Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Missioning —A Two-Way Street

From the perspective of [LaCugna’s] relational ontology, mission is just as much a conversion of ourselves as it is an outreach to others. It is not the bringing of an imperial and comprehensive truth to people devoid of truth, but rather a turning-toward-another, being-for and receiving-from another in which truth is manifest precisely in this encounter and mutual transformation. Mission, in this sense, can reach the “other” only to the degree that it also changes the missionary.
-       From an article called “Catherine Mowry LaCugna’s Contribution to Trinitarian Theology,” by Elizabeth T. Groppe, in Theological Studies, no. 63 (2002)
A family from Tlapa gave me some clothes and toys to bring to Agua Tordillo. I daresay
 that this was one of the happiest days of his life for Braulio.
It could have been worse. I had left Tlapa at 4:30 in the morning to drive to Agua Tordillo, to tell two women (Flora and Rosalia) that I had made an appointment for them with an ophthalmologist for October 25. Flora probably has cataracts; sparks from an open fire on her dirt floor burnt Rosalia’s eyes five years ago. This will be their first visit to a medical clinic. Yes, a telephone would have been better than a four-hour drive, but there are no telephones in Agua Tordillo. I arrived a little before 9 AM, spent all morning there, and left at about 1 PM to return to Tlapa.
Flora and her son Cris Angel. Flora can see nothing in the bright light outside.
I was really tired, and I noticed that my eyes were closing on their own (which isn't a great thing to happen on these mountain roads), so I looked for a shady spot on the side of the road to sleep for thirty minutes. Eventually I came across such a spot; I parked the truck, turned off the motor, and promptly fell asleep.
Rosalia and her son Manuel. Sparks burned Rosalia's eyes five years ago,
and her eyes have been  painful for her ever since.
An hour later (4 PM), I awoke and started the truck to continue my journey. That is, I tried to start the truck…but it just wouldn’t start. It was evident that the motor wasn’t getting gasoline. The clouds overhead were very dark, so I knew it was going to rain soon. I figured that it was going to be a long night sleeping in the truck on the side of the road.
The families in Agua Tordillo gave me this bright yellow bag as a gift. I love it...
Then the most amazing thing happened. Don Dagoberto, the bishop of Tlapa, passed by on his way home from a pastoral visit to Teocuitlapa. His driver, Pascual, recognized my truck and pulled over to see if I needed help. Yes, I did—so they towed me for about thirty minutes to Ayotoxtla, where there was a mechanic’s shop. I left the truck there and continued to Tlapa with Pascual and the bishop.
Don Jose—one of the kindest and wisest men I know in the mountains.
The mechanic, Victor, told me that he had in his shop a gas pump for the truck and that the truck would be ready “by Monday or Tuesday.” There is no telephone there either. I have commitments on Wednesday, so I guess that I will gamble and go to Ayotoxtla tomorrow (Tuesday) via public transport (that is, on the back of a truck, for about three hours). Hopefully I will find the Mission Mexico truck ready to go. But it won’t be a huge surprise if Victor hasn’t even started repairs. Such is life in the mountains of Mexico.
Flowers and candles—a vital part of prayer for the people in Agua Tordillo
On Friday I will drive again for four hours to Agua Tordillo, stay there overnight (I can choose: sleep on someone's dirt floor or sleep in the truck), and leave at 4 AM for Tlapa…with Flora, Rosalia, and Odilon (Rosalia’s husband). Neither Flora nor Rosalia has ever travelled to Tlapa, so I have a supply of small plastic bags ready for vomit. Hopefully we will be in Tlapa at 8 or 8:30: we will go to the MAS Medical Clinic for the appointment with the ophthalmologist. In the afternoon, we will have lunch and then return to Agua Tordillo. If I have the energy, I will return to Tlapa that night; if not, I will return on Sunday morning.
Odilon (in blue) translating from Spanish to Mephaa (the native language) for Father Vicente
On the one hand, it seems like a lot of time and energy spent for just two persons—especially since this may be the first of several visits, if the ophthalmologist suggests an operation or something similar. But on the other hand, this health care may change the lives of Flora and Rosalia—and that in turn will impact their families and their community. The villagers are already appreciative that Mission Mexico is trying to make a difference, and even this small sign of solidarity nourishes hope for all.
Going for water—a daily task
Thanks to all in Canada who support Mission Mexico. Every day life is being transformed in small and in big ways for many impoverished people. The gratitude of the people here is tangible—and it makes being here with them the greatest blessing that I can even imagine. As LaCugna suggests in the opening quote, “it changes the missionary.” Things don’t always work out, but accompanying the people in the bad times as well as the good times is what true friendship is all about. 
Being received in Agua Tordillo with necklaces of flowers—just one tangible sign of gratitude

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