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A Visitor’s Reflections on My Visit to the Maya Missions

Feb 25, 2015

As so many others have done, I had the good fortune of visiting Fr. Bill and the Maya Indian Missions for a week in February. This visit was extra special given that his twin sister Mary K. was also there, as well as Abby, an amazing board member from Michigan. Bill asked me to share some brief reflections (and photos!). And if you’re considering a visit, maybe this will help.

The People in the Villages — Young and Old

The best part of any visit is going out to the pueblos and meeting the people, both young and old. The kids in the rec center and after school programs seem happy to have visitors and display lots of energy, warmth, and smiles. Despite their tough circumstances, they give reason for hope.  And the older generation demonstrate so much warmth and welcoming to Bill and visitors. Abby spent an overnight (slept in a hammock) with some women in the village to better appreciate everyday life in that village.

The Maya Missions Team

Fr. Bill has helped build a strong local team of leaders who are instrumental in the day-to-day operations of the Maya Missions programs and helping identify needs for the future. And some leaders in the after-school programs are current and former scholarship students, giving back to their villages. Bill’s role has evolved over the years and it was encouraging to see the empowerment of the local team. Plenty of challenges to build and maintain a strong team in place for the long term, but a strong foundation now.  I really enjoyed meeting these people and seeing what they do.

Seeing the Progress….  and the Challenges

Five things jumped out at me about the programs of Maya Missions:

1) The after-school programs in the villages are wonderful, filled with kids, full of energy, and are designed to help kids succeed in school. Education is really the key to helping these kids have opportunities their parents didn’t have.

2) The rec center was full of activity on Saturday.  Kids of all ages gathering for many diverse activities.

3) The scholarship program for high school and college students is really great.  So many success stories as kids work to achieve their dreams, thanks to Maya Missions scholarships.  (see their pictures here)

4) Progress continues — We saw one room addition completing in San Antonio Ool and a new building going up in Noc Ac. Simple structures, but will bring so much value.

5)  So many challenges each day — short and long term.  Not all programs are successful.  Not all needs can be met. Some programs die out over time. But that doesn’t stop the Maya Missions from pressing forward. And all the more reason for us to continue our support.

The City of Merida

Merida is a great city to visit. Very diverse and fun things to do and see. Different from U.S cities and quite interesting. Good to spend some time there and appreciate that culture, which is different than that out in the villages. Helps round out a broader appreciation of life in the Yucatan.

The Weather…   and the good Padre as a host!

What can you say — 80’s every day felt awfully good to us northerners who escaped for a week from the near-zero temperatures! And Bill is a great host, taking time to show us many different facets of the culture and the people. With plenty of fun mixed in. And including us in his daily Mass with the nuns in the city (who were very welcoming) and Sunday Mass at Oasis San Juan (the AIDs hospice).  Many thanks to Bill for making this a great visit.

 

 

So I guess this wasn’t so brief. But I hope it helps you appreciate what you may see if you decide to visit the Maya Missions, or better understand some aspects of life there. A few photos below (click to enlarge).

— Mark Stein

 

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