Serve Well Blog

December 2012 Entries

12.31.12

Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 7
La Noche Buena, by Joe Tobiason

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press

In Lima, Peru this was was where Christmas made its D-Day landing. Peru was the home of the Shining Path and the MRTA, militant groups who, along with government forces, clashed throughout both the rural Andean villages as well as urban Lima. Only 15 years earlier, loud noises in the night could be explosions in shopping centers, gunbattles in the suburbs or people simply disappearing. Though gangs still roamed the streets, a holy limeñian night had changed a lot, especially in this Christmas season.

La Noche Buena

Extended host family had come in from across the country. All afternoon, we had prepared the traditional turkey (sliced up, marinated in a red sauce and baked), the panetone and even some champagne. It had been great working in the kitchen with three generations of my host family along with Erika, the woman who would become my wife. We'd made the meal, including a delivery of propane at 9pm on Christmas Eve. The biggest moment came when the clock struck midnight.

La Noche Buena

I was sitting at the dining room table with my family, talking about politics or soap operas when the sound of loud noises rung out. At first Erika and I were startled, but when everyone smiled and talked about the fireworks, we ran up to the roof. The scene that greeted us looked to us more like the night-vision videos from invasions than a celebration. But, the random cheers, the loud cumbia music and the fireworks pointed me away from the fear, violence and pain that come from war, and toward the joy, laughter and light of the coming Christ.

Click below to watch video

Now, when I stand holding a candle in a quiet church on Christmas eve, a big part of me wishes I was holding a bottle rocket. It even seems more biblical, that even if it's just for a few seconds, I'm adding a star in the heavens to guide all into his birth. 


Joe TobiasonSince returning from Peru in 2010, Joe has been working at Big Fish Games and is a budding wedding and event photographer with his JTobiason Photography business. He recently married Erika Trott, lives in Ballard, bikes to work and is a member of the Krista Foundation's Colleague Council.

 

 

12.30.12

Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 6
O Come, O Come Emmanuel, by Neshia Alaovae

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press

During this season of holiday tunes, I always listen for "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." Emmanuel, God-with-us, is my favorite name of God. For me it captures both the sheer, infinite nature of the Divine and his loving closeness to us. How amazing that a being so majestic is with and for us, is with and for me. "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" is a people's deep petition to be rescued from a world of loneliness, mourning, and darkness. "Rejoice! Rejoice!" the song tells us. For "Emmanuel shall come." Together we remember what it feels like to hope for a salvation greater than anything we can imagine and to wait in great expectation once again for God to come to us. Emmanuel is coming.

As a Jesuit-educated student, and now serving with Jesuit Volunteer Corps, I have spent the past four and a half years learning to find God in all things. Though I usually do not remember to notice God in the moment, when I do look for the holiness in the midst of ordinary life, I always seem to find it. I have always believed that Emmanuel is here. God is with us.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

One of the residents at Joseph's House passed away this week, a man whose presence had been a source of joy and laughter for everyone. He was estranged from his wife for years, but their friendship was strong. In the last two weeks of his life she came and so beautifully fulfilled her marital vow to love and to hold in sickness and in health that she earned the respect of everyone around her. Though our resident had hurt her in ways that prevented them from living with one another, her compassion and gentleness with her husband in his last days was a powerful example of forgiveness. In the hours I spent showing her how to care for her husband in his illness, she taught me how to love even when carrying scars. Emmanuel was with us.

It is easy to find God in all things when those things are good, but at the funeral it was like trying to find Waldo. The funeral brought out the pain of family members and friends who lashed out at one another. Sitting behind our resident's wife, my co-workers and I grieved for the woman he had loved and the undeserved hostility directed at her. Where is God amongst people who do not let old grievances go in order to recognize that everyone is hurting?

Later that day, we heard about the school shooting in Connecticut. My roommate, Marlena, is from Connecticut and has a brother in kindergarten. When news first started coming out, Marlena spent hours in miserable waiting. Where was the shooting? Was Nino there? Was he okay?

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Nino's okay. The shooting was in a town far away from their home. Nino was happy and safe, completely unaware of the horror that happened at Sandy Hook Elementary. But 20 precious first-graders were not and neither were the seven adults who died alongside them or the hundreds of individuals who will be affected for years to come. As I read more about the tragedy in the newspaper, I could not stop the tears that accompanied my heartache. How my heart breaks for the families who are now missing a significant member of their lives at a time that should be filled with joy. How saddened am I, too, that this young shooter slipped through the cracks until he reached a point where he felt this was the only way to make an impact.

