Human relations and group life was the formation theme of the FEC during the weekend of April 14-15, 2018, directed by the educator Paula Silva.
The topic was quite interesting since it made us reflect over several musical themes and planted in us questions over the literary meaning of the songs, projecting them on the reality of our missionary life.
For instance, the “Lista” by Oswaldo Montenegro generated 10 questions about ourselves that made us remember the past and reflect on the present.
Another example was the “Contenedores” of Xutos and Pontapés, with seven questions that made us reflect on our going to the missions, asking us about what we would take along, what we would leave, what we knew about the place where we were going and how we thought we would feel once we arrived there, starting a new life, starting from nothing, with the possibility of going even farther and establish the objectives of our remaining in the field of volunteering.
We hear the witness of Susana Querido who was in Angola for six months and belongs to the Ondjoyetu missionary group.
We ended with the Eucharist, followed by lunch and then returned home.
We share a piece from the Journey Diary of April from the Parish of Christ the King in Vergada. Today we have news from Peru by the CLM Neuza Francisco.
To love is to go out
Since getting here I have discovered love on a daily basis. A love that constantly demanded and demands us to move out, move out from ourselves, from what we already know, that demands a journey. We must love the world and all that in it reflects the love of God. Here I found another way to love, I found a love that is available, simple, born of honesty from what I have and by sharing we make it possible to give and to receive. In a very disinterested way. A love born of growing together, like brothers. Here is where I ardently feel that I must be. It is in these brothers that I daily here the voice of God. It is in the ups and downs of the big mountains surrounding me that I constantly meet smiles, tears, and meet arms awaiting me, eyes reflecting history, a lot of history.
Along these dirt paths where I walk every day, I meet witnesses that convert me and make me thank God, the miracle of life. I am grateful for having been one of his chosen ones. A little at the time, I start knowing not only their faces, their expressions, but their names, their homes, their families. Many times I hear from afar when the call me “Andrea, sister Andrea.” Yes, here we are all brothers and sisters.
Someday I will tell you the story of my name. I feel I am one of them. We are family.
Ah, Peru, who stole my heart!
Sharing what they have, yes, often they give you the little they have and the lot they are. Very often on my way back I carry in my lap half a dozen apples from the man who comes to the seniors meeting, together with a banana from the man who runs a food store, plus corn from one of the families I visited or two or three potatoes from a sick woman.
Each day we accept to grow together. Each visit we accept to carry each other’s cross. We are words of mutual guidance, we are smiles, we are silences of the confessional, we are tears. We are, as a consequence of being, fragile and many are the times when on our knees we reconcile ourselves with love.
In the humility of each person crossing my path I meet the face of God, a merciful God.
In the daily joys and sorrows I meet the meaning of life. And every time I read it, I see a family, a group of children waiting for me, I see arms, the arms of Christ.
We arrived in Pangoa with our luggage full of hope and unanswered questions. Where will our mission be? In reality, the Lord has answered in various manners and one answer was for Rosa to be part of this missionary expedition. In prayer we asked the Lord to send missionaries and Rosa, in spite of her difficulties, answered yes. I, too, had some problems, but they were eventually resolved and there was the will of God.
We found the community of Pangoa fully involved in the beginning of the Easter Triduum and this, too, was an answer from God’s will. We made ourselves part of the celebration in the parish. First, we accompanied Fr. Oscar in the celebration of Holy Thursday in San Pablo of Mazarronquiari and then during the way of the Cross in Pangao on Good Friday. In the afternoon we arrived in Santa Teresita, a mission of previous years of which we had heard a lot. We stayed overnight and it was beautiful to celebrate with our brothers in faith in such a remote place. The night came, we ate in a little restaurant and later we shared a bed offered by a neighbor. Before that, we saw a movie that people hardly understood, but it make them laugh.
On Holy Saturday we celebrated again in the parish and prepared to reach our final destination of San Pablo in Mazaronquiari. I was happy to know that we were going to be in a poor and remote place. This was another answer, as the Lord chooses his favorites. Well knowing that we would not be comfortable there, we accepted it in faith.
