Tuesday, November 26, 2013

On Presence

 “Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you are alive, it isn’t.” Richard Bach

There are many ways that we can think about how to be of service to others. One that I think often gets overlooked is the ministry of presence.

I experienced presence in two remarkable ways this week. First, the missionaries in Haiti were joined by 4 bishops, 2 priest, a slew of spouses, and some of the staff from the Episcopal Church Center during their pilgrimage through Episcopal projects in Haiti.  It was phenomenal to hear about the projects that the Episcopal Church has in the works to rebuild our buildings after the earthquake, including a new cathedral, a new school for the blind and handicapped, a guest house to bring an operating budget into the diocese, and a massive school, just to get started! These people did not come to “do” much, but rather to learn, to be in dialogue, and to be in solidarity. They were constantly ready to learn more, to see more, and to explore more. I, as well as many that they met, came away from this experience invigorated and renewed, knowing how much support we have here and what great plans the church has in the long run to bring sustainability, practicality, and beauty to Haiti.

The second experience was the triennial convention of the Haitian Daughters of the King. Daughters of the King is an association of Episcopal women whose mission can be best summed up by their motto: 
I am but one, but I am one.
I cannot do everything, but I can do something.
What I can do, I ought to do.
What I ought to do, by the grace of God I will do.
Lord, what will you have me do?

At this meeting, each parish presented what they do in their community. These groups run on incredibly small budgets, maybe $50 a year. And yet they make enormous impacts: they visit the sick and shut-ins, inmates, and those dealing with loss. They may bring a small gift, but their goal is to go and be present with those who need partners in their journey.

It is very easy to get caught up in the mindset of “we need money to make a difference.” But sometimes, all we need to do is take a few minutes out of our day to call up someone and ask them how their day is going or if their dog is feeling better. My challenge to you for this week is to find a new way to enact this ministry of presence: how can you spread your light to others? Let me know how it goes!

The pilgrims, missionaries, and 815 staff on our last day all together.

The Daughters of the King assembly, being joyful as always!

Have I mentioned that people (not just kids) LOVE to play with my hair?

Things Expats love: Grocery stores. In Petionville (the suburb of Port au Prince where the majority of expats live), there is one grocery store that sells Herbal Essences Shampoo, Diet Coke, granola bars, and Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream all in one place. And it is called The Giant… how perfect is that!

We had the chance to do some touristy things in Port au Prince while we were hanging out with the bishops, including lunch at this beautiful old gingerbread-style house with these gardens full of art pieces. As always, I exhibited the solemnity that the occasion called for.

Me, post-filming: Stay tuned for Julie the Musical on a computer near you! Ok so maybe it is a short video about the work that all of the missionaries are doing in Haiti. But Julie the Musical sounds like so much more fun.  

Meet Ashley, the 3rd YASCer in Haiti, who is living in Cap Haitian with Kyle. She is helping to start a series of music programs in the Episcopal Schools in the north. She is always looking for a slew of band instruments and supplies (reeds, valve oil, etc) if anyone is interested in her work! Learn more about her projects here!

Among the Bishops that visited was my very own Bishop Daniel of the Diocese of Pennsylvania. Kyle Evans is a three year missioner in Haiti, also from my diocese (and my church!). Check out her awesome work, including running youth and women’s leadership development camps, starting radio stations, and working with Food for the Poor here!

That which remains of the Episcopal Cathedral in Port au Prince, almost 3 years after the earthquake. 

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