At Joseph's House we walk alongside death every day. Every person who comes through the door is on the path to dying and we willingly step in to make the journey gentler. But the deaths of those in Connecticut were accompanied by a violence that makes me feel faint with sorrow. How can God be found in this? Emmanuel, why were you not with us when we needed you? Why were you not here to save these children and the adults committed to their growth?

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Once again, just as in the time of the songwriter of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," the world finds itself weak from the burden of human brokenness that creates systems of loneliness, mourning, and darkness. Just as in those times, we realize that something has gone horribly wrong. Once again, society finds itself looking for salvation. There are so many questions as I try to find the truth in the midst of travesty. I am pretty certain of some things. I know that this is not the time for political bickering, and I am disgusted by those who are making this a divisive event. This is a tragedy for all. I know that mental health played a part in this tragedy and I feel even more motivated to pursue a career in psychology. But more importantly, I know that Emmanuel is here. I know that God is with us.

God was with that young principal who wanted learning to be academic and fun. God was with the teacher who told her students how much she loved them, because she thought that would be the last thing they heard, and that was the most important thing she wanted to teach them. God was with the other teacher who hid her students and when there was no room left for her, stepped into the hallway and sacrificed herself. I see the Divine in those moments. I am looking for it elsewhere. In the meantime, I will mourn this great loss, work for a more just future, and await the moment when we can all finally rejoice without loneliness, mourning, or darkness to taint the celebration.


 Neshia AlaovaeNeshia is serving as a Compassionate Companion with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps at Joseph's House in Washington, DC. She also is an avid reader and can often be found in used bookstores happily inhaling that old book smell. Neshia sees God in her six housemates, footed onesie pajamas, rice, and those moments when it only takes one try to parallel park. Follow her on her blog from which this post is adapted.

 

 

12.29.12

Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 5
God is Here: The Parable of the Good Samaritans, by Bill Hoskyn

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press

Holy Child within the manger, long ago yet ever near,
Come as friend to ev'ry stranger, come as hope for ev'ry fear.
As you lived to heal the broken, greet the outcast, free the bound,
As you taught us love unspoken, teach us now where you are found.
-Marty Haugen, "Carol at the Manger"

 

During my time of service, the holidays always ushered in a sense of celebration and play, but definitely brought some loneliness, too. I had always been surrounded by family and friends at Christmas, so the holiday season was a reminder of just how far I was from home.

Dicko

But fortunately, I was not alone. We never truly are, are we? God's presence is always near if only we stop to recognize it. Christmas is an annual reminder of the Divine becoming flesh and living in solidarity with creation. And that presence is still among us. Especially during times of loneliness and times of desperation, I felt God's love from the people around me. I was lucky enough to have a community of other volunteers supporting me. But even more importantly, those that I was serving ended up serving me in return.

This was illustrated repeatedly during my three years in the L'Arche community in Tacoma. L'Arche (French for "the Ark") is an international federation of communities in which people without disabilities (or "assistants") live in intentional community with people with developmental disabilities (or "core members"). In the Tacoma community, we have four homes and a farm. The purpose of L'Arche is to announce the gifts of people with disabilities, as revealed through mutual relationships between core members and assistants.

Janice

I had only been in the community for about three months, and I was asked to participate in a reenactment of the Good Samaritan parable. I was the guy who gets beat up and left for dead. Here's a refresher of the story: a man is robbed and left by the side of the road; after a priest and Levite pass him by, a (good) Samaritan takes pity on him, dresses his wounds, and brings him to an inn.

Two kids of friends of the community assumed the roles of the thieves, attacking me with a plastic sword and a windshield scraper. The narrator read along as I lay "suffering" on the ground. (I was able to put my college theater background to use.) I cried out, "Help me! Help me!" Janice, a core member who takes things very literally, shot out of her seat near the back of the audience, ran towards me, and helped me up. This was not part of the skit. I thanked her and sank back to the ground...the show must go on!

