Well, I've gotten internet access again, so it's good to be able to write - although its past 11pm and I wish I had more time in the day to do it! Today, though, I set up wifi in the casa parroquial where I'm staying, thanks to Padre Martin who's been for it. (The poor guy, his laptop keyboard started going on the fritz, then the monitor blanked out ...) But I've been helping him out a lot initially getting some of his technology squared away, like skype and online banking, that's very helpful when you're at a long distance ... I'm living in the rectory, the casa parroquial, with him and with David, a seminarian who is a deacon hoping to be ordained a priest this summer... please pray for all of us! ... Getting settled, that's the title of this post - anything but:
Things are very busy in the parish here - for one, tomorrow (now today) are the confirmations of about 400 or so youth, in two separate ceremonies, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, so things have been busy in preparation for that, practicing the music and rehearsals, cleaning and decorating the church. Last Saturday there were confessions for about 6 hours it seemed, as all the families came for rehearsals. We'll be occupied all day tomorrow, with the bishop visiting for the whole day... We've been visiting the villages for Mass, and I've had the chance to catch up again with some people I met the last time around. There have been a few funerals in the villages too (a few people were shot), and I helped visiting an elderly woman for anointing and viaticum - last communion - who was in a small remote house with about 10 people living there. Her youngest son was with her, the other siblings hadn't been by for over 6 months. Despite the sadness of seeing her pain, and her son's, it was a great privilege to be with Christ's presence in visiting her in her last days, that are so important for her and her family. I thought again about how far this one man's - Jesus Christ's - mission has extended, not only in time, but also in distance - this place is in the middle of nowhere in South America, and yet this man from a little town in the Middle East has reached there... because some believe in Him and have said yes to His call ....speaking of the elderly, of course things are different here, and the medical care is one of the things. For example, there are no pill boxes. My parents had pill boxes; most of us, because of the advances in medicine, will someday have large pill boxes - probably stylish - that we will fumble through. One Ecuadorian priest the other day took out his pill box. It had one container for his daytime meds, and another for the bedtime meds. That's it, just two containers,! No S-M-T-W.., no Morn, Lunch, ... Just two containers, with no labels, except one said 'R' on it. He didn't know it, but it was a contact lens case .... I was able to meet with the bishop the other day to get what I need for a missionary visa. When I came through immigration, they only gave me 29 days, because of some new changes (things are always changing here). So I'm going to Quito on Monday and then on Thursday too. It's about 4 hours or so each way by bus and taxi, but that's how things go here... After the confirmations in the parish, a group of about 50 students, priests, and medical staff from Franciscan University in Steubenville for a week-long mission in Puerto Quito and the surrounding villages. http://franciscan.edu/missionsofpeace/ They'll split up into 3 groups and go out into the villages for a week, bringing who they are to the people, helping out in some different ways, plus offering free medical care. I'll be with one of the groups for the week as a sort of guide (good luck!), so I'm looking forward to it.... There is a family who comes by to eat sometimes, they lost their baby daughter and their whole home in a mudslide about a year ago, and are still waiting for the government assistance for rebuilding their house. Please keep them in prayer - and let me know if you would like to offer any financial help for them. firstname.lastname@example.org ... Here's a story about what it's like here. So, I went out with David and one of the youth from the parish to play some basketball. We walked to the parish school, only to find out that all the basketballs there have disappeared. Plus, the late-afternoon rains that come with winter had arrived, and so we couldn't play outside anyway. So, we went off to a store, looking for a ball, when one of the guys had the idea that he knew someone that might have a ball. We went to his home, but he didn't have one, but by then I was ready to play some basketball, so I said I'd buy one. We walked to one of the small shops that line the street in the centro, and asked the kid working there, how much for a basketball? 8 bucks. Perfect, I'll take one. So he pumped up the basketball, and we set off to the coliseum, which is an indoor (if you can call anything here indoor, the better word is sheltered) gym a short walk away. By now, about an hour has gone by since we decided we would play basketball. So anyway we get there and there's a bunch of women getting ready for, of all things, an aerobics class. But they're only taking up half the court, so after playing with a little girl, we find another youth and we're off playing basketball. This is where it starts to get interesting... By now it's pouring raining, as it usually is early evening this time of year, so loud that it's almost hard to hear the music from the aerobics. But just after things get going, the aerobics class starts to get into high gear, the music suddenly stops, and all the lights go out - in the whole town. This is very common. So, there we are in pitch blackness, with rain pouring hard on the roof, and then all you can see is ... cellphones! Everyone has their cellphones out, texting, calling, using them light. In a place that has a hard time with the technology of telephone polls, cellphones save the day. (It's a good example of the problem of integrating technology!) So, we waited for about 45 minutes, and then we were the last ones out. To get out, we had to scale a small wall along for about 15 feet to avoid the 2-ft-deep puddle that formed in front of the doorway. So, anyway, we get out of the gym finally, and we're in the torrential rain with thunder and lightning and it's just time to walk home in the darkness, with a little light from cellphones. The drenching was really a relief, actually. When we got home to the casa parroquial, there was no one home and nothing cooking for food. So, we headed back out into the rain and took a good walk to a little food place that was open, getting drenched again (cool equatorail rain after some gym time in 80 degree evening heat feels great) to get a burger and fries and some sodas (about 9 of them). When it came time to pay, the place couldn't make the change on the bill I had, so we all had to pitch in smaller bills and work something out. After about an hour there, we walked home in the rain again. It was about 10:30 at night, and we had left to go play basketball at 5pm. Living in an underdeveloped place brings the reality of our own overdevelopment in the States to life. We really don't have as much control over life as we try to think we do. We get into God's territory of control. I think that's why we have so much stress and acute mental illness in the US. We are accustomed to controlling things, and, well, a stressful life is the result. If we try to have too much control in the north, here you see the effects of poverty, where it's difficult to get some ordinary things done in a timely way. But they are not stressed out about it .... The parish has an elementary school and a high school. There's a real need for math and science teachers in the schools, so the sisters who staff the school want me to teach math and physics. I'm considering it, it would be a challenge because I don't know the language when it comes to math and physics, but the education for the kids in the deep rural areas - the campo - is not so rigorous. I had thought first about teaching english, but I think I can still help with that. The schedule can be flexible, and my desire coming down was to accompany the people in learning english and technology in the context of faith, so this looks like a great opportunity, a great opportunity to be with the youth and share faith and life... I'm also working on getting a group of adults together to do a language exchange, in the context of faith here at the parish. I brought some copies of a good starter book for latinos to learn english, and after talking with a few people, there seems to be a real enthusiasm for it. So I'm hoping to get that going soon... Well, it's late, so I hope to post Sunday about the disabled ministry, with some pictures, and include some reflections. Good night for now, I'll post when I can.