Tuesday and Wednesday I was out in Erandique, in the department of Lempira, for another Catholic Social Teaching workshop in the new deanery of San Sebastián.Erandique is in the mountains of center of the department of Lempira. The area has a high concentration of indigenous people, Lenca, and is quite remote. The place where the indigenous leader Lempira was killed is within the parish boundaries. For information on the killing of Lempira, check out this blog.
Again it was great to spend time with committed people in the countryside.
The two men who led the workshop did a fine job, yet I noticed here that several of these leaders have a hard time reading aloud. I mentioned this to the local pastor, Padre Diomis, and he discussed how the very low educational level of people in this region makes pastoral work hard.
To help the workshop Padre Diomis and I led a few sessions.
He led the discussion about the current reality of Honduras. One thing he said impressed me, “It’s not important that Zelaya returns but that Honduras is re-founded and that we change the history of the country. Until the people wakes up, the people will continue being deceived.”
I really enjoyed sharing with these people. As I look back I realized that I was using a lot of stories to help illustrate concepts, even at times hamming it up. Almost everyone loves a story and stories help people understand.
One activity I had the people do, in order to understand the concept of integral development was to have the participants work in three groups and provide a list of three things they’d like to see in their community in 2015. The lists are interesting since they cover the whole range of human life:
- Free of alcoholism
- A better infrastructure
- A church committed to human social development
- Food for everyone and all living in community
- Schools and electricity
- More people trained for pastoral work
- Everyone conscious of integral development - based on the common good and the Gospel
- All of us seeking social justice
- All in solidarity – helping neighbors in their needs
In the US Catholic social justice community we’ve long been speaking about the two feet of social ministry – charity and justice. (A Davenport, Iowa, diocesan priest who worked with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development developed the concept.) But working here I’ve begun to think that a better image would be a three-legged stool.
I’ve seen a few of these round seat and three legged stools. I was explaining this to the Caritas staff on Monday morning during a short session we have each week on Catholic Social Thought. Fernando mentioned that three-legged stools, etc., have more stability than four-legged chairs. Misael mentioned that many campesinos would prefer a three-legged stool since you can put it anywhere and it is stable; you don’t need a flat surface. (I‘ve got to investigate this a bit more.)
But what is fascinating is the name for these stools. In the Intibucá workshop they told me they are called “zancudos” – mosquitoes!
That’s an even better image – social ministry is a mosquito that can bite you and infect you – not with dengue, but with the desire for justice and the common good.
But I would have never come to this understanding without the people here. They might not have much formal education and may have trouble reading in public, but many of the leaders in the church are quite insightful.
And they are very generous people – not only church leaders.
Thursday I set out for San Marcos Ocotepeque and Nuevo Ocotepeque. I first stopped at Tecno Diesel since there was a problem with the pickup. Elmer, the young mechanic, fixed it quickly – it was only a false contact. I had feared that it was a major problem. And there was no charge.
I started out on the road south from Santa Rosa. To call it a road is an overstatement. For large sections, it’s more potholes than paved road. I hit one deep pothole very hard and guess what? Yes, a flat tire.
I found decent place to stop and got out and looked for the jack. Though the previous owner told me there was one, there wasn’t. What was I to do. I asked a man nearby; he looked but his car’s jack had been stolen. What to do. Finally a relative of the first guy came by. Denis offered to go get a jack from his father about five minutes away. He got it and proceeded to change the tire, while three of his nephews (sons of the first man I met) looked on. He did almost all the work. As I left I tried to give him a little money but he refused. What generosity!
The day sent fairly well after that but I left Ocotepeque late, partly because I was waiting to see if a young man who worked with the Caritas project there needed to go to the hospital in Santa Rosa for possible appendicitis. He didn’t need to go and so I left at about 4:45 pm. It was a good two and half hours back – up the long mountain road from Ocotepeque (crossing the continental divide) and then up and down several mountains. Darkness came as well as dense fog in places and lots of driving rain. All this and the obstacle course of potholes made it a tense trip. I was glad to get back and treated myself to a pizza.
It’s been raining a lot here and there is serious flooding in the north of Honduras and other places. In a few places people have lost their homes due to the floods. In one place nearby a woman and her child were swept away, presumably while crossing a creek.
These intense rains will affect the later harvest of beans in some places – another problem for people seeking to feed their families.
In the midst of this I feel even more the call to be here – to be a witness, to accompany the people in their struggles, and to be amazed at the wisdom and the generosity of these people.
And so today’s first lectionary reading from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians touched me deeply:
“God has chosen what the world considers foolish to shame the wise; he has chosen what the world considers weak to shame the strong. God has chosen common and unimportant people, making use of what is nothing, to nullify the tings that are.”That is my experience here in Honduras, a country with a strong sense of class. The poor are stigmatized as lazy, stupid, brutal, shameless, dirty, and more. Sure, there are lazy, stupid, brutal and shameless people among the poor – as well as among the rich. But the poor are stigmatized.
The Caritas diocesan "schools" of governability and democracy which are being held in nine places in the diocese start dealing with the demeaning of the poor and the stigmatization in the society to help the people realize their own dignity, their worth, and their value.
That is an essential starting point for a new Honduras.