In the meantime...be well!
There have been so many changes in my life - there's much to ponder and share. I'll be updating this blog in the coming months. Stay tuned!
In the meantime...be well!
It’s been over a month since my weeklong trip to Haiti. The morning after my return, I resumed my busy life and full schedule. My mind has been occupied with the stuff of everyday life, which, in retrospect, has been a blessing. The busyness allowed me, and continues to allow me, to slowly process my experiences, to debrief myself, to form thoughtful interpretations of the myriad perceptions encased in sensory, emotional encounters. All the while, the people I met in Haiti have remained in the forefront of my thoughts and prayers.
Each time I sat down to sort pix or write a piece on my trip, I was pulled into the pictures and memories of what I experienced. Therefore, I was pleased to be asked to prepare a message that centered on some stories and
pictures of my trip to Haiti for church this morning. This task would provide impetus for spending deliberate energy to organize. Simple enough…or so I thought. It takes time to sort over 1000 pictures, and to choose from dozens of stories, numerous videos, and a seemingly endless array of thoughts and perceptions of my experiences in Haiti. Add in a limited amount of time to encapsulate it all into what I hoped would turn out to be an informative, inspiring Sunday morning message - being pleased quickly turned to anxiety. Anxiety or not, a type A personality [me, most of the time] gets it done. The presentation was well received. What follows is a bit of what I spoke about before presenting the ppt.
Reading the lectionary for today, connectedness emerged as one of the themes. This is in keeping with the stories from the past three weeks. In them we heard: Jesus is the Good Shepherd [we are the sheep, even those outside the flock]. We also heard: Jesus is the Vine [we are the branches]. Connectedness is prevalent in these stories – it’s almost an obsession.
In today’s gospel lesson: we hear a portion of what is often called Jesus’ high priestly prayer, a prayer offered by Jesus before he was arrested. I’d like to talk a bit about this prayer, a prayer for Jesus’ beloved disciples, and by extension, for the whole church to come – including you and I - thereby connecting us directly with God.
Jesus makes specific requests in this prayer, among them:
1. A plea for God to provide safety/protection for his followers [you and I] from the world, from its temptations, from haters, from evil in all its forms. This is echoed in the words of the Lord’s Prayer,“lead us not into temptation, but deliver from evil…”
2. A plea for God to sanctify his followers [you and I], to make us holy by using truth/the word.
3. A plea for unity/connectedness for those who believe in the message the disciples brought into the world – a unity as the one that existed between Jesus and the Father.
The lessons today seem to invite us to think of holiness as a sharing of the life of Christ in unity, in community, rather than as a separation. Using this perspective, moving towards holiness is sharing life with others, connecting to others, which in turn leads us towards seeking the best for all people. Living in God’s truth/the word causes us to recognize our connectedness to each other and to all life, moving us to address the causes of inequality and poverty, moving us to a greater awareness of our need to care for creation.
What strikes me in the reading are the words: “not out of the world.” The language is powerful, significant. Jesus doesn’t ask for us to be removed from the world – in fact, it’s the complete opposite. Jesus gave the disciples God’s truth/the word and sends them into the world, carrying God’s truth/the word INTO the world; but we don’t belong to the world, its systems, its ways of thinking.
To this end, we will find ourselves reaching out to one another across lines of ideology, religion, race, nationality, education, and economic status. Seeking to strengthen our connectedness, rather than separate ourselves from other people, from religions, from particular ideas, and preserve what divides us, is holy work indeed.
A little further into the prayer than what the lectionary provided today, we hear that Jesus connects us to God. These are powerful words. Jesus connects us to God. Jesus connects God with us through his disciples and all those who come after – including you and I – not only connecting them…unifying them. This alludes to a direct connection to God, the Creator.
Jesus was a connector, bringing people of vastly different ideological, religious, theological, political, and economic backgrounds together. The call this week is to connect ourselves to others. It is this connectedness
that sanctifies us; it is through this connectedness that we cease to be ‘of’ the world. Yes, we live in the world, but we are focused towards God’s unifying love, rather than the divisiveness characteristic of those who ignore God’s gift of eternal life.
