Monday, March 26, 2012

he never lets go

Here's a post from Chris Wright, one of our C2 - Haiti team members and among the first to travel to St. Anne's. Chris also led trips as a part of our Katrina relief work in Mississippi. Chris's reflection is right in line with the conclusion of our 'highly favored' message series -- I'm sure you'll enjoy it, and as always, please share your comments below.

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It’s now been a little over four months since our mission trip to Haiti, yet the daily thoughts about the people of Haiti and St. Anne’s continue… it seems like it’s been much longer and my yearning to return hasn't subsided, along with a yearning to stay engaged and to help as God would have it.

You know how sometimes you get a song stuck in your head. Well when I went to Haiti I kept hearing the music and lyrics of "You never let go." In fact when I got back I told Al Walsh that he actually went to Haiti with us! The lyrics go:
“Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me”
Maybe they were stuck in my head to give me comfort as we saw the conditions of life in Haiti, maybe to remind me that God isn’t going to let me give up my yearnings… maybe, because God needed me to know that He is with me and the people of Haiti.

What I do know is that God touched me by calling me to Haiti and bringing people like Fr. Wilner and Frisnell Denys into my life. I didn’t earn this and I definitely don’t deserve it, but I thank God for it.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

a story

I was doing some spring cleaning on Saturday and came across my journal from my 2010 Nativity:Nigeria trip. It's amazing how strong memories can be -- as I read my entries I could feel myself back in Africa in all the situations I was reading about. I'm so thankful for the other team members and the laughs, tears, conviction, and enthusiasm we all shared on that trip.

Here's a story that one of the boys at Anawim wrote one day in school in English class. I kept Peter's story because later that day I found out that this story was not entirely fiction.

the orphans
Once upon a time there was a village called Coro village. One day there was no food to eat, no clothes to wear. Everything was just going upside down. Children were dying, some old people were dying too while some children were orphans. Then one day there was food again. Everybody was happy but the children that have no parents suffered. They drove them away from the village. They picked food from the dust bin. Some of them died while some of them become mad and some of them became armed robbers. Then the remaining two said, "We shall go and work to earn a living." Later, one became a doctor and the other a lawyer and they went abroad. They got married and life continued. To God be the Glory. The end, thanks.

Peter's family had thrown him, his twin brother, and older sister out of the house one day. Peter, Paul and Deborah were made to find their own way. I think he was 7 years old at the time. Praise God that Sister Oresoa came to the rescue, she took them in, fed them, cared for them, and gave them hope for the future. This is just one of many amazing stories that have happened at the Anawim Home Orphanage. Reading this story reminds me of the incredible injustices that are being committed all around the word, and it also reminds me that God is a God of redemption, able to overcome any situation and turn it into good. God is love.

Monday, March 12, 2012

encouragement

What a great series we're in at Nativity -- highly favored is about the grace of God, his unmerited favor toward us. This weekend's message was about the commandments and grace. Our pastor showed us that God's law provides guidelines for a life of grace, and at the same time, the law is a reminder that we are sinners, that we've all fallen short of God. It's amazing how such a simple list of ten things can point out all our mistakes. Even if we stopped sinning today, right here and now, we'd have a whole history of sin up until this point in our lives. We are all in need of God's grace!

Whether you're a leader, a volunteer, someone thinking about going on a trip, or on staff at the church, it's very easy for thoughts like these to creep into your brain: because I have fallen short of God so many times, because I have screwed up and have no authority, because I have no experiences or qualifications, because I have made all these mistakes in my past...  God can't use me, God won't use me, God wouldn't dare to choose me to carry out his work.

Well, I have some news for you; God has already chosen you. You are his child; you didn't have to do anything to earn his approval; you are favored. Time and time again we see the God of the Scriptures pick unlikely candidates to do amazing things for his kingdom. St. Paul was a murderer of Christians, yet he tells us in 2 Corinthians 12 that God's grace is sufficient -- it's ample, enough, adequate to overcome all things. In that chapter of Scripture, Paul readily acknowledges his own weakness -- when we look at the commandments, we can readily acknowledge our own weakness. Yet Paul says he can boast, not about himself but about the power and grace of God -- we too can boast of God for using us and choosing us, the unlikeliest of candidates, to be his ambassadors.

