Archive | June 2014

Celebrating Our Good Shepherd Graduates-especially Natasha Terrell

This is our High School Graduate, Natasha Terrell who was graduated from Cypress Lake High School on 5/17/14. Natasha achieved almost a 4 point average in her last year and over a 3 point overall. She is now accepted into Florida Gulf Coast University and will begin there in August of 2014. She is eagerly looking forward to her college studies and hopes to get a BS in Nursing and become a neonatal nurse someday.  She says that her hope is for a career where she “can do her part to make things better”. She is an inspiration to her family and peers. Whatever her career choices may be we know that she will do well and give her best to her studies and her profession. Natasha is also working part time as a cashier at McDonalds to help with her expenses. While she will live in the dorm so she has plenty of time to study she will still be able to join us at Good  Shepherd on Sundays.

Natasha says that she is thankful to God for her loving family,especially her Mom and Grandma, and for her church and all the supportive people there, like Judy Alves, Dr. Joe Cudjoe, and her Pastors. Her goals for this school year are to do well at college and to “gain a better connection with God.” For her future she prays that she will ” be able to help others, to take care of my family, and that financially and spiritually I will be able to give back”.  She hopes for “peace and positivity” in her family and in the world. We join her in these wonderful prayers.

These are some things that she learned this year. She is sharing quotes from UrbanMinistries Inteen Magazine that our Older Teen Class uses: “Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a mark of wisdom”. “God makes sure we have all the people we need to help us, but it’s our own fault (and loss) if we do not rely on them”. “Focus and be the best you can be”. And, quoting Rev. Will Hall who is explaining Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s’ book  Strength To Love, “Live out love. Give life your best and take advantage of every opportunity that will make you better.Remember that love transforms people.  Love is not love if there is no transformation.”  Rev. Hall also suggested that teens can show love by smiling, giving sacrificially, saying kind words and assisting others in need. They can also  defend someone in need, give hope, share, put pride aside, forgive and give someone a genuine compliment”. Natasha and her classmates at Good Shepherd work at putting love into practice. And here is our genuine compliment for Natasha-“Job well done”!

Natasha, May our loving God be with you in all of your next steps!

With Love and prayers for Natasha, our other graduates and all of our youth,

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee and Rev Judy Beaumont, ARCWP Good Shepherd Pastors

In this Picture she is with her little cousins Gir’riyah, Gir’Niyah and Gir’ Kiyah Battles, five year old triplets who have “graduated” from Kindergarten and will begin First Grade next year.While they did wear red caps and gowns at a ceremony, they said that when they get big like Natasha they will graduate High /school and wear a blue cap and gown!  We congratulate the triplets and Natasha’s siblings and cousin, Jakein and Jakeriyah Maybin and Keion Lewis who  were “graduated” from Elementary to Middle School. They too are looking forward to that blue cap and gown.

Image

Rev. Judy and Rev. Bev: Peter,Paul and Mary-and James:Homilies for June 29,2014

Here we present two homilies of the feast day of St. Peter and St. Paul.  Rev. Beverly Bingle  and Rev. Judy Lee, both Roman Catholic Women Priests share their reflections on this day. With somewhat different emphasis they compliment each other in content and present a  well-rounded theme for the day: we are church now!

Art Work by Mary Theresa Streck, ARCWP

b6c8c-miriam_leading_the_women

 

Rev. Judy Lee’s  Homily: A Celebration of Peter, Paul and Mary-and James too! Sun June 29,2014

Opening Prayer–Our loving God, today we celebrate the beginnings of the church and the chief Apostles Peter, Paul and Mary of Magdala, James and others under whose leadership the church was solidly planted to grow throughout the centuries. We pray that we may give ourselves wholly to tending and growing the church that they planted, re-freshed and em-powered by Your most Holy Spirit so that the church may be living, vital and new in our time. Grant this through Jesus your Beloved who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forevermore. Amen.

