One of my “favorite” people from my years in the mountains in our sister diocese is Milanda. While I would like to say she and I have been through a lot, nothing compares to what she has been through in her life. Her health challenges are both physical and mental. And, of course, then there is the poverty.
And with all of these come stigmas…even in the third world.
It would be easy to look at Milanda and think that she doesn’t really “feel” the world around her. Not so. I have over the years learned differently: she feels deeply. I recently saw her wipe a tear from her eye (I am sure she thought no one saw it), embarrassed by it, as she watched her daughter Ana Maria dance and sing. She hadn’t seen Ana Maria and her brother Diomedes in three years.
All her children are scattered across the country living with other people. She gave birth to 8 and 6 have survived.
My return to the DR recently was to help Milanda do what every mother wants to do in their care of their children: secure a place for them in this world. In this case, that means register them for their birth certificates. For a parent to feel that they have done that, it is big, and even more so for those women who live in poverty. With that certificate comes everything that is important in the present and in the future.
This is not an easy process to do even for someone who has health on their side; for someone facing health issues, both physical and mental, and add to that poverty, it is for all practical purposes impossible.
The work of mission is accompaniment so to empower a person to do what God has planted in their heart to do. In Milanda’s case: one work God gave to her was to take care of her children in the one way that only she could do. No one else can register a child for a birth certificate except the mother.
Milanda could not do this before now as she herself had no birth certificate or official ID card. That was because her mother did not have any of those. So, years ago I helped her mother get her birth certificate and legal ID card; then we were able to help Milanda get her legal identification documents…and now we could do the same for her children.
I know that deep down Milanda feels like a “million dollars”. She now has a bit of a sense of herself as a “good” mother. She cannot provide for them in their day to day care, but she just now gave them their legal Dominican identity.
So, now Ana Maria (8 years old) and Diomedes (11 years old) and Narso (15 years old) have their birth certificates. Milanda did that. I just got the paper work and people in place to enable her to honor her responsibility. This is the hidden work of being the people of God – you and I and Milanda. It is a long and a slow work. I wish there were more who could step into these “hidden areas” where people live; but still, the little that does happen at our hands – yours, mine and those of Milanda – serve to make present in God’s creation the conscience of the Gospel, the heart of Jesus…the Kingdom coming.