Five-minute read. There's a lot to read in this issue. Lent and rules of life, taking advantage of everyday situations for worship, some Public Service Announcements, working with the Peace Corps in Africa, and we have new clergy to introduce too. Read More
10-minute read. Are you a victim? It's a crime that can be very hard for people to admit to being the victim of. For some it is because it is an embarrassing admission that they were duped, for others, it is because they don't even know that they are victims. Read More
There’s a lot to read in this issue. Lent and rules of life, taking advantage of everyday situations for worship, some Public Service Announcements, working with the Peace Corps in Africa, and we have new clergy to introduce too.
Lent, the period when we let sleeping alleluias lie. It’s a well known phenomena that as you age time appears to pass as an ever increasing pace. And here we are in Lent again. It’s a point that Bishop Marty alludes to at the start of his Keeping Watch article, Lent and The Way of Love. He goes on to encourage us to take a close look at the ‘Rule of Life’ proposed by our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry in ‘The Way of Life’.
I’ve found the concept of a Rule of Life to be a huge help, but something that I let lapse all to frequently. So maybe it’s just as well that Lent and my annual review of such things appears to come around more quickly each year.
Carolyn Thompson returns with a fourth article on her experiences of Worshiping with other faiths. This time there’s a slightly different spin on things, as she talks about the opportunities to worship out in the everyday world. See Worship Opportunities Are All Around Us.
The first draft of this editorial grew into a major Public Service Announcement. In a fit of ‘editor’s remorse’, I changed the text into a full feature article – Unknowing Victims. Read it and find out about my first hand experience with internet crime, and then help me raise awareness of it.
Speaking of Public Service Announcements, the Rev. Jerry Kolbe sent me an interesting note that he’d shared with the retired clergy. It was well worth sharing with a wider audience, so check out Preparing for the Inevitable.
In the news section we introduce the recently ordained Jeff Stevenson, and welcome Mother Terry Deokaran, installed as rector at All Saints’ West Plains, in February. We’ve also included some pictures taken at the recent (March 2) Bishop’s Days workshops held at Grace and Holy Trinity cathedral, Kansas City, Missouri.
Finally I’m going to use my editor’s privilege (there aren’t many I can assure you), to further promote an event that is very dear to my heart, and that’s the Stop Human Trafficking & Abuse Event being held at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City on March 30. Come and join us.
Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri
Brotherhood of Saint Andrew – Jeff Butcher. A brief introduction of the work of the Brotherhood in areas of social justice.
Slavery, the Bible, and Gritty Evangelism – The Rev. Dr. Benjamin Thomas. Slavery is seen all over the Bible, and the Bible has been used (wrongly) to defend this practice. Learn how a biblical theology of humanity stands against any practice of slavery, including human trafficking, and why fighting human trafficking should be viewed as an act of “gritty evangelism.”
Hiding in Plain Sight – Greg Holtmeyer. One in six males are sexually abused by the time they are eighteen. That means approximately twenty-five million males have been sexually abused in this country alone. There is no religion, education level, socioeconomic level that is immune from sexual predators. Greg will share his personal story of childhood sexual abuse, discuss the short term and long term effects of the sexual abuse of males including physical, emotional, and provide some brain research, provide resources for health care providers, survivors, and friends/family members.
Lunchtime Speaker – Christine McDonald. Christine will discuss her experience of being trafficked for 20 years.
Sex Trafficking – Benjamin Nolot. This session will examine the social and cultural underpinnings of sex trafficking as well as what can be done to abolish commercial sexual exploitation as a whole.
The Rev. Dr. Benjamin Thomas, Director of Church Relations for the Saint Francis Foundation
Prior to joining Saint Francis, Fr. Benjamin served as Dean of Christ Cathedral (2010-2016) in Salina, Kansas and Assistant Rector at Grace Church in New York City (2008-2010). In addition to his work at Saint Francis, he teaches courses for the Bishop Kemper School of Ministry — a collaborative initiative to train bi-vocational clergy and lay persons to serve the Dioceses of Kansas, Nebraska, West Missouri, and Western Kansas. Fr. Thomas and his wife Holly have four children and are negotiating about a dog.
