Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 16, 2006
Love built a house and filled it with hope
Neighbours step in and rebuild a despairing family's dwelling, life
A Missionary's Musings
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
Saturday morning Sister Rosa asked me if I would haul some furniture to a home in Chicaman, Guatemala, where I work as a missionary.
"Sure, why not?" was my response. She had beds and dressers and boxes of clothing to be brought to a home I had previously visited.
Truly a hovel
A home? Truly unworthy of the name. It was a hovel animals would look down on. The dirt floor was uneven, with mounds of refuse in a corner.
One had to watch one's step as one was likely to trip on protruding rocks or stumble over a two-foot drop where you'd expect a level plane.
In this awful place lived a couple with two teenagers (I actually never saw them) and three younger children. The father is in his late 40s and the mother in her early 30s. The children were nice and endearing.
A large dirty and repulsive bed, the only bed in the "house, " stood in the corner.
The sisters and some of the local women had been there and they decided something had to be done to help these people.
The dirt of the place and the helplessness of the couple took me aback. They seemed overwhelmed, not knowing how to change their environment and better their condition. I felt as overwhelmed as they were.
Right in the middle of the house was a hole about four feet deep. The walls - made of decaying mud bricks - allowed the light, the rain and the wind to come through.
I could understand these people being at a loss, in total disarray.
Sister Rosa, a strong, determined woman, had visited there before and had started gathering a small group of people to help this family find its bearings and begin a new way of life.
The father had no job, no money was coming in and he appeared totally helpless.
A victory garden
So one of the neighbours lent them a piece of his land so that they could seed some corn and beans, the main staple of the poor.
Then the sisters got some of the parishioners involved and they decided to build a house for this family.
I wasn't personally involved in this project except to provide some financial support and haul stuff with the truck.
Then the other day Sister Rosa asked me if I could help with hauling furniture for the family.
So I drove the pickup to the house and we hauled the brand new furniture in.
I was shocked by the transformation - a nice clean cement floor, walls built with wooden boards.
The roof was made of brand new corrugated tin. And there was furniture - brand new beds, chairs and a table. The kitchen area too had all the wherewithal one would expect of a new home.
People who had been involved in the project were invited for the opening of the new house since they had contributed generously of their time and money to help a family in dire need.
And the help did come through and with the love, care and commitment of a few people, the hellish hole that was the family's shack vanished and their dream of a safe home became a reality.
Just the beginning . . .
No doubt support will be ongoing. Having irrevocably helped a helpless family turn their lives around, this parish and this community has tasted the elixir of love and charity and found in their hearts the commitment to help the down-trodden.
How can one turn one's back to future needs since Jesus promised the poor will always be among us?
Let's welcome the challenges in our own neighbourhoods and be life-givers as the Chicaman people have been. Having had a taste of it, I'm sure they've only begun.
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