Sr. Pamela Marie Buganski
“God is always talking to me when I am in Guatemala.”
Though not as elaborate as many of the Good Friday processions in Guatemala City or Antigua, the procession in Flores was lovely nonetheless. In the Catholic tradition, the Stations of the Cross are a series of pictures or statues that tell the story of Jesus death on the cross. Each station represents a person that Jesus meets along the way or an action along the way such as falling under the weight of the cross. There are 14 stations and some include the Resurrection as the 15 station. Catholic churches generally display images of the Stations of the Cross around the inside walls of the church. Usually, persons pause at each station to say a prayer or to reflect on that part of the journey of Jesus. Sometimes the stations are called the Way of the Cross. Many have written modern day stations that depict a similar story of suffering in our world today. An example of stations of the cross for children can be found at http://www.cptryon.org/prayer/child/stations/02.html. Images of modern day stations can be found at https://www.google.com.gt/search?q=modern+day+stations+of+the+cross&hl=es-419&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=ii1XUc3yLpO49gTB2YGgAQ&ved=0CFYQsAQ&biw=1441&bih=647.
In Guatemala, it iis traditional for persons to carry statues that depict the story of Jesus on the way to Calvary in a procession around the city. Places are selected along the way where the group stops to pray. In Flores, the stations are in people's doorways. The household sets up a simple altar with cloths and flowers and some depiction of Jesus in his time of suffering. It is a great honor to carry a statue or to have the procession stop at your house.
As I watched and participated, I noted that some persons followed along for the entire procession while others waiting in various locations for the procession to pass. Those waiting would participate at that station or perhaps join in for the remaining walk. It struck me that on the real day of Jesus carrying the cross, this very same thing happened. At one station Jesus meets Mary his Mother. To me that means that Mary was somewhere along the path and was not one who had followed Jesus along the entire length of the road. Perhaps each year we meet Jesus where we are, somewhere along his way and ours, and participate most deeply in one of the stations.
This year, the station of Simon helping Jesus to carry the cross, had the most significance for me. My ministry has involved accompanying those who suffer and attempting to ease their burdens. Which station had the most meaning for you?
Jose has a new pair of legs. God brought people together to make this happen. Do not even imagine that any one of us was able to accomplish this miracle of our own accord.
Remember the famous photo taken from when astronauts way out in space looked back and took a photo of the earth?
Similarly Jose was somewhere on that planet earth. A tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny speck with few persons knowing that he even existed way, way out in the tiny locale of Juleque, Peten, Guatemala. But God knew.
To get new legs for Jose. God allowed Dr. Gary Collins and Jose to meet. Jose, who is missing both legs below the knees and both arms below the elbows, traveled on horseback to a clinic held by SewHope where he met Dr. Gary Collins. Jose had a pair of prostheses for legs, but he was rapidly outgrowing them. Dr. Gary could not provide legs for Jose, but he did remember him. Dr. Gary reminded SewHope to continue to work with Jose.
To get new legs for Jose, God allowed Dr. John Lane and Jose to meet. Dr. John came to Guatemala in mid-December 2012. He traveled to El Cartucho where we had agreed to meet up with Jose who really lives 30 minutes further out on a long and lonely rocky road. Dr. John took casts and measurements of Jose's leg stumps. Dr. John will never forget Jose.
To get new legs for Jose, God allowed Mike B of Hanger Prosthetics to agree to make the limbs and donate them to Jose. Mike B, I hope that someday you will have the honor and privilege of meeting Jose. If you do not meet on earth, I am convinced that you will meet in heaven.
To get shoes for the new legs for Jose, Dave's Running Shoes donated a pair of tennis shoes that fit wonderfully at the base of the new limbs. Jose's old shoes would completely wear out after 6 weeks of use. These new shoes still look brand new! If there is a marathon in heaven, Jose will be running with the generous folks of Dave's Running Shoes.
To get new legs for Jose, God allowed the new legs to arrive two days before Dr. Coral Matus led the next trip to Guatemala. The legs were carried along with great expectation. Dr. Coral and Dr. Gary were able to fit the limbs to Jose and to instruct him and his mother on the incremental use of them so as to prevent sores and blisters from developing.
Yesterday, Ismael, Orfe, Anita and I drove all the way to Jose's house to see how he was doing with his new legs. His smile was radiant (as it always is)! He walked over to each of us on his new legs and gave us a big hug. Jose reports that he has no pain from the new limbs. Upon inspection of his stumps, we found no sores and no blisters. Jose's mother reports that Jose is using the new legs for half of the day. Jose has grown several inches with the new legs and is now just a wee bit taller than his twin sister! Jose is a bit wobbly when he stands as his center of gravity adjusts ot the new height, but he walks with ease. Jose and his twin sister, Soyla, are ten years old and are in the third grade.
