Thank You God Por Todos

Yesterday was my last day here in Puerto Quito, and Iwas a bit sad to leave – it’s tough to move on after just getting to know so many people… And also, sad news: the project for the disabled has had to be stopped because of a lack of funding. Msgr Finbarr had a meeting last week with the Vice President of Ecuador, and any last bit of hope rests on his response, but it doesn’t look good. The project needs $5000 per month to continue …. I am not a fundraiser, but if anyone is inspired to contribute, or you know of anyone, please contact me by email!

I am in Quevedo now with Padre Julian, but I had something written before for Puerto Quito, so I´ll try to write something later on Quevedo ….

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I had the chance to experience more of the therapy work at the house under construction and at the therapy center in the downtown of Puerto Quito. Here’s a bird’s-eye view of one of the young people receiving horse therapy. His shirt: It Wasn’t Me … classic! There are four positions that the patient experiences, and apparently the specific pelvic motion of the horse as it walks stimulates a mobility in the body of the rider.

One young womanwho was restricted to a wheelchair before she began therapy now can walk with assistance.

I got some therapy too: my first time on a horse ……. Giddyup!!

I spent a lot of the weekdays working with the local team on the house for the disabled. I would get in the camioneta each day at about 6:45 and ride to the work location. One of the women who came along, Miriam, was the cook, and she made breakfast and lunch for the workers, as well as the workers and patients at the main house of therapy in Puerto Quito – always great food. We all wrapped up work at around 4. Here´s a picture of most of the crew, with Padre Finbarr:

Mostly I worked with Hover in the steel shop, helping to make and install the steel grilling for all the windows in the house. Hover cuts the steel, then he solders it, then grinds it. Then one of us cleans it off. The pictures below show the reality: I get the easy part with the paintbrush …

We lugged each grill up a few flights of stairs and installed them into the windows. We did probably 10 or so of these things … But every one of them is completely hand-made by Hover. When you cut and solder steel, it’s hard not to get warping and misshaping. It’s hard to get fits. The one in this picture was a perfect fit all around on the first try, the hammer wasn’t needed. Hover is a great craftsman ….

It made me think again: Jesus is like that. He’s the expert craftsman, and we’re the beginners. He makes the perfect fits. Us? He just wants us to work with Him, He gives us the easy part. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30)

There are plenty of dangers for the laborers down here, some I mentioned in an earlier post. Here’s a scorpion on the window sill of one of the rooms in the house where the some of the workers sleep over. This one’s dead, but there’s a cup nearby with a few live ones inside. I guess they enter at night looking for bugs. A scorpion sting gets you an all-expenses unpaid trip to the hospital and a week in bed with fever and vomiting …

We all know what a weed-whacker is. Well, they have a type of weed-whacker here too. It’s just that the whole nylon cord thing doesn’t cut it here, literally. Instead, what is needed is a solid steel blade, like a little lawnmower blade, as this picture shows. These are used to cut the growth very low around the trees that bear palm oil or cacao. Needless to say, some people have lost their feet …

The project is supported by a community of the disabled with their parents and with friends, started by Msgr Finbarr. It has a formal structure, and is called Amigos del Arca, or the “Friends of the Ark”.

There was a meeting on Friday to share the news of the financial situation with the community. I spent the morning helping Miriam with the cooking, as a gopher. The occupational and speech therapy takes place at the ground level of a modern construction house where three religious sisters live. Here’s a group I got to spend time with some days, with Sr. Josephina and some of the Moms. Some of the patients are deaf or mute, some have physical disabilities from birth and some who have Down’s Syndrome have different physical or mental issues. What a joy and privilege to spend time with them and get to know them and their families!

A few friends:

Little Maria:

All treasures and little lights!

The project is a joint effort between FASCA, founded by Msgr Finbarr, and the government. The translation of the project description is, “The betterment of the abilities and quality of life of persons with disabilities in the northwest of the province of Pichincha.”

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The beauty of nature is very obvious here in the countryside. You not only get the bats and mosquitoes and the giant grasshoppers and roaches and the scorpions, but beautiful butterflies and birds, all-green mountain views and crystal rivers, sunsets and landscapes, fresh natural air and food. I have some old videos I won’t post again, but hopefully when I get some good nature photos I’ll post some …

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Last night, I visited a wake with Padre Finbarr. Wakes are in the deceased’s home, for a few days. The family buys a little casket and a not-so professional embalming job, and then after the wake the body is escorted in some type of vehicle to the tomb, which is more like a mortuary setup than a burial grave. In this visit, it is just humbling to be there. This woman that we visited died of kidney disease, because they do not have the medical facilities here that we do. She was sick for several months. But she was just married a month ago. She was 25.

