Showing posts from September, 2012

The Freedom to Be Prophetic: Lessons from the Japanese Internment

When our past includes pain, injustice, and shame, it is natural to want to put it behind us, to ignore it and move on. I was struck by this at a presentation on the Japanese Internment by Maryknoll Sister Joanne Doi, who studied the subject, and whose parents were interned. I was also struck through her presentation that, by embracing painful history and acknowledging it, we find liberation - for ourselves, and also for those suffering both in the present and in the future.

Sr. Joanne began her presentation by recounting how her parents used to speak about "camp," recalling memories such as playing cards. She, like many Japanese-Americans of her generation, grew up believing that these stories revolved around some sort of summer camp. Sr. Doi's presentation revolved largely around a film, "Pilgrimage," which detailed how that same generation came of age in the political turmoil of the 1960's and discovered a history that included the imprisonment of th…

Letting Immersion Mean Immersion

When I traveled to Guatemala with an immersion group of teachers over the summer, we met at the Houston the airport. One of the first things that I noticed in our terminal was that a number of youth groups were also waiting to board planes, with members of each group identifiable by their matching t-shirts. One group, members of a local Christian church, was going to board the same flight as us. They, along with their adult chaperons, wore bright green t-shirts with the name of their church printed in the shape of Guatemala. I was interested in why this group was visiting the country, so I struck up a conversation with one of the adult chaperons. He explained to me that, every year, youth from their church traveled to Guatemala to act out Bible stories to the local people.

I was definitely taken aback by this. I had been prepared for a host of responses to my question: "We are going to build houses," or, "We are going to hand out food." Acting out Bible vers…

Going Great Lengths for Christ in Cambodia

When the floods would hit in the town in Cambodia where Susan Sporl served as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner, people would use boats and inner tubes to get to church. When the waters would reach high enough to flood the floor of the church building, the parishioners would simply stand in water during the celebration.

When Susan, recently returned from her three and a half year commitment as a Lay Missioner described this at a local Maryknoll Affiliates meeting over the weekend, I was at first struck by the contrast with us at home. I do not know many local Catholics that would wade through flood waters to attend a Sunday service! I thought, though, about Susan herself, and it struck me what great lengths that she and others like her have gone to be in the presence of God.

Susan is a social worker, and she put that background to use serving people with hearing impairments in Cambodia. Cambodia has only had a sign language for fourteen years, and many of those with hearing impairments do…

The Water Crisis and Letting Jesus be the Hero of Your Story

"Everyone is the hero of his own story." This quote, paraphrased from John Barth, struck me at a Maryknoll Affiliates Conference over the weekend. We were watching a film called A World Without Water, which documents the current and impending water crisis. During the course of the film, we see people in Bolivia, Kenya, and even Detroit struggle to afford water, either supplied by private enterprise or, in the case of Detroit, by a local government trying to make the distribution of water more profitable. One of the people interviewed in the film says, "The World Bank believes in water privatization the way that others believe in Jesus, Mohammed, or Buddha," and this despite the many failures that have occurred where this approach has been attempted.

This statement could be taken as a mere condemnation, but it also highlights a grave challenge that we face as human beings struggling to see and be God's presence in the world. In Scripture, we are warned ofte…