Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 3, 2005
So many ways to serve humanity
Alberta Oblate ministers to his Guatemalan flock in a multitude of ways
A Missionary's Musings
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
As I'm writing this I hear the thunder roar above as well as a torrential rainstorm bouncing off the roof and somehow coming through it, drenching the floor of my room.
Fortunately, this little corner is dry and I'm not complaining. I'm thinking of my sidekick, Father Sergio, who's gone to a faraway community called Pozo Grande that will require him to walk for several hours. For his sake I hope he's far from this deluge.
Park and walk
Yesterday morning I had a quick breakfast and drove about 30 minutes to Las Culebra, one of the 70 communities. I parked the truck in the driveway of a family who invited us, for the security of the vehicle, to leave it by their house.
Just across the highway, a man was waiting for me. It's an arrangement with the communities that when we cannot drive for lack of road and need to walk that they will provide us with a guide who will also carry our backpack.
Pablo was waiting across the road when I parked the truck. I greeted the family who was preparing breakfast outside and I was off to meet my guide.
I shook hands with Pablo who took my backpack and we were off on a two-hour hike up the hills to Vera de Canasto I. There are three communities called Vera de Canasto with a number to differentiate them.
On my first outing several months ago, I had hiked up to Vera de Canasto III, a three-hour hike no less and the same returning home. That had been my baptism of fire as it were. Yesterday's hike was relatively easy in comparison, perhaps because I'm in better shape than I was then.
On the way up the hills, one could see faraway Chicam n as well as the highway far away below us. We stopped a couple of times to rest and to admire the awesome beauty surrounding us.
When we arrived at the community, the cornstalks towered a good four metres above us. The combination of fertile soil, great sunshine and lots of rain has sparked incredible life in that solitary land.
The people are poor but the essentials are in place: good land, lots of warmth and sunshine as well as an abundance of rain. I was led to the church and was surprised to see how well it stood. A good, clean cement floor, walls made of huge board about 18 inches wide and a tin roof. They had also a good array of comfortable benches.
Let's make a deal
Curious, I asked them how they had manage to pull this nice church together. They had approached the alcalde or mayor of the municipality and made a deal with him for the construction of a hall. After the hall was built, it quickly evolved into a church where the Blessed Sacrament is kept for people to reverence when they wish to. Thus the Sunday service led by their catechists or celebrants always includes Holy Communion.
Before I was led into Mass, I was asked to be available for Confession. Most people there took advantage of the sacrament of Reconciliation. All confessed in the Poconci language that I do not know. I gave absolution and the penance in Spanish.
Mass was well prepared and they did a lot of singing accompanied by a couple of men strumming their guitars. Usually there are baptisms and weddings but not this day.
After Mass, I was invited to share a good meal with a family. Then another man took my backpack and led me all the way toward Chicam n, another two-hour walk. Returning to Las Culebra where I had parked the truck, I met a couple who had had an accident: the man's nose had a bad cut and was bleeding a bit.
Could I take them to Chicam n to see the doctor? Since our Cuban doctor left us a few months ago, the nearest doctor is in Uspantan, a half-hour away. I took them to Chicam n and from there they took a bus.
The man is doing well as he came and shook my hand after Mass the next day.
I was surprised at how little tired I was after my four hours of hiking up and down the mountains. I gave thanks to God for the opportunity to serve in this awesome country, ministering to good people and also in a variety of ways being ministered to by them.
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