Josef Kurzmann

El Salvador, Sozialdienst 2021

My name is Josef Kurzmann, I am 21 years old and come from Fernitz-Mellach in Styria. There I grew up on a farm and also graduated from an agricultural school. Through a friend I learned about the (catholic) Open Heart Community and immediately felt drawn to it. After a long period of preparation in the association, I flew to El Salvador together with Paul Eberhart on October 3, 2021. There my new community brothers and sisters were waiting for me: Joanna from Poland, Luz from Argentina and Selen from Turkey, not to mention the intense heat and the beautiful landscape, which struck us immediately.

On the very first day, upon arriving in the shantytown in the capital that would then be my home for many months, I felt affection and warmth of heart in my welcome. The children became my first friends and playmates there. Looking back, they were also my great teachers when it comes to language, patience, trust, simplicity and peculiarities in the culture. Especially in the early weeks, there was often a chance for a game of Uno, catch or Monopoly. When I think back today, so many wonderful friendships have come from just that. The beauty of the mission with Open Heart is humanity.

Slowly my friends got older, I mean, after a few weeks I visited more and more teenagers, later adults and families and towards the end of my mission the old and the weak. In general, I liked and wanted to visit them all every day and this effect simply came from the empathy and the continuous improvement of my Spanish. All these small meetings were always in the simplicity of the charism of Open Heart, which is simply the presence that I gave there for free. Precisely that presence that gives someone a counterpart; I listened, watched and did not hide. We, as an international, small house community, have so often encountered suffering: When Don Jeppe (95) passed away, when Uli (19) lost his job, when our neighbor Fernando (8) showed us his scars that he has to bear because of the violence of his grandmother and his playmates, and also when Danilo (38) was taken to prison. We were allowed to pray with Virginia and whisper very small words of comfort to her when her granddaughter passed away. At the same time, we were also able to share moments of joy, celebrating and laughing with old and young, at birthday parties or just having fun with the little things.

Thus, this time will remain unforgettable for me and will continue to shape me in thinking about it. I was able to learn to forgive, to be patient, to trust, to rest and to exercise, to speak and understand Spanish, also to contemplate and to pray more deeply. In the encounter, that is about love, being loved and accepting, being accepted, there is a wonderful treasure, often dormant, but it is possible to awaken it, in the friends from this foreign, distant country, in you, in me.

Today I benefit from my service because giving always bears fruit. I can’t keep what happened to myself and I talk about it, I think about it. Honestly, my missionary service there has become a key piece of the puzzle in my life, and it will certainly become clear in which direction it will continue for me.

I am currently working on my home farm mainly in direct marketing and forestry work. At the beginning of March, I will start studying geosciences in Graz. 

Gracias a Dios por el tiempo en El Salvador!