Monday, March 14, 2011

Episcopal Relief and Development in Japan

Episcopal Relief and Development has announced plans to help the Anglican church in Japan. Check out the report at ERD.

40 Bags in 40 Days

This idea has floated around the blogosphere for a while ... as a Lenten discipline, try to remove a bag of clutter from your home every day for 40 days. People who are clutter-prone might need to try a large black garbage bag. For others, small grocery bags might do it.

Maybe you could take a week and call it "recycle" week. Have every bag that week be stuff that needs to go to the Recycling Center. Then a "Goodwill" week. Then a "Garage" week ... before you know it, you'll be ready for Easter, and your random, accumulated clutter from years of living in our consumption-driven society will be annihilated.

Spiritually, the practice is called purgation. As you purge your material clutter, ponder your spiritual clutter. Take time as you sort your stuff to sort through your "STUFF."

Friday, March 11, 2011

What IS it about Lent?

A parishioner recently asked these questions:

"Educate one of your sheep. I have no Catholic background and have no understanding of the significance of Ash Wednesday.

Why do we celebrate Ash Wednesday?

What do the ashes mean? (dust to dust, ashes to ashes) or something else?

What does Lent signify? Is it something specific in the Bible? Or is the 40-day period merely building on the 40 days Jesus wandered in the desert and was tempted by the devil?

Why no alleluias during Lent?"

I thought these were great questions, and probably questions many of us wonder about. Here is my reply:

Lent began sometime in the fourth century CE, as a period of preparation for adult baptisms at Easter. It also became a time of repentance for people who had been very bad and had been separated from the worshipping community because of their actions. The penitent people were sprinkled with ashes and dressed in hair shirts on Ash Wednesday, then sent out of the church to do acts of repentance and to fast. They were returned to the community on Maundy Thursday and publicly reunited with the church.

Then everyone sort of got on the devotional bandwagon -- not just candidates for baptism, or penitent sinners -- and began using the time of Lent as a way to prepare for observing the Triduum, which are the three days from Good Friday through to Easter. Intentional prayer, self-discipline and fasting were seen as ways to draw closer to God and to focus on the meaning of Christ's death and resurrection.

The fasting and ashes have Biblical backgrounds ... Jesus fasted 40 days in the wilderness, and ashes and sackcloth were a Biblical symbol of mourning and repentance. We are marked with ashes as a sign of our mortality (ashes to ashes, dust to dust) and as a sign of our need to accept our human limitations and predisposition to sin, and use that as inspiration to turn to God and deepen our relationship with God. The sign of the cross done in ash echoes the cross that was drawn on our foreheads in baptism, and the ashes are actually mixed with baptismal oil, so the cross of our bodily death and the cross of our eternal life are mixed together in that one gesture of drawing the ash on the forehead.

We drop the alleluias and other aspects of Easter celebration to mark this as a season of thoughtful preparation for Easter, and so when we bring out the alleluias on Easter, we will be so much happier to have them back.

I find in our culture that it is easy to have a cross-less Christianity ... all Easter and no Good Friday. Lent helps us remember that you can't have resurrection without something dying first. And it helps us refocus on Christ's sacrifice for us, that God loved us enough to participate in our human life, all the way to death and out the other side, in order to set us back into right relationship with God.

Basically, Lent is a time to remember that God is God. And we are not.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wednesday in Haiti

Fun in the sun, the hot, hot sun continues. The clinic, with Monica at her chair, continues to see patients. Audrey did exams on more than 500 children today at St. Pierre School. The flouride team treated more than 700 students. This is one sign of the earthquake's effects ... the people coming in from Port-au-Prince to move in with relatives in the country bring their children and swell the schools.

Eric is still hanging lights in the orphanage. He was playing soccer with the kids yesterday and took a spill in the gravel, cutting his chin. This morning there were at least three docs examining and irrigating the wound. He is fine.

I was with Doug on the away team today. We went to the school and church at Trianon, where more than 250 people came through to see the doctors. Until 2 p.m., I was the keeper of the door, and only once channeled my inner Roger Matthews. Young men were trying to slip into the line ahead of crippled old people and feverish babies, so I had a good yell at them, with the help of an interpreter.

In the afternoon, Audrey and I -- along with some other folks from the flouride team -- continued our English conversation sessions with teenagers and young adults from the St. Pierre church. A young man I have known for three trips now -- Alexei, really led the sessions. He is a wonderful teacher.

