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Loving Life…Living Lent

March 19, 2015

On a cold and blustery morning we unloaded our suitcases and donation bags in darkness at Pearson for our trip to Neustros Pequenos Hermanos (NPH) Peru http://www.nph-peru.org. It was -33. When we arrived in Lima, it was +33 (with the wind chill) –  Bitter cold and dark transformed to abundant sunshine and warmth.  And so began a 10 day mission trip adventure, a trip of contrasts, with 20 young adults from Bishop Macdonell High School.

These service trips are a part of the fabric and tradition of Wellington Catholic District School Board in partnership with Friends of the Orphans Canada https://fotocan.org. Each of our secondary schools participates every two years. I was privileged this month to be part of this grace-filled opportunity that I had heard so much about. The journey that unfolded was made possible through the organizational efforts and support of many; both those in attendance, and through the generosity of time and donations of staff, families and our community who worked tirelessly behind the scenes. Thank you to everyone for your selfless contributions!

It was truly a Lenten journey as we laboured in the desert heat, sacrificing not being tied to electronic devices and witnessing hearts transform. Our projects consisted of laying sod, aerating and fertilizing shade trees, and painting the play structure, therapy clinic, and a delightful underwater mural in the Babies’ Casa.

Lathered daily with sunscreen and bug juice our best work was completed by early afternoon before the sun beats down full force at the equator. Our afternoons were filled connecting with the children of the orphanage; playing games, at the beach, impromptu spanish and english lessons, making friendship bracelets… They were joy-filled afternoons filled with an abundance of laughter and each day the personal connections deepened. It was a true gift to share this experience with our students, who simply put, were nothing short of amazing. Their energy is big, inspiring, and their hearts are full.

Working elbow to elbow we talked of many things including frustration with large-scale poverty and our resolve to make some kind of difference. There was certainty about some things, confusion about others. We were both worn out and invigorated.

The sun set early and the resident rooster made sure we were awake before sunrise. As the week progressed fatigue and aching body parts were juxtaposed with excitement about completing our projects. And although we began the week plotting to kidnap the rooster and transport him to a loving home elsewhere, his crow became less of annoyance and more of a morning cheer of encouragement.  Each new day was an invitation to live and serve completely outside of ourselves.

While tilling the dusty, compacted soil on our little postage stamp of planet earth I experienced a deep awakening to the hunger for what truly feeds our heart.  We have so much more than we need…stuff, lots of stuff. This Lent was a spring cleaning of sorts…an opportunity to offer our excess to those who need it most. It’s easy to stuff the empty places of our heart with junk and filler. This trip offered a chance to give away and go without the many things we do not need. In emptying our hearts a larger space was created for what our hearts are meant to hold. This Lent I’ve been blessed with a renewed spirit and a deeper sense of gratitude.

A stirring silence fell over the bus after we said our goodbyes and left the orphanage…. Perhaps it was that we were praying our goodbyes. Each one of us left with the names of children and their stories forever etched in our hearts….Adimir, Juan Diego, Carlos, Claudio, Maria Flores… Each child we encountered giving so much more than receiving. Richness redefined…

Knowing this is just “One Step Along the Way” our shared experience and the words of Oscar Romero will continue to inspire our District in our mission work for years come:

“It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.”

Tamara

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