Friday, February 28, 2014

Offering Hope in the Mountains

I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
From whence shall come my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
the maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2

I had lots of time to think of this biblical quote as I drove to and from Arroyo Prieto the other day. Four hours of driving to get there and four hours to come back to Tlapa also gave me time to enjoy the beauty of the mountains and the clouds.

Of course, it was a tiring drive, and I couldn't take my eyes off the road for too long a period of time. There were lots of sections where a wrong turn of the steering wheel might mean a long fall down a steep embankment.

Just to stretch my legs once in a while, I stopped at a few houses along the road and pretended to be lost. It wasn't always easy to understand the instructions on the correct way to go, since most of the people in that region speak only a language called na’savi, but every interaction was a real blessing. I felt a little like I suspect that Charles Darwin must have felt when he wrote after a stroll on the Cape Verde islands in 1831: “It has been for me a glorious day, like giving to a blind man eyes.”

My visit with the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, who have lived in Arroyo Prieto the past six months, was wonderful too. This congregation lived in Cochoapa el Grande for twelve years, and Mission Mexico supported them in several educational and health projects there. In 2013 the Sisters decided to move farther into the mountains, where, as they put it, “there is very little presence of church,” and they opted for Arroyo Prieto. I drove there to see their new home and to deliver blankets and supplies from Tlapa.

The focus of the Sisters is evangelization and health. They are still “getting to know” the area, and the people are “getting to know” them. The Sisters hope to be there for many years, so they are in no rush to start new things.
Sisters Carmen, Esperanza, and Silvia
When I asked that they share with me one of their most impactful experiences thus far, they said that it was the situation of the girls in the area. There is a tradition that girls get married at a very young age (twelve or thirteen or fourteen years of age), and very often this marriage is arranged by the father of the girl, without her consent. Since the tradition also involves the girl moving into the home of her new husband, many fathers perceive the idea of educating their daughter as a waste of money, since the girl will be moving away from her home at an early age.

Of course, said the Sisters, there are many girls who do not want to be “given away” or “sold” by their fathers, and there are many girls who would dearly love to be able to continue their studies. But if they are left totally on their own, it is almost impossible to escape from this reality.

The Sisters and I talked about possibilities in the future. The Sisters don’t want to “disrupt” the culture too quickly, but they are definitely hoping—and will work to see that it happens—that their presence and their interaction with the people will lead to new possibilities (and the sooner, the better) for these girls in the future. It is possible that, in the future, Mission Mexico might be able to play a role in helping to offer education, freedom, and hope for these children.

The mist was starting to descend over the mountains as I started my four-hour drive back to Tlapa. Change doesn't happen overnight, but just sharing with the Sisters led me to think that the prophet Isaiah’s words in 66:17-18 will soon echo in this part of La Montaña of Mexico:

See, I am creating new heavens and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered nor come to mind.

Instead, shout for joy and be glad forever in what I am creating.

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