An hogar is not classified by its foundation, structure, furniture, interior design. Rather, it’s made up of its residents. An hogar is defined by its people, each filled with high spirits, warmth, compassion, distinct aromas, and eagerness to share wisdom and knowledge. An hogar is a home, it’s where you can sit and chat for hours, you can laugh until your jaw hurts and your eye begin to water, and sing like nobody is watching. That’s exactly the place we visited while in Santa Cruz del Quiche in Guatemala.
A week ago today we visited our wise friends at the Hogar and each of those beautiful residents gave us a piece of them that will be treasured forever. We were greeted with smiles and open arms as soon as we set foot into the activity room. While some showed us their dance moves, others entertained us with the maracas. Many allowed us into their hearts by talking about their families and personal lives. We were in awe of Doña Chenta, whose family lives at the Hogar. Despite her age and small frame this little lady showed us God’s unfailing love and mercy through the care and attentiveness she provides for her husband and son. It was a blessing to see her interact with both since it reminded me of the Holy Family.
During our time at the hogar we could feel and witnessed God’s love flowing between missionaries and residents. We couldn’t help but utter “Thank you, Lord.” Thank you for allowing us to be filled by your love through quality time.
Some photos of our visit to Casa Hogar:
We would also like to share a hopeful story which ties into a previous entry. When we visited Pacaja, the new village, we met a young girl who had had a stroke a few days before. She was half-paralyzed and could hardly speak. It was obvious that the girl needed medical attention as soon as possible if there was to be any hope for her to have a full recovery. However, due to her father’s alcoholism, the family is stuck living in poor conditions. The girl’s mother expressed to us her desperation of not being able to do anything for her daughter (sometimes not even provide food for her). Thankfully, on this particular day we just so happened to have two extra bags filled with groceries from home visits that were cancelled. We felt extremely blessed to be able to give this family a little more than what was originally planned. They seemed to need it more than most. We prayed for this family and hugged the girl before we left but still felt that there should be more that we could do.
On Friday (our last day in Guatemala!) we visited Obras Sociales Hermano Pedro in Antigua. This is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to provide high-quality medical attention to the most vulnerable. The clinic specializes in providing care for children and adults with cerebral palsy. They also provide surgeries for children with cleft palate and other medical deformities. Amazingly, this clinic is maintained mostly by people who donate time and money and from doctors who visit the clinic from around the world to provide these services for no charge. Many of the patients interned here had been abandoned by their families since they did not have the resources to care for them.
As a team, we had a wonderful time here. Some of us had been nervous before going in knowing that the patients would have severe disabilities and we were unsure of how to act around them. Of course, all of that falls away when one simply focuses on LOVE. Just love, and remembering God’s love for us, made our time with the patients special. We were able to visit the women’s, men’s, and children’s wards and sing to them, dance with them, and hug them. One of our leaders commented during reflection time that we embodied the mission’s theme (Love and Mercy) in everything we did there. On top of that, we were able to start the process to bring the young girl from Pacaja over to this special hospital!
Can you believe how great God is? We had never been to this village before but God had it in his plan that WE specifically go to this family in this village so that we could connect them to Hermano Pedro, with whom we already have a relationship. The timing was perfect!
God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good!
[Missionaries inside of Obras Sociales Hermano Pedro]
Yesterday was a great day from start to finish. For the first time in Prince of Peace Mission history we visited Pacajá. The team was feeling anxious since it was our first time collaborating with this aldea (village). Earlier in the week, our leaders were able to scope out this aldea to provide guidance and direction on what to expect. With the previous aldeas, it felt as if we were going to visit family (like the relatives you visit once a year), since the mission already knew about these villages.
However, as we prepared for activities at this aldea it felt like we were meeting extended family for the first time. We felt nervous, but very excited at the same time. When we arrived at the school all our nervousness melted away when we saw our new family running towards us to greet us. Our encounter with the children was warm and humbling. The children connected with missionaries and immediately started to play games, sings songs to learn English. They even created a carpet made out pine needles in our honor, as is customary for them. We connected with them through ice breakers and praised God through music before moving on to arts in crafts.
Meanwhile, the Adult Faith Formation team shared that they felt a strong presence of the Holy Spirit in the chapel where they were able to carry out their activities and presentations. The leaders of the community shared that they are trying to build a new church because they have outgrown the current one. The leaders were excited to hear the eagerness with which this Catholic community wants to grow both physically and spiritually.
