Dear friends and partners,
In our Catholic Worker circles from the Midwestern US, a true and delightful story popularly surfaced. It is hope for this Advent season, and a good antidote to the pulls of consumerism. It goes something like this.
One Friday evening, the local priest called Tom up, saying that a man had showed up at church needing a place to stay, and well, what should we do. Tom was the person at church who everyone knew they could count on to respond to “that kind of stranger,” at any kind of time. But Tom already had plans that night. He looked around his apartment. He thought about his good plans. He got up, and said aloud, “Good bye, T.V. Good bye, dresser. Good bye, coffee maker. Good bye, painting.” He called the priest back and said, “Bring our friend over. I’ll be out tonight, but he’s welcome to stay.” And stay he did.
After acclimating the fellow to the extra bed and showing him how to work the TV, Tom invited him to the food in the fridge. “I’ll be out for the evening, so make yourself at home!” When Tom crossed the threshold of his front door, he was struck by an intense sense of freedom, as if a huge weight had been hoisted from his shoulders. He realized for the first time the control his stuff had over him. With the help of a stranger to give Tom proper perspective on his stuff, a hint of the freedom Jesus refers to in scriptures burst in.
Reflection & Challenge
Similar to a “the kingdom of God is like…” parable, Tom’s story likewise evokes both warmth and challenge. What a life-giving way to live, for both the stranger and for Tom! Could I let go of my possessions that courageously? How can I continue to release my grip on my stuff?
Now 5.5 years into international living, we see even more layers to this story, and they point to our responsibilities and connection to the stranger worldwide. Notice the basic safety in Tom’s home that is available to offer. Then there is the stuff that must be owned in order to be given up- an extra bed! We also remember the relative ease of acquiring or replacing stuff that accompanied our life in the US, where there is excess to spare. If we gave away our stuff, or if it was stolen from us… a replacement grill, dresser, or chair (in my experiences) might even be thrown out on a curb to pick up, or you could buy that still nice TV at a thrift store. At worst, for likely many of us reading this newsletter, we wait or save up until Christmas for the stuff we want or need.
Comparing this story to our Dominican friends, we think of Leidi (remember her?). She still manages to give joyfully in ministry, after giving in much less empowering ways during the numerous break-ins her peep-holed, wooden and tin roof home endures in the dense city. Then there is the far worse instability that folks like those in Aleppo and elsewhere face. Inequality in access to stuff and safety is all too easily found, both within in the US and outside of it.
Let’s be mindful together of the complexity of our U.S. privilege this season: the relative power we have to own stuff, our overall state of safety, and then the undesirable power stuff can hold over us.Then let’s celebrate Jesus’ birth together by investing courageously in neighbors both near and far away. Jesus was so wise in leading us strangers to each other, knowing that we each have life-giving lessons to offer the other.
Annual Appeal: Partner with Us!
We encourage you to join us for another year of health development ministry in the Dominican Republic! You friends, aunts, PTs, teachers, electricians and nurses are the fuel keeping our ministry running. Thank you for your great faithfulness. In addition to the monthly support many of you send, we need $7,800 for 2017.
Will you join with us in prayer and tax-deductible giving?
Click HERE to donate!
Prayer & Focus
Next year we hope to shift some ministry time from theory at the university to physical therapy practice in the clinic. Pray with us as we continue to discern the best place to use our time:
*The PT curriculum updates we collaborated on continues to roll out this year, and there is plenty to do still at the university (PT student leadership + program director, top).
*Assuring sustainability through local partnerships: pray for new, engaged therapists to partner with in Santiago clinics! Key to the success of advances in curriculum is the receptiveness of hospital and clinic staff and administration to putting it into practice in patient care.
*Our family: With the addition of Mateo, and two still in diapers, pray we would settle into satisfying family rhythms. Pray that our variety of needs would be met. We’re thankful for how we have already settled in!
We’ll continue to pray for you- for your own needs, and in thanks for the many ways God brings hope in our world through your lives. Thanks for your partnership- we’re grateful for you! Love and Peace,
Nick, Laurie, Daniel & Mateo