Merry Christmas Gladys
Warm greetings from my shanty home at Nueva Prosperina. I hope you enjoy this Christmas/New Year newsletter and that it helps you to understand a little better what goes on in this crazy world of the foreign Missions. Firstly, some very good news: Gladys, the school cook, has a new home. For me Gladys is the epitome of the hardworking, generous people that spring up all over this shanty. To explain a little of her story – she is a single Mum who lives in one of our typical bamboo homes, caring for her two young boys, Joel aged eight and Jesus, aged six. She came to me several years ago looking for work having recently fled from Esmeraldas, a region to the north of Ecuador, where her husband had been beating her. I told her that I didn’t have any work for her at that time but that if she wanted I could try and get her kids into our Parish school. This was duly done and we also made sure to enrol the two boys for the Soup Kitchen. Several months later she came back and said that she was so grateful for all the help she had received that she would like to be one of the volunteer cooks in the Soup Kitchen and from that moment she has come down to the school every day to cook for our 150 needy kids. As the main voluntary cook she receives $50 per month (about £25) but, after having worked for us for almost three years, I was embarrassed to find out that she has no other income. So when she came to me recently to say that her bamboo house was falling down, I wondered if anything could be done. I had seen a half-built, abandoned house near the school and I made enquiries as to who owned it. I decided to buy it and, with help from Scotland, managed to finish off the building process. To see the delight on Gladys’ face when I told her of the plan to get her a new house was a truly magical moment. She truly is grateful for all your help and kindness. She moved into her new house a couple of weeks ago and she even had a housewarming where myself and Jamie Maxwell were the guests of honour to a traditional supper of chicken and rice. Funds don’t allow us to house everyone we would like to but it did strike me that, in the Christmas season, when we remember that there was no room at the inn for Christ, we are able to provide a dignified and safe home for some of our most generous and deserving families – and, indeed, this Christmas a home for Jesus (Gladys’s son). It truly was a Merry Christmas for Gladys and the boys!
In this newsletter:
Opening of New Chapel
Of course Gladys is not the only generous person that has inspired my life here – it seems that this poor area is flooded with living examples of generosity. A recent example arose in the community of Reynaldo Quiñones where – you may remember from the last newsletter – we had acquired some land for free through the kindness of local community leaders. So with help from Scotland I began to build the chapel. I had given some thought to what kind of chapel I would build. Of course, I could have put up a chapel made entirely of bamboo like most of the chapels I had inherited. However, through the advice of Brother Robert who runs the homeless charity, I decided on putting up the more permanent metal frame with bamboo walls; the idea behind this was to encourage the community to raise funds over several years to fill in the walls with bricks and mortar. The Reynaldo community thought this was a good idea and I was expecting a long haul to eventual construction but, on the day of the inauguration, a group of men came to me to say that they wanted to build three walls right away. I was astounded at the generosity of these men who were giving of their expertise free and simply wanted something holy and dignified for their community.