Dicko played the priest, as usual. He was a round, wrinkly core member beloved by the community who always insisted on playing the priestly figure, whether Noah, Moses, or Jesus. As the story goes, he was supposed to pass me by but, using my acting chops, I reached towards him and moaned. Clearly concerned for my well-being, he dropped character, stopped and pulled me up. As with Janice, I thanked him and went back to the floor, but Dicko stayed with me. He stroked my shoulder for the rest of the skit.

Carie

Prompted by the narrator, I cried out, "Help me! Help me!" once more. And again, Janice sprang out of her seat, raced forward, and assisted me. This was getting a little out of hand. Three times I was rescued before I was supposed to be! Fortunately, the rest of the reenactment went as planned. Les, one of the core members in my house, played the Levite. With a sweep of the hand and a turn of the head, he knocked it out of the park. Finally, another core member Carie, came to my rescue as the Good Samaritan. She (and Dicko, who had never left my side) helped me up and sat me down in the "inn," then they proceeded to pet my head, letting me know that I was going to be okay.

Les

While I wasn't truly hurt during the skit, I certainly would be during those three years in L'Arche. But the core members carried me just as much as (I thought) I carried them, memorably illustrated by the Good Samaritan reenactment. I had had very little interaction with Janice, Dicko, and Carie at that point. They had no reason to help me. They loved me not for anything that I had done for them but simply because I was worthy of it. (Les was the only person that I knew well, and he walked right by me!) I was repeatedly surprised by the love and wisdom from this segment of society that is so often pitied and undervalued. Jesus was in these people, the last place where I expected to find him. It's the same with any population that we are serving.

As we celebrate this holiday season, let us remember to recognize the many unexpected ways in which God's love has been revealed to us in 2012. And as we pray and work for peace and justice in the new year, let's also ask God to continue to, as the lyrics above state, "teach us now where you are found." 


Bill HoskynBill volunteered with the L'Arche Community in Tacoma, Washington from 2005-08. His experience with L'Arche led him to an accelerated nursing program at the University of Washington. For the past two years, Bill has been a home health and hospice nurse case manager in the Seattle area. He's also (very slowly) working towards a graduate degree at UW to become a nurse practitioner. Bill thinks of himself as a Krista Foundation "Super Colleague," as he serves on the Sojourner Support team and the first ever Colleague Council, and he's lived with two other Colleagues (and their future Colleague offspring) for over three years now.

12.28.12

Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 4
A Thrill of Hope, by Kendall Paine

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press

In my second year of service, I was caught in a moment of sheer hopelessness as I stood in front of my class of 23 third-grade students. This wasn't an unfamiliar feeling. I had become all too accustomed to the absence of hope, as my story intertwined with those of my students over the past two years; accounts of homelessness, armed robberies, shootings, hunger, and neglect regularly filled our classroom walls. I had come to believe that a childhood spent on the south side of Chicago was not a childhood at all. Still, I was bent on making Room 213 a sanctuary separate from that reality.

So here I was, sharing a Scholastic News article with my students about the imminent milestone of the world population reaching seven billion. It was going to be a cross-curricular lesson-a teacher's masterpiece. We were going to discuss geography (locating the world's most populous nations), weave in math (place value to the billions!), draw in science (the impact on natural resources), and anything else that came to my mind in the moment. Because as an infantile teacher, running with a whim had become my specialty.

Thrill of Hope

It was one such whim that led me to zero in on a particular line within the children's article: it explained that, even though the world's population was on the rise, this is not universally the case. I asked my students to reflect on that sentence and brainstorm possible causes for a group's population to decline. Brilliantly, and with hardly any prompting, these 8 year-olds came up with a host of reasons: sickness, no doctors, war, not enough food. To confirm their grasp on this concept, I followed up with a simple question: "So, then, what do you think is going on in the United States? Are we one of those countries that has an increasing population, or is our population decreasing?"

With an almost guilty expression on her face, Isabel raised her hand from the back right corner of my classroom. I called on her.

"Well, it must be decreasing here."

"And why is that?" I asked, preparing to clear up her confusion.

"‘Cause everyone's shooting each other here."

The breath knocked out of me, I steadied myself, and looked out at Isabel's classmates, their faces full of youth but void of innocence. "And what do you all think?" I finally brought myself to ask. "Do you agree with Isabel?"

One by one, my students piped in. There are gangs on every corner. My mom doesn't let us play outside. We wake up to the sound of gunshots. Their opinion was unanimous and very clear: Yes, we agree with Isabel.

