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Advent 2023 newsletter

 

Louise Locke, Bolivia

Luis clapping to Christmas music

From right, Luis, John and Juan Pedro clapping to the music

Many blessings to all of you this joyous Advent season! While the atrocities and violence of war and hatred seem to go unabated and even worsen, the undeniable miracle and hope of the incarnation of our God to me brings hope, reassurance and, yes, joy. As I reach the two-year mark of my commitment with Maryknoll Lay Missioners, I would like to share a couple of stories from my ministry with the Missionaries of Charity, to give a little glimpse into my missioner experience.

The sisters recently invited me to go on weekly communion calls with them to the local neighborhood shut-ins, and it has been quite an education and blessing, for which I am very thankful.

alejandrino and granddaughter

Alejandrina, holding her granddaughter, receives communion from Sister Francine.

On one visit, when Sister Francine and I stepped into the yard where Alejandrina lived with several of her children and grandchildren, we noticed several plants that were drooping and in need of watering. Sister Francine pointed at one of them, and Alejandrina said quite matter-of-factly, “No hay agua.” (There is no water). Sure enough, all five large barrels on her property used for storing water were completely empty.

That sentence “No hay agua” stuck with me for the rest of the week. I knew Cochabamba was in a pretty severe drought, but where I lived we still had water from the city, and I just took it for granted that everyone else did too. However, the Missionaries of Charity minister at a men’s shelter on Carretera Petrolera in the southern zone of Cochabamba, which is filled with the poorest population of Cochabamba, mostly indigenous.

I asked the sisters about the situation, and they said that the city was not sending water to the people in the southern zone and that they had to buy their water from large tankers that roamed the streets. One tank of water costs around $30, and that is just too much for many of the local population to afford.

As I pondered this sentence “No hay agua,” I was moved at the thought of these people living without water. How would they cook? Bathe? Clean? I realized how much I take for granted the blessing of water coming out of the tap in my kitchen and bathroom and prayed about how to respond. I knew I couldn’t help everyone, but when we went back to visit Alejandrina, I brought enough money for her to fill up her barrels.

Luis dancing

Luis dancing with a staff member, our 2022 ‘Christmas miracle.’

Here is another, more uplifting story. Last year at Christmas, my colleague John O’Donoghue said, “For Christmas I have been praying for a miracle in the lives of at least one of these men.” The Missionaries of Charity also house men living with disabilities who have no place to go.

John has since retired, but he had ministered in this home for seven years prior to that and he knew it was going to be his last Christmas with these men. John is a born optimist and also has a very devout and faithful prayer life, so we were both waiting and hoping for such a miracle.

However, as Christmas approached, there were no miraculous healings or other proofs that his prayer had been answered. The men living with physical and mental disabilities remained so, and John started to become less optimistic that any miracle would take place. Then, unexpectedly, on the last day we were there before the Christmas break, something quite wonderful happened.

One of the men living there, Luis, is unable to hear or speak and is usually serious and withdrawn. It has been difficult to make a connection with him, and he tends to isolate himself from the other men and the staff. Before coming to the sisters’ home, he was living on the street and barely surviving, with no family or relatives to be found.

On this particular day, inexplicably, Luis broke into a huge smile and went up to one of the staff members and started dancing. Yes, that’s right, dancing! One of the other men who had a boom box started playing Christmas music and clapping his hands to Luis’s dance. John, I and some of the other men joined in, and then Luis started laughing and clapping his hands along with everyone else, even though he couldn’t hear the music.

It was a lighthearted, exuberant display of pure Christmas joy that came out of nowhere. For a magical hour or so, the music played and we clapped and danced to the beauty of the season. John and I looked at each other and thought the same thing: There is the miracle!

Thank you so much for your continued support in this life-changing venture.

I wish you peace, joy
and your own Christmas miracle this season,
Louise


Please consider supporting my mission work in Cochabamba with a donation through the link below.

I invite you to walk with me as a “COMPANION 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! 

 

Louise Locke
Based in in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Louise Locke provides care for older people at Asilo Buen Pastor (Good Shepherd Home), a nursing home and also serves at a men's shelter run by the Missionaries of Charity.