Greg Holtmeyer, Executive Director of The Phoenix Project
Greg Holtmeyer is an educator, advocate, and survivor. His passion is to create awareness concerning the devastating effects of childhood sexual abuse of males. Greg created The Phoenix Project to offer hope, education, support, and inspiration for those who are on their healing journey from sexual and physical abuse. Greg is currently a member of two state level tasks forces, appointed by the governor. He gives voice and attention to the many male victims of sexual crimes who are waiting for support and understanding.
Christine C. McDonald, Trafficking Survivor and victim advocate
Christine C. McDonald survived two decades of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation (17 years of which were in the Kansas City area), 103 arrests, and 7 prison terms.
After nearly taking a life at gun point, Christine knew that if she did not find a way out she would become the very evil she had experienced over the years. Attempting to do so took her on a journey that, although different, would be equally challenging. Christine was left totally blind after choosing the life of her unborn child over medication that would have saved her eye sight but ultimately taken the life of her child. Eternally vigilant, Christine uses her life experiences as a tool to break stigmas, and construct conversations for change.
Christine is the author of “Cry Purple” A glimpse into her journey of life. Her second book “Same Kind of Human” was written to help professionals and people of faith understand the complexities behind exploitation. The book provides the tools enabling them to engage individuals who have experienced exploitation.
Christine’s latest exciting venture is a movie of her book “Cry Purple” to be filmed in Kansas city Missouri later this year by River productions in partnership with the “I will rise project” as they plan to humanize the homeless, the addicted, and the prostituted in cities across America.
Christine is on the Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Task Force, and serves on the Supreme Court Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking Commission. She has been featured on PBS, CBS, NPR, NBC, The Wall Street Journal, and other media outlets.
Benjamin Nolot, CEO and Founder of Exodus Cry
Following in the footsteps of his hero, William Wilberforce, Benjamin fights to end modern-day slavery. He campaigns to shift cultural mindsets and laws that would abolish human trafficking and the commercial sex industry, thus setting people free. Benjamin has created two films, the award-winning Nefarious: Merchant of the Souls and the soon-to-be-released Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution. He has been a featured speaker at the United Nations and a columnist in a plethora of online and traditional media. He also hosts a podcast at ExodusCry.com. Benjamin is driven by a core conviction that every person should be free. He resides in Kansas City with his wife Lauren and their three children.
Are you a victim? It’s very hard for people to admit to having been the victim of a crime. For some, it is because it’s an embarrassing admission that they were duped. For others, it is because they don’t even know that they are victims.
We often see victims in the world, and sometimes it’s obvious to us that they are, in fact, victims. These victims of spousal abuse, victims of addiction, or victims of circumstances sometimes seem oblivious to the fact that they are being victimized. We wonder why they can’t or haven’t seen it, or why they deliberately choose to be in denial about being a victim. If we have any self-awareness we might wonder if we, too, are oblivious victims.
We live in an immoral world. As Christians we are called to live a moral life and to love one another. We should even love those who would do us harm, which can be a challenge. But as Christians, we should also be championing the causes of those who have become victims.
I’m never going to grow tired of saying it (and I know I say it a lot). It’s yet another example of our fifth baptismal covenant.
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
But what about the victims who are closer to home? What about you? Are you a victim? No?
Don’t be quite so sure. I’m not going to talk about ‘obvious’ issues such as addiction, which we don’t talk about nearly enough. No, instead I’m going to talk about an old-fashioned crime in a modern guise.
Here’s what happened to me.
Without realizing it I’ve innocently become embroiled in organized crime.
There, I’ve said it. It sounds sort of exciting as we are tempted to think of the scenarios that play out in the movies. At the same time, when put like that, it also sounds rather mundane.
There is no scurrilous money laundering, even though I live in the Ozarks. I’m not being blackmailed, nor have I or my family (thus far) been threatened. In fact, I’m one of the lucky ones. The criminals haven’t taken anything of real value from me, and more importantly, I’ve discovered their nefarious activities. I know what they are doing, and for the past several years I’ve been doing what I can do to make their crimes more difficult.
The bad news is that most of the victims in my position don’t, and possibly never will, know that they are victims. Which is why I ask, are you sure you’re not a victim? You may not know it.
