Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hogar Mission Trip, Pt 2

Dear Parish Faithful,

Di Carter was kind enough to provide a written summary of her visit to the Hogar last week. I very much enjoyed reading her insights about the Hogar and hope that you will too. Please see the attachment.

It appears that we arrived just in time to spend some time with Francesca, for as I mentioned the possibility upon returning last week, she has already been transferred to another orphanage together with her older brother, Hugo. A rather sad development. Please continue to pray for her. Our parish sponsorship is being transferred to another young girl, an eleven yr. old named Gabriela. She, too, is a lovely girl, with a very friendly and kind spirit. I will try and send a photo soon.

Fr. Steven

Impressions of My First Visit To the Hogar San Rafael Ayau Orphanage
By Di Carter

As it was my first visit to the Hogar I did not know what to expect but I did anticipate feeling very sad at the sight of so many children who had been abused and abandoned. But the Hogar is not an unhappy place and I was soon caught up in its lively atomosphere. The children really do have fun and seem to enjoy life.

There were nine people on our team and we were soon put to work. Our tasks included making and planting a new garden bed, painting the side of the church and the bell tower, clearing French drains and doing the mowing. In the afternoons we spent time with the children doing crafts, swimming, going on outings and generally making friends.

Soon after we arrived, Mother Ivonne spent some time telling us about the Hogar and the children and as she spoke I realized that she sounded exactly the same as any of us relating the joys and frustrations of being a parent. She really is their mother. It is an enormous task and it is made more difficult by the conditions in Guatamala. It is not only dangerous, but the government continually tries to create obstacles for the orphanage. There is to be an election later this year and all three of the nuns will be watching the results of that closely as it will impact the orphanage directly.

On Saturday night we all watched the Guatamala soccer team play Jamaica on the television. Everyone, including Mother Ivonne, is obsessed with the game! One of our mission team, a young man called Matthew who has been down to the Hogar on a number of occasions, had bought soccer shirts for every member of the orphanage including Mother Ivonne and he handed them out during half-time. Mother Ivonne immediately put hers on as did the children. As we sat watching the game eating popcorn and candy I realized again that the Hogar is not an institution but rather it is a family. How the nuns have managed to create this is in itself a miracle. The wonderful thing is that the children have come to regard the missionaries (for that is what we are called!) as part of their extended family and they are happy to welcome us as such.

On Sunday we all went out to the monastery in a bus to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. This was probably the highlight of the trip for me. The monastery is situated beside a huge lake with mountains surrounding it including a volcano. The church is perched high on the hill and can be seen from the air as the plane comes in to land in Guatamala City. It is very beautiful, covered with frescoes and yet light and airy. Father Steven and Father Antonio, who is the priest at the monastery, served the Divine Liturgy and the children sang. They had no service books, nothing to refer to and yet they knew every word. Their voices rose up into the dome and they sounded like angels! After the service everyone had lunch under the trees overlooking the lake and a double rainbow appeared in the sky. We then toured the new building which will house the children when it is finished and then back to the church for the Kneeling Vespers service. On the way home in the bus the children sang, mostly the songs from church but they did get on to “Doe a Deer”! It was a perfect day.

I was very impressed by the children. They all have their chores to do around the orphanage and they do them seemingly without complaint. When it is time to tidy up and go to church it is done in record time without argument. If Mother Ivonne cannot be at Matins or Vespers they just carry on without her, chanting all the relevant Stikeras for the day and even the small children read some of the service. I found myself wondering why my children had never been so responsible and well-behaved! Of course the children do have enormous problems and one wonders how they will transition out of this safe place into the world. Mother Ivonne asks for our prayers and as a parish I hope we can commit ourselves to that.

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