Pilgrims' Potpourri

Reflections on our journey with God

An Oasis for Lost Boys November 5, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 1:57 pm


In the movie Peter Pan, Pete Pan and Tinker Bell visit the island of the lost boys, A place for orphans. Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, has over 300,000 boys living on the streets, many of them living their lives at the underpasses of the cities arterial highways.  These boys as young as five live with the other homeless who inhabit this major city.   They are subjected to predators of all kinds.  It is hard to imagine being so young and having to fend for myself in this world. 

The Little sisters of St. Francis Assisi offer an alternative to street life for these street orphans   Kweli Home of Hope  provides a residence, three meals a day, and an opportunity for these boys to experience a loving, safe and nurturing home. 

The boys greeted us with a warm welcome and after introductions put on a show that could make the YouTube top charts.   They danced, rapped, Recited poems and even did some acrobatics in a small room crammed full. One of the boys read a poem about happiness. A line from that poem and the way that young man read it is etched in my memory. He said happiness is here and now -don’t wait for it to come later.  What a profound bit of wisdom coming from the mouth of a boy who had experienced such frightening conditions on the streets.  

When the entertainment ended The boys invited us white folk to get up and dance with them. While I was unable to do the sophisticated moves they did with every limb of their body, I did my best to keep up with a mixture of Lebonese, Italian, and rock ‘n’ roll dancing.  They laughed as I tried to imitate their moves and for a few moments we just celebrated the joy of being free to move our bodies to the rhythmic beat of the music.  

As we were about to leave, the boys presented us with wrist bracelets that they had made of simple beads. Each bracelet was individualized with our names.  

The plan is to move this house of hope to a rural area just outside of Nairobi where the boys will be engaged in a variety of agriculture activities and have a little more space than they have now.  It is  hoped that this environment will offer them a refuge from the harshness of the city and a place to experience the simple joys of God’s good earth 

In his ministry Jesus walked to the places where the poor, forgottenand lost people of  his world Lived to offer healing and hope and a safe harbor in God’s reign. This is what the good news is all about. And Jesus shared the truth that every person on this planet is God’s beloved son or daughter.  Thatis what the little sisters of St. Francis do at this home of hope for the lost boys of  Nairobi.  It is no coincidence that the name Kweli means truth in Swahili   

Prayer for this day:  Jesus, refuge of the lost and broken hearted, give me the grace to be a refuge for all who are discarded and marginalized in my little corner of this world.  And help me to be an instrument to bring your justice and truth to reign on this fragile planet.  Amen

 

Eyes that do not see-ears that do not hear November 3, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 4:39 am

Journey to Africa. November 2, 2016

Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? (Mark 8:18)
On all saints day after celebrating mass with the African sisters of the immaculate heart, we visited a residential service for deaf children.When the gates to the program was opened and we walked through to the grounds, about 75 children of all ages ran toward us. They greeted us with overflowing joy, smiling faces and an energy and excitement that was irresistible. After this warm welcome they put on a performance of dance and song to entertain us.  

I sat down with a small group of children. I used my cell phone and the few signs I know to communicate with the kids. They absolutely loved reading my questions and answering them as well as asking me some questions.
  They especially liked it when I took their pictures on my cell phone and then show them what they looked like.I also spent some time doing some tricks with the little rocks I found under the tree where we gathered in the warm African sun. The kids were fascinated by my hair and wanted to touch it. They also did what all kids do and laughed heartily at my silly antics. 

One of the boys asked me in sign languageif I could take him home with me. His pure innocence and openness opened me eyes and ears to see. The gospel words of Jesus came alive. This Young boy wanted to take a selfie with me and so I have attached Pat to this post. My experience at this wonderful Haven for children with special needs reminded me of all my life experience with people who are special. While the world often sees people with disabilities as people with deficits and who are in need, I have always seen Them as people can offer something to this world if only we have eyes to see and ears to hear. Maybe this is why Jesus told his followers to let the children come to him. Jesus saw in there innocent faces the goodness and purity of heart with which God created them and wanted his followers to open their eyes to see the same.  

Prayer for this day: Lord give me the gift of holy simplicity. Let me see in the little ones, the little of body the little of mind and a little of wealth, your spirit. Open my eyes and ears to receive the good news from those who live life on the margins and work for just us so that all the little ones may have a place at the table of plenty. Amen.

 

 Life turned upside down November 2, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 6:21 pm

        October 31 2016. 

        A world turned Upside down 

        I have been in Africa for 11 days. We have visited many different sites,travelled through large cities,walked through slums and met people from many different tribes and cultures. In a sea of black faces our little group of white pilgrims stands out. 
        Despite our minority status here I have never experienced any prejudice, mistrust or fear in the eyes or actions of the people. They have much to be out angry about. The majority of people live under extremely oppressive conditions including abject poverty, extreme heat and few possibilities for change. The Social conditions are ripe for anger, resentment, scapegoating and fear of people who are different, especially people who live in the developed world.  

