Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 25, 2005
Let's pray for Pedro's sight
A Missionary's Musings
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
This morning I drove half an hour on some of Guatemala's primitive roads and entered into the yard of an elderly woman who has invited us to park the truck close to her house where it will be safe. There I took my backpack with the wherewithal to celebrate the Eucharist and went across the road where a 20-year-old man was waiting.
He was my guide and he took my backpack and carried it all the way, up and down considerable hills arriving finally to an open area and the community of San Vincente. It was a fine one-hour walk.
Pedro, the leader of the community, welcomed me warmly. A small group of men had already gathered outside the church. I went and greeted them all and told them that my name is Jacques, or Santiago in Spanish.
Having done this a few times in other communities, I'm fast becoming known in the area as Padre Santiago.
The church of San Vincente is small as is also the community with its 15 families and population of 70 people. I was surprised that the church had a cement floor as many of the smaller communities cannot afford that.
The walls are made of standing 12-inch planks with a good half inch between the planks which allows the light to come through. A tin roof keeps the place dry on rainy days. Two men with guitars led the singing with hymns that are becoming familiar, although it's hard to join in as communities have very little in terms of song books.
I was busy hearing people's confession in perfect Quiche which I don't understand at all, along with the odd sin being expressed in Spanish which I understood. Meanwhile two men with guitars led hymns in their own language. A collection was taken during Mass. It yielded 9.5 Quetzales or $1.52.
After Mass, Pedro invited me to come and have lunch at his place. The house was large but with a dirt floor.
I met Pedro's mother who is 95 years old which must be a major record in this area of poverty and lack of health care. I also met his wife who served me a healthy meal of chicken broth, rice, beans and tortillas.
For my return trip to Chicaman, Pedro told me he'd be my guide for the walk home. Walking behind him I noticed that his rubber boots, - all men wear rubber boots, no sock- were worn pretty badly and I could see his heels coming through the boots.
I had a hunch Pedro was blind and he confirmed that indeed he could hardly see at all as he's got a bad case of cataracts in both eyes. His 9-year-old daughter turned out to be my real guide as she led her blind father so that he could lead me. Young Rosa was wearing a pair of second-hand white shoes with high heels that would have fit a grown woman. The shoes probably came in a good-will box and the size did not seem to faze Rosa at all, lucky that she was to be wearing any kind of shoes.
After we had walked for a half-hour or so, I suggested that I could make it home by myself. In reality I felt bad for Jaime groping with his walking stick trying to keep on the trail.
He did not want to leave me until he had gotten me to the truck, he said. But I insisted that I would be alright, and that we were getting close as we could hear the river flowing below us. He finally agreed and we bade goodbye to each other.
I made it back to the truck with very little problem. As I was walking, I was thinking about cataract operations and wondered how successful they are. I want to look into it and see if modern science couldn't do what the love of Jesus did for the blind of his day. There must be a solution for this good man. A successful eye operation could positively impact on his life, his family and community.
Before leaving I prayed to God to help this good man, his family and community. We might have an answer waiting as presently we have a guest, an American doctor who is visiting us and some of our communities. He wishes to volunteer his gifts and profession to the poor and needy of Guatemala. He's presently away at our other Parishes, Playa Grande with its 125 communities. We'll likely be talking with him and I'll keep you posted.
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