Humbled, I stood there speechless. There was nothing I could say to correct my students' perceptions. For even though their grasp on demography might have been skewed, there was nothing false about their observations. I honestly don't know what I said to conclude this discussion, but I remember praying for grace and hope in that moment.

Thrill of Hope

In the wake of recent tragedies, this memory won't stop running through my head. I find myself back in Room 213, looking out at their faces. I am struck with despair as I see the world through my students' eyes, and the devastation that is their norm.

Shortly after that moment in my classroom, I was home on winter break. It was Christmas Eve, and alongside my family I was singing along to "O Holy Night." I was a broken version of myself, and most of all, I was exhausted. And so in that moment, the words of this song struck a particular chord with me: "A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices / For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn."

Now, it is to this hope I return. I am weary; perhaps not as weary as I was in my second year of service, but weary still. The realities of this world engulf me, and threaten to engulf my hope. But they will not, because as the Christmas story reminds us, we are promised a glorious new morning. And even in the midst of this one, the birth of our Savior has given us the ultimate gift: a thrill of hope.

(December 28 the Western church commemorates the Holy Innocents, the children killed by Herod, described in Matthew 2. Hearing from the magi that a new king had been born, Herod decreed the death of boy babies two years old and younger, in Bethlehem and surrounding areas. Joseph and Mary flee with the infant Jesus to sanctuary in Egypt.)


Kendall PaineKendall served with the Inner-City Teaching Corps in Chicago from 2010 through 2012, teaching third grade at St. Gall School. She recently moved to the Pacific Northwest and began teaching a 4th/5th classroom at West Seattle Elementary School. Kendall is one of six Colleagues providing leadership and direction through the Krista Colleague Council.

 

 

12.27.12

Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 3
The Gift of Loneliness, by Cassie DeFillipo

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press

To everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under the sun.
A time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill and a time to heal...
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance... Ecclesiastes 3:1-4


Christmas is the embodiment of pure joy for me. It has always been my favorite time of year, and I love every single tradition and custom that goes along with it, from Christmas caroling to Christmas cards and everything in between. No matter how old I am, I am still the first one awake to celebrate Christmas-even beating my young nieces to the Christmas tree-because I am so excited I can't sleep.

During my volunteer year, however, my Christmas was very different from the norm. I was volunteering in Lewiston, Maine, creating youth and parental education programs for Somali refugee families. My work was incredibly fulfilling, but I had never felt so alone. I worked long hours, so other than a few people from church, I didn't know any people outside of my work situation. My co-workers were busy with their own lives, and while I had and still have deep and meaningful bonds with the youth and parents I worked with, I was serving and supporting them and couldn't rely on them to do the same for me. For the first time in my life, I was a long plane flight away from everyone who truly cared about me, and sometimes I really, really needed them.

That year as an AmeriCorps volunteer, I didn't have the time off or the funds to pay for that plane ticket home for Christmas, so I stayed in Maine to spend my very first Christmas alone. My family sent me a large package full of gifts and holiday candy, but presents somehow didn't matter much without the people who mattered to me. I spent that Christmas day curled up on my bed crying and wishing I could be with people I love.

That Christmas was part of months of loneliness and sadness, and for me-perhaps because it was a day that traditionally means so much to me-it was the culmination of my complete and utter aloneness. At the time, I felt such frustration with God that he would allow me to feel so alone.

What I couldn't see then was that my lonely Christmas was part of a season of loneliness when God strengthened and shaped me. I am lucky enough to have a strong community of family and friends that I have always been able to count on, and while they were only a phone call away, my lack of a physical community taught me to create community with God. During that season of loneliness, I learned to rely on the Lord. I learned how to argue with God, yell, cry, praise, thank, and love him in a whole new way. I learned to trust the Lord through all circumstances-even through seasons of pain and sadness. In addition, that season of loneliness taught me to deeply appreciate my family, my friends, and the importance of community. And, perhaps most importantly, it taught me that the seasons of life are only seasons. The painful seasons and even the joyous seasons don't last, but the joy of a trusting relationship with God always does.