And here is part of the real damage of the quake. Once you acknowledge the terrible losses of life and limb, the long-range effects on these young people are going to doom a generation. Alexei is 24. The past two trips he has told me of his deep desire to attend university and become an Episcopal priest. Thanks to Pere Jeannot, he had taken ONE SEMESTER at university, beginning last fall. The university is now destroyed, with no immediate plans on how to restart, and Alexei is back in Mirebalais with nothing to do.

Or the girlfriend of Dr. Tony, the HOM clinic dentist. She has been helping in the dental suite this week. She was ONE SEMESTER away from graduating as a full-fledged dentist. And now she is in Mirebalais, almost a dentist, but not quite, with nothing to do.

There are also lingering stresses. One of our drivers, Isaiah, lost his wife in the quake. He is now a single parent of five little children. Pere Jeannot's wife jumped from a balcony with their three children as the building fell. Her injured foot is almost better, but she still refuses to sleep indoors. The backyard of the rectory is a little campground of tents. When the wind blows, suddenly and hard, everyone at the clinic gets nervous, because apparently there was a sudden wind just before the quake, and everyone is afraid it will happen again.

Everyone is grateful for prayers. But soon it will be time to begin to imagine solutions for some of these problems. As the Rev. Lauren Stanley told us last month, Haiti is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Some of this will require lots of money, lots of ingenuity, and lots of commitment over a long time to repair.

+ Kit

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuesday in Haiti

Can you say hot? Can you say tired? Everyone is working hard in the heat. The clinic is seeing a steady stream of patients. No evidence of earthquake related injuries, just the usual round of chronic conditions relating to malnutrition and lack of health care. The children are beautiful ... they always are.

Doug is out on the mobile team in Noyeux today. They have to take four by fours, ford streams, and set up shop under tarps in a field. Audrey is amusing the children at Trianon school with the mobile flouride team. Eric is off climbing on some roof somewhere and I am trying not to watch. Monica is reveling in the dental suite. If she had seen it even two years ago, she would be even more amazed. It is good to see a patient and be able to refer them to follow-up with Dentist Tony in a few weeks.

We had a hand surgeon join us on the trip, Dr. Joe Feilla. He was able to get a ride to the Partners in Health center in Cange, where they have patients lined up for him. We can't wait for him to come back Thursday night and tell us all about it.

Internet access is erratic, so I will update as I can, but it may not be every day. Know that we are well and working hard. Keep us in prayer.

+ Kit

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday in Haiti

All of us have arrived safely. We spent yesterday unloading the clinic. All Saints was there in every pack of Rolaids and every bottle of Children's Tylenol that we unpacked, sorted and stowed away. This is a smaller team this year ... half the size of last year's trip, and we are focusing on getting through our regular mission work without the dominating presence of Roger Matthews. It is different, but Dominique is holding up well and all of us are willingly working together.

Monica is delighted beyond belief with the excellent condition of the dental room. A full time dentist employed by HOM has been seeing patients regularly. She has set up her equipment and is excited to see patients, beginning tomorrow.

Doug will be on the traveling medical clinic that is going out into the countryside to do basic medical care. Audrey will go with the flouride team into schools to do preliminary exams of the children for possible referral to the clinic. Eric is working with the construction guys. But we are all flexible, and any of this could change.

Pere Jeannot's family is still living outside in tents in his back yard. His wife was in their home in Port au Prince during the earthquake and jumped with the children to safety from the balcony. She is still shaken by the experience and so far feels more comfortable out of doors. Our construction team has looked at all the buildings and there are no more than superficial cracks, so we are all sleeping well, some in the Hotel Mirage, and some in the St. Louis rectory.

We did not see much earthquake damage on the way out from the airport ... although at the airport, the main terminal is unusable and we cleared customs in a cargo shed. The main damage is in the city center, which we do not ever see. Out in the countryside, things appear much the same.

Today church lasted 3 hours, but we all had an excellent time. There was lots of good music, and I preached with Dominique translating. We had special prayers for Roger. Pere Jeannot's three-year-old son, Olivier, joined us for the procession and spent some time wandering around on the altar or helping the musicians. He is getting very big!

Love to all, and I will post again if I can get to a working computer. Keep us in prayer.

-- Pere Kit