Search      Language 

Turn to Jesus (Article)

A Missionary’s Meditations
Matthew Hernández reflects on his mission experience


By Matthew Hernández, pcLC

Matthew Hernández is a sophomore from Los Angeles, CA. He first joined the Immaculate Conception  Apostolic School in Colfax, California in 2006, and moved to Sacred Heart in 2011.  The following is his testimony: 

It’s so easy to be proud sometimes. This proved to be true when I set out on a humanitarian mission to Mexico. You feel really good about yourself when you manage to raise the $1,500 you need for the trip, even though it was only possible thanks to others’ generosity in donating to your cause (and possibly their pity at reading your poorly written letter). But when you’re as excited as I was when the checks started arriving, it’s easy to set this fact aside.

Anyways, the time for the trip comes: Friday, March 8th, 2013. We landed at the airport in Mexico City, and after waiting for our bus we set off to the CEYCA, the school where the apostolics and precandidates from the city’s two Legionary minor seminaries study. Following a brief tour of the place, we bustled back onto the bus, and headed to the apostolic school of La Joya. With my very first step into their dining room for dinner, I immediately felt a charity overload. Being able to speak Spanish, I was overwhelmed by their conversations. They were just so good to each other, and everything they said was constructive and positive. All of dinner continued like this, and I asked myself if I would be able to keep up with their niceness.  “Lord, please help me!” I pleaded.

We would be spending the next two nights at this apostolic school. The following day we experienced their charity to the max in playing sports with them for a good three hours. In the evening of the same day, we went over to the other apostolic school, that of Ajusco. The spirit of service and charity we found at La Joya also reigned among the brother here. The band played two songs for us and later we joined the precandidate community for supper, after playing video games with them, of course. We returned to La Joya and went to bed, exhausted. Sunday morning saw us arising early (4 a.m., to be precise) and going to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We spent some four hours there, praying in the several churches that are found on the hill of Tepeyac. Seeing Our Lady’s image was definitely a much needed deep spiritual experience that God allowed me to undergo, preparing me for the upcoming days. We returned to La Joya and had lunch with Fr. Sylvester, the Legion’s vicar-general. And upon our departure from the apostolic school at the end of the meal, the real missions began.

We took a five hour bus ride to Leon, Guanajuato, and still further, to a little village in the middle of the mountains called Santa Rosa. Once we arrived at eleven that night, we had dinner with
Matthew Hernández
the community’s parish priest, Fr. Jorge, and several of the villagers. Fr. Jorge had about 32 other communities under his care, scattered all over the mountains. This guy was a hardcore apostle on fire with love for Christ, and that’s why all the people loved him. The following day, Monday, I had one of the most fervent masses of my life. Fr. Jorge gave a powerful homily about our mission, and he blessed us giving us each a crucifix that would become our best friend over the next days. Following mass, we did the opposite of all the sacrificing and suffering stuff Father had talked about: he took us to breakfast at a wonderful restaurant in the town. As if this wasn’t enough, Fr. Jorge then took us for a tour of Santa Rosa.  We stopped at a store belonging to a group of women who devoted themselves to making candies, liquors, and such things that reflected the region’s rich traditions. We then visited a gorgeous pottery shop and their warehouse. Fr. Daren, the rector of Sacred Heart, here reminded us that we came as missionaries, not as tourists.

The sightseeing came to an abrupt end as we directed ourselves back to our sleeping quarters. We gathered our bags and said goodbye to the people who, over one night and half a day, had given us so much. We split up into groups and, crowding onto the beds of
three pickup trucks, took a half hour drive on the disgustingly dusty and inordinately bumpy road to El Varal, where we’d be replacing the roofs and installing insulation in a number of adobe houses. The roofs they had were simply sheets of metal above where they slept, often with holes in them, and pieces of cardboard over the rest of their small home. Often when we‘d climb up on their houses to do our job, the adobe would crumble beneath us. We cautiously moved around the roof to fasten the sheet metal, for fear that the thin boards nailed together to serve as beams would snap with our weight. The mountain sun burned hot on our backs as we did our work. Many missionaries got a tan by the first day! We also built two chapels, which were basically no-walled structures with brick floors and sheet metal roofs. Obviously, we sweat like crazy as we worked. But there weren’t any showers, not even running water! So we had to put up with the smell of sweaty guy who hadn’t showered for five days. And did I mention that we had to share tents? Five men to a tent. You can imagine how that went....  Since the village was located way up in the mountains, the temperatures were often in the extremes, that is, really hot by day and really cold by night. My sleeping bag didn’t offer much warmth, but hey, it was better than nothing. And quite frankly I didn’t care that we were deprived of many commodities during our mission trip. It was a mission trip, after all. Just seeing the way the villagers lived helped me not feel bad about myself. These people were tough, yet they were real people who had real souls that really needed Christ. They were lucky to have a priest come once a month, not because the priest did a bad job, but because the need for priests was so great and the priests were so few.

Any sacrifices we may have made were simply in imitation of the people’s lifestyle: acceptance of extreme poverty and hard work. During my whole stay, I only saw four men in the village. Three were working with us, and one was an elderly man who couldn’t work. All the other men, working together by families, were busy chopping down trees from four in the morning to eleven at night. They then burned the trees to make charcoal, which they sold for cheap because they couldn’t compete with other producers. It took about a month to produce a large truckload, and all they earned was about $230, or around $7 a day. Whatever money the men received was to support the entire family. Our work didn’t seem like much in comparison with theirs.

All this we accomplished during our four days at El Varal. Yet these four days were enough to change my life. Life lessons I learned include detachment, simplicity, and acceptance of God’s will. Happiness isn’t related to the amount of material good one has. For example, all the village kids had to play with were a soccer ball and stray dogs. (They loved to kick both!) Yet they always had a smile on their face. The adults as well were always joyful, even though they suffered because they barely had food, were cold at night, wished they could do more for their family… But their joy came from their simple trust in God and the deep peace that ensues. While we were at the village, a baby, only a few months old, died. These people were too simple to understand the whole theological argument as to why God allows such thing to happen. But in their simplicity they proved to be wiser than anyone else, because they understood that it was God’s will, and it was somehow best for them. Their humble reply was, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Many other things happened while we were there, but our time to leave the village came that Friday. We went to a nearby camp owned by one of the men who helped us on missions, and there we showered for the first time in five days! Saturday we went to the Shrine of Cristo Rey in Silao, and later to the city of Guanajuato. Sunday was spent with at the apostolic school in Leon. Waking up early on Monday for the five hour bus ride back to Mexico City, our trip had come to a close. On the plane ride back, I meditated on the blessings God gave me over the past ten days. And I’m still meditating.

It’s so easy to be proud sometimes, but when the people you helped ended up giving you more than you gave them, something has to change.






Follow us on:   
Sponsored by the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, Copyright 2011, Legion of Christ. All rights reserved.

¿Deseas agregarA Missionary’s Meditations a tus favoritos?
  -    No