My story only represents one side of the equation. There are victims on the other side who, if they don’t suspect the criminals’ intentions in time, will lose both financially and emotionally. It’s a modern take on a crime that’s as old as the hills. According to the FTC, this crime has cost Americans some $143M in the last year. In my opinion that’s a huge underestimation.
What are these crimes? They’re commonly known as Romance Scams or Catfishing.
In my case what’s being stolen are photographs of me. The pictures are used to create fake profiles used in online social media, games, and dating accounts. The purpose of these accounts, which use my photos, is to defraud people. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that people like me can do to stop these criminals from getting ahold of your online pictures, except perhaps by never appearing on the Internet in the first place.
They use my photographs (and the photos of many, many others) to make their fake accounts look real. They claim to be divorced or widowed and are looking for friendship and love. What they are really looking for is a way to separate vulnerable and lonely people from their money. They tend to target older divorced or widowed women, but they are just as likely to use pictures of women to target vulnerable men.
My wife says my pictures are being used because I have a friendly and trustworthy face (who am I to argue?). Also, there are lots of pictures of me doing all sorts of fun things, very useful for the made-up scenarios they weave into their schemes. There I am on planes, in airports, on sailboats, with injuries, out in the woods, and even with my step-daughter. They love to include her pictures because the idea of a widowed man raising a young daughter alone makes them seem far more endearing.
By the way, the irony of this situation isn’t lost on my wife and I, given that we met online, and that at one point her bank account was frozen because her bank thought I was a scammer.
When I first discovered that my pictures were being used, I thought it was a joke. I quickly realized that it wasn’t and I took action to close down all the faux accounts I could find.
And that’s when things got a little bit hairy.
When the fake account suddenly disappeared, the lovelorn victims searched Facebook for their missing beaus and found the real me. In the process, they also discovered the heartbreaking, and ire-raising news that the love of their life was not widowed, but was happily married and living in Missouri. I was not an oil rig worker, or commodities trader living in New York, Geneva, or somewhere in Texas. In short, they thought it was me deceiving them, having a “fling” on the side.
“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned”
The Mourning Bride by William Congreve
They took to sending abusive messages to my wife and I.
Thankfully, the zero engagement rule seems to work equally well with jilted lovers as it does with Internet Trolls. Foreseeing a long future of such abuse, I created a webpage detailing the scams and my innocent involvement. Now when I find and report a fake account, I post a link to my page and a picture of the fake account publicly on social media. It’s my hope that the grieving lovers will see the pictures of all the different accounts I’ve closed and realize they’ve been taken in by a scam.
To be clear, we are not talking about one or two fake accounts, I’ve closed over a hundred, and I am still closing them to this day. It’s like playing whack-a-mole. And that’s just the ones I’ve found, there will be hundreds more out there. (And of course, I’m not the only one. There are thousands of people in my shoes whether they know it or not).
The messages I get now are no longer abusive. They are the stories of people who are victims of these schemes. Some have, fortunately realized something was up, and didn’t part with any money. But many discovered their error too late.
There was one lady who lost all the insurance money she received after her husband died. Another lost over $160,000. I received a message from the granddaughter of one victim who lost everything, and it was presumed as a consequence she took her life.
It is with a sad and broken heart that I am writing to you. I have been writing to “Gary Brooks” since May 2014 and have sent him over $160,000 of my retirement and credit card money…
… I have finally accepted the fact that I am indeed being scammed. I have had such high hopes of a future with this other guy and really sucked in all the affection and promises he sent me…
… I was wondering what you would suggest me to do next …
This is a serious crime, with serious consequences, and very little chance of redress for the victims.
The scammer’s techniques are to quickly move the victims from public conversations to private chat, texting, and phone calls. That reduces the chance that the victim will see any evidence of the scam being outed, It also leaves the scammers free to be grooming more victims simultaneously. The scammers weave convincing and sympathy-inducing stories for their victims, often involving accidents, or temporarily delayed business funding to lure their victims into sending money.
Another disturbing aspect is that these criminals often claim to be religious to make their stories sound more trustworthy.
The lies and deceit can seem obvious to casual observers. Unfortunately the victims are often desperately invested in their relationship with the scammer, and will not believe anyone who tries to make them realize they are being duped.
