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Daily Journal: Sunday, February 20, 2011 (Late Edition)

By Bonnie Black
Wow! What a successful Community Health Fair…and it started early and ended later than originally scheduled. There had to have been about 400 people here, many of whom had not been to the facility nor clinic. We heard that we have appointments scheduled for the next few weeks as a result of this ‘open house’ type of event.

Everyone participated in some way – or was working on a necessary prep project for tomorrow. That crew was Kevin, Norm, Paul R. and Tom. Norm donated a chop saw and a table saw which James went to get this morning at the Oriental Market – the second largest in Central America. He mentioned it was quite a different experience!

Upon his return the aforementioned men along with Marcus built the table on which they worked the rest of the afternoon. Everything they were preparing this afternoon will be used for shelving of closets at the Angels of Hope Orphanage in El Crucero as well as book shelving donated by the Plattsburgh Sunrise Rotary Club. In January, Kathy Eppler (a missioner as well as Sunrise Rotarian) visited the orphanage and got the specific information in order to be able to build the shelving for the books donated by the club. Tomorrow, Paul R. and Tom, who are also Sunrise Rotarians, will be part of the team going up to install the shelving for those books.

I think I got a bit ahead of myself, though. BEFORE we opened the gates for the Health Fair, as you know, most of us attended church at Colegio Nino Jesus de Praga. It was good to see so many of our friends we have known over the years. The facility looks so dramatically different. Those of you who have been on Mission before and are reading this, picture the Cantina on the right where you have bought the centavidos – it’s totally gone. Now, along what was the far side of the Cantina, before the Primary School fence, is a wall about 10 feet high that runs the length up to the right side of the Convent door. It has about a 10-foot opening where students can transverse the courtyard between the Primary and Secondary schools. Where the fence was to our old facility, it is now open space and a wall is set behind the Nino Jesus de Praga statue bisecting the other part of the courtyard. There is an opening near the Rotary wheel in front of the Paul Harris Vocational classrooms for transitioning people from the Secondary to Primary classrooms. It is so closed in, so limited. None of the open-air feeling we had for the 11 years we were able to access the retreat house. We certainly were blessed with the specific donations that allowed us to acquire our own property and begin the building we are occupying now. We are in a better place to serve the community in a year-round fashion.

So when we got back from Mass, people began some of the odds and ends projects in addition to setting up for the Health Fair. We had pencil sharpening occurring and sponsor notebook sorting – we now have enough! There were 12 stations to be prepared for the Fair under the direction of Bev G. and Roger. Everyone floated to where they were needed once ‘their’ station was completed – so no specific names to tasks on that one!

Joy, Abi and Ben created our own compost bin into which we will be placing our waste for compost that will leech nutrients into the garden in the back of our property.

BUT…we had the essential crews in place all day: BBB was Ann and Sarah R. along with Henry and Paul R. Kitchen was Sister Steph, Liam, Nancy, Aislyn and Hillary.

We had some great stats at the Health Fair: there were 149 blood pressures taken with 32 referrals to our clinic over the next week. We had 19 house applications completed and turned in as well as 27 filter applications. We believe there were close to 400 people present as we had over 350 kits to give away and ran out very quickly.

BTW – for those of you who have been on Mission before, tonight’s dessert was Nora’s rice pudding ;-)

At our evening meeting, Sister Debbie thanked all for being adaptive to meet a half hour early tonight after such a long day. We heard that we will be receiving the coffee we ordered this morning during tomorrow morning’s meeting. And Jonan was able to get some very good process on the chairs and hammocks people wanted.

As we are moving into our last 2 full days of work projects, we discussed what we had left to do and how we might be able to accomplish it. It seems, we will have to access a third van to accomplish everything we need to do in the morning.

Magaly had dropped off purses and bracelets earlier in the day and we circulated samples during the meeting putting them out for purchase in the kitchen afterward.

Megan Harris and Zach then led us in reflections on the day. They asked that we think about the contrasts we have encountered. The landscape is phenomenal, the beauty and joy in the people are there…then think how they can live, what they wear and where they sleep. Megan prefers to focus on the beauty of the people, this place and what they have. She asked us to focus on the beauty we have experiences so far…

Alysia said that Abi and Mary-Kate learned new medical skills today and were great with the patients…

Nancy said that despite the Mass and the Health Fair, the Kitchen Crew did an outstanding job with all of the interruptions. She loved hearing the songs sung with gusto at Mass and looked at one of the statues in the church of the Christ bearing his cross to Calvary. She thought that maybe the people identified with the cross-bearing Christ. She also saw a statue of St. Jude (the patron saint of hopeless causes) and thought about how locals could identify with him. But, she saw beauty in the intense and sincere singing of the congregation.

Sister Claire found it very uplifting to walk into the church as it had been a decade since she had been here. The work that the community and the Mission have put into the facility was outstanding – a beautiful thing to see.