Situations like this – which are not rare here – bring even more deeply home to me why it is that I love it here. That might be a strange thing to hear. But what I see is that the people here are very much loved by God. They are very, very blessed. Remember the beatitudes? They talk about blessedness as being with those who are poor, those who hunger, those who weep, those who are oppressed. There’s no blessing for the rich, the full, the laughing, or the powerful and popular. It’s like the story of the rich man and Lazarus. After death, the rich man is in eternal torment, and poor Lazarus, who was never taken account of by the rich man, is in eternal blessedness. Abraham tells the rich man, one of God’s chosen people – a “good Catholic” in today’s terms – that he had good things in his life, while Lazarus had evil things. Now, it’s been reversed in eternal life. I saw that woman as blessed like Lazarus. The real sadness lies in whether many of us up in the States are like that rich man … Yes, it’s better to have reasonable medical care, and what I am laboring for in my little way is an integrated sharing and even-ing of things between north and south, in Christ. But when that is not there, when there is poverty and a lack of sharing, God does even greater things. Like Lazarus, these people will stand for all eternity – and hopefully now – as a testimony to us that it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and that we don’t actually need so much stuff like we think we do. The foks here have a remarkable resiliency that I think is harder to find up in the States – but it´s in us too! We can let them inspire us …

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At the parish, I participate in the catechesis program, mostly listening and sharing the time with people, getting to know each other. The language difference (no one speaks English and my Spanish is simple but growing!) is not a problem at all. In fact, I consider it a great, great gift, and I am glad I didn’t exhaust myself trying to learn Spanish with fluency before coming. When I do my best to share my testimony of Jesus’ mercy in my life – and just my presence here is the foundation of that – we are each sharing and learning a language together. We walk together and become friends as we both grow. This is my share in the ‘integral development’ that the Church seeks between North and South America. This really is the whole purpose and center of my time here ….

The catechetical guides for each recinto – there are 97 recinto villages in the parish, if you can believe it – come in each Saturday morning for a guided walk through the material for the week. The idea is that they will take that back to their recinto and reflect that to the parents of the children, and then the parents would do the same with the children.

Again I was able to visit recintos with Padre Martin Kelly. I always love visiting them, in part because of the children. In a last post, I described two children I met at one trip. We were able to make it back. Here’s a couple of pictures of me with them, and with Padre Martin. Having to leave is tough, especially after just getting to meet so many people and having many ideas to start a relationship and to share the mystery of Christ with them, though I know that my stay, just as it is, does that in the way that God has planned for now …

Padre Martin has gone off to Boston to begin his preaching in support of the St. James Society, which the priests do annually. Well as I am writing this, he is probably preaching at a Mass at Holy Name Church in West Roxbury, my hometown. For this weekend, Padre Martin is in West Roxbury and I am in Puerto Quito …. What an amazing way God has, huh?

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Now in Quevedo, Padre Julian and Iare planning on visiting El Chontal and the church next Monday, and hopefully visiting the community in Cerro Pelado as well. I am also hoping to make a stop in Ibarra to visit the shrine of Our Lady of Quinche, which I was able to visit last year just before coming back to the US and the end of my father’s life. I’m hoping to post up a plaque there at the shrine that honors the miracle of intercession by the Blessed Virgin at the end of my father’s life. I hope to have some time to write about that later when that time comes close…

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I just want to express here my great gratitude to Fr. Martin and Msgr Finbarr for their hospitality and true friendship in this month. They have both welcomed me with open hearts and allowed me into all the good they are doing here in God’s Finca (farmland), and I am deeply grateful to them, as well as to so many of the people here in the parish here. And thanks to Fr. Pat Universal for being a true ¨bridge¨ in helping to set all this up!

One of the things that my mother always said during her life was, “Thank you God for everything.” It’s written on the tombstone of the grave shared by my sister and my father. I saw this poster with the same words on the wall of the parish house and thought it a good way to say good-bye – for now – to Puerto Quito:

Hasta la proxima vez ….

Jerome

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