STIERMAN: Spring is a time for renewal and mission

May 11, 2021

The rain came down in sheets as students huddled under the building. It was not the first time the school had flooded and would likely not be the last.

In October 2011, the whole neighborhood flooded. The upper floors of the school buildings quickly became refugee camps for the many families whose homes became unlivable.
But the students knew how to survive. And they would find their way through the current crisis as well.

It had started with a fever and chills, as the family described how they lost their grandmother to COVID-19. The city was on lockdown to slow the illness. Families with even-numbered IDs could send one family member to shop for groceries on certain days, with odd-numbered IDs on other days.

The teachers had prepared lesson packages for the students’ last in-person day. It was enough to keep them going for two weeks until an early spring break would begin.
The teachers had one month to figure out what to do next; their minds buzzing as they started down the path towards distance learning.

Typically, the hat maker would wake up at dawn and head to the city to sell his Colombian hats to the many tourists that flocked to beautiful Cartagena each year. No need to wake up so early today.

The streets were quiet. The tourists had all gone home. It was time to develop a new plan for putting food on the table for dinner. Many in the neighborhood were struggling with the same issue.

And in Kingwood, our St. Martha Mission Ministry was working on what we could do to help these families. The first order of business, to help with critical emergency food relief. The families are highly resourceful, but it would take some time, and we needed to help them through the gap.

Fast forward one year.

Things are looking much brighter. The first signs of spring are in the air in Kingwood. Azaleas are in full bloom, and the pollen wars have begun in earnest. A time for renewal, for new growth, and an opportunity to see the beauty of the world we live in.

And in Colombia, the schools will go back to in-person classes over the next few months. The teachers have done an amazing job creating effective distance learning. 96% of the students graduated to the next level, no small feat given that most families do not have computers.

It is amazing what can be done with cell phones, local print shops and a little creativity.

And the hat maker and his family are doing ok as well. During the pandemic, they started a little motorcycle wash in front of their home to help cover the cost of food and services. They plan to resume selling their handcrafted hats following the Easter break.

There are still many challenges to overcome. In early March, Colombia had only 1 million vaccine doses for a population of 50+ million. Many families are just getting by, but they have incredible strength and hope for the future!

We recently asked the families in Colombia how we can help. Their dream is for their children to continue to attend the Christian schools that our mission teams have supported over the years.

The strong education based on Christian principles, strong academics, individual leadership, and accountability is how their children will break free from the cycle of poverty in their communities.

On Saturday, May 22, St. Martha Catholic Church in Kingwood is hosting a virtual concert with Colombian food and a live watch party on the plaza to support these families and the school. If you are interested in supporting our efforts, you can go to the following link to learn more:
https://stmartha-streets-of-cartagena.squarespace.com/

And on Sept. 11, our St. Martha mission trips will resume with an amazing week of ministry in beautiful Cartagena.

God is good! 

Terry Stierman is the executive director of Conviventia and member of the Archdiocesan Mission Council.