I now think that my season of loneliness was preparing me for what I would face in the future. After finishing AmeriCorps, I faced many painful trials that I never could have expected. During this time I felt God's presence stronger than I have ever felt before or since. This presence lasted for weeks throughout the worst chapter of my life, and it was so incredible that I often miss how close I felt to the Lord during that time. I honestly think that I wouldn't have known how to let the Lord support me through my pain without having learned to rely on him in my season of loneliness.

I didn't realize it at the time of course, but that season of loneliness-while not exactly gift-wrapped and underneath the Christmas tree-was the best gift I received that year. Unlike many gifts, which may break or get used up, this gift has only compounded itself into a deeper relationship with the Lord and a greater sense of who I am made to be.

Christmas has always been about community and joy for me, but during my year of service I learned that it is not only a time to honor the birth of Jesus but also a time to draw him close. What he most desires is a relationship with us, and I think that each and every human being desires the same relationship with God. Because of my gift of loneliness and all that it taught me, Christmas will not only be a time to celebrate Jesus but also a time to reflect on my relationship with him.

This year, for the first time since my season of loneliness in Maine, I will once again spend Christmas alone. I am having the adventure of a lifetime backpacking through Southeast Asia, so I don't even know where I will be for Christmas or who I might be with. What I do know is that no matter where I end up, God will be there with me, guiding me through any season I might be experiencing.


Cassie DeFillipoIn 2010 Cassie DeFillipo served as an Americorps Vista volunteer in Lewiston, Maine, working at a low-income housing development with a large number of East African refugee residents. She graduated in 2012 with her Master's Degree from Clark University in International Development and Social Change. Cassie currently interns with Eureka Child Foundation, which empowers local local communities through projects in the fields of education, health, and livelihood.

 

12.26.12

Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 2
Santa Joe, by Jessica Bussard

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press

During the Christmas season, Westminster Presbyterian Church, located in one of Spokane's lowest-income neighborhoods, West Central, serves many struggling families. The need is always great in West Central but Christmas is especially tough for most families because the electricity bills are high, the kids are on winter break, meaning more meals are eaten (or skipped) at home and Christmas is right around the corner with parents wishing to provide a cheerful holiday for their family...

But wait, that's the scripted story at middle-class Whitworth Presbyterian Church where church members are asked to purchase presents for needy families who attend Westminster. How do a few extra presents under a tree help share Jesus' love? And how does it keep the electricity on and fill the empty tummies? These are questions I asked myself that Christmas I served at Westminster House in West Central.

Santa Joe

Seven months after graduating from Whitworth University, I sat in the living room of a house around the corner from Westminster interviewing Dave and Stacey, the two toughest guys on the block. I vividly remember the crusty, gritty carpets caked with a mixture of spilled food and dirt, the smell of cigarette smoke, the laughter as the kids jumped on the bed, and the glow of the big screen TV. Dave described what his four children wanted for Christmas: something practical and fun. Then it was the adults' turn. I was uncomfortable asking adults what they want for Christmas. Dave wanted a sweatshirt or something like that. Stacey, a big, loud, tough guy, wanted a beanie. "A beanie?" I asked, "any specific color?" No, just a beanie. I felt bad for whomever would be buying Stacey's present. How do you choose a beanie for a stranger? Stacey, his wife and two children, had lived next to Dave when I moved into the neighborhood. Stacey scared me at first. His eyes always pointed in two different directions, and never directly at me, so I never knew if he was talking to me or not. His wife left with his two children a few months before Christmas. Stacey lost his house and, at the time of our interview, he was sleeping on his neighbor Dave's couch. I knew Christmas would be tough for Stacey this year. But knowing Stacey's story still didn't make me feel like he "needed" a middle-class family to buy him a beanie. Stacey could buy his own beanie. Somehow he and Dave were able to afford a new big screen tv and video games a few months prior.

Santa Joe came to Westminster Presbyterian Church that Christmas, like he does every year. He brought the requested presents to all the children, to their parents, and to Stacey. Stacey sat in the back of the room, closest to the food. I was lucky to turn my head just in time to watch Stacey unwrap his beanie, and shove it on his head. Something happened to Stacey's eyes at that moment. I mean something happened to his "tough guy" persona (that's not the right word either). I think it melted away for a moment. I think maybe, just maybe, Stacey felt loved.

