September 21, 2009

Happy Birthday Chile

The 18th of September was Chile's 199th birthday. In our chapel, we decided to celebrate big, with a traditional fonda or carnival type of party. We had all the fixings for a fun family day -traditional dancing, foods and lots of games, including rayuela, a game typically played in the country, sort of like horseshoes. The only thing missing was chicha and red wine. It's almost unheard of to have a fonda with no alcohol, but the community decided that in order to make it truly family friendly, they could do without the drinking and fighting that often overrun independence day parties these days.

Fondas are traditionally decorated with large palms.

Fr. Mike Howe, the Columban priest in charge of the chapel starts us off with a blessing.

The teenagers ran the games. They worked hard the whole six hours without taking a break.

Chile's national dance, the Cueca, performed by local school children.

The kids also showed us a traditional Mapuche dance, from the south of Chile.

Meat, meat, meat! Chileans are not inclined to vegetarianism.

The northern version of the cueca.

Anna's sister is here visiting until March, and dressed up for her first Dieciocho celebration.

The rayuela competition was a big hit... David almost won.

It was great to see so many families participating, including dads.

The guitar is the unofficial national instrument. No party is complete without a song.

Our gringo Chilean family portrait.

Unfortunately, the fun was interrupted by a fire in the neighborhod. Two families lost their homes. Please keep them in your prayers.

September 15, 2009

Joshua's First Home

Last weekend, we took our teenagers out to do a service project. This was a pretty new experience for them, since they are used to being on the receiving end of other people's service projects. We live in a notoriously poor area and whenever another youth group asks themselves, "What can we do to help the poor?" they often end up doing food drives, clothing drives or setting up a Christmas party for the less fortunate... us! We believe it is very important for all children and teens (even the economically poor ones) to learn how to help others, using the gifts that God has given them.

So, we went to an orphanage and played with babies. The teens originally wanted to collect money and toys to donate, but quickly realized they had no money to give. Then, they said that they wanted to paint faces and do magic, soon discovering that none of them had any artistic or theatrical talent. So, they grabbed a ball and decided to play soccer. THAT was a task that they were well prepared for. We showed up to the orphanage at 11 am and were met with three smiling faces peeking out the front door. ¿Tenemos visitas? they eagerly asked. Do we have visitors? We walked in and discovered about fifteen more munchkins varying between ages 2 and 5. There were also about 5 sleeping babies that we didn't notice until later, the youngest just 6 days old and weighing 5 lbs... FIVE POUNDS!! We had never held a baby so tiny in our lives. It reminded us of little Joshua. He was just 6 lbs when born and came to that exact same orphanage when he was just days old. Perhaps there was another volunteer group that came and held him in their arms, marvelling over his tininess?

The children were disappointed when we walked in with empty arms, because they are used to being showered with gifts by visiting groups. But, the disappointment soon melted away as they began singing songs, playing soccer or just simply being held and loved by another person. When it was time to go just a couple short hours later, the teens were physically worn out, but deeply touched by the experience. They learned so much more from the experience than we could have taught them through lectures. On the walk home, questions bubbled to the surface... Why are those kids there? Where are their parents? Why can't they go outside to play? Can we come back?

Due to the abusive family backgrounds of many of the children, we were unable to take pictures. You'll just have to imagine 15 toddlers 8 teenagers and 1 extremely wound up Joshua running around like nuts.

September 9, 2009

Why Mission?

We came across an interesting reflection on today's Bible readings. We're sharing it with you because we think it explains very well the reasons that we are over here on mission.

video reflection

(We couldn't figure out how to embed it, so you'll have to follow the link and then click on "September 9th" on the little calendar below.)