Wisdom from Del: “Act in the Truth”

Wisdom from Del: “Act in the Truth”
school children

Boyd and Tanya with school children at the SIA Small Business Fund nursery in Manyamula Village, Malawi.

On this election day in the U.S., I post something to remind us of our core and common humanity. Del Anderson wrote the reflection below in the weeks just after September 11th, 2001, and for me it is a call to search for and hold onto that flame of hope within each of us. Where ever you are, I hope today you reclaim that “boldness, firmness, and humility to act in the truth.”

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This is a difficult moment in which to write. The September 11th bombings seemed to further destroy the hopes of humankind and the building of peace, as the gulf seems to widen daily between peoples.

Using violence, and killing people to prove that it is wrong to kill people, has also proven futile through all of the history of civilization. Throughout history, force has resulted in more and violence. Such response breeds defeatism, fear and despair.

I believe that humans, as transcendent creations of God, have within them the Spirit of God and the capacity to participate in, with, and through our Creator God.

A mix of footprints and bike tracks on the dusty road in Manyamula Village, Malawi.

A mix of footprints and bike tracks on the dusty road in Manyamula Village, Malawi.

Our responsibility is not to lose our willingness to seek the truth and the boldness, firmness, and humility to act in the truth. As we hold fast to this consciousness, we cannot despair.

Great ideas may often be expressed in simple words such as, “All humankind are brothers and sisters from the same Creator.” We are not here by chance, but as an individualization of God and in union with our Creator and each other.

We each are unique and distinct, one of a kind. We lack nothing and are here to fulfill God’s special purpose through each of us for this generation. What a glorious, sacred, holy privilege and responsibility. Let us realize we are needed and important.

The time of decision is now.

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Del ends with this prayer, which he used in the mornings and evenings. He adapted it from John Greenleaf Whittier’s “The Brewing of Soma”:

Drop thy still dews of quietness
Till all my strivings cease;
Take from my soul
The strain and stress,
And let the Christ within express
The beauty of thy peace.

Click here for more inspiration from Del.

There is no “us”, there is no “them”

There is no you, there is no me. There’s only God that I can see.
There is no us, there is no them. There’s only God. Amen.
— “There’s only God” by Richard Burdick

A simple meditative chant. Yet it sparked in me, if just for a few moments, a sense of true connectedness with all the world. I paused to consider what this – no us and no them – could really mean for me and for the possibility of peace. I wrote:

If there is no us and no them, then I am completely equal to every other human being.

I am the same as the corporate executive,
we are both worthy of love.

I am the same as the Boko Haram member in Nigeria,
we are both worthy to be heard.

I am the same as the Liberian street kid,
we are both worthy of help.

I am the same as the Midwest meth addict,
we are both worthy of healing.

I am the same as the homeless man,
we are both worthy of a job.

I am the same as the evangelical,
we are both worthy to talk to God.

I am the same as the atheist,
we are both worthy of community.

I am the same as the Congolese,
we are both worthy of trust.

I am the same as every other individual,
we are each worthy to be.

SIA local coordinators from all over Africa sing together in Kenya

SIA local coordinators from all over Africa sing together in Kenya

New businesses leaders “over the moon” in Nairobi

The five new groups in Nairobi, Kenya that received SIA Small Business Fund (SBF) grants weren’t just pleased, “they were ‘over the moon’” says Wambui Nguyo, SIA SBF local coordinator. “They said it seemed like a dream, especially when I confirmed it wasn’t a loan and they wouldn’t pay back!”

Each group of three people received $150 and they have agreed amongst themselves to meet regularly and to get together with the other three SBF groups in the area to see how they can all grow and also start saving together.

Brenda's clothing shop in Malawi

Visiting Brenda’s second hand clothing shop in Malawi, 2011.

Wambui, who works for peace and reconciliation in her day-job made sure that one of the new groups was Muslim. She explains, “As you know, our relationship between Christians and Muslims is getting strained by the minute and with the frequent explosions in buses and churches people are beginning to point fingers at one another. We therefore wanted to promote and set an example that it is possible to work together, although I did caution them to be sensitive to them especially when praying together.” Not only are the groups diverse in their faiths, they are also a mixture of different ethnic groups, including Kikuyu, Luo, Luhya and Somali.

Here is a short profile of three of the five new groups, along with their Swahili business names:

AMANI GROUP (PEACE)

Mercy and her two daughters, who are in high school, run this new business. Mercy’s husband left her three years ago and so, in order to provide food for the family, she worked washing sacks at the riverside. With the SBF grant they have opened a roadside cafe, where they cook and sell maize and beans.

JIINUE GROUP (TO LIFT ONESELF)

Peristar is also starting this business with her two daughters, Mary and Rose. Wambui describes Peristar as a “very strong, charismatic woman who is a believer and has a lot of hope for tomorrow.” They will be selling vegetables in the market to support themselves and Mary and Rose’s children.

