Texas: Three weekends of prayer and sharing
In Texas, a Baptist church hosted the meeting in Austin, a Methodist church the one in Dallas and participants gathered in an Episcopalian church in the large city of Houston.
One of the challenges of three weekends was to bring together people who do not normally meet. A brother tells about the last stage of the preparation of the meeting in Houston:
Hannah, a young Methodist, invited us to a neighborhood of Houston where many immigrants live. Some have recently arrived from Africa, Asia and elsewhere. Hannah is part of a small community: two young couples living in the neighborhood come together with her for prayer and some meals. They have become accustomed to be where children are playing. We went to this neighborhood for the evening meal, an time of sharing and a prayer. The authenticity of these young people, and their enthusiasm, is striking. They want to be people really be united to God and available to live the Gospel. They dare to speak of "spiritual disciplines" and live very simply.After dinner seven of us went in a car to go where the children play. The area is quite difficult. Large metal barriers separate the houses from the street. The metal gate opens for our car. Immediately children of all ages, all of various African origins, rush and scream the names of those they recognize in the car, "Daniel", "Russell", "Lindsay", "Hannah". A child asks, "How many are there in this car?" Another says: "At least a hundred!". We finally park and go into the house of Moses and his wife Grace. This is where we plan to pray together. Moses and Grace have eight children and arrived there eight months ago from North Kivu in the Congo. They speak little English. They are relieved to talk with us in French. They have beautiful faces, full of dignity. We cannot imagine what they went through in their wandering before arriving in a refugee camp in Burundi. Moses repeats: "It is a miracle that we are here." He walks on crutches. He has a foot in a cast. He took a bullet in his foot at the refugee camp in Burundi ten years ago and doctors have still not managed to fix his foot. He tells us several times: "I hope it will heal." And looking at these young Methodists: "They are my family."We wanted to pray together, but we did not know very well how to overcome the language barrier. I pulled from my bag the song book that we use in the church at Taizé. I looked at what we have in Kiswahili and we were able to sing "Laudate omnes gentes" in that language . Then Moses and his wife sang. A few days later, in the wealthy neighborhood where the church hosting for the Houston meeting is located, with happiness we see the arrival of Hispanic youth from poorer neighborhoods, and John, the son of Moses and Grace. He is accompanied by the young Methodists. They are his family ... they want to be together.
In Mexico, a Latin American meeting
In Mexico the most powerful moment was the last prayer in the vast basilica where the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, so significant for the people of Mexico, is found. As the Mexicans say: "We went to see our mother." In the history of Mexico and Latin America, the Virgin of Guadalupe brought together indigenous and Hispanic people, thanks to the Indian Juan Diego bringing his message of the merciful love of God for all people. In the full basilica, singing "Nada te turbe" was almost like an echo of the words Juan Diego heard during an apparition of the Virgin in 1531: "Let nothing worry you, let nothing disturb you."
Seventeen workshops in the afternoon allowed young people from throughout Latin America to deepen their path towards a new solidarity. The topics chosen by the Mexicans reflected the concerns of young people in a country marked by violence and the lack of solidarity in the distribution of wealth: "Security and Insecurity," "Mexico, land of migration," "I’m your friend with a disability - connect with me," "As a young person, am I in solidarity?"
Edgar (Guadalajara, Mexico)
We were greeted when we reached Mexico City with open arms and a big smile, as if people had always known us. For someone coming from the countryside, arriving in Mexico City always involves fear; there are always warnings from all sides and mistrust in one’s heart. But after our long journey, having experienced the first prayer at the Plaza Mariana with all participants, when we arrived at the parish of San Pedro Apostol, we were a little tired and we were touched to see that the families were waiting for us with joy.Spending these days in a neighborhood near Guadalupe was a gift to the heart; we could actually experience what the usual phrase in Mexico means: "My house is your house." Those who attended the meeting being, like me, from the countryside or from other places in the world can say they now have a home in Mexico City, a family that prays for them and for whom they pray.
Carlos (Colima, Mexico)
We came back from the meeting in Mexico City in a bus full of young pilgrims from around Colima. It was a good meeting, very special. A topic that was on everyone’s lips was the hospitality of the families. I received a very well organized welcome in the parish of San Cayetano. When we arrived at the parish, the families were already there and as soon as we entered they began to applaud. I was very touched by my host family: two young sisters welcomed me as well as a young man from Costa Rica. They really opened their hearts to us.I helped in the choir, playing the flute. It was very special to play for the prayers! Common prayer at the Basilica of Guadalupe was especially beautiful. Usually, the church is full of visitors, rather noisy, but this time it was dimly lit, filled, illuminated by candles and immersed in a great silence.
Photos of the meeting are available on line.