Some of the messages I get are heartbreaking…
…you don’t know me but I just wanted to get some kind of clarity.
… had been talking to someone she ‘met’ on the game words … and they used your picture… they ended up getting money … My whole family tried warning her but she refused to listen to us because this person told her everything she wanted to hear… this person was supposed to be returning back to the states from an overseas oil rig but conveniently never showed up…
…was found dead in her home with no clear indication of how. All we know is her newly refilled pain pills were gone … We all believe this person lead her on for so long that eventually it just took a toll on her emotionally … I guess I was really just needing your advice. I really want justice for what this person has taken away from my family.
The scammers don’t only use social media. They use dating websites, games sites, and by a stroke of luck I even found one on the Fitbit site!
One scammer created a complete website (now taken down) posing as a cinematographer.
Fake website used in romance scams
Fake website used in romance scams
Once their foul schemes have been discovered the scams don’t necessarily stop. They may pretend to be victims themselves and contact their victims (since they know who they are), and create some complex (but costly) plot to get revenge. The scammers have even been known to send people to physically go and meet the victims.
let’s be careful out there.
Sergeant Phil Esterhaus, Hill Street Blues
What Can We Do?
We can raise awareness. Romance Scams are often treated lightheartedly. For the victims of the scams, their hopes of love and happiness are dashed, and their financial security may be compromised. There’s nothing amusing about either scenario. Spreading the word will warn people that these crimes are taking place, and hopefully reduce the number of victims.
Raising awareness that pictures are being stolen for this purpose should encourage people to check if their pictures are being stolen, and report any fake accounts.
This won’t stop the crimes. There have always been con men and fraudsters. However, widespread awareness of internet catfish scams will make it harder for these criminals to operate. And that can only be good.
Are Your Pictures Being Used?
The scammers tend to target people with a good supply of pictures. One of their most popular sources of pictures are people serving in the military. An overseas deployment can explain why they can’t meet their victim in person.
How would you know if someone is using photographs of you in romance scams?
For me, the first ones were easy. They were foolish enough to use my real name and have publicly visible pictures of me. So just do a search in Facebook for your name. If any account with a picture of you shows up and it’s not yours, you’ve found a scammer of one sort or another.
If you can learn the aliases they are using, then trawling through a social media search on that name can unearth a load of these fake profiles. I’ve lost count of the number of ‘Gary Brooks’ I’ve closed down.
How you take down false accounts depends on the organization. In my experience, Facebook and Instagram have been very good at taking down reported accounts. But their record in making it easy to identify them or stop them from being created is appalling. Google is next to useless. Even with copies of my driver’s license, they refuse to remove them.
Are You a Romance Scam Victim?
If you are single and dating partners online, reverse image searches of the profile pictures and any other images your date shares works well for identifying suspect people. This is why I’ve made sure that the pictures of me are easily found with a simple search.
Be on the alert for anything that doesn’t look or feel right. Is the person’s writing style consistent? Does their command of English match their supposed nationality? Are the pictures really taken where and when they claim to be? Do the things in the background of the photo match the story you’re being told? Does the person avoid answering questions about inconsistencies? Does the apparent age of the person in the pictures keep changing? Be careful. There are tens of thousands of scam accounts on Facebook. I wouldn’t be surprised if over 30% of Facebook accounts were scammers of one sort or another.
Needless to say, never send money or give financial information to someone you’ve not met in person and don’t really know, regardless of how convincing they may be.
There are several groups to help you identify potential scammers (links below).
Even harder than dealing with a scammer yourself is convincing someone you know that they may be in danger of becoming a victim. They usually refuse to listen, even when they may have their own suspicions.
In the worst case, if you’ve become a victim of a scammer, you can report the crime to the FBI online (ironic isn’t it?).
In a conference call with the Church Pension Fund, we became aware of a situation that has prompted us to provide some education. It has to do with the death of a partner and financial transactions.
If you have been allowing your partner to do all the banking, paying bills and general financial transactions (especially online), we would like to encourage you to immediately begin sharing those responsibilities. In the instance we became aware of, the husband was doing all the financial transactions. When he died, even though they had joint accounts, the surviving spouse was unable to do any financial transactions because she did not have the passwords, login information, account numbers or access codes to access the required accounts.
