Missionaries prepare to learn and share

One is 20 years old. Another is 80. They are the youngest and oldest among 25 people preparing to live and work this summer with people in Guatemala as part of the archdiocese’s annual IXIM (pronounced ee-sheem) mission trip.
“Opening myself up to a completely different culture and lifestyle will be a great learning experience,” said first-time missionary Olivia Beaulieu, a sophomore and special education major at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. 
Also a first-time missionary, Juanita (last name withheld for privacy), a retired nurse, said she, too, looks forward to getting to know the people of San Miguel and being part of their everyday lives. 
 “I’ve been given the strength and the health, so I decided this is something I should do,” she said. “I think the Lord is guiding me to do this, and I look forward to getting to know the people and being involved in their lives.”
In its 15th year, the mission trip will return to San Miguel Acatán June 21 through July 2, said Mark Zimmer, director of IXIM: Spirit of Solidarity, a partnership between the Archdiocese of Omaha and the Diocese of Huehuetenango. 
The program is a response to St. Pope John Paul II’s call for solidarity between wealthy and developing nations. IXIM, the Mayan word for corn, which is a staple crop for the Guatemalan people, underscores the connection between them and the Nebraska missionaries.
Beyond helping people with basic needs such as clean water, nutrition and medical care, the mission trips build relationships and solidarity between cultures, Zimmer said.
By living in their homes, missionaries build friendships with the Guatemalan people.
“We help them shoulder their struggles, and they help us open our hearts and minds by sharing their lives and their deeply devout faith,” he said. “It’s a real eye opener.”
For Beaulieu, interest in IXIM began as a young child. The Omaha native and member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Omaha said her aunt took part in the 2005 trip and brought her along to IXIM fundraising events.
“As I got older and saw some of the pictures my aunt had taken, I became more interested,” she said. “Last year, my aunt and cousin went, and I heard what a good experience it was, so I was very determined to go this year.”
Beaulieu said she expects the trip to enhance her spirituality. “It’s going to be amazing to see how another culture worships and praises God, and how other people experience God in their everyday lives. 
“A lot of people think that when you go on a mission trip you’re going to help people in need, when in reality you’re going to learn from them and have those learning experiences integrated into your own life,” she said.
Juanita, a member of St. Cecilia Parish in Omaha, retired nearly five years ago from a nursing career that included serving as an operating room nurse, a contract nurse traveling the country and a U.S. Army Reserve nurse.
She learned about IXIM last year through her parish bulletin.
“Ironically, the Scripture reading that day was the parable of the three servants who were given talents to use,” she said. “I’ve had years of experience as a nurse and I thought, maybe this was a way to contribute, and I thought it would be a learning experience.”
Notre Dame Sister Mary Kay Meagher is helping the missionaries prepare. Involved with IXIM since 2005, including 11 mission trips, she joined the leadership team in 2012 and conducts monthly formation sessions for the missionaries from January through June. 
A key message is that missionaries will gain much from the experience.
“I’ve been fortunate to have many opportunities to be involved in different cultures,” she said. “What really attracted me to IXIM was the focus on solidarity, which is more than just going down there to do or to give, but it’s a sharing, not only what I bring but what I receive.
“It allows me to better enter into the Christian experience with my brothers and sisters. I receive more than I ever give,” she said. 
And solidarity is the key, Zimmer said. “We’re all brothers and sisters in Christ, we all belong to the same human family. We should be accompanying each other in dealing with the realities of our lives here and their lives there.”
Sign up for weekly updates and news from the Archdiocese of Omaha!
This is default text for notification bar