This Christmas as I ponder and worry about how to teach my three year-old generosity on a day that is sure to be all about her presents, I remember Stacey's beanie and I wonder where it is now. Does he wear it to work everyday? Is it in a closet somewhere, or a forgotten box? I guess it doesn't really matter where that beanie is, what was given to Stacey in that little package was love, Christ's love. My daughter will sit on Santa Joe's lap this year and will receive a couple of presents. She will also watch her friends, children who attend Westminster Presbyterian Church on a regular basis, receive presents from Santa Joe. Presents that a middle-class family carefully choose and wrapped so that they could be a part of sharing Christ's love with others this Christmas.

Once I began to break down the barriers and the stereotypes, I realized Santa Joe is about two communities coming together to have a birthday party for Jesus and that is what I hope my daughter will understand this Christmas.

(December 26 is celebrated in the Western Christian calendar as St. Stephen's Day, or the Feast of Stephen, the first martyr of the church, see Acts 6 and 7. Stephen was a wise and faithful Greek-speaking disciple chosen to coordinate the daily distribution of food to widows.)  


After her year with Westminster House in 2005, Jessica served/worked for the Boy Scouts of America and recently began a new position with Whitworth University as a Gift Accounting and Database Systems Specialist. Jessica shares her marvelous gifts with the Krista Foundation as the Spokane Breakfast RSVP & Logistics Coordinator.

 

 

12.25.12

12 Days of Christmas: Day 1
Posadas, by Kara King

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press

One of my favorite Christmas traditions has become the re-enactment of Mary and Joseph's search for a place to stay in Bethlehem. These Posadas, meaning inn or shelter in Spanish, are an important part of Advent in many Latin American countries. During the years I lived in Honduras and El Salvador, I was blessed to participate in the Posadas many times. Walking on dark paths, candle wax dripping onto one hand while the other was held by one of our many children, I learned new songs and stepped more fully into Christmas. After a few years, I even delighted in the inevitable mischievousness of some of our kids as they played with their candles or began a game of tag along the way (of a "serious" procession). Their mischievousness brought delight because it demonstrated that they felt safe enough to behave as children are meant to from time to time. In a home for children who have suffered so much before coming to us, that is reason for joy.

Even after moving to Bolivia, we celebrated the posadas as a part of our NPH family tradition since they are not a tradition there. The children loved learning about the cultures of their brothers and sisters in other homes, trying their hand at making piñatas, and soon we decided to share this fun event with our neighboring village. San Ignacio de Sara is a small village near NPH Bolivia, and each year we would find a few families to participate as "innkeepers". We would wind our way through the village, ending up at the humble church, usually with nearly 200 people. As we knocked on the wooden doors of that church, the children would sing "come in holy pilgrims..." and the townspeople would enter. What we shared during those special evenings went beyond the piñata, hot chocolate, and carols. It was a sacred encounter with our neighbors. And in that encounter, we caught a glimpse of God.

Last year in early December, the students of the leadership program here in Seattle asked when we were going to do the Posadas. It hadn't even occurred to them that we wouldn't do it. And so, for the past two years our students have had the opportunity to practice their leadership skills by bringing this tradition to Seattle. It has been fun to watch them share the traditions they bring from their home countries, and decide together how to share that with people here in the Northwest.

For me, the best part of the posadas is when we arrive at the final home. The doors swing open and all are welcomed in. All are welcome. The procession of the posadas invites us into the journey, reflection, and the waiting leading up to Christmas. The final home invites us into community, celebration, and new life. We are invited to dance and sing and worship. In the midst of our terribly broken world, we extend a hand to each other and say ‘come in', just as you are; and then we can celebrate Jesus' birth together.


Kara served with Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos as volunteer and staff, from 2006 through 2010. She recently started a graduate program in Counseling Psychology at the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and directs the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos Leadership Program in Seattle.

 

12.19.12

A Solace for Sandy Hook

Linda Lawrence Hunt | Krista Foundation Press

On the evening after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School broke our nation's heart, we happened to be taking our five-year old granddaughter Erin to see Coeur d' Alene, Idaho's local theater production of The Little Drummer Boy.

Like most of the other young children, she dressed in festive velvet and lace, her dark hair beribboned, her face animated with the joy and innocence of a child at Christmas. Holding her hand, and seeing every other parent in the audience treasuring their child, made imagining the inconsolable pain of mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters and grandparents 3000 miles away poignantly palpable. How will they ever recover from such senseless violence?