Acts 12:1-11  Peter is imprisoned and rescued as the people pray fervently

Psalm 34 R. O taste and see that God is good!-The poor cried out and God heard

2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17,18    Paul’s life has been poured out and he is finishing the race

ALLELUIA “Mary…Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them ‘I am returning to my Abba and your Abba, to my God and your God….and she told them…” (John20:17-18)ALLELUIA

The Gospel according to Matthew 16: 13-19   “On bedrock like this I will build my community”

A few years back there was a wonderful folk singing group called Peter, Paul and Mary.  You may remember them singing “If I had a Hammer, I’d hammer out justice… I’d hammer out the love between my brothers and my sisters all over this world.”  The energetic blending and harmony of the male and female voices was their hallmark. Peter and Paul were nothing without Mary. I wish the church knew this! For today again we have a feast day for Peter and Paul and not even a mention of Mary of Magdala who was every bit the leader and authority they were. Partly she is omitted because she is a woman and partly she is omitted because she taught some of Jesus’ less well known teachings that were in conflict, it seems, with the party line, the accepted doctrine of the church after the 4th century and the Council of Nicea.  James, the brother of Jesus who headed the church in Jerusalem and was actually thereby senior to Peter is also not mentioned.   And without him the Judaic base of Christianity is in danger of minimization and loss. We have to remember that the winners of debates, doctrinal and otherwise, write the final story. Yet, the Spirit still speaks and the story is still being written.

Today the church celebrates the Apostles who planted the seeds that grew into the living church over the centuries. We celebrate Peter, whom Jesus loved and chose for a special role despite his “thickness” and “hard-headedness”. We know that in Aramaic “Kepa” (stone) is an insulting term meaning “stupid”. (George Lamsa, Idioms in the Bible Explained…1985, pp.93-94). Jesus, in his love for Peter, turned the negative nickname into a positive by saying that Peter would be a bedrock in building the church. (We remember that Christ is the living Cornerstone that we build upon).  Peter, with all of his faults gave his all, facing jail, persecution and martyrdom for the church. Paul was an equally unlikely choice of leader. He persecuted Christians, but his life was turned around when he encountered Jesus and became the church’s greatest missionary. Paul then poured out his life “like a libation” for the Gospel suffering imprisonment and martyrdom as Peter did.

Like now, there was conflict in the early church. Peter had conflicts with Paul and also with James, the brother of Jesus who headed the church in Jerusalem. James is not mentioned in our readings but we honor him and our Judaic roots this day. Nor is Mary of Magdala mentioned, but Peter and his brother Andrew struggled with Mary’s leadership and teachings while Levi defended her authority according to the Gospel of Mary written early in the second century. Esther De Boer, 2005 and Karen King, 2007 point out that scholars accept Mary as an Apostle to the Apostles and a strong church leader, prophet and teacher in the early church. Once again Christ chose an unusual leader, a woman whose name was all too easily written out of history, one who was completely transformed by Jesus and taken into his confidence.  Today we honor her leadership along with that of James, Paul and Peter and all female and male leaders of the early church, especially those whose names have been written out of history while their contributions live on.  We honor all women and men and youth whose love has been poured out to build the church and spread the Gospel. This includes all of us, for we now are the living stones that build today’s church. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, ARCWP

Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers, Florida

Rev. Beverly Bingle’s Homily: 

