Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 24, 2007
A change of scene and a change of heart and pace
Father practices tough love – and it works
A Missionary's Musings
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
A few days ago, Father Sergio left for a month-long holiday to Mexico, his native land, and he left me in charge of our 70 villages. He didn't leave me alone however, as two would-be missionary candidates had joined us several weeks earlier.
Selso is about 22-years-old and Elio is over 30. Both are intelligent and there are no language barriers between us. The program we've concocted was simple. Here are some of the highlights.
Take us here
After more than two weeks, probably a bit bored of the daily routine, the two young men suggested that I take them to a place called Xela (pronounced as "Shae-la").
It's supposed to be a beautiful area, but at breakfast the next morning there was a total change of mind on the part of the two men who for different reasons pleaded to bow out. I wasn't pleased, as we had made a joint decision to go.
A week later came another change of mind. We were heading for Coban, with four million inhabitants, the second largest city in Guatemala after Guatemala City. I was glad to get away for a change. We agreed to leave at 5 a.m. because of the major road-building project that sometimes stops traffic for hours.
I had a quick snack and coffee and went after the two young men. One of the two had decided to bow out. I was upset, as the decision to go that morning had been unanimous and I wasn't going to let him mess up a plan all three had agreed upon.
As he demurred some more I went to his room and gave him an alternative: "I give you 15 minutes to get ready as we are leaving at 5:30 a.m. as we had planned the night before." If he wasn't in the pick-up within the 15 minutes, he would have to pack up his things and get lost.
He made it to the truck on time and we had an exceptional day. Talk about the power of tough love!
The road, as expected, was awful and we were able to clip along at 15 to 20 km per hour on average. The atmosphere among us changed dramatically and we all had a fabulous day.
Coban is a busy hub with lots of traffic and countless stores and shops. As soon as we arrived, we went to the Sisters of the Precious Blood who make their living by providing communion hosts for Mass for the Diocese of Coban and surrounding areas. Once our business there was done, we parked the truck downtown and started walking, admiring the beauty of it all.
We came to a very old, large church. I was stunned at how great and beautiful it was. Slowly I walked up the main aisle, a very long walk and then I entered a pew and rested there for a long time. I felt the presence of God in a powerful way and did not want to leave. The two young men equally felt the awesome presence of God there.
God and his people
Elio knew more than I about the area, so we went for a ride in a beautiful mountainous area. Even there the presence of God in the midst of workers was felt as an ongoing collaboration between God and people making our planet Earth tingle with life. As we drove back home to little Chicaman - a good two-hour drive - it seemed God's presence was always near and beckoning, through nature certainly, but also through our conversations and the growing respect and friendship among us.
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