        Yet we have not experienced any negative reactions. Since our arrival we have been heartily welcomed with friendly smiles and hospitality. This is dramatically different from the experiences of people of color in the USA who are subjected to racial profiling, scapegoating and mistreatment of every kind. The horrendous sin of slavery is like a millstone which holds Americans back from celebrating diversity, rejoicing in our differences and seeing each other as sisters and brothers with the same hopes and dreams. The joyful faces and trusting spirits of the African children remind us that it does not have to be this way.  

        Prayer for the day. Lord help me to see in each person I meet today what you see- your beloved daughter or son. Give me the gift of sight to see your face in others especially those who are different from me. Amen.

         

        Safari through the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania  October 28, 2016

        Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 6:53 pm

        October 28, 2016We are traveling south from Kenya to Tanzania to visit a number of Maryknoll missions there. Our journey of over 1500 miles takes us through the Ngorogora crater and the Serengeti national park. The safari through these magnificent jewels of nature offered a glimpse of what God intended in breathing the spirit into every creature on this planet and all creation. These vast African plains are habitat for many endangered species and enable those who visit to experience a unique ecosystem that is in balance. Yet that balance is threatened by global warming its consequences for human and animal habitats   
        I reflected on why this safari is part of a mission trip. When I think of mission I think of people in need and the many ways we offer help and care for the least on this planet, but care for creation is also part of mission. Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si. This encyclical makes the connection between economic justice and environmental justice. Justice for the poor everywhere in this planet must be rooted in environmental justice. The most urgent crises facing Mother Earth- global warming, water scarcity, loss of diversity of species and climate change-disproportionately affect the poor. We see this in the USA. While every person in the path of a hurricane suffers some hardship. It is ale at the poor, those on the margins who are least able to rebuild and recover after these disasters.

        On the safari we were blessed to see magnificent creatures great and small interconnected in the miraculous circle of life. I wish I could share some of the photos taken but the internet signal is weak. From the Serengeti plain we traveled south to Mwanza where we visit some of the poor in their homes and other mission programs. 

        Prayer for this night: Lord of all creation, thank you for this beautiful one of a kind planet which we call home. Thank you for breathing your life giving spirit into all creation. Help me to see your divine handiwork in every person and in the diverse species which work together to make life possible on Mother Earth. Son of Justice give us the courage and grace to work for justice for the environment and justice for the poor and marginalized so that together we 

        May restore this planet to the peaceable kingdom you intended from the beginning of time. Amen. 

         

        The power of one October 26, 2016

        Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 6:52 pm

        The Maasai peoples heritage stretches back many hundreds of years in Africa.  This tribe lives mainly in rural parts of Tanzania and Kenya. Our Journey  brought us to Emusoi Center, operated my Maryknoll Sisters in Arusha Tanzania.  The center offers a school for Maasai girls who are poor and not have the opportunity to get an education.  The Massai I do not believe in education and do not support girls attending school some of the girls are orphans but others have families. Once a girl reaches the age of 13 or 14 they are purchased as brides generally by older Maasai men. The purchase is usually made I offering cows to the family of the bride.  The only way a girl can escape this fate if she wishes is to run away or if they are fortunate enough to be excepted at this school.  

        The school helps the girls to catch up on their education and then supports them right through secondary school. Once they graduate from secondary school, the school social worker helps them get into a college or vocational is cool that is affordabe 

        The stories behind each of these young girls and how they managed to get to this place of refuge where they could choose a different path in life are amazing. We had a chance to visit classrooms and speak with the young people about their hopes and dreams. It is clear that without the nurturing environment of that school, their hopes and dreams would be very limited. 

        One class that is about to graduate to the secondary school  recited ibeautiful  poem called the Power of One.   My eyes filled with tears as I listened to the words in both Swahili and in English.  And I will try to attach a copy of the home to thi and I will try to attach a copy to this post but because my Internet connection is poor that may not work.   

        That night as we gathered for mass the Gospel story was of the Mustard seed How fitting a reading! Jesus saw the power that lies within each of us to to help restore the beauty and goodness of all creation, to help build the reign of God.  Though we may individually seem small as a mustard seeds,  with Jesus as the center of our being we can accomplish great things for God.   

        In that small school beyond learning reading, writing, and the basic subjects, these girls learned a much more important lesson. That they were loved into being by God and with God’s help they could make a difference in this world.     

        Prayer for the day. All loving God transform my mustard seed faith into a giant tree that will be a living sign of your presence in our world. May my tree be a tree of life for every person on this planet and particularly for the forgoten and discarded people who are just waiting for someone to see in that the Mustard seed, The power of one.   

        The Power Of One

        One song can spark a moment, 

        One whisper can wake the dream. 

        One tree can start a forest, 

        One bird can herald spring. 

        One smile begins a friendship, 
        One moment can make one fall in love

        One star can guide a ship at sea, 

        One word can frame the goal 

        One vote can change a nation, 
        One sunbeam lights a room 

        One candle wipes out darkness, 

        One laugh will conquer gloom. 

        One step must start each journey. 

        One word must start each prayer. 

