Monday, May 1, 2017

Un poco de todo...

"A little bit of everything"
...that just about sums up this past month! being a missionary, it's not so much what we "do",
but how we give ourselves and open our hearts to those around us.

And this includes remaining with the people...
in their joys, in their sufferings, 
in their hopes and in their despair...

This past March, our dearest and oldest elderly in the program
(Andrés, who will be 100 years old on December 1st)
was unfortunately backed into by a "tuc tuc" taxi
as he was making his way into our weekly feeding...
and being his age and fragile condition, 
Andrés broke his right knee and dislocated his right hip;
which means he will now be bed ridden until the day he dies.
There is no medical insurance in Guatemala
and there is no way a person who is 100 could undergo
a double knee/hip replacement surgery and survive the therapy.

The reason I share this tragedy is because this is life here...
it is raw, it is real and there is no way to cover it up or run from it.

Andrés humbly accepted his fate 
and continued to sleep in his delightful spring-only bed frame 
with cardboard as a "mattress" (photo above left)-
with a broken hip and knee (photo above right). 

One cannot help but be moved to make this person's cross lighter...thanks to the LEAST fund, 
we were able to buy Andrés a new bed (picture on left)
and thanks to the generosity of Fr. John Goggin, 
(who now is going on 50 years of being a missionary priest here in Guatemala!), 
Andrés was able to receive the Anointing of the Sick (picture on right).

And of course, we celebrated a beautiful Holy Week 2 weeks ago
and were able to make the elderly their favorite dish:
                                                    -White beans with pork and rice (left picture)
                                                    -The traditional Holy Week sweet bread (right picture)

It brings so much joy to see the friendships that have been made
and fellowship that the elderly enjoy
after almost 2 years of consistent meals provided!

More additional activities have been 
taking some elderly to the hospital for emergencies (above...) 

...and some joys have been collaborating with Butch Mueller
to provide some elderly with beautiful new stoves.

(Before and after stove for Gumercinda & Alejandro in photos above)

Our last housing project from Mission St. Luke was also finished last week (above left)...
and yesterday, we lost one of our elderly (Román, 70 yrs old) 
to a sudden heart attack as he was coming home for lunch.
As hard as it was to walk with the grieving family today to the cemetery (above right)
to bury their husband, father, brother, uncle, grandfather, friend...
is this not the least I can do?
Is it not as valuable to these people to give them my heart, my emotions, my sorrow, my faith...
and not just material things like a stove, or a house, food or medical care?

"We just finished with Lent up through Easter
and we were asking to enter into the suffering of Jesus
and we can enter into the suffering of Jesus
through prayer for those in the world who suffer and are less fortunate than ourselves."
-Kim Lamberty (Catholic Relief Services)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Mad Construction!

Last month we were blest to have the
Mission St. Luke / Little Man Ice Cream group
from Texas, Oklahoma, & Colorado
come and do some mad construction...
2 houses, 2 kitchens, and 1 bathroom in 4 days!

Day 1: New home for the Juarez family!

This elderly couple (with their daughter and 2 grand-daughters)
were so happy to finally leave their metal housing 
for a new wood home...
(Metal housing causes extreme temperatures:
really hot during the day and really cold at night).

Words cannot express how thankful this family is to have a new home!

Day 2: New house for Petronila & Rodrigo!

This couple may look familiar:
Last year, the Mission St. Luke group built them a much needed kitchen
and now this year, they have patiently awaited for them to come back
and build them a much needed new house:

(Above left) The old know, dried sugar cane stalks for the back wall?!
(Above right) Day 2 morning...demo and leveling the house floor.

The second house was finished by Wednesday afternoon (Day 3)...
many hands make light work!!

Some of you might also recognize this man from last year (above photo)-
Lorenzo, the blind widow who was the first house we ever did!

This year, Lorenzo did his own demolition of the kitchen
(even though I told him we would do it!).
He wanted to make our burden light... such are the hearts of the poor...
always looking for a way to give back.

Kitchen before...

(Day 3) Kitchen finished...

