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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Blind Can See

January in the clinic was an enjoyable but very hectic month.  There was an ophthalmology group of volunteers from Germany here to operate on eyes and to do consults.  They were able to operate on 172 people and to see over 1000 people for a consult.  Thus they did an incredible amount of work!  The surgeon has been donating his talents and a month of his time every year for 35 years.  Really an incredible example of generosity by sharing his talents, time and money.  The number of people he was able to help over the years is truly a reward in itself.

The four volunteers were all such nice people.  They were so generous with their time and did such a great job of helping all the people they were able to.  The days were long but with such good humor.  Always smiles and openness to everyone.  It was such a privilege to work with them and despite so much work, very enjoyable.

An eye surgeon is able to help the people so much here.  I remember an elderly man who came in with very developed cataracts in both eyes.  He had not been able to see more than shadows for over ten years. He was lead into the clinic with a cane in one hand and his grandson pulling him by the other.  After surgery he returned a week later for his post-op check. He was alone and just walked in and sat down.  The eye surgeon asked if I recognized him.  I said I could not remember him and the surgeon smiled and said he was the blind man!  It was truly remarkable.

As the priest said during Mass, “That just like Jesus cured the blind, the eye surgeon was able to also cure the blind.”  This is so true.

It is such an honor to work with so many generous, wonderful people.  I am blessed to see the benefits of the surgeons in the people who can see again, hear again (the ENT teams) and to be able to work again after hernia surgery.
Ophthalmology Team with Phil Hawley (MDA - 2nd from L) and Amy (3rd from R)