Otilio and Vicenta González live with their children and grandchildren. Because of that, eight people are crowded in one small house. Their little shelter isn’t very safe or healthy. It has a dirt floor and is mostly made of wooden planks with some concrete blocks at the base. They do their best to keep it nice, but it provides very little protection on cold and windy days. “We don’t feel safe because we are afraid, because the house is not well covered,” Vicenta said. “The children suffer. It is very cold in the mornings.” The family can remember many sad and scary moments inside the house. Recently, one of the grandchildren became so sick that the family was afraid he would not recover.
Otilio (seated right) and Vicenta (seated left) sit with their family outside their home. In an answer to prayer, their grandson (seen standing between them) recently recovered from a life-threatening illness.
“In the end, like a miracle, [my grandson] was cured … but it was serious. It was very worrying,” Otilio told us. “When I have a more dignified house, the children won’t get sick anymore. May God give us health and take care of us.”
The González family prays that they will someday have a safer home. Even though that day has not yet come, they look forward to it with joy — just as we look forward to the coming of Jesus! Advent is considered the darkness before the light, a season of longing and waiting for Christ to come. The first reading from the Third Sunday of Advent reminds us that there will be much gladness when Jesus returns, and he will take away all our fears. Until then, we can wait with joyous expectation, trusting that he will do everything he promised.
Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10 (NRSVCE)
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Guatemala is located in Central America. Use a map to learn the names of the countries in Central America and their locations. Then, test how many countries you can remember by filling in the map on this page.
Parents can set a dollar amount for each correct answer (e.g., $1 per country) and contribute the total to their child’s collection box or donate that amount below.
Make one of these meals for dinner this week. Parents, take a picture of the dish and tag us on social media using #AdventTransformation.
Many families in rural Guatemala eat rice, beans and tortillas every day. Make a batch of rice and beans for your family to eat as you learn more about Guatemala and the lives of the people we are serving!
• Vegetable oil or corn oil
• 1 small onion, diced
• 1-1/2 cups long-grain rice
• 1-1/2 cups water
• 1 can red beans or kidney beans
• 1 can coconut milk
• 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Add the uncooked rice and cook for two minutes, stirring to prevent burning.
Add the water and all remaining ingredients to the pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer gently for 15-25 minutes or until the rice is tender and the water has absorbed.
Remove the pan from the heat and fluff the rice with a fork. Cover and let rest for 3-5 minutes before serving. Add additional seasonings if desired.
For a heartier meal, try this traditional Guatemalan take on pork and beans. This slower-cooked meal takes a little time, but the results are worth your while!
Pick through the beans to remove any stones or debris and soak them in 4 cups of water with 1 teaspoon of salt for 4 hours. Once soaking is finished, rinse and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Cook until beans are soft but not mushy, 1 to 2 hours.
In a pot, add the pork meat, 3 cups of water and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook over medium heat until the meat is tender, about 1 hour. Drain. In the same saucepan fry the meat in its own grease for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.
Toast the tomatillos, tomatoes, garlic, onion and Chile guaque in a dry skillet over medium-low heat until lightly charred, 5 to 8 minutes.
Place the skillet contents into a blender with 2 tablespoons of the cooked beans, 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
Add the sauce from the blender to the meat and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Rellenitos de platano are a traditional Guatemalan street food made with plantains and black beans. Make these “donuts” for your family as a special sweet treat!
Wash the outer skin of the plantains and trim the ends off. Slice each plantain into four chunks with the skin on.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add the plantains and cinnamon stick. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes until plantain appears soft but not mushy.
Peel the plantains and remove the black seeds from the middle. Mash the plantains with a fork until smooth. Let cool.
In a pan, cook the refried beans with 2 tablespoons of water, 1 tablespoon of sugar and salt until the beans become soft and easy to mash. Mix until a paste forms. Taste and add more sugar if desired.
Guatemala has one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world, and almost one-half of its children under age 5 are chronically malnourished. This means they either don’t get enough nutritious food or they are too sick to absorb the food they need.
God wants his children to grow healthy and strong — and by working together, we can help them do that! Cross Catholic Outreach helps families like Vicenta’s by sending them meals, and with a safe home, their children and grandchildren will be healthier and benefit from those meals even more. When you help shelter vulnerable children, you give them so much more than a house — you also give them better health, greater joy and a brighter future!
*Fact Source: CIA World Factbook
1. The Third Sunday of Advent is also called Gaudete Sunday. “Gaudete” comes from the Latin word for “rejoice.” What is something that brings you joy? What makes you happy?
2. Try to remember the last time you were really excited about something. What were you looking forward to? Imagine how excited the González family might be about receiving a new home.
3. What are some ways that you can bring joy to other people? Think about both the people in your life and poor families in other countries. Consider putting one of the things you named into action this week.
Dear God, thank you that you have given us joy through Jesus. While we prepare to celebrate the joy of his birth, we also eagerly await the joy of his return. Please help us share this joy with those around us and with people who need it the most.
Comfort them with your love, and let your Holy Spirit work through us. Amen.
Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2023, the close of our ministry’s fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.