I remember such shock and grief after learning our 25-year-old daughter Krista was killed when a speeding bus plunged over a mountain cliff in Bolivia. A young woman with a radiant spirit, she was volunteering with her husband Aaron with indigenous families in a remote village. Her death shattered our hearts in as many shards as the broken glass littering the mountain crevasse. This began our journey of living for years in liminal space, an "in-between" time from life as we assumed it would unfold, and the daily reality of learning to live with hearts wrenched by sorrow.

On television, I heard one of the Newtown residents say, "Our world changed today." It reminded me of what many told us after Krista's death. "Everything changes after the death of a child." I remember resisting such assertions. There were some things I knew I wanted to keep....a loving marriage and family, a living faith, deep friendships, and a college teaching career that I enjoyed. Would a daughter's death kill all of this?

At Krista's memorial service, I saw a college student whose family had endured the horrific murder of her 2-year-old nephew, Devon. "Molly, how have you and your family survived such a loss," I asked. She paused, and then said, "Your joys become more intense." Her words reminded me of the wisdom of Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet, who said, "The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain." At our daughter's memorial fourteen years ago, these words held only abstract meaning. Mostly I prayed that somehow I could just keep my heart open and not shut off to the world. I wanted to trust in God's promise "to be with us."Needing to understand how parents ever endure such overwhelming loss led me to talk with other grieving parents. I wanted to hear how they lived with any sense of hope and resilience. We all needed immense strength and even creativity to survive while walking in the maelstrom of grief, something we feel bereft of in the early acute rawness of pain. They generously added their voices into the silence which often surrounds suffering. A moveable feast of questions guided their unchosen journey. Will I feel this bad forever? Will it be possible to ever savor life again? How can I keep a broken heart open? Are there ways to remember a child that are life-affirming? Why do people grieve so differently? Can one face grief in transformative and intentional ways? Where was God's protective hand?

After the time of profound grieving, most parents I talked with said their emergence into deeper acceptance and peace came gradually. They spoke of living with expanded hearts, and a growing kinship with others who experience all of the losses that life may bring. I also began to notice there's even more to this inseparable quality of joy and sorrow that Gibran affirms. Our family discovered, as many other parents shared, how our love for a child has potential to be a resource for solace, even creativity, within our broken hearts. We do not seek closure, another illusionary image popularized in society. Nor does any parent, sibling, or spouse want to forget one who will live in our hearts forever.

If we stay open to this wellspring of love that once graced our daily lives, we can journey through our desolation and find inner strength. To the astonishment of many parents, they spoke of slowly discovering the healing energy in the reservoir of love that underlies all great loss. This became a dynamic resource for healing. I already heard such a spirit emerging from the father of Emilie Parker, who shared with the world the beauty of his daughter's loving life which brought their family such joy. He also extended grace to the shooter's family in recognition of their unique loss.

As citizens in the Newtown community gather in grief, I have been grateful for the pauses. President Obama's silence and tears echoed the nation's. Pastors, priests, and rabbis have been wonderfully wise to not give spiritual bromides, but to listen and comfort with their presence, sharing their own genuine shock. As New York Times columnist Ross Douthat said in his column, "The Loss of Innocents," even Dostoyevsky, a Christian, didn't try to give theological answers about God's goodness when Ivan Karamazov raged with questions about the suffering of innocent children. Instead, Dostoyevsky developed characters in the Brothers Karamazov who demonstrated how love transcends suffering.

Families in grief face pivotal choices. As they repattern the fabric of their days, will they give themselves the time to grieve, allowing time to mourn and patiently attend to sorrow? Will they stay open to the love that surrounds them? Will they eventually find ways for their love to empower their lives?

There is also an opportunity for all of us as we grieve with the families. In what ways can we offer the transcendent love that Dostoyevsky encourages as a powerful response to suffering? Will we continue our prayers, offered from around the nation, believing they matter? As citizens, will we engage in the complex public policy questions around gun control and mental health support?

If we know families in Newtown, or families in our own towns immersed in grief, will we be listeners, and provide practical care? Will we give families the time grief needs? Parents often spoke of how gestures of love from family, friends, even strangers helped them get through their dark days. I still remember a brief note, sent months after Krista's death, consoling us with the ancient words from Psalm 51, "Heart shattered lives...by no means escape God's notice." We know such acts of kindness carried us during many vulnerable days and months.

