October 17, 2010

A Good Week

We finished up Family Week on Friday, with a celebratory spaghetti dinner. Spaghetti is known as the Poor Man's Meal here, so people were kind of disappointed to hear the menu. But, after tasting David's super sauce, the complaints stopped and plates showed up for seconds. And thirds. Sometimes in parish life, petty differences and jealousy create lots of division. So, it was nice to see the community come together and just enjoy each other.

Add the great family time to witnessing the rescue of 33 miners and it made for a fantastic week. It was so amazing to see the unity of the country and all of the effort put into saving human lives. It really made us proud of Chile and doubly proud, listening to the miners' testimonies after the event. Last night, when an interviewer asked the miners about the experience of having a Bolivian trapped underground with them, one of the miners commented, "It's time to leave aside our pride and politics, so that we can see each other as human beings." There is generally a lot of tension (and a good deal of racism) between Chileans and Bolivians, so it was touching to hear him make such a wise statement. The whole experience has been a powerful testimony to the world that God is here with us always and that we should never lose hope. One of our Columban priests here in Chile had the opportunity to visit "Camp Hope" before the miners were rescued. It's definitely worth checking out his article: "Trapped: Faith Helps Families of Miners."

October 11, 2010

Family Week

We just got home from our first night of "Family Week." This is our third year planning the week's activities and we had the best turnout yet. We'll meet again on Wednesday and Friday night.

Tonight, we started with a game that got everyone mixing. First, they had to meet in pairs and find three things they had in common. Then, in trios, in fours, and so on. With each new group, they had to find what they had in common with more people. It was difficult at first to get the youth to break out of their "young people corner" and share with adults, but the game eventually forced them to interact. Mission accomplished!

After the game, we shared in an opening prayer with lots of singing, a bible reading (Colossians 3: 15-21) and a special ritual. In our ritual, we had a large drawing of an empty table with Jesus at the head. The theme of the week is "San Columbano [the name of our chapel]: A table with room for everyone." It sounds a lot better in Spanish... :) Each family that participated wrote their last name on a cut out person and then pasted their "family" onto the drawing, joining with Jesus around the table.

The youth, along with the two of us, then treated the community to a very poorly acted (and funny) sketch about a family who just can't seem to get along. This gave small groups plenty of topics to discuss - from forgiveness, to family prayer, to giving the family priority, among others. The youngest kids played some games outside while the adults and youth talked and shared.

Finally, we ended the night with "onces," the evening meal of bread and tea, a raffle and prayer. The raffle is probably the reason we had such good turnout. We've been sending out tons of invitations all week, telling people that if they came, and brought their invitation, then this would give them a chance to win a raffle. While some may be opposed to bribes in order to get people to church, we are quite open to the idea. Since we had about 50 people turn out, the promise of a prize seems to have worked. More songs ended a great night of fun and sharing. We're looking forward to Wednesday, with more of the same and a special dinner on Friday to finish off the week.

October 2, 2010

October's Activities

We're in a strange stage of our mission right now. As we mentioned before, we've decided to go back to the US in January. People here are catching on about our plans and are pretty bummed. We're sad too. It will be hard to close this chapter of our lives.

In the meantime, life goes on. As we are mentally and emotionally preparing ourselves for that big life change, there are still parish activities that demand our time and attention. October is dedicated to the family in the Chilean church. That means that it's time for us to plan "Family Week," which is a series of encounters that we have at the chapel, inviting families to come together for prayer, sharing and learning how to strengthen their own family bonds. It's a week that we personally really enjoy and we don't want to rush through the planning, or throw it together at the last minute. Apart from Family Week, we're also planning a retreat at the end of the month for all of the youth who will be confirmed in November. As much as we like Family Week, we LOVE retreats. Youth retreats revitalize a community unlike anything we've ever experienced. Kids come home from their weekend away ready to dedicate their entire lives to God. When planned with care, and lots of prayer, retreats create an atmosphere ripe for conversion. We have some more things on our plate, but won't get into the details.

We want to finish our time here well. We don't want to slack off, or have an uncaring attitude. That would be really unfair to the people we serve in the community. But, it's getting more and more difficult as we emotionally move out of "missionary mode" and into "real life mode."