Today’s readings,
and our celebration of the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul,
show us the beginning of a long history of missing Jesus’ point.
Who is a disciple?
Who is an apostle, the one sent, the one commissioned?
Who are the Chosen?
Nearly two thousand years of history and politics
have led us to understand Matthew’s Gospel in specific ways,
and those ways are not always what Jesus had in mind.
_____________________________________
The scholars of the Jesus Seminar observe
that the conversation in Matthew that is today’s Gospel
is not a conversation that Jesus would have started.
Instead, they say, it was a common way for the early writers
to communicate a disciple’s “confessional statement”—
an individual’s assertion of belief
that served as a kind of credential of authenticity in the church.
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary—
the standard Catholic reference book—
sees Matthew 17-19 as revelatory
of the varying opinions of the early Christians
as they struggled with questions
about who held authority in the post-Easter church
and who had the commission to leadership.
Matthew’s Gospel gives the authority and commission to Peter.
Our reading today from the Acts of the Apostles
also shows authority for Peter
through the prison break story, the credential that
“God really did send an angel to rescue me,”
Our second reading from the letter to Timothy, however,
shows authority for Paul, when he claims that
“Christ stood by my side and gave me strength.
So that through me the proclamation might be completed
and all the nations might hear the Gospel.”
Using the same type of story,
the Gospel of Thomas gives authority to James,
and Galatians gives authority to Paul.
________________________________________
Two other details in the Gospel passage reflect the power struggle
that was going on among members of the early communities.
Scholars say that the pun on “petra” and rock
asserts Peter’s primary position in Matthew’s community,
not any intention by Jesus to start a church.
Scholars also point out
that the “binding” and “loosing” were rabbinical terms
that refer to the authority to pass on teaching,
not the power to forgive sin.
_____________________________________
History has developed two teachings from this Gospel
that bear closer examination:
the primacy of the Pope
and the power of the confessional.
Both of these teachings ignore other scriptures
that shed different light on what Jesus was really about.
________________________________________
First, the primacy of the Pope:
Jesus was a Jew, and he never stopped being a Jew.
He did not found a church.
The first apostles and the first disciples were also Jewish.
They did not found a church.
The Gospel of Matthew was written for Greek-speaking Jews
who followed the Way of Jesus.
Historical events, political upheavals,
and religious arguments over the centuries
brought about the assertion
that today’s Gospel references to Peter
as the “rock upon which I will build my church”
and “the keys of the kingdom”
mean that Jesus founded a church
with Peter as the first Pope.
But that’s not what Jesus said.
________________________________________
Second, the power to forgive sin in confession.
In Matthew’s Chapter 6, Jesus is wasn’t just talking to the apostles,
not just talking to the disciples.
When he says we are to forgive each other’s sins,
he’s talking to the crowds, to everyone.
In the early Christian community people forgave each other’s sins.
Over time, though, forgiveness developed into a personal
rather than social process,
and eventually the rule was laid down by the hierarchy
that only priests could administer the sacrament.
But that’s not what Jesus said.
________________________________________
Part of what makes Pope Francis so attractive is his pastoral nature
and his willingness to look at things
through the signs of the times.
In April, for example, he told the Pontifical Biblical Institute that
“There is a past and there is a present.
There are the roots of faith:
the memories of the Apostles and the Martyrs;
and there is the ecclesial ‘today,’
the current path of this Church which presides over charity,
the service of unity and universality.
All this must not be taken for granted!”
Francis is realistic.
Our Church today is where it is.
And, good as it is,
good (and bad) as it has been over the centuries,
it needs to sift through the signs of our times
and examine them in light of the bedrock of Jesus’ teachings.
_____________________________________
And what is the bedrock of Jesus’ teaching?
He didn’t say to start a church.
He said to love one another.
He didn’t say to set up rules for forgiveness.
He said to forgive one another.
And Jesus’ teaching tells us the answer
to those questions we started with:
Who is a disciple?
Who is an apostle,
the one sent, commissioned to spread the Good News?
Who are the Chosen?
It’s the crowds.
It’s the anawim, the poor and oppressed.
It’s the people at City Hall and the people at Claver House.
It’s us.

Rev. Dr. Beverly Bingle                                                                                                                            It’s us-we are church!

IMG_0181

 

World Cup of Theologians: Colombia – Consuelo Vélez

Thanks Michael, Our women priests in Colombia are blessed to have Consuelo Velez among them. we hope to meet her when we are able to visit our ARCWP priests there!

Global Theology

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

Consuelo Vélez is professor of Theology at the Pontificia Universidad Xaveriana in Bogota, Colombia. She has earned a PhD in Theology from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with post-doctoral studies at Boston College.velez

She writes about the issues facing women in the Roman Catholic Church and what Pope Francis is doing to bring awareness to this issue. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Biblioteca Amerindia, translated to English by Barefoot Voices.

In [theological] topics, the feminine face of God –so often forgotten — and God’s saving message for men and women concretely and according to their specific reality, are reclaimed. For example, it’s…

View original post 397 more words

Rev. Chava Reflects on the Children of the Body of Christ

Thank you, Rev. Chava for this beautiful reflection on the children in the Body of Christ. We join you in prayer for them and their desperate families. And we pray for our Nation that they may be welcomed and cared for here as God’s own children and that our part in their countries’ struggles will turn from exploitation to caring support. 

Alumnos, maestros y Padres de Familia de la Institución Educativa Navarro

 

Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church

Bulletin for Sunday, June 22, 2014
Feast of Corpus Christi

Dear friends,

Central America is bleeding children.

As many as 60,000 children have entered the United States across our
southern border in 2014, and there must be more on the way. They come
fleeing violence, sometimes running from gangs that told them, “join or
die.” They come believing that the United States will take care of them.

How desperate do you have to be to let your child go on such a dangerous
journey?

In all the immigration debate in this country, I have heard much about
whether people ought to be allowed to stay, but little about why they come
here in the first place. – and almost nothing about United States policies
that help to create and maintain the poverty and violence in their home
countries.