Please begin to share financial responsibilities with your partner. Record your passwords and account numbers in a secure location which is familiar to both of you. Consider using an online password and account manager to make this process easier. Help your spouse pay bills ‘online’ (if that is your financial method) so they know how to do it. Also, make sure that both you and your partner’s names are on your accounts.
This kind of information is still important if you pay your bills by a paper check. It is also important if you are a single person handling your affairs. Someone will need this information. Make sure they know how to find it.
One suggestion is to alternate doing the monthly financial transactions. If there is a question, someone is there to provide the answer.
When there is a death of a spouse, the bank and the utility companies will be of little help to you without this kind of information.
Also remember, this issue isn’t just limited to financial transactions. Couples often split the workload. What responsibilities does your partner undertake that you would not know how to deal with if they were to die or become incapacitated?
With the proliferation of online accounts and social media, it’s a good idea to consider putting together an ‘online will’, setting out what should be done with your online accounts when you die. Facebook, for example allows you to elect a ‘Legacy Contact’ to oversee and memorialize your account.
Fr. Jerry Kolb is Chaplin for Retired Clergy in The Diocese of West Missouri.
In 2015 I applied for and was accepted in a Peace Corps program sending doctors and nurses to Africa for one year. Now, (2016) I will be part of the Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP) to work with medical and nursing schools teaching and working with school facility and administration to improve the educational opportunities for healthcare professionals in Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Swaziland and Liberia.
“My bags are packed – I’m ready to go”… to Uganda
I organized my house, and was very happy to have a Mercy co-worker to rent/house sit while I was gone. I had to complete my on-line training and endure numerous immunizations, including a series of three “pre-exposure” rabies shots.
More enjoyable by far were all the “farewells”: a bon voyage Cardinals baseball game with my sisters, a wonderful weekend visit with six college friends and a goodbye luncheon given by my coworkers at Mercy Hospital. I took my Missouri grandchildren on trips to Virginia and Kimberling City. I flew to Montana to celebrate Anita (my second daughter’s) Air Force change of command.
Finally, after a rousing Independence Day celebration, I packed my 12 year old canine companion Ginger in the car and drove 1,200+ miles to Arizona. I was fueled by a combination of Red Bull and diet Dr. Pepper (I don’t recommend it) and entertained by a recording of “Murder on the Iditarod Trail”, hundreds of miles of highway construction through Oklahoma and endless radio commentaries on the 2016 presidential candidates.
I had dinner with my Arizona family and bought the grandchildren birthday presents in advance for the birthdays I would miss while I was gone. I was fortunate that I had family farewells with all my grandchildren, my sisters and four out of five of my children. My brother in California and my son in Hawaii said their goodbyes via telephone.
I was finally ready to head for Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Thank heaven I had some help. I could have never handled the luggage by myself. Two bags weighing 49.5 lbs. each and a smaller one weighing only 38 lbs. Total baggage fees: $210.
When I arrived at Washington National airport, I tipped generously – the baggage handler, the taxi driver and the bellhop at the hotel. I was there for ten days of Peace Corps training. There were 58 other volunteers – doctors and nurses – preparing to teach. Our studies included lectures on teaching techniques, writing test questions, malaria, parasites, HIV/AIDS, hemorrhagic viruses, mental health and communication methods. A display in the lobby of the Peace Corps headquarters gave me pause. It was a memorial to all the volunteers who died during their time of service. I learned that motor vehicle accidents were the most common reason.
Some highlights of these ten days were: a visit by the Secretary of State, receiving our malaria medications and a simulation session where those of us who were out of practice were given an opportunity to return and practice IV starting techniques. During that session I also gave an Emmy worthy performance as an annoying family member in a tense clinical situation.
I realized that several of the dresses I packed were too short (I know – a strange situation for me but in Uganda knees needed to be well covered). I mailed them back home and shopped for replacements. I completely repacked all three suitcases, saw a Washington Nationals game, attended a performance at the Kennedy Center, reacquainted myself with the Metro system, visited friends from Ft Huachuca days, and walked a lot seeing the monuments and buildings that are essential to any visit to the Capitol. I took advantage of the outstanding restaurants focusing on food that I don’t think I’ll see a lot of in Uganda: Thai, Korean, tapas, and crème brulee.