It is through connectedness that I received an invitation to visit Children in Need Haitian Project in Haiti. After a time of discernment, I felt called to make the trip. The connections I made while in Haiti have changed my world view, have challenged my thinking, have grounded my faith, and the connections continue to unfold -- making new connections here, closer to home, due to the connections I made while in Haiti. The journey continues...
Until next time, be well.
Ann, Betsy, Josie and I arrived in Haiti on the afternoon of Monday, April 9. All went well with the flight, getting through the airport, and traveling through Port-au-Prince to get to Jeanette's home. I've been taking plenty of pix and have been jotting down events from the day to help me remember.
Haiti is a nation of stark contrasts. Dichotomy pervades all facet of life - the sights, the smells, the sounds, the people, the places, the environment. It's been a bit overwhelming to process, and it's just my second day in this amazingly beautiful, lush, fertile, damaged, seemingly unfixable, Caribbean country.
Today we met the students of Children in Need Haitian Project School in L'Espinasse, Haiti - a bit reserved, yet curious about these light-skinned women who are going to be working with them for a few days. So many encounters and observations today. When I have more time and a dependable Internet connection, I will write more.
For now, be well!
A Temple Talk is a short presentation made during a worship service to inform, inspire, challenge, and share a part of onself. Today, I spoke to the people that are Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd. Here's a copy of the powerpoint presentation sans my commentary. The pix speak for themselves.
In recent weeks, the image of Wizard of Oz’ Dorothy standing arm-in-arm between Tin Man and Scarecrow on the Yellow Brick Road flashes across the screen in my mind from time-to-time. It is always accompanied by the rhythmic chant, "Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!" It happens in milliseconds; joining a myriad of images, melodies, lyrics, and stories my mind connects to when it processes outward stimuli.
I believe it began when two of the friends/colleagues accompanying me to Haiti and I visited Dr. Ghitan at
Maimonides Travel Clinic. Dr. Ghitan is a friend, mother to two of my piano students, and the Associate Chief
and Program Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Travel Medicine. She graciously offered to care for us, informing us of the vaccinations and medications we need for our trip, discussing procedures to follow - what to eat and what NOT to eat, what mosquito sprays to use on ourselves and our clothes, what to do if we become ill, etc. – and then she administered the vaccinations. I needed five – typhoid, hepatitis A, polio, flu, and Tdap [tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis]. I left her office with Band-Aids on both arms, papers to read and two prescriptions: one for a 16-day supply of malarone [malaria prevention] the I need to begin a few days before I
leave for Haiti, and one for a 3-day supply of ciprofloxacin [just in case]. The chant that evening: typhoid, and hep A, and more! Oh my!
I took some time to ponder why this scene with melody may be a persistent motif. Dorothy moves from a familiar, grayscale world to a vivid, unknown world. She embarks on a journey, following a set path to a
specific destination, in an attempt to return home. Her companion from the grayscale world, Toto, travels with her. They forge ahead together on a golden path and are joined by Tin Man and Scarecrow, who both warn her of dangers that may lay ahead. The ruby slippers Dorothy now wears keep her safe, keep her grounded.
It is a journey of self-discovery, a journey to find the way home. It is a wrought with dangers, detours and roadblocks, and full of friendship, love, and care. The repeated refrain of “Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh my!” communicates Dorothy’s fear, anxiety, and worry. Whoa!
Fear, anxiety, and worry…yes, there is an element of fear in traveling to a third-world country, the poorest in the western hemisphere. Nothing will prepare me for what I will see, what I will smell, what I will hear, and what I will feel as I travel through the city of Port-au-Prince out into the countryside towards L'Espinasse, and in the days that follow. I’ve watched documentaries about the earthquake’s aftermath and I saw Oprah’s interview with Sean Penn. In my mind, I can rationalize what is coming; in my heart, I know I will be forever changed.