We arrived on Monday very early because at 7:00am they were going to close the road for repairs. When we arrived it was not clear where we would stay. In reality, it was a space the size of a sports arena with 7 or 8 little houses around it. There was not much to choose. But the coordinator decided to give us a room made of lumber and with a tin roof. It was the best he had. Two neighbors brought six logs and several planks to make pallets on which to sleep. Next to that they placed two logs and a table. So even the kitchen was ready, very simply. We travel light so it was not difficult to make our beds and settle down.
The children arrived in the afternoon and drew us out of our planning because we had to start the catechesis, so that we got into it and started by speaking of God the father and creator. The kids are the engine of our days and steal many smiles from us. They are very attentive to our needs and are ready to give us a hand. Pablo, the founder of the community from whom it takes its name, never ceases to visit us and bring us something to eat such as yucca or local pumpkins. He is very kind. The mothers also send us through their children some fruit or cooked yucca. The problem is to eat it all.
Besides the catechesis we are also organizing celebrations and the rosary. Truly, here what you can theorize upon is very little, and the practice is better, so that a greeting, a conversation, play with the kids or watch a movie is the best witness of Christian love that we can give. This way our catechesis our into a space where to learn about God and develop creativity.
San Pablo de Mazarronquiari
It is an attachment of the Native Community of Mazarronquiari. It was started by three families who eventually grew and are now 20. For the majority, they are women and children who wear the customary cushma (a tunic). But the young men no longer wear it. They leave to go to work in the morning, the children go to school very early and the women go to the fields or start cooking. Several families do not live at the center, but a 10 or 15 minute walk away. The school can be reached in half an hour walking fast.
The founder, who has been here for about 30 years and was one of the first to get here, tells me about the place. With a proud smile he tells me how they named the place after him. Opening a Catholic church was a characteristic of the place. Other communities have evangelical churches and do not receive a priest well. Here they have two catechists and many people are married in church. It is a sign that the will of God wanted to bring us here to serve them.
Lights and shadows
This is a very young community, the parents are not over 35 and there are children everywhere. They are always smiling and really want to learn despite their needs. They do not seem to notice. Coffee is their main source of income. They plant it and pick it. Yucca is their basic source of food. But fruits are also part of their daily diet.
Education centers, from primary to secondary, are fairly near and available to the children. There they receive breakfast and lunch, a fact that eases family expenses and gives sufficient nutrition to help them study. They all start early and come home around 2:00 or 3:00 pm. The parents do their best to send them and buy the necessary supplies.
However, this is not enough. Here I am realizing that you cannot develop a place by only offering partial solutions rather than integral development. At the end of secondary education, if the girls stay home, they only have one choice, to be young mothers and start a home, repeating the cycle of survival and poverty. I saw two 18 year old girls pregnant and one 17 year old with a child in arms. It surprises me to touch this reality. Especially when one who finished secondary school last year asked me for work and I asked myself what alternative she would have here. She wants to work, but not in the coffee fields, after all why did she complete secondary school?
It is sad to see the lack of opportunities and the big question is: Why study? Is it a salute to the flag just to say that education is obligatory? In the end she left and they eventually found her in a bar of ill repute. Is that where we send them when there are no answers to their concerns? I pray for her, I have no alternative. Her boyfriend is waiting for her to marry her and she cannot aspire to anything more.
Today I asked why they do not roast and grind the coffee. It is more profitable. A young man explained it to me: no one would buy it, because the middlemen want it green… and at low cost. What exploitation! Coffee leaves here at 5.80 per Kg and exporting a Kg is less than 20 soles. But in Miraflores a cup of coffee costs 15 soles. You figure it out. Who profits from the farmer’s toil? Even though they have coffee makers, they cannot sell it. And the only coffee I drink comes from a bag belonging to an international corporation. Contradictions.
The day is coming to an end, but ideas on how to improve people’s lives still swirl through my head. I know that there are projects and investments worth millions, but nothing reaches this far. And the children live with an uncertain future and they only rejoice in that God the Father protects them.
I hope that this experience of sharing life and of seeing close by their hopes and their sufferings will commit me to give with joy my time to proclaim that we have a living God, who knows their pain and has chosen them because he loves justice and exalts the poor. May the Lord give us a heart of flesh to answer his call.
We thank God who allowed us to reach San Pablo in Mazaronquiari. Very early, filled with Easter joy we are here to share life with our brethren in this community. They still look at us with some mistrust, but with the hope that something good will come of it. The manager of this area hosted us in his house and very promptly gave us a bed, some logs and a table for the kitchen. We do not need more and we feel comfortable despite the limitations.
