Coming home

November 5, 2007 at 6:31 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

Dear Loved Ones,

It is with happy anticipation that I announce the dates of my upcoming Christmas vacation! I hope to have the opportunity to see as many of you as possible. Be sure to leave some time in your busy schedules for me and let me know, especially you who live in Pennsylvania whether you’ve got any conflicts the week of my visit so that we can schedule around them.

My itinerary: I arrive to PA on the 7th and stay there until the 18th, on which day I’ll fly to Seattle, where I will remain (shivering and wrapped in blankets) until I return to Accra on the 6th of January (where I will melt in a pool of sweat during the return of the warmest season of the year).

It’s hard to believe that I’m in my 7th month here and that I’m going home soon. Life has been busy as usual lately and I find that I don’t have that much that I need to communicate to you right now. Rather I look forward to sharing in person the lessons that we are learning on this journey together.

I’d like to thank you heartily for your prayers on the fellowship front. In my ever-pesistent search to keep my growing spiritual hunger pangs at bay, I have come across the fabulous world of Catholic podcasting. Oh, what a wonderful world it is! Check it out, and check out other podcasts that may be in a vein more personally suited to you.

In the middle of days and weeks of sometimes repetitive and tedious technical file reviews, I’m suddenly whisked away to a veritable buffet table of lofty, spiritual concepts, loving voices of faith and knowledge and issues that I care and pray about, all wrapped up in a palatable, familiar and humorous Western style and mode of communication. I give thanks to God for the wonderful and committed talent that’s out there and it gives my spirit the lift that it so needs to continue my daily spiritual and vocational responsibilities. Thanks for your prayers on this! I’m also moving ahead at finding and establishing a mature, stable faith community here. I’ve been trying to start a bible study for some months. Retention and commitment can be hard qualities to find here in Ghana including honest intentions on the part of some men, so I stay realistic but it’s looking more and more as if that may happen.

I would also like to share an update with you on Kwame. Trying to make contact with street children is a funny thing. You can’t ring a doorbell or call a phone number when you want to get in touch. Because of their migratory patterns in daily search of food or work, they may not be in the place you first met them at the time you met them before. It takes a couple tries sometimes until you can make contact.

I headed back in search of Kwame a couple weeks ago after losing touch and met up with some of his friends. Thank you for your prayers friends. They told me that Kwame’s mother or family had come back to retrieve him and that he was now with them. One down, many more to go…. I asked these boys whether they were going to school and where, how they were living, etc. They said that there was a nice, German woman that was teaching them and, figuring that would be a helpful contact to make spiritually and maybe vocationally, and wanting to be involved somehow in their lives, I asked if they could take me to their school. We all jumped into a cab and along the way the driver asked me who I was. In what will be one of my my more favorite memories one of the boys said, “She is our mother.” And not missing a beat I joyfully piped up, “Yes I am!” feeling quite maternal and fond of them, thankful for their immediate and generous love for me.

The German woman named Silke wasn’t there but I was told when I could come back to meet her. When I came back she again wasn’t there but I was able to leave my phone number. I don’t know how it works on other continents aside from this one and the one from which I come, but here, you will never get anything done if you expect it to work perfectly the first time. Trust and persistence are needed in spades and I look forward with anticipation to the fruit that I will bear in the coming years of my life, as a result having learned to embrace these qualities in a constant effort to follow the One who leads me on.

Whenever I come into contact with brothers, sisters, ministers, missionaries, priests, pastors – anyone who has given their life over to others in selfllessness, like Silke and Br. Jos, renouncing riches and comfort for poverty and service. I feel that I’m in the presence of something I could never compete with, facing another’s daunting achievement that I will never achieve. I have not taken formal vows of poverty and obedience and I wonder whether I would ever have the courage to. Where am I going with this? Simply put, I’m so thankful for the support that all of you offer me.

Sharing my experiences with the poor here is not done to elevate myself. I look at the lives of brave men and women who have given up so much more than me and I marvel at their persistence and strength; at their vast stores of spiritual wealth. On a macro-spiritual level, what I have done is precious little compared with those who are acquainted with true sacrifice. I think about the eternal wedding banquet often these days and believe that it is these people and the ones they serve who will have the seats of honor at the head of the table. It is I who will be seated somewhere near the end. However, (and I think this next thought holds the key to maintaining a joyful, hopeful attitude in the midst of overwhelming poverty or injustice ): On a micro-spiritual level, that is, measured on the scale of my own life, what I have done and do to seek out the neglected materially poor, or the apathetically spiritually poor it is not precious little! Every effort is a resounding hymn of praise, a fragrant offering to God and helps me to become more fully the saint that Love intends me to be.

Spontaneous reflection of wonder: If God is love, why don’t we call Him that?

My favorite recent definition of a saint heard in the homily on All Saint’s Day: “A saint is someone who is simply learning to fall more and more in love with God every day”.

Thank you again for your faithfulness and company on my journey. I leave on November 18th for three weeks of refugee processing again in Ivory Coast so please pray for me and for the refugees that they may be safely permitted to travel to Abidjan to interview and for adequate rest for us as as we work long and full days interviewing them, determining case composition (who may stay on the case) and preparing their files.

I added a few new quotes to my quote page. They’re gems I extracted from a book I recently read titled, “The Letters and Diaries of Etty Hillesum”, lent to me by a friend here who’s now going back to Canada. In short, Etty is a young Jewish woman who died in Auschwitz at the age of 28. An aspiring writer, she wrote faithfully in journals about her life as a Jew in the Netherlands in the early 1940’s. What is remarkable about her is that, though she was not raised to practice any particular faith, she quickly came in touch with Love as the guiding force of our universe and turned to the Bible for guidance. She was a mystic who lived the values of love, peace and forgiveness toward all, in an courageous, tireless and unapologetic way. She refused to give into hatred toward the occupying German force that imposed increasingly impossible and strangling restrictions on Jewish life and movement – even when everyone around her did. Instead she fancied having conversations with German soldiers wherein she would recognize their humanity in gentle love and force them to recognize hers. She purposefully stayed in touch with all that makes life beautiful and this was a familiar refrain for her, “Despite everything, life is still beautiful”. The more her life and health became impaired, the more time she spent serving her fellow Jews. Right at the time when reality was crumbling around her and all was cruel madness. Rather than leave or go into hiding, something perfectly reasonable and sane to do under the circumstances, she stayed and served her people, assisting on Jewish committees that tried not to but nevertheless were forced at times to assist the occupying forces with their anti-Jewish campaign.

She was no saint in the stereotypical way that we can imagine holy people to be. She struggled with all the same things we do and sometimes she didn’t even struggle that much, but no matter. For me she was the Mary of the Prison Camps, and how she honored her holy ancestor. She continued to be at the service of her people even after finally being interned herself. She never saw herself as a victim and that is how she rose above the madness and chaos, glorifying God as a beautiful and strong young woman, full of unwavering hope and faith in God and humanity; even in its darkest hour.

Can we really not do the same in far more safe and comfortable surroundings?

No fun facts to share at this time. I was hoping to have a great, cheesy song uploaded for you to listen to but my blogsite doesn’t like the file type so I’ll have to save that for a future post and entertain you instead in person with a funny story or two.

Your sister soldier,
Grace

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