The first time I visited El Salvador in 2005 there were many surprises. The
first was the realization as we got off the plane, that we could have
walked there. It would have taken an awful long time, but it we could have.
And millions have walked that journey, heading north instead of south.

The second was the ubiquitous presence of the United States in this Central
American country. You cannot walk down a street in El Salvador without
being aware of the existence of the most powerful country in the world. I
began to understand what it means to be part of an empire as I looked at
the familiar corporate logos on streets in El Salvador. One day we climbed
a steep dirt path to visit a community clinging to life on the side of a
mountain. All the houses were made of sticks and found materials, some
without roofs, with curtains for doors. And there among some of the poorest
people in the world, stuck to a wall I saw an advertisement for a Disney
movie.

Our presence is in the air they breathe. I visited a little town that had
experienced earth tremors which they believed to have been caused by some
deep drilling being done by a North American company in the hills nearby.
Those tremors knocked down about half the town. Another time, we heard
about the companies mining for gold, using chemicals to leach gold from the
earth, destroying the very land. And I heard about the gangs that were
forming. Then, as now, El Salvador was losing hundreds of people daily to
the trek to the north – and the ones that came back were usually criminals,
jailed in the US and then deported – returning to El Salvador to form
gangs, using knowledge they’d gained in prison. And not only El Salvador,
but Guatemala and Honduras, the countries from which those children are
fleeing, now.

On my second visit to El Salvador, my friend Ruth Orantes took me on a tour
of the Baptist High School in Santa Ana. As we stood together looking at a
map of El Salvador, she asked me, “So what do people in the United States
say about El Salvador?”

It hurt to have to tell her the truth. “They don’t,” I said. “I’m not sure
most people even know it exists.”

We need to know that those countries exist, and that they are full of
people, people who need the same things that you and I do – food and
shelter, education and health care, the opportunity to grow and live and
learn. They are not there for us to exploit. Their countries are not
America’s trash can, where we throw what we do not need or want. But that
is how we treat them.

I do not know the solution to the current crisis. But I know that a country
that bleeds its children is a country screaming in pain. We have got to
realize that we are part of what is causing that pain.

Jesuit Jon Sobrino once wrote from El Salvador of the “scandalous
profligacy of the North.” Perhaps there is also the scandalous ignorant
blindness of the North.

Let us be the country these children believe us to be, when they risk their
lives to come here.

Love to all
Chava

Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph’s House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620

Homily And Reflections: Sunday of the Body of Christ June 22,2014

IMG_0031On this Sunday we remember Jesus’ gift of himself . Jesus gave himself in radical love. This meant long exhausting days surrounded and pursued by people in need of teaching and healing, challenging the shortcomings of  established religion, and spending short nights with not enough sleep, body broken, blood poured out for all of humanity in the way he lived his life and in his death. Compassion for the poor and outcast especially moved him. He was on fire for them and against injustice. He asked the same of those who would follow him (Matthew 25). He gave it all so we could know and feel to the core of our very beings the meaning of “love one another”. Indeed on this special Sunday we are filled with thanksgiving and love for Jesus the Christ who gave it all.

In the Eucharist, the feast of thanksgiving and Holy Communion, we partake of the Body of Christ in all of its forms. We believe in the mystery of Christ- on the Table in the bread and wine, at the Table and all around the Table. Our readings of the day say that God nourished God’s people in the wilderness by providing a special substance called manna (Deuteronomy 8). God  feeds God’s people on the finest wheat (Psalm 47). The Epistle reading says: “The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we , though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (I Cor. 10-16-170.)   We are nourished by his real presence in the bread and wine and in the people of God. The Sacrament is on the altar, yes, but in every one of us as we are the Body of Christ-we are the Sacrament of Christ’s love in the world.  Most especially as we serve the poor and broken we know exhaustion and challenge as Jesus did, and we also see the face of Christ everywhere, being served and serving with us. We know a little of what it meant to be bread for the world as Jesus was (John 6:51-58). We know how this Bread gives us life now and forever and how we can leave no one behind as we share this life giving Bread.

Some of these thoughts are from my book Come By Here: Church with the Poor, AmericaStarBooks.com,2010,now available in Spanish as well.    The reason I include this citation is that the stories of the lives of those served and serving with us as we ministered to the homeless and poor outside in the streets and inside in our church house illuminate the essence of the body of Christ broken, yet whole.