We ended our Washington DC orientation with a send off from the director of the Peace Corps and the ambassador from Uganda (she gave me her card and her daughter’s telephone number). We received teaching supplies, a lab coat and medical equipment (everyone was stressed about the weight limit for baggage). Our last lectures included recommended actions for trauma in the marketplace, treatment of chronic illnesses and a recommendation to keep our mouths shut for at least three months – to listen and to learn. It will be hard but I will try!
Tomorrow at 6 am I will be leaving with my 140 pounds of luggage flying on Ethiopian Airlines for 13 hours to Addis Ababa and then on to Entebbe, Uganda.
Uganda – Travel and more orientation
The 6 am pick up at the hotel in Washington DC didn’t happen. When the bus didn’t appear, we called the Peace Corps emergency number. It didn’t work! Finally the buses, which had gone to the wrong hotel, appeared. After a long check process at Dulles and $200 fee for the third piece of luggage we boarded Ethiopian Airlines. I was in a middle seat for the entire flight. We were fed often and landed in Addis Ababa without delay. The two hours flight to Entebbe included another meal.
Everyone had to present proof of immunization against yellow fever before we could pass through the Immigration checkpoint. Thirty pieces of Peace Corps luggage did not arrive. After long wait, we decided that some would take the bus back to the hotel and the rest would complete lost baggage forms and wait four hours for the next plane from Addis. I was in waiting group. There was a liquor store in the baggage claim area so four six-packs of beer appeared. Finally next plane landed. Great cheers went up each time one of our suitcases appeared on baggage carousel. Two Nigerian women in traditional dress were also waiting for luggage. They cheered with us. When all the lost luggage had been safely retrieved, there were high fives all around and a group picture taken by one of the Nigerians. Apparently the missing luggage had sat on the tarmac during a rainstorm for quite a while because the contents of my soft sided suitcase were quite damp.
Then we were a bus to Kampala. We were told it would be a 45 minutes trip which sounded reasonable for a 23 mile trip through crowded streets. The trip took three hours which was better than the first bus. It took them 4.5 hours. The Kolping Hotel room was basic with mosquito net which is sprayed with insect repellent before bed. After 32 hours of travel, I finally got to sleep.
The next day we each received a Peace Corps cell phone. It is old style – the kind where you push the 2 key three times for a “c” when you are entering information), I set up account information for a local bank (US $1 = Ugandan 3316 shillings), received more information on malaria including practicing with a rapid detection test (I am negative for malaria for now) and were presented with a water filtration system for new residents.
One volunteer brought a yoga tape. Every evening in Kampala we met at 6:00 p.m. in the classroom. It was very popular with the volunteers and the local staff, especially since we were told that running was not advisable because of the truly horrific traffic. I learned that fresh produce needs to be peeled or soaked in bleach water. Apparently I won’t be having many salads this year. The Peace Corps office will be holding both passports and immunization records to prevent us from leaving the country without letting them know.
The motto for Global Health Service Partnership Uganda is “to increase capacity and strengthen the quality and sustainability of medical and nursing education”
I’m trying to stick to a vegetarian diet but did try a small piece of goat which tastes like … meat. Each day the buffet includes at least one type of fresh banana (sometimes two) plus matookay – plantains – both mashed and steamed. Every day there is a very good sauce with peas which I eat over rice. We also break for tea (complete with pastries) twice each day. We received a small Peace Corps cookbook with suggestions for meals using products available in Uganda.
At the recommendation of the Washington DC Peace Corps staff (in order to make it through the difficult days) I started gratitude list making three entries a day of things for which I am thankful. So far, it hasn’t been hard to list three items.
Our classes on security and safety convinced everyone to stay inside with doors and windows bolted at all times. The briefings were very negative (probably realistic but …). This was followed by a trip to a mall (quite nice) for electronics purchases. Almost the entire group descended on the Africell office so I was there for over four hours. I purchased a mobile hotspot so now I have a laptop, Verizon cell phone, Africell cell phone, a small projector, multiple outlet adapters, power protector and lots of accessories to support this equipment. I wanted to buy skirts since I have learned that “trousers” are not acceptable clothing for women here but most clothing stores were closed for Sunday.
