By Hiep Vu and Tawny Thanh
In June, the church commemorated Corpus Christi, the feast of “The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.” In order to participate in the street processions, everyone from our small village had to travel to the bigger town to commemorate how God is with us through the blessed sacrament. A week earlier we celebrated the Trinity, which reminded us Jesus that always works with the Father through the Holy Spirit to redeem us humans.
We live in Rosario, a village far from the city. There is no procession on our rugged dirt roads. With no resident priest, those who wanted to go to the procession had to go to Punata, about 8 kilometers away.
Our missions are in both places: in Rosario village and in Punata city. Every morning we walk through the village to take a ‘microbus’ to work. Along the way we often meet Mrs. Brigida, our neighbor, grazing her goats and sheep around the church, along the mountain. When we told her that she was “a good shepherd,” she tilted her neck and laughed out loud, revealing her three front teeth.
Her family is one of the village’s Catholic families. Her husband is a porter, and they live with Grandma, who is mute and deaf, and with their five children, one of whom, a 7-year-old, has a mental illness. They live in a small red brick house, with only one bed to sleep in the cold winter. In the dry season, the children sleep on the ground. Mrs. Brigida teaches her children well and truly is a good shepherd. She cares for her mother, her husband, her children and the goats and sheep.
Other villagers also live as simply as she does. Women harvest vegetables for sale at the market, men go to work in the field or go to a far-away city to find work, and seldom returning home. Most of the people living in the village are old people, women and children.
Catholic families meet once a month for Mass. When a priest is unable to come, a religious sister will come to pray and give Communion.
In the mornings we help at Guadalupano, a school in Punata, teaching children with physical and mental disabilities. Hiep is working on improving ways to teach mute and deaf children. Tawny helps teach cooking classes for older children. In addition to learning how to cook, the children learn housekeeping skills such as sweeping the house, washing dishes, keeping the kitchen clean, etc. These are ordinary jobs, but for children with disabilities it is not easy to remember them and to keep good daily habits.
In the afternoons, back at Rosario village, we lead different programs for children, depending on their age group. We help the younger children to do their homework and let them play educational games. Each week we show a movie or two. Older children learn to cook, and they all practice household chores to help their parents and keep general hygiene.
We believe that God and Mother Mary are present and guide us through our work. Your financial contributions and prayers are helping us to be God’s extended arm to help those who are poor and less fortunate.
Please remember that whenever you make the sign of the cross “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Hiep and Tawny are professing their faith in the Trinity with you.
We send you our best wishes and close this letter with the following scripture passages from Luke 17—”So that they may be one, as we are one” (Luke 17: 11b) and “Father, I desire that those whom you have given me, may be with me where I am” (Luke 17: 24a)—and a few more photos from our mission here:
Hiep Vu and Tawny Thanh are Maryknoll lay missioners and have served in Bolivia since 2015. Their current mission is based in Rosario and at a technical school in Punata. They first joined Maryknoll Lay Missioners in 2000, serving for 10 years in Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Photos by Hiep Vu and Tawny Thanh