Here is the Corpus Christi reflection of another street minister, Rev. James Patrick Hall an Episcopal priest serving the homeless in Tulsa, Oklahoma:

” Today is the Feast of Corpus Christi, and I would dearly love to join a Procession in the streets, attend a High Mass, with clouds of incense and deep throated choirs intoning “Humbly I adore thee, Verity unseen”….but…

Today is also the day we have our Church on the street here in Tulsa, Thursday Night Light, and as much as I love the ancient worship of our Church, I love being with my street Church even more.

So, as I thought about this, I realized there will be no conflict; Christ is most truly Present in the people gathered tonight. I will see as Colossians 1:27 says, a great mystery; Christ Present in His people gathered.

In this great Communion of the Street, I can bow before Christ and confess Ave Verum Corpus Christi (Hail True Body of Christ) !

Colossians 1:27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

‘Humbly I adore Thee, Verity unseen,
Who Thy glory hiddest ’neath these shadows mean;
Lo, to Thee surrendered, my whole heart is bowed…'”

Precious Body, Precious Blood, Precious Jesus, we, your people love you and remember. Grant us the strength to follow you and to be nourished by your love as we bring the Bread of Life to the world. Amen

Pastor Judy Lee, ARCWP

Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community

Fort Myers, Florida

IMG_0015

 

IMG_0005

 

Request For Prayers For Iraq from the LCWR-Let Us Join in Prayer on Thurs 6/19 at 6PM

LET US ALL JOIN IN PRAYER WITH THEM

 

LCWR Joins Iraqi Sisters in a Call for Prayer

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

[Silver Spring, MD] Facing imminent danger, the leader of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Sienna in Mosul, Iraq has called her sisters throughout Iraq to a time of intense prayer and retreat to beg God for the protection of the Iraqi people, especially the minority Christian community.

The Iraqi Christian community has steadily declined from approximately 1.3 million in 2003 to less than 300,000 today.  Recent statements from Christian leaders have indicated that it is unlikely there are any Christians remaining in Mosul today.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in the United States calls upon people of all denominations in the world community to join the Iraqi Sisters in a moment of prayer on Thursday, June 19 at 6 PM (in your time zone) to pray for an end to the violence and the protection of minority Christians in Iraq.

“We are living in extreme times. Christianity has been present in Iraq from biblical times, but at this point Christians are in grave danger and being forced out of this land or face martyrdom. The Dominican Sisters remain committed to accompanying their people regardless of the consequences,” said LCWR president Sister Carol Zinn, SSJ.

The Iraqi Christian Sisters are all Iraqi nationals and ministers in healthcare, social services, and education.  In fact, the Iraqi Dominican sisters started the first Montessori school in the country. The Sisters serve all people, Christians and Muslims, in their ministry.

As the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine continue their days of intense prayer, they ask that people throughout the world join them on June 19, believing that this intensification of global prayer can make a difference.

“We believe that prayer has the power to change the course of events in Iraq,” Sister Carol noted. “We stand with our sisters and brothers who courageously remain with the people they serve and will join with them in prayer for as long and as often as it takes until the violence ceases.”

About LCWR: The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) is an association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States. The conference has more than 1400 members, who represent more than 80 percent of the approximately 51,600 women religious in the United States. Founded in 1956, the conference assists its members to collaboratively carry out their service of leadership to further the mission of the Gospel in today’s world.

Contact:
Sister Annmarie Sanders, IHM — LCWR Director of Communications
asanders@lcwr.org
301-588-4955 (office)
301-672-3043 (cell)

###

 

Efe Cudjoe Good Shepherd Youth Leader Shares Her Experiences Of God in Viet Nam, South Africa and Brazil

38b71-dscf0681

The following is a Reflection that our Youth Leader Efe Jane Cudjoe offered on Pentecost Sunday. I love the way she see the face of God and God’s spirit working in communities throughout the world that she encountered in her Semester Abroad on three continents. The Congregation gave her a rousing round of applause and Amens after she shared this last Sunday. My own comment was that I don’t have far to look for the younger generations of women priests in the making!. Efe is with us again for the summer shepherding our youth on special trips and educational outings. We are so blessed to have her with us again.

Pastor Judy Lee,ARCWP   

God’s Love Manifested Everywhere

by Efe Jane Cudjoe                     

I honestly can’t express how happy I am to have safely returned from my journey and I would like to thank you all for your continual prayers and support.  I would like to share with you all just a little bit about my experience and some of the things that I have learned.  But you will have to forgive me for reading a bit of something that I have written, because in attempting to retell my experiences, it is still very hard for me at times to concisely and coherently express some of my feelings.

