Pilgrims' Potpourri

Reflections on our journey with God

Let the little children come to me February 27, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 6:11 pm

Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.  Mark 10: 13-16

We departed Kenya yesterday, Feb. 25, traveling south to Arusha, Tanzania. Tanzania is home to the Masai tribe.  The Masai are pastoralists who migrate across the land with their cattle.  Like the other 120 tribes in Tanzania, the Masai have their own value systems, traditions, customs and food. The male elders are responsible for teaching the young men to become warriors. The women live in tight polygamous families which support and help one another in times of need. Masai women look after the home caring for the children and animals.  The Masai, as all cultures around the globe,  grapple  with the tension between their traditional values and ever changing world.

We spent most of today visiting the Emusoi Center for Masai girls in Arusha.  Founded a by Maryknoll sisters, the center serves over 350 girls from ages 11 to 23.  It offers an opportunity for Masai girls to receive an education, develop their talents and widen their horizons about their future. Some girls come with the support of their families; others come on their own initiative because they want an education to better understand the world as well as develop marketable skills and pursue careers.

We visited classrooms, listened to the hopes and aspirations of these girls and heard their their stories. We had lunch, .laughed,. danced and sang together. Eating, singing and dancing are powerful universal tools of communication. The smiles and joy in the heart of these kids was contagious.  There is no pressure to convert to Catholicism, yet many are so nurtured by the loving care they receive, they are attracted to Jesus by the witness of their staff,  A twenty year old told me that she left her family because she wanted to become a nurse and then return to her tribe to help them receive better medical care.

Below is a picture of the girls singing a traditional Masai song.  Unfortunately, I cannot embed the video, .  No wonder Jesus invited the children to come to. him.  He knew they were the very best seeds to build the reign of God.IMG_9944

 

 

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Where does God pitch the tent? February 25, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 3:07 pm

In the gospel for the second Sunday of Lent, Peter, the apostle, wants to pitch three tents for Jesus, Moses,  and Elijah on the mountain where Jesus to their astonishment is transfigured before them.  Our little group of missionary disciples celebrated mass today at Christ the King Church in Kibera, .  The slum located in Nairobi  is one of the largest slums in the world housing an estimated 800,000 to a million people.  Like so many slums in the world, the residents live in shacks made of tin.  One 8 x10  shack can house 8-10 people. There is no indoor plumbing and electricity for some is through a jerry-rigged system of old wires..  The dirt streets and alleyways are strewn with litter, human and animal waste.  Yet each Sunday thousands of Catholics dressed in their best clothes make their way up a small hill at the top of the slum to Christ the King Church.  For several hours the parish community gathers to praise God with joyful song, pray with hopeful hearts, share one bread at the Lord’s table and give thanks for God’s many blessings.  After the celebration, we visited the homes of  three people. There was not enough room  for us to squeeze into these small dwelling so some had to stand outside.  We listened to the stories of the families, offered prayers and blessings for them and asked them to bless us.

That anyone should ever have to live is such deplorable conditions is a stain on our common humanity.   In today’s gospel, Jesus refuses to stay in a tent on a mountain. He instructs his disciples to go  into the whole world to proclaim the good news. The good news is that God pitches tents, not in churches or temples but in the heart of every person this planet. God has pitched tents in the slums, the streets, and the shelters. On the mountain, Jesus was transfigured becoming pure light, shining the radiance of that light for Peter, James and John,  He instructed them to go down that mountain and transfigure the world so that every person on this earth would experience God’s love and      that God’s justice would once again reign.  Jesus challenges you and me to be transfigured into the Light of Christ and then to transfigure our world so that every human being lives with dignity and slums are vanquished forever!

Kibera, Nairobi  Kenya

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And the rooster crowed February 23, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 1:04 pm

 “”Then Peter began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the rooster crowed.”  Matthew 26:74

I left the Rensselaer train station yesterday February 21 at 11:00 am and after 15 hours  of air travel and a time difference of eight hours arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International airport in Nairobi, Kenya at 10 pm last night. About 5 am this morning a rooster woke me from a restless sleep- a stark reminder that I was not  home anymore. . Upon reflection, maybe that rooster was God’s way of announcing to me to keep my eyes, ears and senses open while in Africa. Like Peter, we can deny Jesus in so many ways. We may not be as blatant in our denial, but there are many ways to deny the Lord.  How easy it is to forget Jesus is the reason for our very lives.  How easy it is to be distracted, disillusioned, disinterested in our work as Missionary disciples here on this planet with so much else competing for our attention,   How easy it is for life to become an endless series of projects, of doing, a whirling dervish of activity.  The rooster challenged me to stay awake, be watchful, look for the signs of God’s goodness all around me.   It is a message I need to here over and over again.  Although I am tired from this journey taking me 9,000 miles from my homeland, I am awake and look forward to the rooster crowing and celebrating God’s goodness and presence every morning.  It’s a good way to wake up and stay awake; to live each moment as if it was the only moment we have.

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Surrendering to the Lord February 21, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 2:38 am

“Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave.” Matthew 10:9-11

Looking at two full suitcases and a carry-on, Jesus’s words to his disciples as they are sent out on mission echo in my brain.  My journey to Kenya and Tanzania begins tomorrow.  It is a long flight taking me 8,600 miles from home. Although I am not traveling as lightly as Jesus suggests, a mission trip presents a challenge to leave many things behind.  I pray for the grace to leave my preconceived notions, attitudes, and goals behind and to abandon myself to God’s providence.  It is so hard to let go and let God; to trust that God can do more with and for me than anything I could possibly accomplish myself.   It requires faith to set out on a journey that make take me in many directions and learn to flow with each moment, even when things don’t go as planned.  And yet there is a certain relief in releasing myself to God’s plan. I don’t need to control things or be in the lead.  I just need to take the back seat on the tandem bike and let the Lord do the pedaling.  Maybe that is why Jesus asks us to make the journey without a bag, sandals or staff.  Without things to bog us down, we can follow wherever the Spirit leads us.  Lead me, Lord; Lead me.

 

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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.