Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Overwhelming Generosity

I want to share an experience of a very sad accident but the overwhelming generosity of people.  Carmen the 30 year-old cook for the volunteers and Sisters for the past 6 years fell at night last week into an uncovered drainage ditch and partially severed her spinal cord.  She was completely paralyzed for a week until surgery and now can feel painful stimuli to her feet.  We have hope she will recover some movement in her legs. 

She was transferred to a local hospital for rehab but returned to the distant hospital due to pneumonia.  She is still numb from the chest down and fighting the pneumonia at the writing of this blog.  She is the single mother of two children. She is a very nice woman and a good mother.  Almost daily she would “sneak” me leftover food from lunch so I would not have to cook my own dinner. We are all so shocked that this could happen.

She had health insurance only until the end of the month as she lost her job last month.  The mission has less income and half the employees were let go last month.  She was transferred to a private hospital so she could have the operation she needed.  The expenses were supposed to be paid for by the health insurance she has until the 30th of this month but they only paid some of the cost.  She had a $600 bill after a week (nothing by US standards of health costs but a lot to people who earn $300 a month if they have work).  She had also co- signed a loan for a friend who did not pay back the loan so Carmen lost all of her severance pay to pay the bank loan.  Thus, she is without work, has no money, no health insurance soon and rent and food to buy for her children as well as a very long, expensive rehabilitation time.

This is where the incredible generosity of the town of Guadalupe comes in.  The people made photos of Carmen with her neck brace in the hospital bed that I am including in this blog.   
They put the photo on cardboard boxes and walked the streets in the nearby larger town.  They collected $834 in coins in one day which is pretty incredible for a small group of neighbors and kids.  The mother of one of the Sisters Carmen cooked for lent her the total amount to pay the hospital bill.  Also, one of the husbands of a friend of Carmen, who has a job has offered to pay the first month to continue her health insurance.  There is a box for donations here in the Clinic and money is put in everyday.  The volunteers have also been extremely generous. Carmen has never lacked for someone to stay with her in the hospital.  The whole town is pulling for her.

Time and time again in mission I see the overwhelming generosity of materially poor people but people so rich in: concern for others, willingness to give the little they have and so giving of their time to help others.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Change Is Always Constant

Change is always a constant as a missionary.  In my years as the coordinator of the clinic I have seen over 500 volunteers come and go.  Many of the long term volunteers and the Sisters in the mission have become friends who I miss when they leave.  Now after 15 years working with the director of the clinic I have to say good bye to a very good, supportive work partner. 

Padre Jorge is returning to Austria to continue his work in his own country.  All of us in the clinic will miss him.  His founding of the clinic and his unfailing support of all the works and needs of the poor in the clinic have helped us to provide the care we have been giving for the past 15 and a half years.

Father Jorge was so well liked it is like a tomb in the parish and many people are still crying.  I have never seen anything like his going away.  A town wide party with flowers on white carpets, mariachi bands, singers, dances and food for all.  Then a mass that lasted two and a half hours of people giving speeches about how wonderful he is.  Then almost an hour of people crying and hugging him good bye.  Then the going away lunch with the Sisters and he thought he was done.  Well, leaving in the car there were 20 cars going with him and in the two towns he passed through there were hearts made with flower petals on the road and dozens of people crying and hugging him again.

Our job as missioners and clinic workers is to get working to get more volunteers and funding to keep the work that he founded going. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Semana Santa

Holy Week in Ecuador is a different experience of faith.  Ash Wednesday the church is full of people and on Good Friday the procession of the cross has almost all the people in the town participating.  

On Easter there are fewer people in the church.   The people relate much more to the suffering Christ than to the glorious Christ.  Suffering is so common and death is much more accepted here.  

On Thursday of Holy Week a 42 year old man came back from work and went to sleep and died in his sleep with no known prior illness.  A young father of two children went fishing in the river on Friday and was caught in the net and drowned.  Celebrating the passion of Christ in the church has so much more meaning when you see your neighbors grieving a sudden death of a healthy young person.  

People in Ecuador see so much suffering that celebrating the passion of Christ is very popular and people can relate to Christ suffering.  The challenge is to help the people get to the point of also celebrating the glory and joy of the resurrection.
The Saraguro Indians have adapted local traditions to the church celebrations of Holy Week.  They have a two-hour dance that includes flags, dancing backwards, carrying statues of Mary and a young girl being lifted up in a swing to announce the lifting of mourning from Mary.  

The photos included are the dancers announcing Christ has risen. Some have said that these are pagan celebrations and should not be allowed, but I like to think of these traditions of the Saraguros has them taking the faith and making it their own.