Yes, there is an element of anxiety in knowing that our group needs to be met by someone at the airport to secure safe passage through Port-au-Prince into the countryside. Arrangements have been made to ensure we are never traveling unaccompanied while in Haiti. Safety is a major concern.
And yes, there is an element of worry...not in making the trip itself. It is a concern that I can indeed offer some sort of help to a people whom I cannot truly empathize with. I will never fully understand the extent of their poverty. I can, however, be witness to their living conditions and I will help tell their story to others.
It occurs to me that fear and faith are closely related. Both deal with an unknown, a belief that what is unknown will, or will not, occur. When we are afraid, or know, that something will [or will not] happen, we experience fear. When we hope, or know, that something will [or will not] happen, we experience faith. Dorothy is fearful. She, however, never meets a tiger or bear, and the lion she meets is afraid of her. Perhaps the image of Dorothy is how my doubts manifest themselves, bringing them front and center, albeit only for a moment.
To her credit, Dorothy befriends the lion, makes it through a dangerous landscape, and skips onward towards the Emerald City. She has faith that the Wizard of Oz will help her in her quest to return home. Thanks to Toto, Dorothy and her friends, sooner rather than later, learn that what they were in search of was inside them all along. A favorite line in the movie is spoken by Glinda to Dorothy: “…you’ve always had the power…” The ruby
red slippers Dorothy was wearing would take her wherever she wanted to go. All she needed to do was click her heels and believe.
We all have power inside us. The power I have is faith, a faith that sustains me. And I’ve got ruby red slippers too...well, not really…but I’ve got walking shoes! Put on your shoes so that you are ready to spread the Good News that gives peace. [Ephesians 6:15, God’s Word Translation]
Until next time.
In January 2012, a group of 12 individuals from Wesley United Methodist Church in Quarryville, PA, went on a mission trip to Haiti to assist "Children in Need." This 20-minute video offers the group's reactions, thoughts, prayers...their story. In their words: "We thought we were blessing them; but we were the ones that were blessed."
Click the link in the sidebar on the right to find out how you can help.
Tomorrow, Sunday, January 15, is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday [observed as a federal holiday on Monday, January 16]. In essence, he was, and continues to be, a peace-builder. Some considered him a dissident –
indeed, a radical. I happen to agree – the Rev. Dr. King WAS radical in calling for social justice and peace at that time.
What does this have to do with Haiti? Superficially, the two are connected by the calendar - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day comes just a few days after the two-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti [January 12, 2010]. The man, the place, however, share themes of social justice and peace.
Peace and justice. These two ideas, concepts, attributes, values have infected my spiritual life. Each day, I endeavor to strengthen peace-building skills and to actively participate in the call for justice. As I continue to learn about the vision of education Jeanette Felix, founder of Children in Need Haitian Project, has for L'Espinasse School and the people of Haiti, I find myself drawn to its threads of justice and peace.
It is accepted knowledge that education is the way out of poverty. Education is not a given in Haiti. There are numerous hurdles on a journey for education. Before the earthquake, Haiti’s education system was dysfunctional:
-- About 50% of school-age children were enrolled in school.
-- About 20% of schools were public.
-- Although public schools are free, families struggled to pay for uniforms, textbooks and supplies.
-- There were not enough public schools to accommodate the children of Haiti.
-- Few schools were located in remote areas.
-- Private schools are too expensive for the poor.
-- The quality of education was poor, as one third of teachers have 9 years of education [i.e., if you can
read and write, and made it to high school, you can teach others to do the same]
After the earthquake, the school system was devastated. More than 3,000 schools were destroyed or damaged. Hundreds of teachers and thousands of students were killed. Even with schools reopening, less students are returning to school than were in school before the earthquake.
Two stats are stunning:
45% of the Haitian population are children.
50% of the Haitian population is illiterate.
