It’s been a good few weeks since I wrote and I hope you are all well. We are officially in winter at the moment, which basically means the river is full! It is slightly cooler as well, not much, but a break from the intense heat of the summer, and raining pretty much every afternoon.
I have just returned from a trip away up the river visiting more communities. For now I will be staying in Barcelos to hold the fort, as Peter leaves for a visit home!
I have mentioned before that Barcelos is growing quickly as many people from the interior come seeking a better life and better education for their children. We are currently trying to get hold of a plot of land for another chapel, which will accommodate for the rapid growth in the population. It is in an area where more and more people are settling and buying small plots of land to build their houses. The chapel won’t be built for some time yet but it’s important to get the land where it can be built.
Being here in this environment is challenging and life changing. To understand and reach people where they are at can often be very hard. We all have the tendency to deal with situations and with people our way, and sometimes unintentionally imposing on them things that we understand and appreciate, but they do not. We all like very much to see the world through our narrow vision, which is only too often centred on us. When things don’t go our way or turn out the way we want, we easily become frustrated and upset.
A lot of patience and balance is needed to achieve the right vision so as not to become affected by it all.
The recent trip up the river was interesting as always. In the last community I visited, I spent an afternoon travelling to small settlements near to the community to invite people to Mass in the evening. In one of these settlements I found an old man and his wife, looking after their granddaughter. He was suffering from pneumonia and wasn’t doing too well. I told them not to come in the evening and that he should keep resting. I stayed with them for a while and then moved on to visit other settlements. That evening, he was the last person I expected to see arriving for Mass. He came with his wife and granddaughter, half an hour by boat to participate in Mass. Other people who were in close proximity to the chapel didn’t bother coming. It made me think just how comfy and content we live. We have it all, we want for nothing, we make the minimum effort and then we meet someone like this man who went to great lengths just to come to Mass and pray, even though he probably shouldn’t have done!
For me it was an invitation to examine and reflect! Amidst the miseries and problems of this place there are more often than not, beautiful examples of simplicity, humanity and faith! Take care and God bless.