Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 13, 2004
Joyous faith graces Mexican lives
Church-centered life lets Mexican youth know the freedom of generous spirits and sharing
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
While standing in a turbid Mexican stream, 16-year-old Stacey Gillam's heart was opened to the richness of simplicity.
One of four Edmonton-area female youth participating in a two-week mission July 7-22 through Youth of the Third Millennium to help paint the interior of a village church, the Stony Plain teen admitted she might have only gone on the trip to get a suntan.
But her perspective on Third World residents and the quality of their lives was altered forever through the grace of a small child.
Washing socks gift
"We went down to the river to wash the altar cloths and four little girls came with us. I took off my shoes and socks and put them behind me," Gillam said. "One of the girls came to me and asked me something in Spanish and I gestured I didn't understand. She asked again and I just said, 'Si.'
"So she took the socks out of my shoes, entered the river and washed them."
That selfless gesture revealed to Gillam how God lives in the less fortunate.
Some residents of Aguazotepec, a three-hour drive from Mexico City, were not destitute and others enjoyed a comfortable life. But the local Mexican youth were plugged into spirituality and not headphones or electronic games.
The locals are proud of their heritage and they centre their lives around the Church, said local YTM organizer Angela Andrejczuk.
"The idea was to show the girls that the world is a family and we must take care of each other," said Andrejczuk, who lives near Graminia, west of Devon. "They are usually changed by the experience. It is so amazing for them to have an international perspective on poverty. The girls didn't find the villagers as poor as they thought they would be. But they did find the local people to be very happy."
Andrejczuk received information about the Mexican mission from YTM's international organizer. She then got the word out to the female youth. Along with Gillam, Irene Cadrin, Chera Kennedy and Naquita Williams volunteered.
"There were three groups, basically, from Spain, France and North America," said Cadrin, who lives near St. Paul. "There were about 80 girls in total. Every group had their own special role. The Spaniards spoke the language so they were up in the mountains. The French were more involved with evangelization. We were doing the humanitarian jobs, which included painting the church. There were about 18 girls in our North American group."
YTM, which is sponsored by the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi, asked the Mexican community ahead of time how the mission could serve them. From all their needs, Andrejczuk said they chose the painting of their church.
"That showed their level of importance. God was first," she said.
Andrejczuk believes the people with God filling their lives are the ones who are the true givers.
Third World debt
"I think a reason we send the girls isn't so much to give as it is to receive. They become so much richer when they grow up and realize the debt we owe to Third World countries."
When the group arrived, within a few days local children were knocking on their doors at 7 a.m. to come play soccer. They were usually boys and their energy was contagious.
While they spent a lot of time with the children, a typical morning consisted of breakfast, prayer and a truck ride to the church to work. Mass was celebrated in both Spanish and English, a sign of respect to the visitors.
"The children couldn't wait to play. They were so affectionate," Cadrin said. "Some of the girls bought them soccer balls as going-away presents. They do not base everything on materialism. Their lives are based on family and unity. Even if they don't practise religion, they have faith," she said.
"They still act very Catholic even if they are not."
Soon after they arrived, the group was asked to paint a second church. It wasn't in the funds, but they took up a collection amongst themselves. They went to the village store, bought some paint and headed up into the mountains to join their Spanish comrades.
"It felt Christ-like to serve as a missionary," Gillam said. "I felt proud."