By Blessed Sacrament staff/ SUN contributing writers
Deep between the scenic mountains and crystal lakes of Guatemala lives Carlos. Although a teenager, Carlos lives the life of a man many years his senior. Instead of school and hobbies, Carlos works 14-hour days, seven days a week, struggling to help his mother and two younger siblings to survive amidst an environment of poverty. Oceans away, in Binghamton, N.Y. lives Mirtie Sessler. Though worlds apart from Carlos, the two connected several years ago through the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA) and both lives are the better for it.
For the past eight years, Sessler, a parishioner of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Binghamton, has sponsored Carlos through CFCA. Each month, she faithfully sends the agency $20 which is used to provide him with medical care, food, clothing and other necessities that are scarce in his homeland. In May 2003, she had the unique opportunity to travel to Guatemala for one week during a CFCA mission awareness trip. There Sessler met the boy whom, though she had never met, she considered a son. “Meeting Carlos and his family was the most wonderful experience of my life,” said Sessler. “We had shared letters and pictures but to finally meet was remarkable. It is impossible to put into words how inspiring the trip was.”
The CFCA is a lay Catholic organization creating relationships between sponsors in the U.S. and children and elderly people in developing nations around the world. The mission awareness trip that Sessler participated in introduces sponsors to the cities and villages where CFCA works to serve the poor. “The trip exposes sponsors to the work of our mission so they can see what CFCA is doing directly,” said Christina Sell, who works for CFCA. “It is extremely moving to meet these people face to face.”
While in Guatemala, Sessler and the dozen other people who traveled to the country from across the U.S. stood at a CFCA mission site. Guatemala, known as “the Land of Eternal Springtime,” was breathtaking, said Sessler. However, entrapped in the picturesque surroundings is a suffering country with widespread pollution and environmental destruction. Despite the circumstances, the Guatemalans are a very faithful and happy people, said Sessler. “Though faced with nothing, they have so much love inside them –– their hearts are always singing. That right there is Guatemala,” Sessler said, pointing to a picture of a Guatemalan woman wearing a brightly-colored scarf and a brightly-colored smile to match.
Sessler, a foster mother, has a special place in her heart for children. The walls of her house that she shares with her husband, Nelson, are decorated with pictures marking milestones in Carlos’ life. Other photos displayed throughout the Sessler home include those of another little girl from Africa whom she also sponsors through CFCA and the foster children that she has taken into her home and loved over the years. The money Sessler sends Carlos through CFCA, which she refers to as “coffee money” –– because it is such a small amount for such a worthwhile cause –– has helped his family immeasurably. She even convinced her daughter and son-in-law to sponsor Carlos’ siblings. “It is easy to get carried away with something like CFCA when you really believe in it and see firsthand how much good it does,” Sessler explained.
Someday, Carlos hopes to fulfill the dream of his deceased father and become an accountant. A letter he wrote to Sessler reflected this sentiment. “I am very grateful to you for all that you have done for me,” Carlos wrote. “When I become a professional I will follow your example to help those who are in need of this.” Sessler is confident that one day Carlos will see his dream come true. Until then, she eagerly awaits the day when she can add another picture –– this time, of Carlos in a graduation cap –– to her wall.
For more information about CFCA visit their website at www.cfcausa.org