Pilgrims' Potpourri

Reflections on our journey with God

I’ve got the Joy of Jesus down in my heart March 16, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 2:21 pm

“I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11

As I prepare for my sojourn home, I leave some of my heart here with the people of East Africa. It is a miracle that a person can leave his or her native land, travel thousands of miles across the sea to a strange land and, after a brief time, discover we are not strangers, just friends who have not yet met.

In my last few days here, I was joyously welcomed by the boys living at Ukweli Home of Hope. The boys, ranging in age from six to twenty-two, had been living on the streets of Nairobi before finding refuge in this house. Each of the boys has their own story of life on the streets but fear, drugs, victimization and lack of love are common experiences. Ukweli , run by the Little Sisters of St. Francis, rescued these children from the pit of destruction and broth them new life, hope and love. The boys, many of whom have no family or families that cannot provide for their needs, consider each other family.

The children welcomed me with open arms, I shared their daily routine which is quite rigorous. On school days, the kids get up between 4 am and 5 am. They do morning chores, homework and dress for school. Breakfast is a cup of porridge or some white bread and tea. The bus picks them up for school but often runs late breaking down or getting stuck in the mud on the rough, dirt roads full of potholes the size of craters, Returning home around 5 pm, the boys hand wash their uniforms to dry in the warm sun, complete more chores and do homework before a simple supper.

I brought some red clown noses for the kids. I found that red noses elicit the most fundamental joy from anyone willing to put them on and that includes adults who are not embarrassed to let their hair down and experience child-like joy and wonder again. Joy broke out as the kids and their adult helpers put on the red noses. For a moment, we all forgot the dire poverty, the harsh life on the streets, the injustice that underlies such conditions and experienced the pure joy of being children of God. For a moment we experienced in some measure the reign of God and Jesus parting words to his disciples that “their joy might be complete” came alive.

Below are some pictures of the boys at Ukweli with the noses. As you can see, they figured out some creative ways to wear them. I will have more reflections for my blog over the next few weeks as I chew on this journey of missionary discipleship.

 

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Blessed are the poor March 11, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 10:25 am
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6: 20
This beatitude always puzzled me.  How could those oppressed by poverty, injustice, lack of clean water, housing and employment be blessed.  I thought that maybe the people who were last in this world would be first when the reign of God is fully realized on earth. While that is true, in Africa I have learned that there are other blessings given to the poor even as they suffer unimaginable poverty.
We have met so many people here who live on less than one dollar a day.  Families inhabit very small dwellings with tin roofs and dirt floors, no running water, and in some cases no electricity.  These settlements are littered with garbage and human waste runs through the streets. The stench can be overwhelming.  Despite such deplorable conditions, every person we met testified to their strong faith in God. God is the rock on whom they build their lives. Jesus and the good news are the source of their hope when all seems so utterly hopeless.  People with barely enough food to feed their families fed us.  People whose daily lives were about surviving took the time to share their stories with us.  Everywhere we go, people smile, wave and greet us warmly with Jambo Sana, Swahili for Hello, and they really mean it!
Maybe the blessing the poor now possess in abundance is that they have absolute faith that Jesus, Emmanuel, God is with them.  They have no other options but total dependency on God.  What a blessing that must be.  This journey will soon end for me and I will return to a life where all my basic needs and many of my wants will be satisfied.  Unlike the poor in Africa and around the globe, I will have to work at being dependent on God and resist the temptation to see my blessings as a product of my own efforts,  I hope I can do that. If I can, maybe Jesus’ words will finally make sense to me.
Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God
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The kids at the side of the road March 9, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 7:02 pm

” They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Mt. 10: 46-47

Those who sat at the side of the road in Jesus’ time were the castaways, the unwanted, the undesirable people who did not belong or fit into the mainstream of society.  Much of Jesus’ ministry was to people on the side of the road, those who were marginalized and stigmatized by poverty, disease, physical or emotional impairments. Throughout the gospel, Jesus always stops to see the people on the side of the road. They are important to Jesus. They are the reason he came with the Good News that God’s love extends to everyone, especially to those on the roadsides.

Today we visited Ukweli Home of Hope operated by the Little Sisters of St. Francis of St. Francis of Assisi on a farm in rural Nairobi.   The home provides a safe shelter for about 125 kids from age 5 upwards who were formerly homeless.  It is estimated that Nairobi has over 300,000 children living on its streets.  Some of the kids shared their stories of street life, drugs, and the fear of exploitation on the streets and how they came to live at Ukweli.  Many suffered from drug addiction.   Most of these boys were either abandoned by their families or are runaways who are victims of abuse, extreme poverty and lack of education. Ukweli provides a loving and nurturing environment in which each boy can experience God’s love through the hands and hearts of their caregivers.

You might think this is very depressing and disturbing but every one of these boys feels that that now have a family and someone cares about them.   They all attend primary or secondary schools to receive an education that will expand their horizons and help them dream about a life that has promise, a future that is hopeful.  Ukweli Home of Hope is dedicated to seeing the kids at the side of the road and, like Jesus, welcoming them home.

On Sunday, as the other members of our missionary disciples team leave for home, I will go to Ukweli to spend 10 days as a volunteer.   Ukweli may not have  internet service so I may be unable to blog from there, but I will keep writing my reflections and upload them to  my WordPress blog as soon as I can connect to the internet.  If you have been following my blog, keep checking for updates. More to follow.

Until then, may the peace, Amani( in Swahili) of Christ be with you.

