Faces of mission – Kathy Cleveland

| October 6, 2010 | 0 Comments

Kathy Cleveland grew up in Burnsville and attended Mary Mother of the Church with her family. Her missionary service did not begin until 1998, when she was married with three children and went to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. After taking her first trip to Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos in Guatemala in 2004, Cleveland has accompanied many youth groups from Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Holy Family Catholic High School on mission trips around the U.S. and South America. Cleveland and her family attend St. Therese in Deephaven.

How did you become interested in missionary work?

Kathy Cleveland

During my younger years, I had little interest in mission trips. Family vacations were pretty much what you would expect: road trips, ski trips and trips to the beach. Until one day, our oldest son Sam came home and told me that he signed me as a chaperone on a five-day mission trip that he was required to complete in order to be confirmed. That was the beginning of mission work for me. Christ had a plan for timid me and he knew we had to start with baby steps .

How was your service connected to your faith? What did it teach you about faith?

Growing up I was very shy and insecure. God’s love and grace for me transformed me to who I am today: his humble servant.

I have learned to share my faith with young people by serving on many mission trips around the U.S. But God continued to stretch me even further, to remote parts of Central America.

Now I spend summer vacations at the home of the 375 children of Nuestros Pequeños Hermonos in Guatemala. NPH is the permanent home to orphaned and abandoned children. For several years I have led or accompanied high school juniors and seniors from Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Holy Family Catholic High School to the home of the Guatemalan children that now feels like my own. I cannot think of a more blessed way to spend my summer vacations then helping these two cultures blend as one. The students come back changed and it is a gift to be a part of that process.

I also sponsor two beautiful girls who live at NPH Guatemala, Wendy, 17, and her sister Leticia, 14. We have been writing back and forth since the first time we met at Mass at NPH. I feel in my heart that God put us together. Lettie and Wendy lost their mother when they were very young, and their father could not care for them. Their new home at NPH rescued them from the streets of the city, and I was blessed to become their godmother through a sponsorship program through Friends of the Orphans Minnesota.

Talk about one memorable story from your life as a missionary.

In September 2009, Juan Cutzil, also a resident of NPH, showed brilliant potential, and the home wanted to give him an opportunity to study in the U.S. So, on Sept. 3, 2009, Juan showed up at my door. He lived with our family for the entire school year as he enjoyed and succeeded at Benilde-St. Margaret’s. Oh, we all suffered our ups and downs, but we stuck to it and we made it a good year. On June 13, I escorted Juan and about 25 other Holy Family students back to Juan’s home at NPH Guatemala.

I thought I was going to leave Juan back at NPH, fly home and get on with my life. But once again, God had another plan for me. We have all heard the adage that you must be careful for what you pray for. Well, that held true last June for me. My prayer was that Juan would some day open up and share with me his hopes and dreams. That prayer came true and more. I spent most of my recent trip with Juan. He opened up to me and we talked freely for hours. He shared his deepest pain as a street kid in the city and we became very close. It was very difficult to leave Guatemala and return home. As I left Juan, he hugged me and said “you’re like the mother I was praying for.” Juan and I e-mail a few times each week, mostly reflections, but often what is on our minds. Of course I told him I would be his Minnesota mom, but no one can take the place of his birth mom. She did the best she could.

What was the most important lesson you learned from your experience?

I found I could make a difference by taking baby steps during those times that Christ was holding my hand and leading me.

Friends orchestra to perform

Children from Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (Our Little Brothers and Sisters) orphanage in Guatemala will perform at various locations from Oct. 8 to Oct. 19.

The tour is sponsored by Friends of the Orphans. Many local churches and parishioners sponsor children, donate funds and volunteer for the organization, which was founded in 1954 by the late Father William Wasson. Currently, 3,600 children are living in NPH homes in Mexico, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Peru. Learn more about this mission at the following events:

• Oct. 8: Orchestra performance at Our Lady of Grace in Edina, 6:30-8 p.m.
• Oct. 10: Orchestra performance and day in the life of a pequeño at St. Ambrose in Woodbury, noon.
• Oct. 15: Orchestra performance and day in the life of a pequeño at St. John Neumann in Eagan, 6 p.m.
• Oct. 16: Orchestra performance at St. Hubert in Chanhassen, 6:15 p.m.
• Oct. 19: Orchestra performance at University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, 7 p.m.

For more information about the homes and the NPH mission, visit http://www.friendsoftheorphans.org.

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Category: World Mission Sunday