Fr. Oscal, MCCJ has been around these places for ten years already, taking care of the communities of this part of Pangoa. He has given us a specific job, the catechesis of the children. He has already prepared and given the sacraments to the adults, but the children will be our responsibility. It will be a month of intense catechesis.
The children are pure energy, very lively and eager to learn as today the attended the first day of catechesis. The innocence of their eyes gives us courage, for there is no better place to plant the Word. Reflecting on creation and reading Genesis in this beautiful panorama was unsurpassable. We did not need pictures to make them admire the work of God. We sang, played and, what they like the best, they showed their artistic touch by doing drawings on creation.
Today I learned two words, shinana and sarara, meaning women and men. We sang and added the words in nomatsiguenga. The work is relaxed like in the other communities and they usually behave within the limits. Only some of the settler children cause problems.
I have seen cooperation, interest and trust to get the job done.
I’m about to go back to Poland from my mission in Ethiopia. A great part of my service was teaching children in two kindergartens. I taught them English. The schools belong to the Missionaries of Charity (Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta). The first year of my teaching I was more focus on learning than teaching. I observed what other teachers were doing. I simply used to go to school and teach the children what came to my mind or what I found in the Internet. First year sometimes I was really frustrated with the situation in the school, especially with the attitude of the teachers. Some of the teachers prefer to sit all the class doing nothing, while the students repeat alphabet 100 times and even don’t recognize the letters. I could give many examples like this. I tried to talk to the coordinator of the schools and later also to the Sisters. However none of them hoped to change anything. They knew how they work, they tried to talk to them, to organize a training with psychologist, but nothing has changed.
However I still wanted to work with them. Last year I started to organize teachers’ training every other week (one Friday in one school, the next week in the another school). Before every training I had to prepare some materials. I learned a lot to be able to share this knowledge with others. I still worked with the children, however at the beginning I prepared the English program for the whole year. I included many games, songs, various techniques and activities so the children had more fun and were motivated to study. Even when I didn’t have a lesson, the teachers should still follow the program and report what they did. I changed my schedule to be able to have similar number of lessons per week with each group in both schools.
I wish I could change something, especially the attitude of the teachers. I’ve learned one very important thing about motivation. Those who daily struggle to satisfy the basic needs of them and their families usually are not motivated to serve others, to do the good work for the society. Somehow it is psychologically justified. Only God can give the motivation beyond that. Some of the teachers really care for the children and their future, for the efficacy of their teaching. I’m sure that it’s God’s influence.
If the teachers don’t have any motivation coming from inside then they might be motivated from outside. That’s why I’m struggling now to arrange the implementing of the new evaluating system. Up to now, all the workers are very free to do what they want because there are no many consequences of that. If they work hard or are lazy, nothing changes. So now first of all, I’m trying to encourage the coordinator and the Superior Sister to prepare the new system and implement it.
My work at school was evoluting while I was also developing my knowledge, skills and way of understanding. I know that the most important was not the knowledge I shared with the students or the teachers, but my presence. I’m aware that the children are too little to remember the English vocabulary in the near future. But surely they will remember me as someone who gave them joy and love. If I managed to teach the teachers something useful then it would be for the good of the children. The attitude is the most difficult to change. If there is a little improvement, I give the glory to God, because only He is able to renew the people’s heart.
My presence in the schools was a great lesson to me. I learned a lot not only about the profession of teacher and methodology, but also about the culture, about the people, their needs, their thoughts. Now I can understand them better. I know my perspective is different. I’m not frustrated anymore. I don’t judge them. I tried my best. The rest of the work I leave to God.
So… Who have learned more: the students, the teachers or I? I would say that I… But God knows… I think we all have learned something.
On March 8 of this year, we had the joy of receiving the international coordinator of the CLM, Alberto de la Portilla, on a visit to the Group of Comboni Spirituality of Balsas-MA.
Opportunity that has allowed us to deepen our knowledge of the work carried out by the CLM worldwide.
It was a beautiful sharing that contributed a lot to the strengthening of our group.
Our gratitude and may God bless everyone.
Peace and good
Group of Combonian Spirituality of Balsas
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