Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 15, 2008
Student joyfully seizes the Guatemalan missionary torch
By NICHOLAS LANDRY
I was ready to jump into this mission with complete confidence with a man I had met only once.
I did not take much convincing; in fact, I left the meeting with a great sense of relief.
My heart was filled and fired with so much enthusiasm that I could not bring myself to sleep that night. A mission project seemed so fitting; I needed time off from school and an experience that would open my heart to God's vision in my life.
Soon after, Father Johnson, an Oblate missionary in Guatemala, was in Canada on holidays. I was invited to meet with him. Without any hesitation Father Johnson took me under his wing and invited me to join his mission in Guatemala for six months.
In November 2007, I walked off the plane not knowing what to expect. I was ready to jump into this mission with complete confidence with a man I had met only once.
I had a nervous and uneasy feeling in my stomach. However, I remembered a note a friend had sent to me that said: "Keep an open mind," and so I did. I was convinced I would accomplish what I set out to do, which was to serve my neighbour and re-ignite my relationship with Christ.
First, I had to learn Spanish. I was shipped off to a host family in Antigua, Guatemala, and spent a month taking intensive Spanish classes. While in Antigua, I was blessed with many touching experiences.
In the market I bought a bag of fruit for myself. I then saw a poor women sitting on cold cement trying to sell necklaces. An impulse ran through me. I got down on a knee and put the fruit in her hands wrapping my hands over hers. Tears formed in her eyes as she blessed me with the sign of the cross. I walked away crying tears of joy.
Once my Spanish lessons were completed, I met with Father Jacques, who was now back in Chicam n. We took off into the beautiful mountains and villages of this huge parish of more than 76 churches. This rural community was to be my home for the next few months.
Father Jacques taught me the names of the churches old and new. He showed me the communities he was serving and introduced me to the locals. I was received with open arms. Every day, after Morning Prayer and a quick bite to eat, we jumped into his pickup and hit the road. Father Jacques is a man on fire for Christ and the Church. You could never tell that he is 71 years old. His zeal rubbed off on me as we sought out to proclaim the good news to all those willing to listen.
I assisted Father Jacques as an altar boy at Mass and helped with registrations and paper work. I could not believe my eyes when line-ups were formed to register dozens of baptisms and marriages. Thousands of people packed into the simple churches.
Once, just before Mass, I remember taking a look outside. There was not a soul. Everyone in the community was at Mass that morning. What a relief to know communities like these exist - a drastic change from what I was accustomed to back home.
As things progressed, Father Jacques encouraged me to put my talents to work. I began teaching English in the local high school. I was also blessed to assist the sisters with their works. Sister Leticia asked me to teach an adult class one Saturday afternoon. The serious need for education in this country became clear.
I was asked to take Don Julio's hand in mine. I was to teach him how to properly hold a pencil and make a dot or a circle on a page. I did so with great care. When lying in my bed that evening, I realized that I was teaching a 40-year-old man how to make a dot. How simple yet so significant a triumph!
It did not take me long to fall in love with the life of mission. With the deep wisdom of Father Jacques' guidance, I've decided to follow a road less travelled.
For now, my studies as a first year engineering student at the University of Alberta will occupy most of my time. However, my heart and mind are still deep in the mission.
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