die with them is a normal process. It started with Peter and Paul and James and many other disciples of Christ some 2,000 years ago who left home, family and country to bring the Good News of life and salvation to all peoples of the earth.
I've always wanted to go abroad as a missionary. Shortly after my ordination I was asked by our superior general in Rome where I wanted to go. I told him that I'd like to go to Bolivia. He told me that since I come from a country that still requested missionaries from Europe and since I knew French and English I should return home. I was happy to come home where I've served for 40 years. However, I guess that after these many years I've earned the privilege of serving abroad and I'm most happy for it.
"What am I going to do there?" With God's help I will be a brother to the people I'm sent to. I will love them with all my heart and I will give my life in serving them the best I can. I hope to learn much from them. I want to spend a lot of time listening to them, getting to know them and building deep bonds of respect and love. I intend at first not to be their teacher but their student, receiving from them wisdom, knowledge and love. As I know that the people will be Good News to me, I pray I can also be Good News to them by reflecting by my life the love and respect Jesus continues to have for me in spite of my failings.
The people I'm sent to are a people who have experienced great suffering as they saw their own flesh and blood slaughtered savagely, helpless victims of the worst barbarism ever inflicted on an innocent people. I hope to be worthy of their trust and of their love. And as I move on, a living connection persists with another suffering and most gentle, loving people, the Lubicon of northern Alberta that I was blessed to know and to journey with for over two decades. As I visited them last week, I bade them farewell for awhile. They will continue to be in my prayer and part of my life.
The local superior in Guatemala asked me if I'd take care of the community of Chicaman as well as a number of outlying communities. I told him that my preference would be to minister to the far-flung communities that don't have a priest's visit very often. I would like to visit all the homes and listen to people telling their needs and hopes, and how they would see me minister to them. I'm not 100 per cent comfortable with Spanish yet and would prefer taking on smaller communities at first, reaching out to the most distant and harder to reach.
And this brings me to a concrete issue that may concern you, dear reader. To travel on the primitive roads common in that area of the world, one needs a four-wheel drive truck. My two Oblate brothers in Chicaman already have trucks to go to their mission areas. I imagine that I also will be designated some 20 villages to minister to.
I wouldn't mind walking but this would not be a wise use of my time. I'll need wheels that the Oblate delegation in Guatemala cannot afford. How will I secure such a vehicle? With you and with God, everything is possible. I invite you to be our partners in mission.
Should you wish to help us, please send a prayer and a cheque to Missionary Oblates, 21 Meadowview Drive, St. Albert, AB T8N 2R9. The money will follow me in the mission field: you will get a receipt for income tax purposes, my gratitude and that of the people as well as my constant prayer.
And I will get a truck that will bring me to the jungles of Guatemala, bringing the love of Christ expressed by your own love and compassion for the poorest peoples of the Americas.
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