I began my study-abroad journey on January 25th of this year.  Before beginning the multi-country journey to Vietnam, South Africa and Brazil, I had a very, very cold two-week orientation in Washington D.C.

During this time, I had the opportunity to explore our nation’s capital and to speak with various program directors.  And it was these same program directors who often stated that the experience that I was about to have would not only have a lasting impact on my life, but also give me a different outlook on many things.  And although in the moment I may not have appreciated these words as much as I should have, now that I have been given the opportunity to reflect I can honestly say that this journey did.  It not only restored my faith in humanity despite all of the corruption, wars and brutality that plague our world, but it also strengthened my spiritual connection to God as I saw God’s love manifested in very different individuals facing very different issues in very different countries.

So I would like to start with Vietnam.  Vietnam, I can truly say that priory to entering the country I really did not know too much about it and had also been given a very one-sided view from history classes recounting the Vietnam War and its aftermath.

But what I did find, from my experience, was that quite contrary to popular belief with the the United States, I was not walking into a country with hearts and homes still buzzing with hostility toward Americans and still living in  experiences and histories of the past.  Instead I walked into the home of Phuong and Victor who welcomed me who they referred to as their daughter.  I immediately felt at home as they embraced me with kind hearts despite some apparent societal, language, and even physical differences.

From the communal dinners that we shared with all members of the family  – a true manifestation of what Jesus’ idea of what a supper should be with all members of a family or a community coming together to spend time together and enjoy the presence of one another.  To the playful laughter of a five-year old girl dancing around her classroom in the peace village, although she and her classmates were suffering from severe physical malformations, likely the result of agent orange.  Agent Orange, a pesticide used by the British and U.S. militaries during the Vietnam War in an attempt to strip the land of its food resources.  A sort of food toxin that still has lasting impacts.

But it was in these communal family dinners and in the laugh, love and warmth exuded from this young girl that despite her daily obstacles she was still happy to be alive and joyously running around that I saw a physical representation of God’s love, presence and ability.  But, before I knew it, my time in Vietnam was over and I was on my way to South Africa.

South Africa.  When I first arrived in Zwelethembe in South Africa, I was greeted by at least twenty-five five-year olds that were running around the area.  They just looked at me, and saw my skin is similar to their own and asked me , “Are you xhosa?” Xhosa referring to the majority of the people that lived in the township that I would be studying in for two weeks.  A township in which some regions amidst the lack of running water, formal housing, and food still worked to maintain a sense of community.  A township in which my host mother, Mama Eunice, was not only recovering from a recent life-threatening health issue but also trying to provide for members even though she could not work because of her illness.  And even given everything that she had recently gone through she would still prepare a plate for children in the neighborhood that would come to our door pleading for food.  I was so grateful for her giving spirit, kindness and joy and I was also able to see the presence of God in each of her gentle actions.

photo 4

Now finally to Brazil.  At this point in the journey I had been traveling for over three months.  I began my time in the middle of the Atlantic forest near a small town called Barradoturvo.  This region was said to be one of the poorest regions in the country.  Largely because the people chose to live off the lad and use the natural gifts that they believe they had been provided by God.  During my time there, I learned so much from members of the local community.  For example, Pedro, who was known as the regions wise elder stated to us that there were many things that can be learned by our eyes but they are invisible to our eyes because we are not aware of them.  As we become more aware of things we are then capable of seeing them.  A statement that I think can certainly be extended to the love and presence of God.  His wise words and warm spirit are something that I will certainly never forget.  With the largest smile on his face he also once stated that “when it comes to being poor there are two things: one is to be poor and one is to have no money.  Yes, yes it’s true I may have no money and day in and day out life can be hard, but to call me poor – no, no I won’t stand for it.  I am surrounded by nature, my beautiful wife, and all other wonderful gifts of God.  I am healthy and I am living happily and for that I have all the riches in the world.  You know, we all have so many riches; we just have to open our eyes, ears, and hearts to begin recognizing them.”  Each of the stories and words of advice he shared with me were truly inspiring.

So I know that I have been speaking for a while but I would like to end by leaving you all with a term that I continually heard in South Africa, that really stuck with me.  And it’s Ubuntu -we are who we are because of other people.   I would also like to extend this in saying we are who we are not only because of other people but most importantly because of the love, the hope, the determination and the kind will that others have shown us.  (I am blessed with) the kind will and love of two very special pastors who have made it their mission to continue working toward a better tomorrow and the love of a community that is inclusive of all.