Excerpt from The Catholic Spirit’s “Catholics seeking to improve lives on mission trips say they’re changed as well” article dated July 21, 2016

Encountering Christ
It’s not only in Africa that lives are being changed. St. Edward in Bloomington sends a group to Central America a few times a year to continue a 30-year-old relationship with its sister parish. Parishioner Sue Kellett has been traveling to Los Chaguites, a community in Jinotega, Nicaragua, to visit Nuestra Senora de los Angeles — Our Lady of the Angels — since 1991. Regardless of the group’s size from year to year, Kellett said the missionaries focus on meeting others and looking into their eyes. “When you look into someone’s eyes, you’re looking into the eyes of God,” she said. “What’s a better way to connect with others?” Besides partnering with Feed My Starving Children, building chapels and wells, and installing solar ovens, Kellett said the best part is jumping into the back of a pickup truck and traveling to the rural chapels to sing and worship. “Everyone in the village says it’s not our presents that matter, but our presence,” Kellett said. In the example of living the Christian virtues of faith and charity, the people of Los Chaguites thrive in their Christian faith, Kellett said. “We often end up telling the villagers they do so much more for us, and they show us what it’s like to be true and faithful Catholics,” she said. “In every house, the most important thing is their altar, adorned with images of Jesus, Mary and the saints,” she said. “We always leave in tears.”

ChickenLadyKellett explained that the people they help actually give far more than they receive. “They show us how to smile in the midst of suffering,” she said. Kellett believes mission trips should raise awareness and understanding of social justice when others see the disparity between their lifestyle and of those living in extreme poverty. “This is what Pope Francis is calling us to do — to go out into the world and help those who are suffering,” she said.

Children from the Los Chaguites community in Jinotega, Nicaragua, give Sue Kellett a chicken in August 2015 as a token of their appreciation. “I felt bad taking this chicken,” Kellett said. “I had to humbly accept it, so they could feel the pleasure of giving.” Courtesy Sue Kellett