Lizet Marín Jurado of Mexico spent four months volunteering with the Sacred Heart Sisters in Layo, Cuzco, Peru, from March to July of 2023. Here she recounts what her daily life was like and all of the emotions she felt.
My heart was pounding, my mind was pounding non-stop. Would it or would it not be possible? At customs, would they let me through? But when the reflected colors of the lagoon and the beauties of the mountains penetrated my eyes, my heart calmed down. I finally arrived at this place that I dreamed of so much!
"Courage and trust" were the words of Saint Madeleine Sophie that accompanied me from the beginning of this experience. Since I arrived, and even now that it has ended, they are still present; I suppose they are words that will accompany me for the rest of my life. But as my journey went on, other quotes joined this one:
"We need to arrive, cross, open ourselves to new horizons of the heart" (Fr. Mauricio): This was told to me by Father Mauricio (a missionary priest from Chile), who arrived in the community of Layo (Cusco, Peru) exactly the same month as me. Everything was new to us, but we felt something in common. We couldn't settle! Everything was going well at home, we worked, we had a good salary, we were close to our families (“it is good that we are here; let us make three tents…” (Luke 9:33), yet we knew that we had to do something different in our lives, that we needed to get out of our comfort zone and open ourselves up to new horizons. Because life is a gift that must be shared, with those who are close, as well as with those who are far away. Because our home is not only where we sleep and wake up every day, where our family and pets are, where school, church or the mountains are, or where the city and the job meet; it is also where you have to cross borders to reach other places, speak other languages, experience other ways of living. Because our Earth is not only the town, our city or country, it is also this planet that God has created with so much love for you and me.
"God makes life more beautiful" (repeats Jonny, a young man from the village, who helps us by driving the car): Knowing that God was with me at all times made me feel safe, never alone, and strengthened to move forward day by day. Sometimes I felt His presence a lot when I heard children laughing, or in the cute little animals that I found along the way; other times it was in the beautiful landscapes that I admired every day, the starry sky, the clear lagoon, the high and colorful mountains. While sometimes I felt restless or sad, leaving everything in His hands after a prayer, I felt calmer. In short, my heart always remained warm, even if sometimes the temperature dropped to -7°C.
As the sisters say: "Always have an open heart". Learning to have an open heart was complicated, being available, serving at any time. The door of the house rang from very early until dusk, with those requesting service or support. One has to take changes in stride, plans do not always turn out as one envisioned. Unexpected visits, taking a break to share with the community, there is not much that is certain about what will happen the next day, no day is the same, everything planned can change, and yet that is what made it so special.
"There are people that God presents to us for a short time, but who leave a path of light": Sister Basia (Poland) taught me so much with her example of life, always smiling and open to others, living simply, learning other languages, and accepting things with humility. Sister Pamela is a woman who does not rest, who is always concerned about the well-being of others, she is attentive, and she always made everything work well. I only lived with Sister Linda for a short time, but the joy she evoked was something I admired; her witticisms, her music and her life made my heart happy. Sister Lelia has a great ability to convince others and make friends, something that I really admire. Sister Celia and Sister Nancy, who are from Lima, were always very attentive. To them are added so many other people that I had the opportunity to meet, lessons learned and moments that remained engraved in my memory.
“Gratitude is nothing more than remembering with the heart” (Father Mauricio): And it is that remembering is going through the heart again. Now I remember my days a lot:
Monday, the day the noise from the streets woke me up, as it is market day, the day we went to buy fruits and vegetables, rolls, yogurt and cheese. It was also sometimes a day to support CEBA (school for adults) giving sheets to students and preparing class for the week.
Tuesday In the morning, religion classes in the Collachapi school (the school with the most loving children I know), we walk for an hour and a half to get to lunch and then share 2 hours in the toy library, a space with different games and didactic activities for the youngest members of the population.
Wednesday was the day to go to Urinsaya school, walk back for an hour, have a meeting with a youth group and sometimes in the evening rehearse songs with the church choir.
Thursday and Friday, In the mornings I taught Geography and Environment at CEBA and in the afternoons I helped as an educational assistant. Fridays at 4 p.m. is movie day for the children, so we helped to arrange a space similar to a cinema.
Saturdays were our days off, sometimes we went for a walk or did some general cleaning.
And finally, on Sundays, church day, we helped by singing at the top of our lungs in Quechua. It was also a day of long lunches in the company of the priest and, sometimes, the altar boys.
And so, the days went by, all too quickly, from the morning with the song of the woodpeckers, to the night with the song of the owl; I can say that I almost always ended up a little tired, but with a happy heart. For all that I have lived through, I am glad that the word goodbye does not exist in Quechua, for I can only say "usp'alay" (thank you) and "Tupananchiscama" (until we meet again).
Lizet Marín Jurado - Mexico
Volunteer in Layo - Cuzco
from March to July
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