I burst into tears. Perhaps one of the hardest things about being a missionary is seeing that, in spite of our efforts to live in solidarity with the poor, there exists a world of difference in the opportunities available to us and to them. Try as I might, I’ll never truly understand the plight of the poor.
We’re in a large port city off the Amazon River called Iquitos. One of the poorest areas that we’ve been visiting often is called Belén. I just learned that Belén is the Spanish word for Bethlehem. That realization was so profound to me because we have encountered Jesus in His poor and lowly stable every time we’ve gone to this Bethlehem.
Jonathan and his boys scouting troop – “Caballeros de San Jose” or “Knights of St. Joseph” – leave the jungle and enjoy a fun day in a big city. “With a population at around 45,000, it would be the largest city the majority of them had ever visited. What I experienced on that day I will never forget and I suspect neither will the boys.”
It’s been almost two weeks since we moved to our new mission post. From the jungles to the “Heart of the Amazon” (as it’s known by its inhabitants). It was a 10-hour drive through Peru and its mighty mountains, where our new home awaited. We arrived safely with only the belongings we were able to fit in our truck.
Early on into our time in Peru, I heard about this youth receiving her Sacrament of Confirmation, and that youth her Baptism, and yet another who would be receiving all three of the initiation Sacraments. But I never heard about any classes to teach what the Sacraments were. A man who was supposedly the Catechist told me formation was happening every Sunday. Sundays came and went, and I never observed any classes. Four months had passed: it was time to get to the bottom of this Faith Formation mystery.
But talking to Segundo was not merely an outward act of Christian bravery or heroism that only foreign missionaries can do. This is common courtesy. This is acknowledging and encountering other human beings because they matter and because God loves them. This is how we love others, by paying attention. And this is a call for everyone.
On the third day we held the medical clinic in our own town of Pucacaca. One lady came in with her elderly cousin, an 88-year-old frail woman who struggled to walk. The sweet elderly woman must have had her hair colored for the occasion, as she still had the remnants of dye on the skin around her hairline. She had a pleasant demeanor and may have been blissfully unaware of what was going on around her.