        One hope will raise our spirits, 

        One touch can show you care. 

        One voice can speak with wisdom, 

        One heart can know what’s true, 

        One life can make a difference, 

        You see, it’s up to you!

        by Ashish Ram

         

        The church at the top of the slum October 25, 2016

        Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 10:06 am

        Please understand that I use the word slum because that is what the inhabitants of Kibera use to describe where they live.  
        This is the second half of my reflection after visiting the Kibera slum.  At the top of the hill within the Kibera slum is Christ the King Church.  Unlike all the shacks in the slum, The simple church is built on a concrete foundation. The slum properties are all rented but the church owns the small parcel  on which the church is built.  On Sunday morning when we arrived we climbed the hill to the church with hundreds of other people from the slum to celebrate Sunday morning liturgy.  The journey up that hill through the crowded streets littered with garbage and wet  from the recent rain was like no journey I have ever been on.  

        The church was jam packed with over 1500 men women and children. They were dressed in the very best clothes they had.  I was amazed that they could keep their clothes  and shoes so clean on the dirt floors in the simple huts in which they lived.   The two hour mass was a celebration marked with vibrant singing, dancing, and signs and symbols that filled the senses and evoked a spirit of community in Christ Jesus   It was quite a role reversal to be in a congregation of thousands of people of color. The nine of us on pilgrimage were the only white faces in the sea of  black.  Yet I never felt separate, alone, or excluded. Rather the assembly extended the warmest welcome and the most gracious hospitality to each of us. 

        Unlike so many liturgies, this one was marked by joy, contagious joy overflowing.  It may be because the African people are people of joy but it also may just be that in the midst of such a squalor, The good news of the gospel and the precious gift of the Eucharist finds fertile ground in the open hearts of God’s people.   

        How fitting it is that this church is called Christ the King.  Christ the king presides over this slum. Christ the king lives in this slum. Christ the king will one day transform this slum into the city of God. The people of Christians of Kiberawho are model disciples of Jesus  who love him with their whole heart, their whole mind, and with all their strength. That is why they come to church dressed for the banquet. That is why they can go back down that hill and face each day with hope that God’s reign of peace and justice will come.  

        Encouraged by their expectant faith, I left Kibera with joy and And hope that little by little God’s rain will rule over my heart and the hearts of all those on the journey. 

        Prayer for this day: Lord give me eyes to see what you see for our world. Lord give me ears to listen to the cries of the poor which are your cries. Lord let me never forget that what we see now will be transformed into what you see. Give me the grace to see your holy mountain set up on a hill and work so that every person on this planet may see the view from the mountaintop. Amen. 

         

        The Kibera slum  October 24, 2016

        Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 4:01 am


        After today’s visit to the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, it is clear why I saw the flowering Jacaranda tree and the beauty of creation yesterday. The contrast between these two images will  be forever asked in my mind and in my heart. The Kibera slum houses over 400,000 people in an area the size  these people live in makeshift housing constructed mostly of mud corrugated metal.  The average size of a dwelling is 10 ft x 10ft.  The dirt streets and alleyways that connect The housing units are littered with garbage and and the smell of open sewer drains permeates the air. This city within a city includes small businesses of  all  sorts, churches of many denominations, and a number of mosques.   
        We had the chance to visit three different families that live in Kibera.   Passing through narrow alleyways filled with people and children playing in mud, we entered the doors of these homes. The inside of these tiny one room huts consisted of four walls covered with material and maybe a small  table in the middle of the room.   There was no other furniture.   The small room housing up to eight family members and is lit by one lightbulb hanging from a wire in the ceiling. In the homes we visited, there was no bed, kitchen or toilet facilities. There are a few public toilets for common use in the city.

        There were nine of us who entered these households sometimes having to close and open the door so that each one could enter. Packed in with the families in a small, hot, and dark room we listened to their stories. The mother of each household asked us for specific prayers for their family members.  We prayed for employment, healing of illnesses, release from prison’s, and for marriage is struggling because of the deplorable living conditions faced each day.  

        Despite conditions which seem to make life simply unbearable, the people we met we are filled with faith, vibrant and living faith, that gave them a reason to live and a reason to hope.   These people understood better than me or my companions what the gospel message of good news really means especially to the poor and disenfranchised of this world.  

        It is late and this day has drained me but also given me a great gift.  I have never seen such poverty, such deplorable living conditions, such reason for hopelessness  in any slum in America or in other places I have traveled.   I have also never seen the power of faith, the power of Christian community, and the power of prayer lift the hearts and minds of so many people to give them a reason to hope.   I will write more about this day in future posts but for now, I end my day with this prayer:

        Jesus, you became human and Took on flesh to fully experience our brokenness and the suffering of every human being. The brokenness of each of us and brokenness of our world is evident in the cross carried by  these innocent and good people in this slum and in all the slums of the world.  Thank you for giving us the opportunity to make the cross a little lighter for our brothers and sisters who suffer in this world. In doing so,like Simon of Cyrene, we are blessed to help you carry your cross.