The husband of one of the doctors is an IT whiz and helped me with several electronics issues. Dennis is number 1 on my gratitude list for 25 July.
One of the highlights of today was a great lecture by a university professor on the history of Uganda. There are 117 districts (similar to our states) with 52 ethnic groups and languages. Uganda didn’t exist in any way until the British in 1894 decided the area should be part of the Empire. The British determined the borders of their newly created colony. According to the lecturer the country is still not totally unified. Districts are often more important than the country as a whole.
We started our language classes. The eight doctors and seven nurses on our group are going to five locations. Each area speaks a different language so there are five separate language classes. The language in my area is Lumusaaba. After one 45 minute lesson, I am already lost. However I did learn something: “Wakonile uyrena? Nakonile bulayi” This is a greeting which means “How did you sleep? I slept well.”
I am beginning to adjust to the eight hour time change. After several mostly sleepless nights, I am now able to go to sleep by 11:00 p.m. and wake up in time to hear the Muslim morning call to prayer (about 5:30 – 6:00 a.m.).
We also received some information about our home stay. We are going to our permanent stations on Wednesday for an eight day stay with a local family. This is being done to get us acclimated to the culture. We may not have hot water or flush toilets. The host families have been warned that Americans generally eat dinner earlier than 10:00 p.m. During my stay in Mbale (I’ve been told that it is a four hour trip) my group will meet the administrators and our co-teachers at the university. Then we will return to Kampala for additional classes and finally the Peace Corps swearing in.
The weather has been very pleasant – in the 70s and 80s. I am now repacking my three heavy suitcases preparing to depart from Kampala to Mbale at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow.
Home Stay in Mbale
It was a five hour trip from Kampala to Mbale on a very crowded bus. We crossed the source of the Nile (which flows north). No one was allowed to take pictures. It had nothing to do with Nile River itself. The issue was military security because of the bridge over it. On our bus were some “real” Peace Corps volunteers – the ones who sign up for 27 months and mostly live in very remote places. My group is very much in awe of them.
We are Mbale for eight days for our home stay (to help orient us to the local culture), introductions to university and hospital administration and more language instruction.
My home stay family is the second wife in a polygamous marriage. She has four children, three of whom are in boarding school. The child at home is a 6 year old boy named Moses and called Momo. There is no hot water (only a cold water bucket shower for the next eight days). There is a pit (indoor thankfully) toilet. No running water after about 6:30 p.m. The host “mom” is gracious. She was told that Americans eat huge breakfasts so the first day she overloaded me with carbs. I told her a banana and cereal is just fine. Here they serve cold cereal with hot milk. A dozen chickens sleep in a room off the kitchen at night. Otherwise they are truly free range.
We were given a tour of the building where we will be staying. There are seven apartments and the Peace Corps volunteers will occupy five of them. The building is still being completed and the university will provide some furnishings so I’m not exactly certain what it will finally look like and what I will need to buy to furnish it. I know I will have to get a refrigerator, pots and pans, glasses, silverware, etc. Also complicating the situation is the fact that the administrative and support staff of the university are on strike, so it is possible that our furniture will have to wait until everyone is back to work.
There is a coffee shop/hostel just a few buildings away from what will be my new residence. Free wifi, laundromat, interesting menu, Afro-Zumba classes. We all think this will be where we spend a lot of time. I visited a second coffee shop that serves Mexican food each Tuesday and Saturday. I am looking forward to trying some Ugandan enchiladas.
Circumcision festival is a huge deal. It finishes August 8 but the leadups to the event are already happening. There are parades of many walking, laughing people – everyone except the one on whom the surgery will be performed. The age for circumcision here is 18 years and apparently the boy is not to flinch or faint. If he does it will be a point of shame for the rest of his life. The procedure is done by a layperson who apparently is beaten to death if he makes a mistake. This is a ritual for a tribe of 6,000 persons who live in eastern Uganda and western Kenya. Most gather on even numbered years for the event. The number of young men who are circumcised ranges from 15 to 100. This year the presidents of both Uganda and Kenya are scheduled to visit the festival. We viewed the area for the event. It looked like a county fairground.
the infant mortality rate is 76 deaths per 1,000 births. For comparison, it is 6.1 per 1,000 in the US.