Now many years later, I recognize there certainly is truth to the statement that "Everything changes after the death of a child." Within two years, I left my college teaching profession after we founded the Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship as a tangible way to honor Krista's life. Now, many hours in my days revolve around this choice. Yet much remained. Though husbands and wives often grieve differently, we kept the love and respect that allowed us our own journey. Friends sustained us; faith gave us solace. But more than exterior changes were the interior changes as we learned to live with sorrow and love intertwined. We have been united by a kinship with the many others we encounter who live with losses. We share the invitation and challenge to trust the Biblical words that "God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of sound mind."

Linda Hunt

Already the residents of Newtown are demonstrating the empowering characteristics of compassion, strength, intention, and resolve that mark their community. But in this bleak midwinter week, as families and mourners lower the little caskets of each child lost, and each adult slain, I will join with our nation in Newtown's days of lament.

Nothing will replace the shattering loss of one we have loved. Yet, this is not the end of the story. Out of such colossal evil, one senses that great goodness will also emerge. Perhaps even astonish us. From the community of Newtown, and their grieving families, we will likely see glimpses of the truth that love never ever ends

Linda Hunt, Co-founder
The Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship

 

12.14.12

Krista Colleagues Keep Christmas in Perspective

The Krista Foundation | Krista Foundation Press

In preparation for Christmas, Krista Colleagues are invited to consider how their time of service has informed their understanding of Christmas, and send in snippets to share. From December 25th to January 6th the Krista Foundation blog and Facebook page will feature their images, poetry and stories each of the Twelve Days of Christmas. See details below for submitting your contribution and, if you have not already, be sure to "like" our Facebook page!

Celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas 

Christians are invited to engage the world from God's perspective. One of the ways the church helps in this seemingly impossible walk is by reminding us there is chronos time (clock time) and kairos time (God's time). God breaks into the linear flow of our clock time and calls us to participate in God's unfolding story, happening in kairos time. An example of practicing kairos is the calendar of the Christian community.

According to the church calendar we have just begun a new year. We are in the season of Advent, a time of anticipation and preparation for Jesus' birth. The birth of Jesus makes God's perspective real in the flesh and initiates an avalanche of perspective shifting. Advent invites us to regain perspective, to focus preparation on our spirits more than our shopping lists! Though persistent messages of the larger society can overshadow the Christian meaning and purpose of Christmas, we cling to kairos perspective.

In God's time Christmas is a whole season, not just one day. December 25 begins twelve days of celebrating! From sundown on Christmas Day until Epiphany, January 6, the church revels in the astounding gift of God-With-Us, Immanuel. The "Twelve Days of Christmas" is celebrated a variety of ways by both Western and Eastern Christian traditions.

Epiphany, "appearing" or "revealing", celebrates the magi visiting the child Jesus, God's promise and presence extending to the whole world. For Eastern Christians, Orthodox and Coptic traditions, Epiphany outshines Christmas as the culmination of the season.

Krista Colleague Submission guide:

No doubt your time of service held kairos moments, when God's presence was powerful and real. How did your service experience influence your understanding of Christmas, its meaning and purpose? Whether a practice in your urban community, a tender gift from your generous neighbor, a new outlook on celebration and inclusion, your experience can help the entire Krista Foundation community to keep the season in perspective and celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Submit entries in the form of a story, poem, photograph, artwork, or video to:
kristacolleague@kristafoundation.org (before Christmas please!!!)

The KF blog team (Kendall Paine and Joe Tobiason from the Colleague Council, staff and volunteers) will select 12 entries to be featured each of the "Twelve Days of Christmas" beginning December 25th. 

12.5.12

Co-founder Jim Hunt's Book Launch January 2012

The Krista Foundation | Krista Foundation Press

Are you near Bellingham, Seattle or Spokane, WA? We would love to have you come and share in the launch of Jim's new book.

Jim has long researched the correlation between travel and leadership formation in young adults. Restless Fires digs deep into Muir's early life and the formation of his environmental ethic and profound insights in human's relationship to nature. This led to his eventual leadership and influence as the "father of our national parks." Books currently available online or order from your local bookstore.

Location and Dates:
Auntie's, Spokane WA, January 12 2:00pm
Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle WA, January 26 2:00pm
Village Books, Bellingham WA, January 27 4:00pm