From the perspective of Vincent de Paul, the poor reveal the true content of the gospel. They are the privileged witnesses of the message of Christ who walks with and accompanies them in their struggles. That is the experience that I was able to live as I participated in the popular mission during Holy Week. I spent one day in a community that had a great impact on me. This community is part of the parish of Saint Anthony of Padua (in Laguna Seca, Nueva Concepción, Chalatenango). It is a small community and in order to arrive there one must walk about 40 minutes from the place where public transportation ends.

As I visited the families of this community, they shared with me the circumstances that led them to settle in that area. The armed conflict had forced them to relocate because their lands had been taken away from them. After the war, they decided to look for a place to live and thus they arrived in this area. They began from nothing: they built their homes, found land to farm and also found resources to satisfy other basic needs. Their houses are simple construction. They have no school and not even a store or a mill where they can make the dough for their tortillas.

Nevertheless, in the midst of so many limitations, they had attempted to develop their community. In some matters, they have received a response from different government agencies; in other matters, they are still awaiting a response. They have obtained electricity and running water in their homes. They are awaiting the construction of a paved street. Recently, the land where they have built their homes and which they have planted with crops … those lands have been legally recognized as their property. Their economy depends upon the sowing of corn and beans.

To share life with these people was a unique experience. These were sincere people, joyful, humble and were very welcoming. They offered the best of what they possessed. When talking with them, I was always offered something to eat and/or to drink. They talked about the activities they had to engage in when one of the members of the community became infirm and needed medical attention … in rainy weather and muddy roads people would carry the infirm individual in a hammock to the closest health clinic (the time was unimportant to these people). If they did not find transportation in the neighboring community, then they would have to walk several hours … and again, for them solidarity was most important.

Pope Francis tells us that the poor evangelize us and help us to discover the beauty of the gospel. I thought I was going to be evangelizing people and in reality it was I who was evangelized. These people have an incredible faith … a simple faith that is lived regardless of the cost. Even though they have little pastoral accompaniment in their community, yet the people view themselves as part of the catholic church and the parish. They share together as a community and therefore, when it is time to celebrate the Word of God, no one remains in their house. When there are celebrations in the neighboring community, they walk together to that place (usually a journey of more than an hour). The members of this community also participate in the on-going formation that is offered them (and this involves a journey of several hours on foot). I viewed this experience as a grace from God … a grace in which God was revealed in the midst of very simply, humble people.

Written by Wilfredo Chicas Medina

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