On a beautiful summer day such as this, it is very easy to count my blessings: family, friends, health, home, security and a lifestyle that affords some leisure, play and downtime. God laughs in flowers, someone once said. I like to think that he also smiles on us with the balmy breezes and white clouds of an endless Wisconsin summer day.
Sometimes, during these pleasant daydreams my mind often returns to the visit I made to San Lucas Toliman, a medium-sized city in the district of Solola, Guatemala back in March of this year.
I was in Guatemala to visit Carlos and Tony, two of the children my family sponsors through Christian Foundation of Children and Aged (CFCA). CFCA is a Catholic lay organization answering the Gospel call to serve the poor in missionary regions around the world, through the personal sponsorship of children and elderly, strengthening relationships of mutual respect and support.
CFCA’s “Hope for a Family” sponsorship program provides basic necessities such as food, education, clothing medical care and in some instances, livelihood programs for families. CFCA staff listen to families, tailoring the sponsorship benefits to their needs, and giving them the tools to make a better life for their children. Livelihood training, parent groups and adult literacy classes are some of the ways CFCA supports and encourages these families.
Carlos is 21 and working very hard to achieve his high school diploma even though his mother and grandfather depend upon his leaving school for extended periods of time to work on the plantations every year for income. Tony is 12 and in junior high school with big dreams to go to college. Both young men and their families rely on the the support from CFCA that enables them to continue their education with dignity and hope.
I am indeed honored and blessed to be able to help them and their families by my sponsorship. During the trip set up by CFCA, I was able to meet these young men and some members of their families during a very special fiesta when all the children of the sponsors on the trip were brought to San Lucas Toliman, where the Guatemalan headquarters of CFCA is located.
How exciting it was to be able to hug the young men and their families who I had only known from photos and the three or four letters I receive every year. Through a translator provided by CFCA, I was able to talk to them about their everyday lives, their struggles, their hopes and dreams. They shyly offered me gifts, a simple wall decoration, traditional weavings and fruits gathered from the trees in their yard or nearby forest.
Then we joined the dancing on the patio to the music of the marimba, the national instrument of Guatemala. A typical lunch was followed by an afternoon of speeches, musical numbers, and dances all performed by the children in gratitude for our sponsorship. The families especially liked our version of the “Chicken Dance” that we performed for them! As you can imagine, it was an emotional moment when the time came to say goodbye.
The remainder of the week was spent visiting various projects around the beautiful Lake Atitlan area: Solola, Panajachel, and San Lucas Toliman on the shore of this volcano-rimmed lake, Santo Tomas La Union in the coastal plains, and Santa Lucia Utatlan in the mountainous area of the central highlands. We were able to see first-hand how the people live, their homes, how they make their livelihoods, and how the help from CFCA has helped them as individuals, families, entire neighborhoods and communities. What a surprise and gift to feel the arms of a child encircle my neck in Santo Tomas La Union and again see the wide smile of Tony. He, his mother and brother had walked more than two miles to join the festivities and walk with us for the day! How proud they were to be able to show us their community on this day.
Our own parish of St. Mary Magdalene, through the Social Concerns Committee sponsors a young girl from Honduras with CFCA. Hoping to interest our parishioners in CFCA, our committee has invited Fr. Richard Mauthy to speak to us in September about the needs of the impoverished around the world and how the personal involvement of those of us who have the means to help can do so.
I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to take the time to check out CFCA, their programs and financial statements. Their website can be accessed by two addresses: www.cfcausa.org or www.hopeforafamily.org. You can also find brochures about sponsorship in the kiosk in the narthex. You could call the toll free number 1-800-875-6564 and speak to a volunteer.
Finally, I would be happy to tell you more about the sponsorship program or some of the many other projects CFCA sponsors throughout the world. Please feel free to call Mary Gordon at 715-258-8439 for more information.
Having time to daydream once in a while on a pleasant summer afternoon, I have come to realize, is indeed a blessing. Ironically, it has helped me realize how many blessings I take for granted. A warm meal, a dry bed, shoes on our feet, a roof over our heads are things we as Americans have come to expect more as a right than a blessing.
But in so many parts of the world, these simple things would be blessings indeed. To achieve an education, a steady income, marriage and family are dreams children like Carlos and Tony can only hope for. For as little as $1 a day you could be that blessing in their lives. You could be that hope. It is as simple as sponsoring one child.
As our beautiful summer winds down, won’t you take time to dream, to pray and please consider answering Jesus’s call when He said, “…whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
— Mary Gordon, Social Concerns Committee
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