God, the Father of Jesus, thank you for bringing so many together in the name of your son Jose. Thank you for allowing so many to say yes to you by coming to Guatemala and for providing a needed limb and shoe. Help us to continue to say yes to your daily call.
Months ago when a clinic was held in Purushila, I brought along some coloring books, reading books and a few puzzles to try to keep the kids occupied during their long wait. I was astounded that not one child or teenager was able to put a simple jigsaw puzzle together. It wasn't even close. The kids were maddly jamming together any two pieces they randomly picked up. They did not notice when the pieces did not fit together. They had no concept of looking for matching colors or shapes. I had no success in trying to teach them that the edge pieces go around the outside. I knew that I needed some one-on-one time with each one to make any progress.
Today I had a chance to work one-on-one with students in Santa Ana on a 24-piece Winnie the Pooh puzzle. I showed and talked about edge pieces, about separating out the edge pieces, and about finding the four corner pieces and placing them. This was not a simple task, but each managed to persevere. When they managed to complete the puzzle once, I had them repeat the process. Even on the second attempt it was not a simple task, but I did note improvement. I think each was proud of herself. This may be the first time any of them have completed putting together a puzzle. The girls shown below are age 12 to 17.
Puzzles are great ways to develop thinking skills. Thinking skills are needed for progress in math and language.
My plan is to find more 24 piece puzzles and to have them keep practicing. Then I will increase the number of pieces and have them work in partners. I hope to see some big grins on their faces!
As part of our day of rest, Peter and I wandered through the market in Santa Elena. The market consistes of row and after row of small shacks of venders. Most of these are sheltered under a large makeshift roof with multiple leaks. These shops are side by side and usually close with a metal door and lock when the market is closed. Big school buses squeeze into the narrow, narrow unpaved streets bringing persons from the villages to shop. There are hundreds of stores of all kinds here. I love wandering in the market.
Today I had a surprise. As I walked down my usual row to get from one part of the market to another, I saw a begger. This beggar was usual in that he sat in his wheelchair with a bowl collecting coins. This beggar was different in that......to my surprise.....I knew this beggar!!!! It was Juan!!!! Juan is one of the persons who is getting his wheelchair repaired by our friend Daryl from Ministerio de Esperanza. I have visited hJuan's house twice. I love Juan. It seems that he begs here each Sunday. Of course, I gave Juan a donation....and also a kiss on the forehead.
I believe that you recognize this verse from the gospel: I have called you by name. As each one of us is unique, so is our name. Sometimes the positive view of uniqueness is seen in the negative light of prejudice. Sometimes we judge persons to be less than uniquely loved by God simply by their outward appearance of skin color, hair length or number of tattoos.
Our uniqueness extends much further than the obvious physical differences. Each of us is just as individual in the construction of our minds, our hearts, and our spirits and individual in the way we use them for thinking, feeling and having relationships with God and others. Cultures, too, establish invisible, embedded ways of being and are expressed in unconscious ways. Sometimes we judge persons to be less than uniquely loved by God simply because they pray differently, express love differently, or work out a problem differently.
It is like the witnesses of any event; each would tell a different story. It is like the blind men touching and describing the elephant; each one saw the whole as the one part he could perceive and missed the rest!
It seems so obvious, but why is it so difficult to remember in real life that...
...everyone does not think about things the way I do...
...everyone does not see things the way I do...
...everyone does not approach things the way I do....
For me it reinforces the mystery that we are going to celebrate in this Holy Week leading up to Easter. Jesus loves us totally in our uniqueness and died for me, and he died equally for the one who is most differrent from me. Perhaps this thought of Jesus will improve my patience and extend my understanding when things seem "muy loco".
In English class this morning, the kids practiced the alphabet and sounds of the letters by drawing pictures in the letters. Each one also repreated the exercise with their name. Their names are beautiful and unique.....as are they! Roxana, Shayla, Ruth, Sandra, Mariela, Yulisa, Nelly, Lesli....you are called by name and uniquely loved.
We have a veritable maternity ward here at the house in Santa Ana! We have one gallina (hen) who has seven little pollitos (chicks) following her around and another with eight! Just this morning, one of the ducks introduced us to her four patitos! AND we have 8 others on nests!! Anyone know a good midwife???