The Ukweli Kids

 

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You have ears but do not hear March 8, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 6:58 pm
“Mortal, you are living in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, who have ears to hear but do not hear.”  Ezekiel 12: 2
These words from the prophet Ezekiel to those who had forgotten the covenant with Yahweh, echoed through my mind on our visit to St. Martin’s school for the deaf and for persons with developmental disabilities.  When we opened the gates to this school, we were joyously greeted by about eighty children with various disabilities.  With energy abounding they welcomed us and made us feel part of their family.  The kids treated us to some traditional  African dancing and we spent the afternoon playing, dancing, and communicating in a language more powerful than words. The language of humor and love.
Like kids everywhere, these children love silly games and just horsing around.  Though not a word was spoken so much was communicated.  The kids have perfected the art of listening with the ears of their heart.  The heart is a much more effective communicator than the lips.  And what exactly did we hear these speechless children of God say.  They said what every human being longs to hear from someone: ” I love you. I am so happy you are here.  You are welcome into our lives.  You are special. Thank you for sharing some time with us.”
These children are really not disabled. They are very capable, in fact, they are highly  intelligent and gifted.  The source of their intelligence and giftedness is not necessarily in the head, but at the very center of our humanity, in the heart.  The children taught us a great lesson to today- to listen with the ears of the heart.  It is to the heart that God speaks a language every human being can understand, No translation is needed!
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Who are my brothers and sisters? March 6, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 3:50 pm

Jesus[d] replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”  Mt. 12:48-50

Jesus’ words to his disciples  always struck me as a bit harsh and puzzling. Yesterday we celebrated Sunday liturgy at Transfiguration church in Mabatini, a poor settlement in Mwanza, Tanzania. We were the only white faces in a sea of local Tanzanians who filled a medium sized church for 7:00 am mass. The liturgy lasted two hours and yet the people were never in a rush to leave. We sang, prayed together and shared communion. The kiss of peace was more than a simple handshake, People left their seats to greet one another with hugs of joy.

After mass, we visited parishioners who lived in the settlement to listen to their stories and learn about each other. About forty percent of the parishioners are connected to small Christian communities (scc). These communities composed of 20-30 families who live near each other meet every Saturday to pray, read the Bible share news and offer support to one another. When one of the members is sick or has a financial or other need the leader of the scc organizes to address the need. These communities closely resemble the early Christian communities described in the Acts of the Apostles.

In each home we were welcomed as friends, as brothers and sisters.  Their sense of hospitality was incredible. They shared the little they had with us. Africans are a communitarian society. They find their identity from their family and extended family. When they gather for a meal, all are welcome. Strangers who are passing by and are hungry are regularly welcomed to share a meal with the family. Our western culture which values individualism, competition and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps has much to learn from the people of Africa.

Maybe the people of this vast continent would better understand what Jesus was saying when he asked who are my brothers and sisters? The Africans would say everyone who is willing to open to become part of their family, and for them, that means everyone regardless of race, color or creed.  We in the west  have much to learn from these small Christian communities and the African culture.unnamed.jpg

 

 

WATER IS LIFE March 3, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 6:43 pm

“Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” John. 4: 15

Our journey has brought us face to face with the water crisis we hear so much about but have yet to really experience in the US.  Everywhere we travel, we see people carrying water in large jugs, drawing water from unsafe wells and using the polluted lakes and rivers as their water supply.  Water is essential to life. Water is life and  yet we often take it for granted as we shower, leave our tap water running or waste water in a myriad of ways.  In our rooms there is always a bucket to catch any excess shower water to use to flush the toilet. A water saving measure I might adopt when I return.

In the Serengeti yesterday we observed the semi annual migration of 2 million wildebeests and one half million zebras to lands where they can graze. That cycle of life is so dependent on rain, and climate change has disrupted the timing and amount of rainfall.  Climate change also deeply affects the Masai tribe who inhabit a good part of Tanzania. They are pastoralists who depend on their livestock for food and for trading for other necessities.  As the climate changes, their migration to areas where is there plentiful grass for the animals is disrupted.

In the story of the Samaritan woman the woman asks  Jesus for water so she will never be thirsty again.  Our brothers and sisters throughout the world and the flora and fauna that feed us all are crying out: Give me this water that I may have life.  As disciples of Jesus, the Living water, what will we do to answer their cries?

Zebras and Wildebeests begin seasonal migration to find grazing land.  This picture cannot capture the enormity of herd.

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Be My Guest March 1, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 6:46 pm

March 1, 2018

“See, I have given you every plant yielding seed  upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” Genesis 1: 29-30

The first action of God towards human beings is hospitality.  God creates the animals, plants, sea and sky and generously offers them to us.  When we offer hospitality to one another, especially those who are often not welcome in our world, we participate in God’s generous gift of hospitality.  In our journey so far, we have been welcomed into the homes of the poor who shared what little they had with us.   Each mission we have visited us has offered us hospitality and invited us to become friends rather than strangers in a strange land. Today we visited the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park, home to some of the most magnificent creatures on the planet, some. of whom face extinction because of human activity.  As we traveled the vast African plain,  with its rich diversity of plants and animals, we were welcomed.  For a short time the creatures here allowed us to visit their home, to take pictures, to savor the beauty of their land, a land some scientists maintain was the.cradle of human civilization.  We were guests in their home and the creatures were our hosts.

That beautiful song, Be Our Guest, from Beauty and Beast puts it so well.  Be my Guest!.  That is what God says to each of us and to every creature on this planet, animate and inanimate.   If we could only see that we are all guests on this fragile planet, our Mother Earth, we might learn to  treat all creatures large and small , and all creation with that same hospitality  with which we have been so blessed by God.  There is no better way to say thanks to the Giver of All Gifts and the Master of Hospitality.

This graceful and beautiful giraffe allowed us to watch him dining on some delicious acacia trees!

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