Missionary trip to El Puyo (Ecuador), April 27 thru May 2, 2014.
Following the directives of Pope Francis, the Home of the Mother in Ecuador for the third time left their 'land' and their 'comfort-zone' to evangelize in various Shuar communities in the Eastern part of the country.
After the second mission trip we did in February 2014, the adults of the Home were left with the desire to participate, as well as a group of doctors who are still studying. We had to find a date that would not conflict with their work or study commitments and we finally got it.
We left Chone in four vans: Father Cristóbal (in charge of the pastoral mission in the northern zone of Chone) Sister Alexandra (Franciscan Missionary of Our Lady Help of Christians), two Servant Brothers from Guayaquil, the four Servant Sisters of Chone, seven adults and eight youth (from Chone, Playa Prieta and Guayaquil). In El Puyo we picked up the rest of the missionaries who came from Guayaquil by bus: Father Dominic, Brother Gregy, Yazmani, Carlos and four brave doctors (Valeria, Verónica, Boris and Carlos). There were a total of 31 of us travelling together.
The El Puyo missionary team was awaiting there for us: Fr. Pedro, Sister Paola, Sister Clara, Obdulio and Iván.
We got situated, celebrated the Eucharist and had a meeting in which P. Pedro explained where we were going to go, how to drink the “chicha”, things we needed to be careful with, and the necessary information before starting the mission…
We divided ourselves into 5 Missionary groups:
- To Yampis - Fr. Pedro, Sister Mercedes, Sister Martha, Rosita, María Augusta, Yazmani and Doctor Carlos.
- To Shakay and Sharup – Fr. Dominic, Sister Paqui, Sister Kelly, Laura, Yanina, Carlos Javier and Doctors Carolina and Boris
- To Chapintsa, Shakap and Chubitayo - Iván, Carmen, Darío and Doctors Valeria and Verónica.
- To Centro Peas and Sucre – Obdulio, Sister Alexandra, Sister Leticia, Sister Inmaculada, Eliana and Michelle.
- · To Mushullacta – Sister Paola, Lourdes, Bachita, Leny Nahum, Cecilia and Fr. Cristóbal, who would also take care of the group of Centro Peas.
The peculiar thing about this missionary trip was that we were going to be working at the parish of Mushullacta, a town which is spiritually very cold. The community is made up of settlers who come from different places, and they are incluenced by various religious sects. It is the largest and most developed community of the area. The Missionary team is permanently located here and they have a church and parish house with some classrooms for catechesis. The adults walked almost the whole town, house to house, talking to the people, clarifying, clearing doubts, shedding light with their own testimonies and their life of faith. Unfortunately, in many of the houses, no one was home since the adults go out to work and spend all morning and part of the afternoon out. They invited them to pray the Rosary at the grotto of Our Lady of Fatima of the parish to mark the beginning of the month of May. We were also able to visit the youth in the high school and invited them to a get together during three consecutive afternoons. We did the same with the children from the school, and they participated. In addition, the principal and teachers gave us an hour of time with each grade. It was the most rewarding work of all. The children were like sponges: they asked questions, participated in the games, songs ... and always with a beautiful smile on their lips.
We also tried to encourage young people, children and parents to the catechesis, since there are very few who have received the sacraments and Sunday Mass attendance is minimal.
The other peculiarity was the medical team, who selflessly provided their sanitary labor in the midst of many shortcomings and difficulties. In addition to seeing patients, they also gave talks on hygiene and health so that the natives/Indians themselves could improve their health situation. There were sessions to eliminate parasites from their heads, baths and cleaning sores on children's skin caused by insect bites and bats, and also burns treatment... the doctors returned from the trip excited, and are already preparing for the next trip, collecting medicines, soap, toothbrushes... For some, it has also been an encounter with Christ and with the Church that has changed their lives.
It has been a trip which from the beginning was full of difficulties, but it was clear that it was God's will that it be done as shown by the fruits obtained. The goal is evangelization. The deeper into the jungle these communities are, the less contact they have with material things, and the more open their hearts are to the Lord. To reach the community of Yampis we had to walk 8 hours through the mud in a region where it rains almost every day, crossing rivers, climbing hills, etc. However, the community stops all its usual activity to welcome the missionaries and to listen to the catechesis, and they take note of everything. In the previous trip, they had asked for help to build a chapel that will be inaugurated on July 2. They want to place it under the patronage of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, since in our first trip we brought a poster of her and they have prayed before it for more than one year. They already have the wood and they are making handmade necklaces to give away that day. There will also be a wedding; it will be a big great party …they are preparing it with much enthusiasm.
Since the month of May was just beginning, we prepared some big colored rosaries, more than six meters long, to be able to explain to them how to pray the rosary and to speak to them about the Virgin Mary … and if time permitted it to start explaining to them the mysteries in order to penetrate in the life of Jesus. It was exciting to see the Indians keeping up with the counting and hearing them say the Hail Mary and the Lord's Prayer with such devotion.
Shakay is a one hundred percent Catholic community and they are very proud of the fact. Sharup is spiritually colder, bigger and more extensive, where there’s still a lot of work to be done. The children of all the communities are very charming and they surround the missionaries from the moment they arrive until they go away. In Chapintsa we were able to do good work with the youth and gave talks to couples on marriage. Carmen and Darío, a young married couple of the Home, gave their testimony.
While on these trips one runs the risk of seeing the whole experience as an adventure, in actuality that is of least importance. More than anything it is about doing God’s will and going wherever He sends you, with a total giving of ourselves and a continuous surrender to God’s providence, which guides our actions and our words. This is what really fills our hearts with joy and for this reason we all left this beautiful experience full of happiness.
We all know that we can be missionaries wherever we are, and that is the attitude we should have, but we also know that there are specific places in which, somehow, we can help. There’s much work to be done in Chone, Playa Prieta and Guayaquil, and we should respond to the Pope's call to "go out" and leave our "comfort zone" to bring the joy of the gospel to other places. These Shuar communities are visited by the team from Mushullacta every three months. When we go and join them, it is of great help to them and it's beautiful to be able to help a brother priest who has 80 communities under his care, some of which he still has not been able to visit.
We encourage you to continue to pray for them. We thank God for all the good we have received these days. We hope that this experience will bear abundant fruit in each of our lives for the glory of God and the benefit of all the souls.