Monday, February 06, 2017

The good, the inspiring, and the challenging

I’m tired. I just helped, in a small way, about forty parishioners finish up with the third harvest on the parish coffee lands. Starting out at 5:45 am, I finally got home to rest about 3:00 pm. But it was worth it.

The parish has about two manzanas (about an acre and a half). One manzana was donated by a former mayor and the other was bought by a donation from St. Thomas Aquinas Church and Catholic Student Center in Ames, Iowa. The idea was to have a way of generating income for the parish.

All the work on the lands is done, without compensation, by members of the parish. Yes, we often go out and drive them to and from the fields, and we do give them lunch. But they take a day or so out of their daily work to help the parish.

I often drive the people to or from the fields and transport the coffee berries to the place where the coffee cherry will be removed to leave the bean which is then washed, fermented, and dried.

Today, as always, there was a great variety of people. There were fewer kids, since classes have started, but there are middle aged people and a good number of young people, men and women. I am often amazed at the generosity of the people, especially the men and women in their late teens and early twenties. It’s inspiring.

Last week, I finished up work on the scholarships for young people attending Maestro en Casa, an alternative educational program which enables young people to go to what we’d call middle and high school with classes on the weekends. For five years, St. Thomas Aquinas has provided partial scholarships, this year for 130 students in four centers where the weekend classes are taught. It’s a small effort to help them grow.

A few months ago, our pastor, Padre German Navarro, talked about setting up a Solidarity Fund to help people with major needs. This is a rather obvious part of my service as a deacon in the parish.

I am hoping to work with the village coordinators of social ministry to get this going and to establish a system to identify those in real need and try to help them. We have a meeting next week.

Here most of the response to needs is reactive:  a need is identified, people are asked to contribute, something may or may not be done, if enough money is donated. The poor are rather generous and often the money that comes in can really meet the need.

One community, though, has begun to set up a special fund to meet needs. I found this encouraging and hope to promote this when I meet later this month with the local coordinators of social ministry.

But often the need is beyond the resources of people here.

Today, a woman working on the coffee harvest told the pastor of a need in a hamlet near her village. I talked with her. The woman, a single mother with a six year-old, has breast cancer – as well as a hip problem that has confined her to her bed. People are helping and have raised 2000 lempiras, about $85. That doesn’t sound like much but it helps to put this in perspective. A good coffee picker can harvest between 8 and 10 five gallon buckets a day, though most harvest five. At 35 lempiras a bucket, that means earning between $12 and $15, or maybe only $7 for hard back-breaking work.

St. Thomas Aquinas did donate $500 (about 11,700 lempiras) as a first donation for the solidarity fund. The woman needs about 11,000 lempiras for a biopsy and other examinations in San Pero Sula on Wednesday. I decided – maybe I’m a soft sell – to give her 10,000 lempiras, which includes a separate donation of $1000 from a separate donation I have. So she will be able to get the tests (which are unavailable in the Santa Rosa public hospital.

There are parts of this story that are very encouraging. Not only have the people from the sector’s Catholic churches donated 2000 lempiras, but they are donating it for a woman who is an evangelical. In a society with a lot of conflict and ill-will between Catholics and evangelicals, this is encouraging.

I feel tired tonight, but feel as if I have experienced God working among the people here.

There have also been some other events that have given me joy. 

On February 1, we harvested coffee. Over sixty people came and we harvested over 440 five gallon containers of coffee berries.

Last week I was in two communities to celebrate their feast days.

On February 2, I spent time in Oromilaca for their feast day, the Presentation of the Lord. There was a procession, complete with fireworks, and Mass. I ended up preaching.

On February 3, the feast of the Virgin of Suyapa, patroness of Honduras as well as of Plan Grande, we had a procession and Mass here in Plan Grande.

On Saturday, I spent part of the day with volunteers from Amigos de Jesus (as well as with the co-director and a deacon who works with them). I shared homemade cinnamon rolls, bread, and lentil soup, as well as a discussion on the Church in Honduras and being a "missionary".  It was good for me, especially when Amy, the co-director, asked me what sustains me. It made me think of what keeps me going: morning prayer in silence, connection with the Dubuque Franciscan Sisters, and writing on my blog. I'd now probably add occasions like today when I can just BE with the people.
The obligatory photo
On Sunday, I served as deacon at the morning Mass in the church of San Antonio in Dulce Nombre and preached. Then I went to a meeting of three youth groups in Dolores. It was good, but I only stayed for an hour because I needed to get groceries. The group helped me use up much of what was in my refrigerator! In a grocery store I ran into two people in Santa Rosa working with CAMO (Central America Medical Outreach). We talked for about 15 minutes in the aisle. I was pleased that I have not completely forgotten how to speak in English.

The next few days will be busy - a deanery meeting tomorrow and a meeting with Communion ministers on Wednesday.

Next Sunday we have a parish wide youth gathering. I'm hoping it all works out well. I'm trying to leave all the leadership to the youth, who are very competent. But I still have my worries - as a perfectionist worry-wort.

All this is a blessing. And we have a challenge.

Oh - to trust more in God.

And to be more grateful for the beauty around us.

Dawn in Oromilaca, picking up people for the coffee harvest on February 1

No comments: