Feliz Navidad from Maria in Peru

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"Feliz Navidad" and lots of love from Peru to you!

God’s amazing love does not change but somehow, in my case, it is more evident every time I travel to Peru. I could share many things, Cesar taking me to the airport; Air Canada allowing me to take more luggage than regular at no extra cost; people giving me toys and funding to continue the mission work that LJH started some seven years ago in Peru etc, etc, etc. but I would never finish and you would get tired so I have chosen just a few stories here (hope it is not too long). I pray in this moment for the Holy Spirit to touch each one that reads this message with His light, peace and love and may all be for the glory of the living God.

All the pictures here are from Huanuco except for the one where I am with Ruth and another of Genoveba who is from Lima.

Here are some stories I hope will encourage your faith.

CEDRICK

This 24 year handsome fellow from Montreal, with the looks of Mel Gibson in the movie "Brave heart", lives in Toronto. He sat next to me in the eight hours flight Toronto-Lima. Somehow he ended up sharing his life with me. His mother could not keep him because she was in drugs and Cedrix was taken to various fosters homes since the age of six. Eventually, he ended in a place for juveniles. He escaped there to end up living in the streets of Montreal with his dog. At that point he learned a trade and now works in construction and sings in a band. Nothing especial with his story except that something a bit humorous changed his life. He met a Peruvian girl that invited him to eat some Peruvian food which he liked a lot (she was joining him in Peru a few days later). The extraordinary thing here is that his band had played to collect money and toys to bring to poor people in Peru and in spite of being so wounded from all his life experiences, Cedrick cared for the poor. There was a difference in age and background, but we had lots in common.

He was touched when I share about the ‘good samaritan’ and also I told him that the Dalai Lama had been asked which was the best religion in the world and the answer given by this wise man was "the one that makes you more compassionate". Well, I ended praying for Cedrick, he showed his compassion for me by lending me his neck pillow to sleep and carrying my luggage. (You can see him in YouTube: Punk Rock Hockey Promo 2012)

GENOVEBA

Genoveba came to see me the day I arrived. My mom was amazed as Genoveba had not showed up for months and did not know I was coming.

This woman of amazing faith never had the opportunity to learn to read or write and she is already in her 50s. Her faith and Bible knowledge comes from listening to the gospel when she goes to mass and from miracles in her daily life. Her circumstances and sufferings are terrible. In the middle of all that her faith has grown strong like a flower in the desert. She really knows the meaning of Matthew 16:24: "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me". If her faith would be based on experiences her circumstances would destroy it. Two of her children did not survive the age of 3 due to poverty. She came from the mountains during the time terrorism was strong in Peru and ended up living in a shanty town in Lima. Her alcoholic partner eventually abandoned her. The daughter that used to help her to cope with poverty passed away less than 2 years ago at the age of 24 (stomach cancer) leaving two small ones with Genoveba. She continues her walk in life selling matches and washing clothes, her hands are full of wounds (detergent, bad nutrition…) and she looks very fragile. What she makes barely helps with the poor diet she provides for her family in the shanty town where she lives.

Many would say, why is she in such condition if she has faith. Preachers of the "gospel of prosperity" don’t go to people like her neither "prophets" that think they are like movie stars going to "higher levels" and basing their faith in emotions. Genoveba’s faith is not based in circumstances but in the God that does not change and her personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Not many have faith as this woman but her poverty is a reality for near half of Peru. The hearts of many rich people have turned cold and indifferent in a place where anything is welcome by those born in poverty. They are poorer than the poor.

The poor and injustice will always exist. That is not an excuse to be indifferent. Can I just go to church, enjoy singing and not look at the naked or hungry around me? The true gospel is simple: share your bread, especially with those that can not pay you back, bless your enemies,…etc. Isaiah 58 talks about the true and false fasting. This is the Gospel scripture that started the LJH mission in Peru.

I have often experienced, when acting in obedience to serve others in the name of Jesus, God’s divine intervention and the natural becomes supernatural. No human effort or money can accomplish what the Spirit of God can produce in the hearts of people and that becomes the supernatural. That is the difference with human organizations that do good work and Christian Mission work. Sometimes our impulse and own desire can be confused with God’s will but God is merciful and if we keep on asking He reveals His truth. Jesus was always acting in obedience to His Father’s will and He is our model.

RUTH

Ruth phoned me from Huanuco the day I arrived in Lima and the next thing I knew an early phone call woke me up. She was at the bus station asking me to pick her up. She’s been with me since then until Friday when I took her back to Huanuco. It wasn’t in my plans to go to Huanuco (10 hours from Lima by bus). It is a long story that I might share another time.

The first time I saw Ruth, she was a six years old girl with no shoes playing near a garbage dump. She is now 12 years old and it is a joy to see how she has turned out. There is a depth in her prayer and also in the awareness of her reality. Since my arrival in Lima until we went to Huanuco, she shared different stories of the Bible in our home prayer group. It was so funny to hear from her, in her own words with her eyes full of amazement about Daniel, Samson or Solomon and God’s divine intervention. Other than that I think she learned more math in a week than what she had learned in the whole year. Her parents wanted her to stay with me but it is still not the time.

JOSE

Jose, this is the eight year old kid walking with me by the dusty road near the soup kitchen in the picture. He is the other child that comes always to my mind when praying for Huanuco. He sometimes goes to bed without eating. The shoes and sandals I bought in a garage sale for $2 were perfect for him. He showed me his head full of bumps from physical abuse. I hugged him for few minutes and watched cartoons with him at Myrna’s hostel where I was staying. For most of my time that I was in Huanuco, Jose was with me. Every time I have gone to Huanuco this little one follows me everywhere. Each time I write in his soul "Jesus loves you". He wanted to give me a little chick as a present but I couldn’t bring it so he gave me a little rock. This time I took him to the dentist and his tooth was saved. A charitable organization (Caritas) has made this very affordable, still difficult for people that has so many kids, no regular work and make so little.

It is a privilege for me to write in the little souls of children about Jesus love. The same way wounds and traumas that take place in childhood are so hard to heal or erase, the love of Jesus will make them strong in life. I did not visit any priest or bishop in Huanuco as I had gone unexpectedly and mainly to return Ruth. This time in Peru my priority was to take it easy with my own family, but I just have to "trust in the Lord with all my heart and not lean in my own understanding".

I’ll be with the kids at "Las Columnas" (downtown Lima) next Wednesday. We will be singing carrols and celebrating Christmas with a living nativity, hot chocolate and paneton (sweet bread with raisins). I haven’t gone to Huangascar but the work continues.

My heart was with all of you at the LJH Christmas celebration but especially with my dear Alvina.

Maria

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