When Lorena Zamora said goodbye to everything and everyone she knew and loved in the States, it was one of the hardest things she had ever done. But her experience as a Salesian Lay Missioner in the impoverished region of Okinawa, Bolivia, has been the most rewarding by far.
Her favorite assignment is traveling to the rural communities on the outskirts of Okinawa three days a week. She immerses herself among the poorest of the poor – a world away from the comforts of her home country.
“The people here live very simply,” she reports. “Most of them work out in the farms, taking care of the cattle or the agricultural fields. The families live in houses made of mud with a rooftop of palm tree leaves. Most of the houses have only one room and there are about 15 people living in it. The restroom and shower are never inside but outside in the yard.”
She continues to describe the suffering by explaining, “There are also all the insects and rats you have to watch out for. We live in a perfect climate for mosquitoes – Okinawa has a really high Dengue epidemic – and many other weird looking creatures that are a real nuisance when they enter the homes.”
During her visits, Lorena spends time teaching at the local schools where kids ranging in age from 3 to 14 years are crammed into a single classroom. She also helps with monthly checkups and distributes much-needed food and gifts from caring sponsors around the world. She also enjoys playing games and singing with the children.
Bearing in mind the deplorable living conditions, Lorena is amazed by the warmth and friendliness of the people in Okinawa. “Everywhere you walk, everyone says hello. And my favorite are the kids jumping up and down, running up to you with the most loving hugs and yelling ‘Teacher, teacher’.”
Although Lorena went to Okinawa to teach and help others in need, she is receiving her own valuable lesson. “The people here have taught me so much about love, kindness, generosity and patience.
“I have also gained a great amount of courage, courage that might have been there before but I didn’t know I had. I feel that I am a stronger woman than before. I know now that I can overcome challenges with the grace of God and with my own inner strength, something I wasn’t really good at before. I am not afraid to step up to the plate and take the challenge. I feel that once I head back home, I will be able to do anything I set my mind to and nothing will stop me.”
As she explains the impact on her own life, Lorena finishes with a special request. “I ask you to pray for the people of Okinawa, who are so wonderful but have a really rough time surviving every day.”
The Salesian Lay Missioner program is just another example of your generosity at work. By making it possible for a willing young person to serve at one of our missions, you are having a positive ripple effect on many more needy children and families. Thank you for whatever you can give today to support these and other meaningful Salesian programs.
Find out more about the Salesian Lay Missioner program.