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Finding the way (삶과 죽음을 대하는 자세)

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Finding the way (삶과 죽음을 대하는 자세_English) In Haiti Kkottongnae, there are two freezers used to store dead bodies until they can be buried in the cemetery. An elderly lady passed away a day or two before I arrived at Kkottongnae, so I was able to watch how Kkottongnae missionaries take care of those who have been taken by death. According to Sr. Matthias, Haitians are extremely fearful of touching dead bodies. They believe that doing so will bring bad luck. At the beginning of her mission in Haiti, when a patient passed away at Sante(ICU), not one of the Haitian staff working there would help prepare the body for burial. They refused to help with any of the preparations that required them to touch the dead body—tasks like washing the body and changing the clothes of the deceased, which sometimes meant cleaning up fecal waste. Also, things like closing the eyes had to be done, and placing a rolled-up towel under the chin of the deceased before the body became brittle and the mouth lodged open. These were all tasks that the Haitian staff did not want to do because of their cultural beliefs. But the Korean missionaries diligently showed them how to prepare the body for burial, and over time, the Haitian staff gradually became more comfortable and more involved in the preparation process.   The Kkottongnae missionaries also noticed that the elderly of the village struggled with the weight of their sorrow when faced with the loss of a companion and with the fear that death that may come next for them. The missionaries wished to help these elderly people understand that death is a sad good-bye for us on Earth, but it is also a great blessing for the person who is returning to God in heaven. So the missionaries taught the elderly in Kkottongnae the Korean traditional prayer called Yeon-do, a group prayer said after death. During the Yeon-do, the group offers up a continuous prayer for the souls of those returning to God, so they will receive God’s mercy and peace. I was able to join a group of the elderly people at Kkottongnae after they finished Yeon-do for a lady who had passed away several days earlier. They were sharing some snacks and tea with the sound of a live drum beating in the background. Some of the elderly were dancing, and I saw the young boy Tiga among them. He was running about the auditorium, excited by the sound of the drum. His eyes were wide open and he looked as if he was about to drool from his half-open mouth. One young man sitting in a chair grabbed Tiga tightly by the arm and tried to stop him from running around. But Sr. James swiftly approached the young man and asked him to let go of Tiga’s arm.    The next day, we went to a cemetery located along the busy market street. Although open to the public at one time, the cemetery was now separated from the street by a concrete wall. Fr. Thaddeus and some of the men carried the casket into the cemetery. A group of people standing at the corner followed us in. We stopped in front of a tomb made of cement. Beside the tomb was an old broken casket, empty. I asked Fr. Thaddeus where the old casket was from. He said that tombs were shared. When the remains of the previously buried body has been reduced to bones, its casket is taken out of the tomb. The old casket is then discarded, but not before the bones are placed back in the tomb along with the new body in a new casket. This process is repeated over and over again. The workers deposited the casket in the tomb and closed the tomb entrance. Fr. Thaddeus then prayed over the tomb. As we were about to leave, Br. Peter pointed and said there was a damaged crucifix headstone not far away. So we walked over to the headstone and saw that the corpus of Jesus on the cross had both arms cut off and He was stained red from head to toe. Fr. Thaddeus said the cross had been vandalized by adherents of Voodoo on Easter Sunday and that the red stain was the blood of an animal. I was standing there, gazing at Jesus, feeling helpless. On the way out we saw a group of Voodoo adherents preparing a ceremony in front of a black cross. I couldn’t help but imagine them cutting the arms off of Jesus and dousing him in animal blood. As we were leaving the cemetery, I noticed a young woman walking in front of me. She was one of the group of people who had been following us since we had arrived. She wore a pair of old slippers on her feet, but the back half of the soles were torn and missing, so both of her heels were clearly visible to me. I stopped her quietly, pointing to my shoes and asking if she wanted them. She shook her head and said something I did not understand.  But I understood her hand gesture, asking for money. Since I did not have any money with me, I asked her again if she wanted my shoes. But again, she shook her head, no. I thought about the life of the Kkottongnae missionaries while we drove back to Kkottongnae village in the van. They go out to the streets and to the hospital to look for people who need help. The missionaries bring them to Kkottongnae and wash them, feed them, treat their wounds and diseases and accept them as a family. The missionaries also take care of handicapped children who have been abandoned by their own families. In a sense, these children start a new life with new parents in the village. The six missionaries of Kkottongnae walk with God every day. They listen to His voice, see the world through His eyes, and live—like Him—with a heart full of love and compassion. They create hope when there is no hope. They make us believe that maybe this world can still be warm and bright thanks to their abounding love and sacrifice.

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아이티 꽃동네 (Haiti_Kkottongnae)

’꽃동네’는 사랑의 결핍 때문에 가정과 사회로부터 버림받아 길가에서 다리 밑에서 아무 말 없이 죽어가는 ’의지할 곳 없고 얻어먹을 수 있는 힘조차 없는’ 분들을 따뜻이 맞아들여 먹여주고 입혀주고 치료해주며, 하느님의 사랑을 알고 살다가 돌아가시면 장례해드리는 데까지 보살펴드리는 사랑과 구원의 공동체입니다.

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