Tuesday, June 17, 2008

One year later

Last Friday marked the first anniversary of my arrival in Honduras. I spent part of Thursday and Friday reviewing the year and trying to set priorities for the coming year. Planning is a very North American type of thing, since here plans get easily changed.

One of the greatest challenges of the past year was coming to grips with the fact that there is so much here not in my hands. I have had to start over in some sense in the way I think and act. It’s been a lesson in handing things over to the Providence of God. That doesn’t mean passivity but it does mean not investing my sense of whom I am in what I do or what I accomplish. It means seeking more the will of God and trying to see how I can work for the Kingdom of God in an alien culture which is best by much injustice and a lot of passivity, but where there are many people who really seek God’s will.

This is hard to see sometimes in my efforts to aid campus ministry at the local campus of the Catholic University of Honduras. In fact, this has been the most difficult – and frustrating part of my time here. Campus ministry was in a very disorganized state at the university when I came. I really have not been able to do something myself, since I often find myself up against very confusing situations and I have no real authority in the university (even though the bishop asked me to be there); yet I believe that my presence may have motivated some people to work to improve campus ministry. Last week I found out that the campus had finally hired a part-time person to coordinate campus ministry. I sat down with him and offered him my help. I believe there are some real possibilities for the future.

But when I go to the countryside, all this fades into the background. First of all, Padre Efraín Romero, the pastor of the parish of Dulce Nombre de María has welcomed me and treats me as a colleague. I have made overnight visits to villages, helped with Lenten retreats for parish leaders, taught a session in the training of catechists, worked with him to develop some projects, and much more.

This past weekend I was in the village of Plan Grande from Saturday afternoon to Monday morning. I was greeted with open arms and hearts. It helped that this was the village where the spring break group from St. Thomas came and helped with the foundations for the new church they are building. The people were most gracious and grateful for a visit from this “foreign missionary.” But, as I tried to emphasize in my Sunday preaching at the Celebration of the Word, we are all called to be missionaries, to be witnesses to the presence of the kingdom of God.

It was a beautiful experience and I was warmly welcomed. This morning, as I walked to the place where I got the bus to come back to Santa Rosa, three girls came running after me to hug me. they wanted to say good-bye. I was really touched by this and other signs of love and welcome I received in Plan Grande. This helps me get through the times of discouragement and frustration, for this is one way God is shedding his love on me and reminding me of his providential care for me.

What can I say?

Gracias. Thanks.

Or, more specifically, ¡Gracias a Dios! Thank you, God.


A note on Iowa.

News of the floods and tornadoes has reached Honduras. La Prensa, a national newspaper out of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, had a full page article on Saturday, three pages on Sunday, and one page on Monday, complete with photos. In Plan Grande, I asked the people at the Sunday morning celebration of the Word to pray for Iowa and I also asked the kids at the Sunday afternoon assembly.

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