17 July 2012
ATP Center, Kisumu, Kenya
We just finished our first morning with the deaconesses, about 48 in total. It is a joy to be with these women of mercy and study the Gospel of Luke together. After seven trips, we finally got smart and engaged a translator for our teaching. We had made many home visits this trip and realized that several of the deaconesses have trouble communicating in English which means they have trouble keeping up when we teach.
It was obvious today that having a translator made a huge difference in keeping some of the deaconesses engaged and involved.
Our reflections/ teaching this year is titled, Always Mercy….The Compassionate Christ in Luke’s Gospel. We are doing a more give and take sort of teaching this year—more like a Bible class than a straight lecture. This also seems to work well. Now for those of you who know Dr. Arthur Just, you may know that he wrote the two- volume commentary on Luke’s Gospel. That means he knows his stuff. It also means, I have to study like crazy to keep up! Actually, after having taught Luke these past few months at Holy Cross for my womens’ Bible class has made this task easier—and I am actually having fun teaching.
19 July 2012
This is our last day with the deaconesses. Having spent the first two days teaching about mercy, beginning the “end of the story” in Luke 24 with the Emmaus narrative, then moving back to the beginning of Luke with the Annunciation and the Magnificat (Mary’s hymn of praise after hearing the greeting of her cousin Elizabeth)….and then on to the Beatitudes. It is in these texts that we learn mercy from Mary and from Christ. It is here that we get our identity– and especially as deaconesses our formation, our identity– is formed out of Mary’s response: humility, joy, service. We serve out of who we are, rather than a list of tasks to be accomplished. It is not about “being perfect” or having all the answers. It is simply knowing we are all poor miserable sinners in need of Christ’s grace, mercy, forgiveness and peace. Once we get that, we can enter into other people’s suffering, no matter how scary, desperate or hopeless that suffering is. For we know that when we care for those in need, we are caring for Christ himself. We give ourselves as Christ fills us up with His mercy.
Dr. Just is finishing up our teaching this morning, then Grace Jobita will then teach more about the micro-loan project for the deaconesses. We began the micro-loan project a year ago and it is moving along….slowly, but steadily. And by that I mean it is progressing as it should. All the pieces are beginning to fall into place. The women are learning what is involved in getting ready to take out a loan—and that there are many, many rules in place (and some of them, like us, do not want rules—they want the money), but most of them realize that for project to be successful, there has to be an intact system that all understand. I am quite confident that this project will give women a chance to have an income for their families, their parishes and others. It will give them hope, even though the beginning process seems slow. As one deaconess told me, “This is like birthing pains.”
We will end today with a Divine Service of Holy Communion, where will gather to eat and drink Christ’s Body and Blood. We will join angels, archangels and all the saints in heaven as we gather together as sisters in Christ.
Last night, after a long day with the deaconesses, Dr. Just, Deaconess Agnes and I revisited John, the man with breast cancer. We wanted to follow up on his pain and the effectiveness of the pain medicine we purchased for him. Unfortunately, his pain level was still very high and he expressed such frustration with the local clinic “doctors” who tell him all that is wrong is that he has a wound on his chest. His left arm is so swollen that it is painful to even look at. He said to us, “I am lying on this couch dying.”
“I am in so much pain and am so weak.”
Knowing that John is likely dying from breast cancer, and recognizing that nothing is being done to help him, we decided to again utilize the services of Pastor David Chuchu and arrange for John to see a private doctor. Will this save his life? Not likely. Will it give him comfort in knowing the truth and getting comfort care at the end of his days? Well, that is our hope.
On our first visit, we gave John a small crucifix, and assured him that Jesus promises to never leave or forsake us. He held onto that reminder in that cross with Christ’s body on it, as a reminder of this promise. This visit, we were able to bring a chain made by one of the students at the school for children with disabilities. John can now wear this reminder around his neck and have that visual reminder that Christ is always close to him. Deaconess Agnes will be embodiment of mercy as she continues to care for John and his family.
As we were saying our good-byes, John prayed for our safe journey home. He held our hands and said, “Thank you, sister. Thank you, pastor.” We said, “Thank you for allowing us to come into your home and be a part of your life. Thank you for showing us Christ in your suffering. Be blessed. Be at peace.”
Now, the other great, wonderful news about this family is this—Carrie Beth had decided this family should have a water filtration system and we delivered one before she left Kenya. We were able to talk to them about how it is working. They brought it out for us to see. They treat it like it is gold. After using it at night—for John’s shower and wound care and drinking water—they wrap it carefully in clean bags so it won’t get dirty. They are cleaning the filter every day and recognize the gift of having clean water. They were so proud of this filter and so grateful.
So, once again, in the midst of sorrow there is great joy.
Friday morning, 5:45.
Leaving for the airport in 45 minutes…still packing.