Divine Word Missionaries blog

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Divine Word Missionaries blog will share some of the latest mission updates from around the world. The more than 6,000 Divine Word Missionaries are serving in 78 countries with a variety of provinces/regions that are then grouped into four zones, namely, the European zone (EUROPA), the Pan-American zone (PANAM), the Asia-Pacific zone (ASPAC), and the Africa-Madagascar zone (AFRAM). The zones may work as geographical sub-zones wherever this seems suitable. Check back often for real-time stories from the missions.

 

 

BAHIA NEGRA – THE FORGOTTEN MISSION

Apr 20, 2017

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BAHIA NEGRA – THE FORGOTTEN MISSION

Stephen Lan Luong SVD

Translated by Huy Tran SVD

Bahia Negra—“Black Bay” in Spanish—is the poorest and most isolated area in Paraguay. It is located in the country’s northeast corner, about 1,000 kilometers north of the capital city, Asuncion.  For the last half of the 20th century, Salesian missionaries served the poorest of the poor in this harsh and challenging region. However, a decrease in religious vocations forced the Salesians to leave their mission. Their departure left the future of Bahia Negra in gloomy darkness.

Answering the urgent request of the Church in the region, Divine Word Missionaries agreed to reopen the Bahia Negra mission. I and two other Divine Word Missionaries, an Indonesian and a Vietnamese-American, volunteered for this daunting task, and in March 2016 we were sent to Bahia Negra.

Upon arrival, we were immediately confronted with our new reality. The rectory of Santa Teresita del Niño Jesús (Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus) had been abandoned for a long time and was in terrible shape. Everything was rotting away or on the verge of collapsing. As we entered the rectory, our jaws dropped in disbelief. Bat droppings were everywhere—in the dining room, in the parlor, in the kitchen and in the bedrooms.

We arrived, the locals informed us, at the height of Bahia Negra’s dry season. 6The heat of these months feels like the Sahara desert. The land is dry and dull and fails to nourish the vegetation and the people. However, the saddest thing we found was the degradation of the faith in the people deprived of their shepherds.

For more than four months we lived in darkness because we had no electricity. Despite this challenge and others, we didn’t falter. Rather, we found courage and motivation to continue our mission. We are determined to rekindle the hope of the Gospel in the hearts of these forgotten sheep still in search of peace and joy in Bahia Negra.

At this point, the Bahia Negra mission faces many obstacles. However, trusting in the providence of God and by the prayers of each one of you, we firmly hold on to the hope that this isolated, poor and forgotten land will become once again a fertile soil where faith, love and trust find sustenance for growth.

*Fr. Lan is a recent graduate from the Theologate currently fulfilling his first assignment in Paraguay.

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