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Lent 2024 newsletter

 

Joe Loney and Filo Siles, Bolivia

Juan Arturo with Filo Siles

Juan Arturo enjoying the moment during a visit from Filo Siles.

Lent is a time when I like to sacrifice something that I enjoy in order to sharpen my focus, re-examine my priorities and to identify better with the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made for us.

I often have chosen a favorite food, beverage or activity to give up during Lent. I am certain that is why there is the Polish custom of eating a delicious Paczki on “Fat Tuesday” so that that the sweet memory sustains us during the 40 days of fasting.

This year, just giving up a beverage, food or a favorite activity does not seem enough when compared with the daily sacrifices of Juan Arturo and his family. On January 17, Juan Arturo celebrated his sixth birthday. His father, Basilio, is a day laborer who toils in the fields of others to earn the daily bread for his family. Patricia, his mother, does her best to be a full-time homemaker for their five children, despite having a very significant intellectual disability.

When Juan Arturo was almost 18 months old, he began to suffer from convulsions. After several consultations, he was diagnosed with epilepsy. The usual treatment with medication, however, was not sufficient, and Juan Arturo continued to suffer from convulsions. He began to lose weight.

Filo pushing Juan Arturo's wheelchair

Filo taking Juan Arturo out.

We had Juan Arturo evaluated by several specialists, and they eventually decided that he needed several dosages every day at precise hours in order to control his seizures. Our program attempted to teach his mother to provide Juan Arturo with the prescribed medications, yet due to her intellectual challenges, she could not remember the times and amounts of the medications. We sought the assistance of neighbors to help out with the administration of the medication, yet they too were unable to maintain the rigid schedule of medications, due to the needs of their own families.

The father explained to us his frustration of not being able to properly give out the medication because he had to walk to the lands of his neighbors and work each day in order to provide food for the family.

We consulted doctors, municipal authorities and prayed that we would find a solution. After many conversations with his father and mother, they agreed with our recommendation last June to allow Juan Arturo to be placed in a residential care facility for children with severe disabilities.

While the residential facility provides for many of his needs, it is no substitute for the love, zeal and care of his family, who is now a five-hour bus ride away. Nationwide strikes prevented his family from accompanying Juan Arturo on his birthday. He communicates with his hands and his eyes. During a recent visit, Filo cheered him up with her singing, dancing and clapping.

What we consider Lenten sacrifices pale in comparison to what Juan Arturo and his family sacrifice every day, just to get him the care he needs.

This Lent I invite you to visit a child in your community, who undergoes such sacrifices every day. May the children like Juan Arturo continue to teach us the real meaning of sacrifice.


Please consider supporting our mission work with people with disabilities in Cochabamba with a donation through the link below.

We also invite you to walk with us as our “COMPANIONS IN MISSION.” Companions in Mission are friends and generous donors who give financial gifts on a regular (usually monthly) basis. For more information, visit Become a Companion in MissionThank you so much for your generosity! 

 

Joe Loney
A Maryknoll lay missioner since 1995, Joe Loney oversees a social-inclusion project for persons with disabilities (Avancemos Juntos para la Inclusion Social de las Personas con Discapacidades) in Tacopaya, Entre Rios and Cochabamba, Bolivia.