Back in San Lucas, we finally got to get our hands dirty with some concrete service. A wall was being built by the women’s center, so they put us to work helping with that. We created columns to support the wall and all worked on different parts of that. It was cool that we all created a part of something bigger. That reminded me of the fact that we all have a role to play as part of the group and in the world in general. As part of our reflection we’ve been talking about how we’re all connected as one human family. We are all an essential part of this family and God needs each and every one of us to bring about his kingdom here on earth. This is an idea I understand intellectually but haven’t quite accepted in my heart. I’ve been struggling to figure out my role recently and where God is calling me. For example, building those columns felt meaningless until you thought about the fact that it freed up the more skilled workers to do something more important and helped get that wall built a little faster and the women’s center opened sooner. It’s all about perspective.
That afternoon we shifted gears and learned a little more about Guatemala’s people and it’s history. A woman named Shona who helps run the parish programs talked to us about her experiences in San Lucas. She has been living in San Lucas since before Fr. Greg came so she has experienced the incredible difference he has made first hand. She talked about how poor and oppressed the people were before he came, especially the women.
The most heartwrenching thing she talked about was a period of violence in 1981. There was a ton of guerrilla warfare in response to the severe oppression the people were experiencing. The Mayan people were coerced into helping the guerilla fighters who offered them land, houses and money. Once the government found this out they targeted the Mayan people as a whole and began killing anyone who was even remotely suspected of helping the guerrilla fighters. The families of these targeted people were often killed also. Shona’s husband was caught helping the guerrilla, was captured and presumably killed. She never knew for sure what happened to him and has to live with that horror every day. She must have told her story a hundred times but still teared up when talking about her husband.
After her husband was taken, Shona and her children became a target also. Despite this danger, she helped countless mayans during this time. She told one story about traveling to rescue 11 orphans who were hiding in a church a few hours from San Lucas. They had to pass through three military checkpoints on the way back and convince the soldiers that all these children belonged to Shona. She literally risked life and limb for these children she didn’t even know. The thing about her story that amazed me the most was her complete trust in God throughout everything she went through. She kept saying, “Gracias a Dios” – Thank God. It would have been so easy to blame God for all of the terrible events of that year, but instead she leaned on him for hope and strength. I long for the courage to trust that completely.