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Missionaries to Mexico Have a “Transforming” Experience
Students and consecrated women work in Mayan village on Yucatan Peninsula.

Mary Maher with kid
Mary Maher with a child from Nuevo Durango.

By Mary Maher

June 23, 2010. Nuevo Durango, Mexico. On Saturday, June 5, 2010, two consecrated women, thirteen high school girls and a chaperone began a trip they would later report was a “transforming” experience. The group began an “extreme mission” to the remote village of Nuevo Durango in the jungle of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.  Mary Maher, one of the consecrated women in the group, reports on her experience:

The air was hot and humid as we boarded our bus for Nuevo Durango.  We stopped at a beach just outside of the city before heading south into the Yucatan jungle, so the girls could take a dip and a few pictures.  We boarded the bus again to continue our journey. 

As we traveled down the highway that leads out of Cancun, the girls settled down and looked out the windows at the villages we were passing through. They were all similar – a handful of simple huts and dwellings composed of the same basic elements, including bamboo reeds with palm roofs.  There was a church, a school, a plaza sprinkled with villagers, children playing, young couples talking, old men watching the cars go by, a few stores, and a one-room school building. Night was settling in, and we could see into the huts where families gathered for dinner. The girls grew quiet as they took it all in. 

We arrived to our destination tired and hungry, but we quickly forgot our discomfort as shouts of glee reached our ears.  We pulled up to the church in Nuevo Durango and found the entire town waiting for us, clapping and shouting “Bienvenidos!” The little boys took our suitcases and rolled them into the room where we would sleep.  The little girls hugged us and asked us when we would play with them.  The
missionaries at work on pews
The group of missionaries at work on the chapel pews.
parents welcomed us and thanked us for coming.  They couldn’t pronounce our names, but the community of Mayan people had welcomed us with open hearts and homes.
Dinner was waiting for us in a little hut down the lane.  Ade, one of the village women, had a stack of warm corn tortillas and a pot of rice and beans on the table.  She showed us how she made the tortillas, from cleaning the corn kernels to taking the tortilla off of the skillet.  Everything was done by hand, with patience and care.  Her simple, unassuming air spoke to me that night, and all week as I watched her serve us lunch and dinner each day.  She was a profoundly humble woman, hidden away in a little village, far from the public eye, but undoubtedly giving much glory to God.  She would never be recognized nor receive any awards, but to me, Ade is a truly great woman.  She inspired me deeply and called me on to greater humility and love.

Our mission at Nuevo Durango consisted of construction projects in the mornings and a kid’s camp in the afternoons.  Each day began with morning prayer, breakfast, and then we went to work in the church.  Mission Youth had built the church two years before, and since then, each missionary group had made some improvements to the new building, including painting, building a grotto and gluing tiles to the columns.  We were asked to seal and paint the roof, as well as to build and stain twenty pews –all in five days!  Girls who had never held a hammer in their life worked under a blazing sun for a community of people they had never met before.   We formed an assembly line.  Pedro, the village carpenter, taught some of
missionaries eating lunch in home
The missionaries enjoy a lunch in one of the villagers' homes.
us to use the electric saw.  The next group nailed the pieces together -- first the legs, then the seat, the back, and the arm rests.  Others sanded the finished pews, and another group would seal it and sand it and seal it again.  Finally, we painted the pew with mahogany stain, and little by little the church was filled with beautiful new pews.  We did it! 

After the mornings’ hard work, we ate a hearty lunch, prepared by our dear Ade, and then joined in on the Mexican traditional siesta.  Once the girls were rested, we went out to the plaza where we were greeted by about thirty smiling children shouting “Misionera, Misionera!”  Our girls had brought crafts, games, coloring books, toys and more, but the kids really wanted just to be held and loved.  They were happiest playing tag or getting a piggy- back ride.  It didn’t take much to please them.  A little bit of attention and love brought out the most beautiful smiles.

The last night the villagers joined us for a special Mass and farewell ceremony.  It was moving to see them sitting in their new pews, smiling from ear to ear and praying with such devotion.  In a village like Nuevo Durango, the Church is the most important place in the village, truly the center of their lives. It gave me such joy to be able to provide them with a better place to pray and worship.  They thanked us again and again with tears in their eyes.  What they didn’t realize was that we received from them much more than we had given!

As we drove away from Nuevo Durango to the sight of waving children and weeping women, we promised we would return someday.  Part of me stayed there in the village that morning, and part of the village came with me.  I’ve learned so much from Ade and the others.  I pray I can live out their spirit of simplicity, humility, joy and love as I return to Chicago to a different type of mission, but nonetheless, my mission field.

Learn more about Mission Youth mission trips at this link



Related links

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St Rafael Guizar y Valencia Missionary Center

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