UPENDO GROUP (LOVE)

This is a group of three friends – Jamarose, Rodah, and Melvon – and they chose the group name to reflect their friendship! All of them were in the business of selling second-hand clothes and the grant made it so they could come together and form a larger business together. One is married with two children, another is single, and the third is divorced and has two children. The grant doesn’t just help the three friends, it also will benefit the four young children! 

I’ll be visiting all these groups in Nairobi in July and I’ll be able to share more photos and stories then!

Are we master builders or workers in this world?

Hastings and Ruth with sturdy bricks for their house. (Malawi)

Hastings and Ruth with sturdy bricks for their house. (Malawi)

Parable of the 3 Stonecutters

An old story tells of three stonecutters who were asked what they were doing. The first replied, ‘I am making a living.’ The second kept on hammering while he said, ‘I am doing the best job of stonecutting in the entire country.’ The third one looked up with a visionary gleam in his eyes and said, ‘I am building a cathedral.’

(Source: Straight to Go blog)

Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador Prayer

It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying that
the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

That is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything
and 
there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.
Amen.

(Source: US Conference of Catholic Bishops)

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Workers or Master Builders?

These two stories have both been sources of inspiration to me. And it was only today that I realized that they seem to give opposing messages.

Should we live our lives like the third stonecutter? Always with our mind trained towards the final vision? Looking toward the end goal of increased equality, improved lives, and a decrease in disease, war, and poverty?

Or do we keep in mind that we can only do the work that is right in front of us? Remind ourselves that the full vision is beyond our vision and that we are only laying the foundation.

Nyend Edwade with a brick mold.

Nyend Edwade, small business leader in Uganda, with a brick mold.

Like Romero says, there is a sense of relief when we acknowledge that we cannot do everything. It’s useful for me to acknowledge this when the problems of the world get too big and I feel overwhelmed by the long road toward the cathedral. It’s at those moments – blinking in the face of the world’s problems – that I can put my head down and take time instead to talk to a friend, rebuild my strength, and find the inner silence.

But too much time looking down can make me wonder what I’m working for! What am I expecting to change down the line, after these years of effort?

With that clear vision of the cathedral, I see how each stone, each small grant, each email to a SIA partner, each resource on chicken-rearing and bee-keeping that I send out, is part of that growing network of people with a hope, a dream for a better life.

Pulling back a little further, I can also see how Spirit in Action is one small, sturdy, well-honed stone important to the design of the whole cathedral.

So, some days I will be a worker with Archbishop Oscar Romero (could you ask for a better co-worker at the table to social justice work?). And other days I will work alongside the master builder at the cathedral, chatting together as we cut stone about what it will be like when the grand building is completed and all are singing with joy, love, and pride at what we have built together. 

What’s one “small thing” I can do for peace?

Mother Teresa quoteWambui Nguyo began her latest report from Nairobi with one of my favorite quotes: We can do no great things, only small things with great love.  

She continues, “These are words of Mother Teresa and they have an applicable meaning with the people of Korogocho slum who benefitted from the SIA Small Business Fund. What one may call small/little, is a treasure to another.”

Learn Together, Pray Together

“The three families that benefitted from this SIA fund have a story to tell. They even looked different from the last time I saw them.”

Since receiving their initial $100 grants in August, these three groups have been learning together about improving their businesses. But the talk is about more than just marketing and sales.

“They meet for fellowship and have been able to rotate the leadership of the group among those comfortable to lead. Among them they have three people who are Muslims and we agreed from the beginning to make sure all are comfortable and respect each other’s religion. This has not been a problem with this group. I had left them some print outs of developing prayer/ sharing groups and they have been using them. They actually keep meeting minutes and are very committed to put God first in whatever they do. They also use this space to share on how their businesses are doing and share on the challenges if any.”

Building Peace

This praying together, across faiths, is an important part of SIA’s mission. We are here in part to encourage each person’s spiritual development, with the understanding that faith takes many forms. In 2012, I wrote a post about the importance of diversity for building peace and creating a better world for all. “The strength of Spirit in Action is bringing people together from many different traditions for a higher good overall rather than separating people along dogmatic lines.”

And Wambui is well-positioned to encourage this diversity. In addition to volunteering her time with SIA she works for Alternatives to Violence Project, Kenya, which helps people heal from conflict and violence and also trains people in conflict resolution and reconciliation tools.

Sometimes doing “a small thing with great love” is as simple as listening to someone with a different worldview, or praying with someone who uses different words in their prayers. Creating space for sharing between Christians in Muslims in Kenya is one step towards building larger spaces of peace. And now SIA is part of this peacebuilding!

*Next week I’ll share the stories and photos from these business groups in Kenya! Stay tuned.

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