Hillary mentioned the beauty of local people dressed so nicely stood out for her. “How could these ne the people that I gave rice & beans to?” she queried. “The liturgy is so important to them and they care so much about it.”

Anna said that today was eye-opening for her. She was at the dental station with Gwen and, thanks to Adam, she had the Spanish translation of the 10 basic tips she wanted to communicate. For the first half-hour or so, people really wanted to hear her and learn; she felt good when they asked her questions. Then she began to realize that the questions decreased and she was seeing ‘repeat customers’ so to speak. The people just wanted the toothpaste she was giving away. Then, a 15-year-old stared at her and she began to bawl. She realized that these people have nothing and to get a tube of toothpaste – which we take for granted – is something very valuable.

Adam finished her stint at the dental station while Gwen took her to the side and helped her process the feelings she was having. “Today, I got it,” she said. “And I didn’t have to go out on Rice & Beans or the dump to see that.” Two girls came over to her and gave her hugs while another kept coming back – not to get toothpaste – but to be there for her.

Gwen chimed in, “I saw you got it and it was beautiful. We’re blessed that she is here with us.”

Sister noted that her most treasured moments on Mission is when she sees a light go on and people’s eyes light up, She can see in their eyes when they ‘get it’ then their spirit is being filled and their depth of gratitude is deepening as well.

Sister said she had arrived during the Health Fair and felt tears well in her eyes when Mauricio turned to her, pointed, and said, “Esperanza.” She told us, “The hope is because of you – that was beauty, pure beauty.”

Sister Cathy mentioned her understanding of ‘kin-dom’ – that everyone is our brothers and sisters, our kin. She was handing out numbers to all who came stating she gave out 139 raffle tickets to the adults and each had 3-4 children with them giving us the 400+ count for the afternoon. She said at one point she looked around and everyone was engaged in what they were doing. “It really was the kin-dom. We’re making life better now. So, we must ask the difficult ‘why’ questions. That’s our responsibility.”

Lauren stated she really like the Mass this morning, especially the singing. When she had returned and was cleaning a room, she reflected on the fact that back home we don’t go to church every Sunday. “It should be,” she noted. “Seeing how these people live and how strong their faith is when they could be out working to feed their families. So many who have so much don’t even put effort into prayer.” She then said, “That made me question, ‘why’? These people are good people – it doesn’t seem fair.”

Adam chimed in stating that he heard their requests for what they need. ‘Who is going to help them? Who can they turn to?’ could be the questions, but he knows it is the Mission of Hope that is the answer.

Megan Harris said that we get a new perspective ach time we come. “I’m realizing they have more of what matters: stronger faith and a lot of hope. They have nothing, but they have so much.”

Sara L. was struck by the beauty yet horrified by the garbage on the roads and the burning piles. She reflected that our garbage just gets taken away and we don’t have to think about its disposal. Yet, the church was spotless and their faith is so strong. She remarked that when Father Jalder asked us to stand, the people around her reached out to stroke her hands and pat her arms. THAT was beautiful.

Joy L. commented that we’re know back home that we’re coming to help, but we can learn so much more from the people here than they can from us.

Sister reminded all that in our trainings she mentioned we would come home more filled than we could possibly imagine – understanding humanity on a deeper level.

Joy C. reacted, “That’s why so many of us keep coming back.”

Gwen said there is no excuse, though, for the conditions we see. She warned us not to romanticize it all as these people’s stomachs are hungry and she, for one, when angered by injustice, takes action. “We need to move from the theoretic understanding to ‘what and I going to do personally, for instance, waste less when we go home, strive for justice issues, keep asking the questions and going deeper and deeper. As you question, you will begin to live differently,” she concluded.

Roger thanked Bev G. for all of the preparation she put into the Health Fair and to all those at MOHTown every week packing what we need to have such a successful event. “The Health Fair is a charade, in a way,” he declared. “It isn’t about teaching. It was the way we got people in the door to give you something to discuss in the future.”

He continued, “This was an opportunity to interact on a scale we couldn’t do any other way. We needed to promote our new clinic and facility. But,” he concluded, “the interpersonal reaction is what we’ll carry away in our hearts.”

Sarah R. was noting that this afternoon she was playing with a little girl “who reminded me of a girl I babysit at home and how all kids are the same. So different, but the same.”

Sister encouraged us all to journal, to process our experiences. “That’s the beauty of what we’re about.”

We then closed by going around the circle and saying a word about the experience of Mission #41 to this point: hope-filled, laughter, amazing, love, better, hope, humbled, heart-warming, prayer, peaceful, friendship, faith, joy, oneness, inspirational, perplexing, positive, pain, blessed, life-changing, tragic, exhausting, beautiful, direction, compassion, centered, truth, delicious. And with that, Sister wished us all a restful night.

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