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Thursday, March 23, 2017
Fr Kevin Dring writes from Peru (v)
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¬†(This letter is accompanied by some lovely photographs which we are unable to publish on-line at the moment. If any readers would like to see them - drop me an e-mail & I'll forward the original message. J) Dear friends.... Queridos amigos, Writing a monthly letter certainly gives a good sense of the passing of time. I've now been here six months. It feels like only a few weeks and yet at the same time hard to remember "life before Peru". I always enjoy picking out a few pictures to go with the words - as the saying goes "a picture speaks a thousand words". In fact, if truth be told, the words are built around the pictures rather than vice versa! My first Peruvian Wedding: not long into the new year I had the joy of celebrating my first Peruvian wedding. The groom, unlike most Peruvian men, owered over me... as did his many brothers. It's quite rare here, at least in the campo where I'm working, for couples to marry at all. It's not that they don't want to get married. More often than not it's a result of that "root of all evil"... money! It costs to get married in Church (the Diocesan stipend is 40 soles = £7) but more than that is the cost of the party, clothes etc. This year, to make it all more cost effective, we're offering a "matrimonio masivo" which should be a little bit like a Moonie "mass weddings" - all the men in matching white suits and ladies in matching "Moonie regulation" dresses! Back to Evert and Balentina's Big Day. The Church Service was lovely and the party afterwards great fun, with the usual abundance of beer and dancing. Huancabamba and the drive from Hell - mid January I headed up to the high mountains for a meeting of the Diocesan Religious Education Commision that I'm now part of. The meeting took place in a beautiful and remote spot up in the mountains. Without doubt the journey was the most terrifying drive so far of my entire life. The first few hours were fine - just very bumpy but no real danger - then we drove (me driving) into the thick fog / cloud as we ascended the mountains. For three hours I drove with about 20 yards visibility, a shear drop on one side of the winding and very narrow road, no protection, huge holes in the road, rain pouring down and at least 3 times a large lorry or even a coach appearing coming towards us in the fog... with no headlights. Each time we had to reverse (we being the smaller of the two vehicles... don't argue with Big Guy and all that) and try to find a "passing point" without reversing over the side of the abyss. Anyway, to cut a long story short we arrived, had a great meeting, Huancabamba was beautiful as you can see below, great hospitality by the Franciscan community, and a safe but equally nerve wracking return trip. Bad (and dangerous) roads are unfortunately part and parcel of life in rural Peru. The key is NEVER look up from the road.... just in case there suddenly is NO ROAD! Two Weeks in Lima - from Huancabamba I headed down to Lima on an overnight 15 hr bus ride. There I had the great joy of attending an International Priests Retreat organised by the Peruvian Charismatic Renewal. 120 priests and deacons attended from all over Peru. They were a wonderful group and about half were, like me, from other countries. How about this for a statistic - there were a group of ten or so young Polish priests all from the same Diocese. They told me that they have 1200 priests from their Diocese working on the missions... leaving 1200 in the Diocese working on the "home mission" front. Incredible!! The retreat was given by Sr Briege McKenna ("Miracles Do Happen") & Fr Kevin Scanlon and was excellent in every way. I was invited by Sr Briege's to act as her personal translator in all of her (120) one-to-one personal prayer slots with the priests. A moving experience and a real privilege. I then attended a one week one-to-one language course before boarding the overnight bus for the 15 hr ride back up north and to the VERY different ambience of Frias and parish life. Frias in the Rain - as with everything in life, there is "rain" and there is "rain". At the moment, for the past few weeks, much to the joy of the people, it really is raining BIG TIME. This means that every day from midday the cloud comes down and the whole town and mountain is enveloped in a great cloud and it just rains, and rains, and rains. Sometimes all afternoon and through the night. To be honest I've never been a great lover of rain and grey sky. It's dark (we're still awaiting the arrival of "la luz"... electricity). It's grey, dark, damp, rain dripping in to every room. But the GREAT thing is that it's raining as "no rain, no crops, no food, no life"! So thank you Dear Lord for this rain and the blessing it brings - even if it is a bit miserable! But great excitement is in the air as soon we'll be linked to the national grid and life will be propelled into the 21st century - with all that means for good and for bad! Many of the men of Frias are currently beavering away to get the huge concrete posts erected for the electric cables. Every time I walk past I feel like a real "gringo wimp" - "hola padresito!" they say as they stagger past, grinning, with their load. To see is to believe - so we wait to see if and when the electricity really does arrive. But there's hope in the air! The mornings generally are dry so I'm trying to get out to visit as many homes as I can. Armed with holy picture cards, crucifixes & medals, oil of the sick, holy water sprinkler, prayers, I head off. The Peruvians love a good blessing so I arrive on the doorstep of each humble abode offering to bless the house and pray for a good year for the family. There are, not surprisingly, often great moments of real grace in these visits. You just arrive not knowing who or what you'll find and end up hearing a dying man's confession, helping to reconcile a couple who are going through big marital struggles, just sitting with a person who you know is SO GRATEFUL for that little visit - as if God himself had knocked on their door! Well that's about it folks - sorry to ramble on but hope you've enjoyed the pictures - and even the less important accompanying words. Take care and pray for me / us as I do for you. Dios les bendiga. con mucho afecto, Kevin
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