• January 9, 2009
en

Michelle, volunteer in Peru

The Heart’s Home in Lima, Peru, 2003.

Michelle C. com­mitted for a Heart’s Home Mission in Peru from 2008 till 2009. Here are some extracts of her Sponsors’ Letter.

The founder of Heart´s Home, Rev. Thierry de Roucy writes in one of his texts about people who suffer but also smile at life: “In garbage dumps, they locate the orange that is still good, the valu­able object that could bring them a profit.” Amidst the suf­fering and poverty of Barrios Altos neigh­bor­hood, there are many oranges to be found. There are always kids playing in the street, groups of people gath­ered to talk, people greeting us as we walk to church. When the sun does come out, I appre­ciate it so much more; it is more beau­tiful than I can ever remember. In each of my let­ters it is these oranges that I want to show you.

One orange in par­tic­ular that I have found is the person who is prob­ably my best friend in Barrios Altos, out­side of my com­mu­nity: Chano. Chano is 20 years old and has some form of a mental devel­op­mental delay. He can speak, but it is dif­fi­cult to under­stand him (even for native speakers, espe­cially for me). He has some inde­pen­dence, but he will always be like a child. Despite this, he calls me mija, my daughter. At first, I thought, how could this ever be so, since you are the one who needs to be taken care of? If any­thing, I should be calling him mijo. I quickly real­ized that Chano has much to teach me. He knows prac­ti­cally everyone in Barrios Altos and greets them all with a huge smile and a wave. He has a great love for God: when­ever he enters our house, he always wants to go in our chapel to see Jesus. He has a great love for life and wants to expe­ri­ence things, as he always wants to accom­pany us wherever we go. He is very loving; when­ever we walk some­where or are sit­ting together, we must hold hands or be arm in arm. Chano has far more to give me than I could ever give him. I am reminded of this every time I hear, “Mija!” shouted, and it is a nec­es­sary reminder because it is true of everyone I encounter in Barrios Altos. I have so much to learn from them.

This focus on receiving rather than giving reminds me of some­thing I read in a book I am cur­rently re-reading: Gracias!, a journal written by Henri Nouwen about his 6-month expe­ri­ence in Lima and Bolivia. I read one pas­sage each night it in order to have Nouwen accom­pany me on my journey. Much of what I am expe­ri­encing, he expe­ri­enced. He speaks about how he once again felt like a child while living in a for­eign country: losing con­trol over his life, unable to express him­self, real­izing that everyone else under­stands life much better than him. I feel this way much of the time; at meals, I am the little kid at the adult table where everyone is talking and I’m sit­ting qui­etly, trying to under­stand. It is dif­fi­cult some­times, but it is also a very hum­bling expe­ri­ence. I have no choice but to rely on God and my com­mu­nity. I have very little inde­pen­dence. It is a good expe­ri­ence for me to have because I like to be inde­pen­dent and know every­thing all the time, and here, I cannot, and I am learning that that is okay. I am expe­ri­encing weak­ness, and Nouwen says, “The great paradox of min­istry, there­fore, is that we min­ister above all with our weak­ness, a weak­ness that invites us to receive from those to whom we go…The true skill of min­istry is to help fearful and often oppressed men and women become aware of their own gifts, by receiving them in grat­i­tude.”


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