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By Karen Frederick, Providence Little Company of Mary
Jan. 13, 2013
Participating in international service has been on my mind for several years as a person of Providence. Many of my colleagues and fellow leaders have completed a trip to Tijuana to help build homes over a long weekend. They spoke of the joy of the Mexican people, the camaraderie with their trip cohort and of a life changing event when they returned to the comforts of their own homes.
Sister Nancy zipped me a message when the call for ministry to Guatemala hit the Providence email. It seemed far away and out of reach for me but through her simple gesture of “you should do this” I acted on my long-held dream. Preparing for Guatemala has been a meaningful experience in its own right. Prioritizing my finances and vacation time to serve others was the first major step. I am accustomed to having fun on my vacations. This would be a different experience for me.
Viewing videos that reflect the nature of the mission, the impoverished and taxing living conditions of Guatemalan women who fetch wood and manage the home heat and cooking functions exposing themselves, their unborn children, infants and toddlers to the harmful smoke of the three stone fire tugged at my heart and made me consider what God might have planned for me. I began to worry about my own health and whether having asthma would inhibit me from participating. After discussion with others who have completed this service, I left those concerns in God’s hands.
Out of sheer excitement, I began refreshing my survival Spanish – even though it’s not widely spoken in Guatemala. I researched the country on the internet, reading history and culture books about Guatemala, and spoke with those who have completed this experience before. I have watched additional videos from Providence about the proposed health care reform and nursing training in Guatemala. I read a book from Sr. Nancy titled “Love In A Fearful Land: A Guatemalan Story” about a gentle American, Father Stanley Rother, who dedicated his life to serving a community of believers in Guatemala and was murdered in his rectory in the mid-1980s during the 35 years of civil war. Though the story was one of faithful dedication to the Guatemalan people in a time of violence and crisis, I began to worry about my personal safety in the name of mission work. After further research, I learned the civil war ended in 1996 and the country continues to recover from the staggering losses of that era.
Sr. Nancy brought one more element of deepening spiritual and emotional meaning to my preparation. She compared her recent trip as the Chaplain on the surgical mission team to Guatemala with the opportunity for me to serve in the homes of the Guatemalan people. She highlighted one major difference. The surgical team required the people to “come to them” for the ministrations of free surgery and the hope of a better life. My experience would allow me to “go” – go to the village, go to the home, and go to the people. With great delight she exclaimed how she wished she could go on such a mission trip – how much more meaningful the interaction serving the people “on their turf” would be. I hadn’t fully appreciated the intimacy with the lives and human dignity of the Guatemalan people this trip promises to me.
These various preparatory activities have brought a heightened level of anticipation and excitement to me as the calendar pages turn quickly to February 1st. I speak with friends, family and colleagues of my pending trip asking for prayer for our team while we are in Guatemala. I have initiated my fundraising effort emphasizing the value of each dollar providing improved living conditions and health for entire families through this mission work. I pray daily that my eyes will see, my ears will hear and my heart will experience all that God has planned for me through this experience. I pray for that life changing event that only comes through serving others.
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