Pastoring in the open air

Loading the vanIf there’s one person in all Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA, who knows what it’s like to be out there in the streets at night, cold and hungry, that’s Pastor Joseph Moore. He personally experienced homelessness when he retired from the fire department and went through a divorce: “That’s how it got started with me, I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody, but that’s how I got that particular calling.” Pastor Moore now leads the Open Air Ministries, reaching out a hand for those in need, especially the homeless, clothing and feeding them literally in the open air, a parking lot. His volunteer job involves massive coordination and organization combined with preaching, caring and devotion. Continue reading

Alice in Wonderland Soup Kitchen

Ready to pray

It’s not much of a science to organize a meal for 3 or 4 kids, or even 5, but what if they’re 50? Alice seems to be these kids’ mother or aunt, because she knows each of their names and talks to them with an even fondness. The Immaculate House of Mercy in Orange Walk, Belize, is the home of each of these 50 children every noon thanks to Alice’s effort and devotion; she is extremely organized, nothing eludes her planning sheets and no one gets away with eating before saying praying or washing their hands. She speaks to us in Spanish, but uses English for the kids; between them we can hear a mixture of languages that takes us by surprise: they understand both. At home Spanish is generally spoken but at school only English is allowed, which is the official language after having been an English colony up until 1981. Continue reading

Dreaming big with your feet on the ground (part I)

with Jose, Maria and Thelma at the gallery

This time the road took us down trails we had never walked through in the last year, giving a new twist to our point of view, watching reality from others’ shoes and eyes. This time we were not in the outskirts of Guatemala city, but in the nicest neighbourhood, surrounded by bodyguards, new fashionable cars and sparkling works of art. Once more, Someone is taking us by the hand while we stubbornly resist, thinking we are in the wrong direction. Once more, it is us who are wrong. I t was hard to believe that someone from this environment could see past their own reality and be able to serve others from the heart, in a country so polarized in social matters as Guatemala where these opposites almost never touch. Continue reading

Limitless Altruists

with Guadalupe, Lillia, Marcelino at Cosme Espesote

Zacatecoluca sounds like “sacate la peluca” (remove the wig in Spanish) to us, but for the Salvadorans it is something simpler: Zacate= grass, and tecoluca= owl. We don’t know exactly why we entered the city of Zacatecoluca, but we clearly know why we stayed. The view of its imposing Cathedral with the corresponding park across the street all perfectly laid out –the opposite to what we had observed in the tight and messy markets of other parts of El Salvador– surprised us and captured our attention. Asking around, we reached Father Francis; a great motivating engine of social activities in the city, who rapidly added us to his hyperactive agenda introducing us to the referent volunteers of the projects that he manages in this community that is so beaten up and so sensitive to poverty, civil war and the current ‘maras’ or gangs. But, he doesn’t fight alone in this city, Guadalupe, from his desk (when she is found there) is another ‘altruistic’ –as she is called– which by the way reflects exactly what the Spanish Real Academy sustains in its definition ‘Unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness’.   Continue reading

Swinging smiles

Uncle Antonio and his crew

How easy it is to ask for a coffee! In Buenos Aires we make the typical gesture of the index finger and the thumb together to the waiter, and according to how close or far away those two fingers are, the waiter would know if it is a small coffee or a large one. Here in “Smiles Coffee” –in Granada, Nicaragua– we can also ask for coffee like that, only if we wanted it with milk we would make the gesture of milking a cow, though. It would be fun to try that mimics in the coffee shop around the corner, right? In this oasis our words are not useful at all and we feel happily useless wishing a simple coffee with milk. Of course, we could simply point at the menu, but learning how to say it with signals is a whole new adventure in itself. Rodolfo, Irma and Douglas, the ones attending customers, have fun because they have already overcome the initial dread phase; now they understand us with just one look and wait patiently for us to finish clumsily the ‘Thank You’ sign that we repeat nonstop. Surely, we must look desperate not knowing how to communicate.

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Dodging obstacles

with Maritza & Franklin

Anybody could say they can take on the world because nothing and no one could stop them in their mission to help out others. Not even slow them down. Death hit hard on Maritza and Franklin, suddenly taking away their 16 year old son in 1995 and 3 months later took away their 2 year old daughter after a devastating cancer. One could think that their life is over, that pain would overwhelm them; on the contrary it was all this that pushed them towards a new direction. Almost like obstacle running, dodging them while new ones appear, they firmly continue their path, after a temporary cancer and a macular degeneration on Franklin that made him loose his sight completely; they take things with humor and fight them with love. They enjoy the 3 children they still have; making most of the time they have together and dedicating themselves to help the sick people with low income in their community.      Continue reading

Sowing footprints

Sister Mariela and the group of Footprints of Charity

To know how Sister Mariela is, we just need to ask her 17 or 18-year-old students who share with her diverse activities in the group “Footprints of Charity” to instantly get in response many phrases in unison: “She leaves a footprint”, “She is extremely simple, humble, easygoing; helps others and dedicates herself fully”, “She demands from us that we give the 101%”, “even if she has nothing, she makes the impossible, she has a clear need to serve the other”, “She is: Love your Neighbour”. In a few words they said the first thing that crossed their minds, with a cheerful and fresh spontaneity. It’s just that with her, these teenagers have been living and discovering since grade 7 the satisfaction of serving others, taking care of the ones with the utmost need as well as working for their community, caring, cleaning and rescuing parks and common spaces.  Continue reading

Hands Wide Open

Our heroine has no costume or cape, but the one thing she cannot do is: fly. It is almost impossible to get her to pose for a picture; she is thin and small and despite her aerodynamic clothes could make her fly in a storm, she prefers to stay down here, close to the mud and those who suffer the most. Marlen may look tiny to our eyes, but she is just disguising an engine filled with a throng of power horses, courage and humbleness who dedicates every minute of her life to care for the abandoned disabled: the poorest of the poor, those who cannot even ask for help.   Continue reading

The paths of Life

seeing through their eyes…

Many times these paths are not what we have expected, believed or imagined’, like the songs goes, but these paths make us go to every kind of place, sometimes with unexpected stops, extended joys or brief sighs of emotion. We are driving towards our objective and life surprises us during our journey. Yomaira is 41 years old and is fulfilling her dream, to become a Teacher. Since she was very young she has dreamt of educating others, to keep them away from the poverty and violence in which they were immersed. With no hesitation, she set down to teach the kids who couldn’t access school, while peeling yuccas and breastfeeding her baby in her humble house located on the south of Barranquilla, Colombia, in the neighborhood ‘7 de Abril’. Nothing and no one could make her lose hope that someday, this longing which in part she was already accomplishing, could be multiplied and get bigger beyond her expectations.       Continue reading

Everything for her dear old ones

with Inesita

In the least expected spot of the Colombian Andes, a touristic place for its colonial architecture and picturesque like no other, we didn’t expect to be surprised like we eventually were. In general, the places that attract so many visitors usually show a ‘happy community’ image, without any needs, probably hiding the least attractive side to the foreigner. For what I understand, there is always a “parallel world” that lives by different timetables and paths; it requires a change in habits to be able to casually come across it, if we are open enough to face it. Continue reading