During our days going from one Posada to another, we were able to have a treat at the Catholic Church in San Sebastian. We watched the youth do a play of the Nativity. They really put themselves into it. Joseph did a great job in holding Mary and saying as they journeyed through Bethlehem, “Hold on Mary, just a little bit more, hold on!”
Christmas and New Year’s came and went quite quickly. We had a delicious Christmas Eve dinner with Fr. Santi, Lay Salvatorian Mariangeles and her friend Ismael. After Christmas Eve Mass, we shared a great dinner, baked chicken made by Sr. Vera, a big salad, plenty of steamed veggies, potatoes, Chilean and Spanish wine. Quite the Christmas feast.
For New Year’s, we Sisters stayed home. We cooked a great meal, just relaxed and had good conversation. I went to bed early, but Sisters Yenfa, Jovelina and Vera stayed up a few moments to watch the fireworks and then went to bed.
As we continue our visits to the people in town and the surrounding villages, I have become fond of some of the locales and landmarks. There is one area of the road when we exit San Marcos and head up the mountain to San Sebastian. I call it Where-the-Cows-Lay-Down. Now, this small spot of land is just maybe 20 feet wide by 20 feet deep. There are a beautiful group of cows that just lay there relaxing. I have been around a lot of cows in my life and have never considered them “beautiful.” But this herd of cows is special. Their coats are shiny, they are nice and plump, they look healthy and ready for a show, and they appear happy and content to just lay there, basking in the sun in their little spot of dirt. I hope to take a good picture of them some day.
Continuing our journey up the mountain to San Sebastian is my most favorite sign of all. I always know we are almost home when we turn the sharp corner and there it is:
“EL GRINGO CAR WASH.” The first time I saw the sign it just cracked me up, but it has become a very important landmark. I am always happy to see it. I know I am almost there.
A few “blocks” up the road from El Gringo Car Wash, there is a humble fast food place called Don Nixon. Now, Don Nixon is also a very good friend of the Society (Salvatorian priests and brothers). He spent some time in the U.S. as a cook. His mother also taught him a few tricks in the kitchen. He has created his own and original tacos, Cuban Tortas and burros — those are his specialty. He recently finished his primary schooling with the help of Mariangeles, SDS. Nixon’s dream is to have his very own restaurant some day.
There is one place that is very close to my heart. It is off the beaten path, 30-40 minutes out of town. It’s a small town called El Nuevo Milenio, The New Millennium. It is a group of 65 Mayan (Mam tribe) families who were displaced during Hurricane Stan back in 2005. The Guatemalan government built one bedroom/one living room cinder block homes for each family. Other agencies paved roads through town and put in street lights. The Canadian Rotary Club built them a small school. Don’t ask me how, but each home also has electricity. The Guatemalan government also put in a water tower/pump for the new town, however, the community can’t afford gasoline to run the pump. So, no water for anyone, with the exception of one street where families were able to dig wells. The others they have to buy their water elsewhere. To add insult to injury, they still do not have the titles to their homes and have no land to grow food for their families. To grow something they have to go elsewhere and rent a plot. I go to El Nuevo Milenio as often as I can. My hope is that at some point we can put a few projects together to help improve living standards in this small and forgotten town.
We have become a bit busy with vocations, believe it or not. Right now we have one woman from El Salvador, one from Mexico, and two from Guatemala: Orquidia (from Quetzaltenango) and Noemí (La Ranchería, San Pablo). Noemí was just here with us in San Sebastian in early January. We were able to spend some time together and get to know her. Orquidia also spent a full week with us in December in San Sebastian. She has already been accepted into the community and will begin formation in Colombia on January 23. Our first Guatemalan vocation, Máriel, has already become a novice. We hope the women from El Salvador and Mexico can travel to Guatemala to visit us soon. All these women are either a few years into their profession or finishing their studies. We keep pen, pad and calendar in hand to coordinate our meet-ups or visits. I had no idea vocations would come our way so soon. So keep the prayers coming, for God seems to be looking our way.
On the ministry front, I continue to see people and help them cope with life stressors. We sisters are gradually getting involved in visiting our neighbors, spending time with the children, and going to formation programs with Fr. Santi at the various parishes. At our house on the hill, we spend time building community, minding of course our noticeable differences in culture, language and backgrounds.
Continue to pray for our new small community of Salvatorian Sisters, as we figure out this new path that God has set before us. May 2017 bring gentle and peace-filled moments to each of you.
Blessings to all,