Q&A with Mission Staff Visiting the US

We recently concluded a historic event in Kansas City. We celebrated 25 years of Strickland Construction building in San Lucas. Strickland has constructed 50 buildings, including community centers, schools, churches and spaces for non-profits. It is a remarkable and impactful legacy. Thank you to Rogers and Peg Strickland for decades of service to the people of San Lucas!

The event was also historic because we raised over $1.8 million to support the work of the Mission! This is the most we have ever raised in a fundraising event. It is a testimony to the faithful and deep commitment to the work of the Mission by hundreds of you. Our hearts are full of deep gratitude for all your support. Thank you!

As part of the event we were able to bring Julio César Morales and Veronica Ajcot, the Director and Assistant Director of the Construction Program to Minnesota and then to Kansas City. It was their first trip to the U.S. and they were delightful travelers, full of curiosity and enthusiasm. Read on to learn more about their trip.

Question: If someone approaches you in San Lucas to ask about your trip to the U.S., what would you say?

JC: This is such a big country. We thought everything would be close together, but the towns are so far apart. It’s very surprising. During this trip, we’ve driven long distances to new towns, and then they begin to talk about San Lucas in each of these places! It’s moving.

Veronica: It’s the same for me. It’s a very big country, with such beautiful houses, and it’s so developed and with many conserved forests. There’s still lots of conserved land here in various states. In Guatemala, many large areas have been deforested.

Question: Have there been any other surprises in this trip?

JC: I imagined that there would be more people working on the farms we’ve visited. There are very few people working on vast farms, and I believe this is due to the usage of machines. Another thing that surprised me, and perhaps this is due to the weather, is that there is not much activity in the streets, not many children outside playing. At home in San Lucas, there are children and animals and lots of activity outdoors in the streets, but here it is not like that. I even wondered if the homes are not occupied, but I learned that they are, and people just spend more time inside of their homes. It’s also amazing how people of different denominations and religions in the U.S. can get together and unite behind a shared cause like supporting San Lucas. In Latin America, there’s so much division between doctrines, and there can be a lot of conflict. It’s very special to see Rogers [Strickland] practicing as a Methodist together with Fr. Phil [Schotzko], a Catholic priest, finding a shared sense of faith and purpose.

Veronica: The modernization of this country is impressive. It’s amazing to see how that creates more advancement and efficiency in construction and other industries. I even learned about self-checkouts in supermarkets. Everything is automated here. It’s also remarkable how you all have adapted to the climate—how the people can manage each season and tolerate the dramatic changes in weather. I also noted how the people are very hardworking and disciplined here. I like that.

Question: What was your favorite part of your trip?

JC: It was everything! Each day was so special. Getting to know so many people and places, it would be difficult to choose just one thing. It was amazing to be welcomed by Bill [Peterson] in his home, and then to go to the FOSL Office in Eagan and see so many old friends and familiar faces in one place. That was an unforgettable moment. We thought there would maybe be 2 or 3 people there, people who work in that office, but it was so much more. It made us feel so special, and we really appreciated it.

Veronica: It would be really difficult to choose one favorite thing, because everything was so great. We had experiences that we never would have in Guatemala, like seeing and learning about construction machinery like excavators and bulldozers that we do not have in our community. Everyone was so nice and hospitable with us, and we’re grateful for that. But I think the most impactful thing for me was going to the New Ulm Cathedral and feeling the connection to Fr. Greg there.

Question: What have you learned about Friends of San Lucas during your visit and the relationship between our two organizations?

JC: It’s amazing to see the goodwill of so many people who donate money and raise funds for San Lucas. There’s such a special friendship between us. I really value the time and energy that goes into the work of Friends of San Lucas. To see how it all works was incredible. There is a lot of goodness in people.

Veronica: I’m also very impressed by the work. I learned that FOSL only has six full-time staff members, but there’s so much work. And I learned that many of the people on the board, who do lots of work, are actually volunteers. It’s not an obligation for them, but something that they do out of the goodness of their hearts. And they continue supporting us over the course of many years. And there are even people here who have never been to Guatemala, but still donate and support us.

To see a slideshow of photos from the celebration weekend, click here.

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