Sunday, January 17, 2010

Back in Santa Rosa

Saturday was the end of a full week training session by World Vision Honduras in their program on response to HIV and AIDS, Canales de Esperanza – Channels of Hope. There were 25 of us from western Honduras, mostly Catholics, interestingly.

Father Efraín, director of Caritas Santa Rosa, sent me to understand their methodology and to see what we might be able to do in the diocese. The young woman who is the coordinator of the social ministry for the parish of Santa Rosa de Lima here also was there, as well as several people from two other parishes in the diocese.

World Vision is a largely evangelical development agency but is now recently out to work with Catholics especially in Latin America. Their representative for outreach to Catholic, Tadeuz Mich, was part of the training team. Tadeuz is an anthropologist, born in Poland, with experience in the Colombian Amazon who has a Ph.D. from Georgetown. An interesting and colorful character who was a delight to be with.

Except for Tadeuz, all the trainers were Hondurans and World Vision/Visión Mundial Honduras employees. The regional director of the program, a Salvadoran, was there but didn't lead any of the sessions.

The training was intense and we even had exams over the material and we were evaluated for presentations we gave in small groups. (The last time I took an exam was my doctoral oral exam in 1983!) Of course, all this was in Spanish, though they gave me the option to answer some parts of the written exam in English (which I only did for one question.) I passed and am certified to lead three day training sessions on the Channels of Hope process for religious leaders.

Not a lot of the material surprised me, though I learned a lot about HIV and SIDA that I never knew. But what was surprising was the fact that World Vision has been promoting this program worldwide. The program is based on the work of several evangelicals in South Africa. I would not call it a radical program, but it is far from conservative. I also find it interesting that they are trying to include a Catholic dimension to the progam and that they even have a program that they use with Muslims.

The week closed with a commissioning service and presentation of diplomas. Toward the end of our prayers the Salvadoran director of the program in Central America asked us to pray for Haiti. He nearly broke down as he remembered that he had been part of a program in Haiti last year.

The tragedy of Haiti is overwhelming. Why do the poor always suffer more? To look at this in a different way I recommend Jon Sobrino’s Where Is God? Earthquake, terrorism, barbarity, and hope, published by Orbis in 2004.

I am glad to see that the Vatican has designated Catholic Relief Services (CRS) as its official agency to respond to the earthquake. From what I’ve read there are already over 300 CRS folks on the ground there already and more are coming. It’s a blessing to see that they are they.

I also received an e-mail from a high school classmate whose son just went there. I also know a young Honduran who is thinking of trying to join a Honduran response team. As always, it is a blessing that people are so willing to go into troubled areas. I hope and pray that this is not just a short term effort that fails to deal with the real structural issues that have plagued Haiti for ages.

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