Again, words cannot describe what a joy it is
to seek out the "least" and forgotten of society
and give them what they most need...

Day 4: Our last project that we literally squeezed in at the last moment
was a new kitchen and new bathroom for this elderly couple, Alberto & Zotera, 
who have no way to improve their living conditions.

Alberto suffers from dementia and is frequently found out wandering in the community
and his wife Zotera broke her wrist 10 years ago
and for lack of finances, was never able to be operated on.
She lost her ability to weave and thus her ability to make money.

Providing Zotera with a new kitchen was the least we could do 
to make her life a little less burdensome...

Kitchen before...

Kitchen after...what a difference in her smile!  😊

A big THANK YOU to Butch Mueller from Paynesville, MN
who donated the stove and found workers
to build it in such a quick and efficient manner!

Last, but not about a bathroom makeover?!! 


The left photo was the old bathroom that this elderly couple was using
(with a perfect expression of how we all felt about it, compliments to Ronnie 😉)

The photo on the right is the finished product...
all completed within ONE day!

Again, a deep and heartfelt thank you to all who participated in this crazy but blessed week!  
Can't wait again for next year...

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Eye Surgeries 2017

During the week of January 30 - February 3rd
my father was able to do 38 eye surgeries here in San Lucas
along side his surgical tec & 2 nurses
(one Guatemalan and one my mother 😊 )

In the operating room...

Doing post-op checks and discharge...

Saturday, Feb. 4th...all patients came back for one final check

I would like to take this time to thank my father for the love 
he instilled in me since I was 12 years old
for the Guatemalan people and for San Lucas.

This picture on the right captures perfectly the tenderness and devotion
my father has shown to these people for 25 years now.

Thank you Dad for allowing God to use your gifts through your hands
to bring eyesight back to the poor here....
and thank you for opening your heart so that the love of Christ
can shine through your 25 years of hard work
and loving devotion to the people of San Lucas.

I know Fr. Greg is smiling down on you
just as you continue to smile down on his beloved people...

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Recap- LEAST 2016

The attachment below is a link to a video made
to show the work the Lord did here in San Lucas
in the year 2016...

We are forever grateful to all those 
who supported the LEAST financially & spiritually.
Happy & Blessed New Year 2017
to everyone!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Christmas Party 2016!

So this year for our annual Christmas party, 
I had a crazy idea that I just could not let go of.....

...I wanted to take the elderly on a boat ride!

So after a little persuading, my cooks were finally convinced of the idea
and we were able to rent a boat that could seat 200+ people
and invited ALL of the elderly to join us 
for a morning boat ride on Tuesday, November 29th!

Preparing the "to go" lunch for the party...
135 hamburgers with all the fixings, ice cream, & a soda.

Getting the elderly safely on the boat "Popeye"....

90 of the 120 elderly we able to join us-
as well as all of the cooks and assistant cooks-
and some grandchildren that needed to accompany their grandparents.
We were about 120 total!

Sight seeing along the shores of Lake Atiltán 
which the elderly have never seen before!
We were able to spend 3 hours on the lake 
and pass by 3 different surrounding villages.
Amazingly, every elderly person I talked to
mentioned the beauty of creation 
and how it lifted their minds to God.

All the cooks and the assistant cooks together (with their kids)!

Each elderly receiving their special "to go" lunch
and also a lap quilt that was donated by the
North Mankato, MN community.

Everyone left with an experience of a lifetime...
all that couldn't have been made possible without all of your support.

A holy and blessed Christmas y Feliz Navidad to all!

A deep and heartfelt thank you to all you who have supported the LEAST 
this year of 2016...all of the elderly and Guatemalan cooks 
carry all of you in their hearts.

And I know the Lord does too!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

6 days left to live...

On Wednesday, September 28th, I went to deliver lunch to Apolonia as usual-
but little did I know she had only 6 days left to live...


One of my very first blog posts was about Apolonia.
She was the first abandoned elderly person I that I found back in April 2015
with whom I first started my program for the "LEAST".