"I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me... for when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I pray that as we continue in this message series and this season of Lent, that God's Spirit would encourage you. That because of your weakness, you may draw closer to Christ, and may come to rely upon his grace more intimately. And that through that process God would continue to use you to influence the world for Christ.

Friday, March 9, 2012

this weekend

Don't forget to turn your clocks forward this Saturday night... We don't want to miss you at the Mission Trip Q&A sessions our team is hosting this weekend!
 
After each Mass all weekend long, the Q&A sessions will be covering the specifics of the summer mission trip opportunities ahead -- going over details like the dates of the trips, projected costs, the commitments required, and how the timeline for the application process is unfolding.
 
Right after Mass, head to the Conference Room just inside of 'cn backstage' in the Great Hall. We'll be gathering for about 10 minutes to go over all the info. You'll have the opportunity to ask individual questions and talk to past missionaries about their experiences as well.
 
Looking forward to seeing you there!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

ellen on haiti

Today's post is from Ellen Franklin. Ellen is the Mission Team leader for our C2 - Haiti partnership. I traveled with Ellen to St. Anne's Church last November on her first trip to Haiti. Now Ellen and her team are working to create mission trip experiences for others that have as profound an impact as the November trip had on her. Here she shares a little bit about her time at St. Anne's and what she took from her experience.

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Before I went to Haiti, I spent a lot of time reading about the country, talking to others who had been there, and praying. My hope was to be able to have some type of connection with the people in Labrande, which I knew would be difficult given the language barrier, cultural differences, etc.

One of the things that kept surfacing for me during our time there was the importance of being present to the experience and to finding God in it. I didn’t want the trip to just be a bucket list item, something that I did once, but something transformative.

When interacting with the children, the younger ones overcame their shyness very easily and  swarmed around us at recess. The older ones were more reticent, although still very interested in us. One of the older girls stayed in the background, and would look away with a shy smile every time I saw her. On the last full day of our trip, I found her walking with me as we went over to watch the boys play soccer. She finally told me her name was Otolynn and that she was 13 years old. It had been a big step for her, and I was thrilled that she was able to finally make a connection with me.

We attended Mass each morning before school started. Although the rhythm of the Mass was familiar, it was entirely in Creole. On our last day, Fr. Wilner prayed at one point for “Nativity in Timonium," and then mentioned each one of us on the team by name. I was overwhelmed by that – that the people in this little church in a remote, impoverished village in a forgotten country would pray for us. 

Both of these experiences have stayed with me since returning home. The prayer for us at Mass was a powerful reminder that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and are called to care for one another. And through my hard won connection with Otolynn, God put a face on that.

Monday, March 5, 2012

steve on grace

Today's post is from Steve Seipp. Steve is on the Missions Leadership Team, has organized huge Missions events at Nativity such as ServeFest, 40 Days of Service, countless short-term trips to Mississippi, and continues to stay involved in a big way casting vision and helping to get others involved with Missions. As always, I invite you to keep the conversation going on the blog by commenting -- just click 'comments' at the bottom of the post.

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Since we are now in the Lenten series at Nativity focusing on grace I thought I would reflect on the connection between grace and Missions.

Grace: what an amazing gift God has given each of us, love beyond our comprehension. God does not love us because we are good, rather God loves us because He is good. God's grace does not depend on our efforts or works, it totally depends upon God.

Missions is not our opportunity to earn grace since it can’t be earned. Grace is an undeserved free gift, undeserved favor, and undeserved love.

Missions is our opportunity to open ourselves up to God’s grace. Trust in him and then share that love with others who the Lord has also given his grace. In Missions, we want to help up those brothers and sisters in grace as we would our own family. It is our opportunity to follow what the Lord instructed over and over...
  • "If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday." Isaiah 58:10 
  • "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in." Matthew 25:35 
  • "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:17-18 
Our work in Missions is our way to thank the Lord our God for his unbelievable gift of grace and salvation through Jesus' death and resurrection. By following his instruction and humbly serving others freely, openly and without expecting anything in return, we live grateful lives that honor God and get the amazing opportunity to invite others to experience the grace of God as well.