Today we had the privilege of visiting Xesic IV, one of the mountainside aldeas. “Aldea” is a Spanish word for hamlet or village. Every year, the mission coordinator works with Fr. Gilberto, the pastor of our sister parish, to identity the communities in his charge that are in the greatest need. Once we’ve chosen an aldea, we enter into a 3-year commitment with them. Part of the relationship is that we commit to bringing a group of missionaries every year. This was our first visit to this particular aldea and they were overjoyed to have us. We were humbled by their welcome and touched by their affectionate smiles, hugs and grateful spirit.
At each aldea we visit we start the day with a youth rally. Today there were about 150 kids, grades pre-K – 6. They were so excited to have us and it showed in the way they responded to our praise and worship songs, games and arts and crafts. We couldn’t get enough of their hugs! That was something everyone was really moved by – how affectionate the kids were. There were no walls – they were happy we were there and they were not shy to show us!
The bus driver that brought us to the aldea told us we were lucky to be welcomed into their community. He explained that the indigenous communities that live in these aldeas are incredibly closed. They are protective of their land and their families and one must be invited to visit. The beautiful show of hospitality and welcome is a sign of their love for their Catholic faith and their trust in Fr. Gilberto, their pastor and our connection to them.
After mass, we split into 4 groups and went for pre-planned home visits. Everyone we visited were people who were either in great need or could not come to mass for some reason. There was one diabetic, 2 widows and an elderly women who could no longer travel. These people lived on the mountainside and the only way to get to them was to walk, so that’s what we did! One group walked for nearly one hour each way! Another group walked about 40 minutes. What moved many of the missionaries was the realization that as hard as the walk was, we only had to do it once. These people, whose shoes we were literally walking in today, travel this road every single day. One of the missionaries arrived in her particular home visit to find a little girl there that she recognized from the earlier youth rally. She was brought to tears at the fact that that little girl walked all that distance every day to go to school. Every day! This evening when we gathered to reflect on the day, almost every missionary remarked that their own problems were put into perspective by that walk.
Thank you God for the grace to see that our problems, concerns and difficulties are nothing compared to the burden so many people carry in this world – help us to remember that as we carry our own cross. And, help us to do it with the same joy and peace we saw in the people we met today.
PS – Thank you Anna Cisne for the cafecito! Such a blessing after a day like today!! Everyone sends you un besito y un abrazo:)