God has his timing down perfectly....as usual. Yesterday Ismael and Orfe traveled to Poptun for a conference with Hanssel's teachers. This was a meeting held for the parents of those who graduate this year from their specialty school. So, Peter and I were at the house by ourselves. Ten minutes after Ismael, Orfe and Hanssel arrived home, Taker, the huge German shepherd, decided to slip his rope. Now mind you, Taker is a vicious dog with strangers. Peter and I have not yet established ourselves as friends with Taker. With a yard FULL of chickens in all stages, Taker would have had a FEAST of either chickens or gringos (white foreigners) or both if the family had not returned home! Fortunately, Hanssel and Ismael were able to get Taker into the back garden area before he got a good meal! Sorry, Taker! Maybe next time!
In Guatemala we are aware that today is the first day of spring, however, our seasons consist of "wet season" or "dry season" otherwise known as "hot" or "hotter"! There are times when the flowers wax and wane, and they are blooming now.
Spring is a sign of hope and of new life. God outdid himself in blessing us today. I can hardly recount all the good news!
Peter and I were in Purushila early this morning as usual for a Wednesday. Today Peter assisted the four-year olds with tooth brushing for the first time. Now each student in the school has a toothbrush, and each student will be supervised while brushing his/her teeth each day that we are in the school. This seems so simple, but it is really exciting news!
Today one of the TV stations sent out a crew of three persons to the school in Purushila. The three spent at least an hour on the property filming and interviewing. Many of the SewHope programs were highlighted. Film was taken of the six-year olds working on their computers, of me with my 12 junior high students in an English class, of Peter with his gardens on the school property, and of Orfe with the Kids Against Hunger Food and water filters, among others of the children in their classrooms or playing outside. The teachers were very excited about this promotion as are we. We are going to pop popcorn and watch the news at 9:00 pm!
While we were busy in Purushila, Ismael was visiting with lawyers and purchasing land for SewHope. This purchase has been in process for several weeks. Today, Ismael made the payment. This opens new doors for SewHope in the Peten!
When Peter and I returned to our home in Santa Ana from our afternoon classes of computer and gardening with the junior high students of the telesecondary school, parked in front of the house was a different vehicle. Again, we have spent several weeks trying to find a used automatic vehicle since we find ourselves going in so many directions at the same time. It is a 2001 truck with six seats and a large open space in back. This is a real blessing!
Peter and I also talked with one of the two teachers of the junior high students after our classes today. Pablo is interested in starting a library in Purushila! We are thrilled that he is going to lead the charge of this initiative. SewHope has many books that we will be able to contribute to this new beginning. Again, special thanks to the children and families of the Ottawa Hills Elementary School in Ottawa Hills who have donated books written in Spanish and money for the purchase of Spanish books for the past five years. YOU are a blessing to the children here in Guatemala.
You just never know what is going to happen on any given day! Each day is a surprise! Each day we give thanks!
Jim Skon, professor of computer technology at Mount Vernon Nazarene University, spent two days with us in Santa Ana and Purushila improving our level of technology. His expertise in the area of computers as well as his experience of bringing computers into impoverished areas of Belize fot the past 25 years, have made his assistance beyond measure.
With Jim's help, we made great progress in attempting to get a steady internet signal to Purushila. After study and experiementation, we managed to mount a Claro dish on the side of the building. Jim also set up for us the ability to use the internet on a classroom full of computers with a single modem. This means only one monthly payment of between $32 and $40 for internet services for a computer lab in the school. The potential improvements that this will bring to the education program of grades K-9 in Purushila is again beyond measure.
Unfortunately, we still have not established a strong and consistent signal. Peter's parents will be joining us for some days in two weeks. It is our hope that Peter and his father will be able to finish the job. Actually, Ken Meinecke doesn't know this yet, but he is not allowed to leave until the internet is up and running!
Jim also taught Peter and Ismael how to make stronger batteries for longer and stronger running of our solar lights. Basically, we are using batteries which no longer work in computers but are good for other uses. Jim can bring us a large supply at no cost, since they are basically waste from his computers.
Jim, we are once again grateful for your ingenuity and dedication to the work of SewHope! Thank you!
Several weeks ago, I began teaching English to two young ladies named Joselin and Pricsila, aged 15 and 13. We would meet for an hour in a storeroom or on the porch. Several of the mothers would watch us meet as did the teachers at the kindergarten in Purushila, the location of our classes.
Last week, Erelia, the founder of the school, asked if I might teach a larger group. On Friday, twelve students aged 13-18 came for an hour of class in English. We met in a crowded space on the porch. Today was our second day of class. Erelia set up a dozen chairs with a white board balanced on a tree for a class in the shade. It was our own space with lots of fresh air. We also were not interrupting the lessons of the younger students in our spot on the campus of the kindergarten.
It is this kind of looking out for us and for the students that makes the kindergarten teachers so special in Purushila.
Sr. Pam Buganski
Sr. Pam joined SewHope as our first American Project Coordinator in 2012