Apolonia was born with deformed feet (she has no ankles) 
and this left her as an outcast in society...
she never went to school and she never married.

After her parents died this presented a problem:
who was going to care for Apolonia?
She had no husband, no children (thus no grandchildren)
and unless her nieces and nephews were heroic saints,
no one cared about her.

Thankfully, Apolonia did have a heroic niece, Mari Cruz,
who would check on her throughout the week to bring her food
and look out for her to the best of her ability.

(Below: Mari Cruz pictured helping Apolonia)

Well...back to September 28th-

I had gone to deliver Apolonia's lunch as usual but instead of finding her in her room,
I found her back by the washing area sitting on a cinder block.

Now Apolonia didn't speak much spanish
and I sure don't speak the Mayan Indian dialect,
so communicating with her had always been interesting.
The week prior she asked me how I was doing
and I gave her a thumbs up and said "utz!"
(which in the dialect means "good!")
All of the sudden after I did that, 
Apolonia's face dropped in surprise and she said: "Usted toma?!"
(which means "You drink?!")
(Apparently giving a thumbs up sign can be interpreted that you hit the bottle!!!)
I had a good laugh but despite my efforts to communicate,
I'm not quite sure if she still thought I was a raging alcoholic. 😉

Anyway...back to September 28th.

I found Apolonia sitting on this cinder block, wincing in pain,
and from the little Mayan that I know, I understood that she had a hernia.
I called her niece, but I was told this was normal and that all would work its way out.

It was so hard to leave Apolonia in the condition she was in.  
I thought: How can God allow so much suffering?!
Why was this woman given the life she has had?

By Sunday, Apolonia's niece told me that she was not doing well at all...
that we had to do something or else she was going to die.
What can we do?!
I have already brought her to the hospital twice and the doctors say she has nothing.
Unfortunately I can not take people into my home 
and assisted living facilities are nonexistent here in Guatemala.

We prayed and it dawned on she baptized?
So, we called the parish priest and he said if she had not requested baptism
to leave things be for now.

So, Mari Cruz and I decided to go to her house at 9 pm to assess the situation...
and truly, Apolonia was NOT doing well.
We examined her and she had a horrible rectal prolapse.
She was in agony and there is no way we could leave her there for the night.
We called the local hospital to come get her with the ambulance.
The doctor on call said she would need major surgical repair and
being that she was almost 80 years old and without children to care for her,
there was no way that surgery was an option.
Thankfully the hospital let Apolonia stay there until 
the extended family could decide what to do.

(Above: Visiting Apolonia with my mother in January)

The following day, the family decided to let Apolonia stay in the hospital
on comfort care measures until she passed.
They asked for baptism and so I called the priest to see when he could come.
We were talking about doing the baptism the following morning
but at the last minute, he decided to go that evening and baptize Apolonia.

At around 8 pm Apolonia was baptized 
and the following morning I got a phone call from the hospital saying she had died at 6:15am.

So why this whole story?

Because in life, there are so many things we see that just don't make sense.
To our eyes, the situation is just hopeless or painful or pointless.
But there IS a deeper reality that most times we just don't see.
Love is is alive...and it is a power and a force constantly working
in this world to bring about goodness, truth, and beauty.
We just tend to get in the way a lot.

The week previous all I saw was an abandoned old woman
who was rejected by society and plagued with physical illness and disgrace.

6 days later, I saw a woman who was loved by God so much that 
He moved those who were docile enough 
to help her be brought to a place where she could have a peaceful and holy death.
Apolonia died within ten hours of being baptized...
how could I not see beauty in that?
We had no idea she had such little time left...
but God knew.

I pray that this blog post comes as a consolation
to anyone who feels they are abandoned or unnoticed in this world.
To those who feel like their life has no meaning
or that no one is impacted by who you are and what you do.

Just place yourself in the hands of the Father.
He's got us all under His loving gaze and if we just trust,
we will see that He is working everything for the good.

Through Apolonia's life, I learned that God is not glorified by what we do for Him, 
but rather how we let Him love us and show His Love in our lives.