Monday, 26 October 2009

To respond with love

Last Friday I spent the day packing boxes full of peoples' donations for parts of Eastern Europe where there is extreme poverty. I went to help because the woman who collects the donations in her house (who was working for this charity since before the fall of the Berlin wall) is now ninety and, as a severe asthmatic, has been told she should no longer lift anything, how ever small. This hasn't stopped her. The donations will be couriered through Poland until they reach a religious community there. When it gets to the Fathers it will be divided up in order to share it among communities in need and then it will be taken on to parts of the Ukraine, Belarus and among others, communities still affected by the Chernobyl disaster, where babies are still being born without eyes. It will be taken by the Fathers themselves who will go back and forth tirelessly with fairly limited transport until it is all delivered. It is only scratching the surface, yet because of the personal response of all these people children will have toys, elderly people will have soap, mothers and fathers, teenagers will have clothing. Without that van of aid they would not. It really is as simple as that.

It is difficult to describe how humbled I felt being around Vi, the woman in question. I packed for a few hours and was tired; she has people in and out of her house at all different hours of the day all the time. Each day friends from church come in and do some packing. Yet all of us are purely bathing in the light of her true goodness- since this is one of her many projects. She never loses patience with her packers and insists on making us tea and cakes, she answers thousands of questions from those of us who have no idea of the severe customs laws, she painstakingly copies out labels for every bag and box in Polish - she has looked up and checked all the words and has to copy them from her hand written list. This is a woman whose favourite Birthday present was 900 tea bags for her parcels. In parts of the Ukraine people can't afford tea, all they can drink is hot water. Vi has responded to them, but more than this, she has responded to them with love.

There are so many forms of poverty in the world, in our own lives. One of the great examples of love in our world today is Jean Vanier, founder of the L'Arche community. It is his belief that each of us is poor and handicapped in our own way so we shouldn't get any ideas about our own greatness, nor others lowliness. Each of us can give and each of us can learn from one another but no human being is less valuable than another in the sight of God. I understand all of this as best I can - with all my own flaws.

Nevertheless, I feel an increasing concern in my own life about how I am responding, personally, to the cries of the poor. I feel a stronger pull towards walking with them in my own life in some way. In Western terms I don't come from a particularly wealthy family but I have been given so much in my life in terms of love and the education I received- I believe that this privilege is a responsibility- the tools I need to respond. My university chaplain constantly warned us of this- if you are given opportunity then it is your responsibility to turn this into a chance to love. I know that I have written in the past about when I was in Tanzania two and a half years ago, about how the children I met there have burrowed into a place in my heart. I think about their lives often and I think about their pain. It is easy for me to see snippets of lives of those who suffer, to be briefly united to them and to feel compassion for them. It is much harder to know what to do about these feelings. How can we help those who most need it? How can we turn these feelings into a loving response in whatever way that might be possible?

I don't have any answers to that one (obviously) except the one that we all have, the one that Christ ultimately gives us - respond with love. How we do this is deeply individual and personal (again, sorry I am stating the obvious). As long as we respond. Action through prayer is certainly a highly powerful response and you can see it working in our own missionaries.

I just feel that I need to be working on improving my personal response. I am grateful as always to be part of a Church that does so much for the poor, no matter the criticisms levelled, I have seen it in action. Where there are no others, the Church is there at the heart of poverty. Thus we are all there.

Below is a video I filmed of the kids singing in the Fransalian school in Tanzania. It was the happiest school I have EVER visited and it is one of the many projects the MSFS are responsible for in just this one area. You get to hear me laughing away at the end as I was treated to another rendition of my 'favourite' song. It makes me smile whenever I watch it. Projects like this are hope personified in a world where there is no infrastructure whatsoever to support the average person. Education is a light of strength. Christ lives in the hope of each one of these children.

I ask for your prayers as I am deciding a few important things in the coming months. I believe I have been offered an opportunity to respond more fully on a personal level - I ask for your help that I will do His will. That I will respond with love in the particular way he wishes me to.

I promise to keep you informed as things develop.


Anne said...

God bless you, and you have my prayers!

SQUELLY said...

Thank you! God bless


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