The community of Pacajá opened their hearts and village to us. They have invited us to return next year and we couldn’t be more happy. It is truly a match made in heaven, the start of something new.
Today we went to Lemoa, one of the poorest villages in Quiche. During Guatemala’s civil war, this was one of the villages that was hit the hardest. On top of economic hardships, the Catholic population is a minority in this aldea (18%).
In order to talk about the joy of this day, we feel that we must give a little bit of background about what happened in this village last year. Although the 2nd-time missionaries remember that they had fun with the small children last year, they also shared that they had not received a warm welcome from the teachers and some of the older children. They were standoffish and aloof and extremely reserved when the missionaries would ask for help in working with the children during arts and crafts. It had been a tough day.
Today, however, was a different story J. Us first-timers, along with the 2nd timers, were in awe of the tremendous amount of energy the children demonstrated. As one first-timer says, you’d blink and another child would appear in front of you with a big grin. Many missionaries shared stories of children surrounding them and looking at them with sparkling eyes as they waited anxiously for us to tell them what to do. Even the older students were more receptive this year (as in, they were actually paying attention!).
Guess this serves to show just how important it is to “plant the seed.” We thank the missionaries from last year for their hard work – we were able to witness the first fruits from those seeds J.
Don’t lose faith
What matters is the seed you are planting.
Delayed post from July 14 (limited internet access)
Today, I worked with the 3rd graders at the school in our first aldea, Cucabaj II. After a morning of singing, dancing, theatrical skits and games, we went into the classrooms for arts and crafts. The first craft we made was a cross made of construction paper which the children would decorate any way that they wanted using small pieces of tissue in various colors. We helped each student apply glue to their cross figure. They really got into the activity!
As each child completed their crosses, we reminded them to write their name on the back and that they would keep them. I approached one little girl and asked her if she signed her name. She grinned at me and said, “yes.” She turned over the cross and showed me where she wrote her name vertically. However, what surprised and touched me was that on each arm of the cross, she had written “Emma” and “Tania” (my buddy missionary in the classroom) to remember us after today.
From the mouths (or writing) of babes! While the child was showing a gesture of love and appreciation, this moment reminded me of a lesson from one of my faith formation instructors several years ago when I was completing the RCIA process to become Catholic. The instructor told me that the cross is both vertical and horizontal; our vertical relationship with God, and our horizontal relationship with our faith community and our brothers and sisters in Christ. When this little girl wrote Tania and I’s names she unknowingly represented that horizontal relationship we already share and by writing her name vertically, she represented the offering of love we give the Lord by coming to serve this community.
Today we’d like to thank the Lord for:
- AGAPE: selfless, never ending, never failing, unchanging, and infinite love
- Our moms/dads/family/friends who continue to teach us what love is, looks like, feels like, sounds like
- Our health that allows us to love
- Our hopes for a future where we will continue to spread love
- Our communities united by love
P.S. – Alondra says she missed you, Mom! Pili misses her Mami too!
Below are some photos from today’s mission activities:
What we accepted as a calling to bless others, we quickly have come to realize the blessings Christ is bestowing upon us. The people we were chosen to serve are in turn serving us.
As we started off our day, God quickly reminded us of his presence at Sagrado Corazon de Jesus and he continued to remind us all the way through our evening reflections. We all remember when we felt it; some missionaries first felt the presence of the Holy Spirit at the sight of children lining up on both sides of us with balloons. The best illustration we can give you of this reception, was the welcoming of Jesus into Jerusalem with palms. Others were moved when children waltzed down the aisle carrying hand-stitched journals, one for each missionary. Next the kids started singing “Alma Misionera” to us (shout-out to Servorum Dei J!). This beautiful song captures the essence of our mission and it was all the more meaningful to hear it in the children’s voices. It brought some of the missionaries to tears.
After the mini-retreat’s activities, the day closed with goodbyes and expressions of gratitude in the form of heartfelt hugs, warm smiles, and encouraging words. This experience made us recognize that we are right where we belong, and we are carrying out God’s plan.
Family and friends, we have arrived to our hotel in Santa Cruz del Quiché! Thanks for your patience as we traveled and got settled in.
We have had a long day of travel, but all is well and we are safe. Our home away from home – El Sitio – is cozy and full of hospitality. Stay tuned for more reflections and details on our first day of mission.
Peace and blessings!