If a child enrolls in school, it does not guarantee their ‘education.’ Learning how to read and write is not enough. When Haitian students complete 6th grade, they must pass an exam in order to advance to the upper grades to continue their studies. Most students do not possess the skills and knowledge necessary to pass the exams. If a student does not pass, they may repeat 6th grade and retake the exams. This process can repeat itself for several years. It is not uncommon to find 15-year-olds in a 6th grade classroom. If the exam proves too difficult to pass, students are, in a very real sense, stuck.
Enter Jeanette’s vision: L'Espinasse is the school that is the best by any standard -- a school that:
-- provides an environment conducive to learning.
-- lays a strong foundation of skills, knowledge, and understanding.
-- effectively prepares its students for the upper grades.
-- instills Christian values.
-- cultivates higher order thinking skills.
-- promotes innovation and cooperative problem-solving.
-- builds community.
-- employs qualified faculty.
-- has a computer lab, a playground, a library.
L’Espinasse School is already on the road towards Jeanette’s vision. 2 of the 4 instructors employed at the school are trained teachers. A team of educators [me!] will be visiting the school in April 2012 to mentor the teachers and work with the students.
The vision can become reality. You can help. Click on the link in the right sidebar for more information on how you can advance the vision.
Together, you and I can make an impact, one that will be felt for many years to come - one person at a time, one child at a time, in peace with justice.
God’s work, our hands.
“If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”
~ The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Until next time, be well.
You and I are seed planters. We plant seeds all the time -- everywhere we go, with every action or inaction we make, with every word we say or don’t say. It’s an awesome responsibility, one we may or may not be aware of or acknowledge. The influence and power of the responsibility is more pronounced when we become parents, caregivers, or devote time to being the ‘village’ that helps to grow the children of our society into adults. I, for one, didn’t ask for it – no, that’s not quite right. I was blissfully unaware that I had asked. I think most of us are…
So…why Haiti? It has everything to do with seeds.
A few years ago, Sharon Cushing, Executive Coordinator of Children in Need Haitian Project [CINHP], was invited to visit Leif Ericson to teach the entire school about CINHP at an assembly program. I was in attendance – a seed is planted.
A devastating earthquake hit Haiti on Tuesday, January 12, 2010. Jeanette Felix, Founder of CINHP was in Haiti with her family at the time. Children’s Chorus of Bay Ridge chose to send the funds raised at their Winter
Concert in late January 2010 to aid CINHP. Children raising funds for other children in need is a good fit for the chorus. Subsequently, Children’s Chorus of Bay Ridge chose to send all funds raised at its concerts to CINHP. The seed planted is now rooted as a relationship between Children’s Chorus of Bay Ridge and CINHP.
In early 2011, Jeanette Felix, Founder of CINHP, suggests to a mutual friend that she and I visit Jeanette in Haiti – a seed is planted.
After careful consideration and prayer, I accept the invitation in September 2011. Three of my colleagues/friends will travel with me as we go to Haiti to mentor teachers in April 2012. During this one-week trip, we will visit CINHP’s school located in the rural community of L'Espinasse, 3 hours outside of Port-au-Prince, up in the
I'm helping CINHP raise funds so that a new school building can be completed. The land is bought, the building staked and foundation poured, a builder has been found – the need now is for construction materials. There are also many other needs that need to be met. Please click here to find out how you can help:
If you know of anyone who may be interested in donating, either financially or with supplies, please let me know and I'll contact them directly, or, pass along the link to this blog. http://www.missritamusic.com/haiti-2012.html
Until next time, be well!
As 2011 ends and 2012 dawns, I am grateful -- for my family, for my friends, for my extended family that is Leif Ericson Day School, for my extended family that is Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, for daily bread, for a roof over my head and a place to sleep, and on the most basic level: for each breath.
Gratitude imbues my life. The spirit of gratitude has led me to envision a trip to Haiti. Yes...a trip to Haiti. God has led me to this place in my life. It has been and continues to be an amazing journey.
For now, I ask for your prayers and support. It is my hope to inform and inspire you via this blog. There are many ways you can help.
Until next time, be well!