Let us share with you what has been going on during our settlement time in Lima, besides enjoying delicious food. Seeing the Columbans in action is one of our favorite things to do and we had the chance to do just that during our trip to Casma, five hours away from the capital. We visited several towns with two Columban priests who were conducting workshops for laity of the parishes of these towns. We were welcomed with open arms by some lay missionaries from Lima that spend one or two months in a mission to help out at the chapels, run summer programs (remember it is summer here now) for kids and help with catechism . It was truly an inspiring trip.
When we came back to Lima we were scheduled to visit the different parishes that were interested in hosting us for the next few years. The week-long visits will give us an idea of what goes on with the parishes, what programs are offered, who coordinates them and how we could see ourselves working in their environment.
We have seen two parishes already and have two more to go but I wanted to share with you my experience visiting Bethlehem Paradise, which is a neighborhood of the parish we were checking out this past week. One of the priests, Father Marino, brought us up a steep hill to visit the people of the area and along the way one young mothers was waiting for their husbands to come back from work at 11:00pm and another was building a retention wall with rocks so sand would not get into her “shanty” homes. This would not be a paradise for me or anyone back home, but just having a small piece of land with a bamboo-made house, no running water and scarce electricity is paradise to them…and I was grateful to be invited into their homes to share their lives’ struggles and successes.
As always in this line of work one looks for seeds of hope in the midst of despair. On our way up the hill we encountered three neighbors that were happy to see Father Marino. One of the ladies, of rural descent carrying a young child on her back, was being helped by the other two ladies after finding out that her husband had left her for another women and was taking all their possessions with him. Her story got even more depressing when she told us that she had been forced to take their six year old son to Cuzco because her husband had threaten to kill him. When she returned from her trip, she found their house occupied by her husband and the other women getting ready to leave with everything. You may be wondering where the seed of hope is in this tragic story. Well, I found hope in the way the community of Bethlehem Paradise was making sure the lady and her daughter had enough food until Sunday when a meeting was scheduled to figure out a way to help her financially so she could go back to Cuzco and reunite with her son. The community takes care of its own.
Coming down the sandy hill with barely any daylight left was a bit of a challenge for me. But I was happy…happy to have visited these homes and to have met some of the families that continue to build this paradise. I may not remember all their names but their warm smiles will stay with me forever.