We have made the rounds of the local, district, university and hospital officials. Routine protocol visits seem to be the same the world over except that here all visitors sign an official logbook. The one we signed started in 1957. I learned that the infant mortality rate is 76 deaths per 1,000 births. For comparison, it is 6.1 per 1,000 in the US. Life expectancy in Uganda is 59 years. In the US it is 76 years for men and 81 years for women.
The only way you can tell who is a boy and who is a girl here is by the clothes the child is wearing. Girls always wear skirts and dresses. All children have their heads shaved – much cooler and cleaner that way.
Using the app Whatsapp? I was able to call my cousin Mary just before her 50th wedding anniversary party. I was glad to talk to her but very sorry to miss the celebration.
We took a field trip to a synagogue outside Mbale. The rabbi who is the only trained rabbi in sub-Saharan Africa was extremely gracious and without notice took lots of time to talk to us. . There are 400 people in the local congregation and approximately 2,000 Jews in Uganda. Three of our group of seven are Jewish so we plan to be back for services.
Shopping in the marketplace was chaotic and confusing but fortunately we had our language teacher with us so I was able to replace my forgotten underwear, buy African fabric for the Peace Corps swearing in on August 11, and locate a dressmaker who promised to make the dress before we leave Mbale on August 4.
Walking here is a challenge both due to number of motorcycles and the fact that I can never remember which way to look when crossing the street since they drive on the left side of the road.
It was a long, very bumpy bus ride (with a full bladder – very poor planning on my part) to the top of Mt Elgon which I was told is approximately 9,000 ft. in elevation. We saw lots of very isolated villages on the way. There was a great hike to a waterfall – definitely got my exercise for the day. The view was magnificent.
St Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral has three Sunday services (English, Lumusaaba – the language I am attempting to learn, and Lugandan – the language used in the capitol). The English service I attended included some African music. We also sang two verses of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Each service was over two hours long. An American fire marshal would have emptied half the church. At my service there were at least 550 probably 600 people jammed in. After we stood up for a song, I was slow to sit down and almost lost my end of the pew. Afterwards, one of the priests invited me to his house for lunch (two other Peace Corps volunteers were staying with him). I even saw a little CNN. Then I did some shopping and walked to the coffee shop for African tea (lots of milk), and Kindle time.
One day we visited the main campus of the university where we will be teaching. It was about a two hour drive. The vice chancellor was most gracious. She was certain we had met before. We decided that it must have been in Hawaii. She had been on Oahu for a week-long meeting at the University of Hawaii. Since we were near Kenya, we drove to see the border. A policeman gave us a tour of the border area – we definitely stayed on the Ugandan side. The sight of very long lines of very large trucks waiting to be inspected before crossing the border seemed quite familiar. It was similar to the Arizona-Sonoran crossing at Nogales.
On the last full day in Mbale, we had a dinner for our host families. Several medical faculty members also attended. The site coordinator surprised me with a birthday cake. Everyone sang to me and then three large sparklers were placed on the cake and lit. It was a great time. A perfect ending to our week!
Back to Kampala
We left Mbale in an air-conditioned bus! The highlights of our trip back to the capitol included lots of sugar cane pieces provided by a fellow Peace Corps volunteer who cut them down in his home stay family’s back yard, a purchase of habanero oil, and a great lunch of vegetable curry & naan.
Back at the Kampala Kolping Hotel, the reunion among the volunteers from five locations in Uganda was joyous. After all, we hadn’t seen each other in eight days. The comments were either bragging about how luxurious the home stay accommodations were (hot water, actual showers) or trying to be the person in the most challenging situation (only cold water bucket showers, a five hour church service). I was excited to feel hot water again and I had no trouble remembering to turn on the heater for hot water a few hours before my shower.
There is a small television in my room. I can watch the international version of CNN and two local stations broadcast in Lugandan. However, one evening one station had the Olympics on – in Portuguese. Unfortunately in the middle of a swimming event with the American relay team in the lead, the programming was switched back to local Ugandan news. I still don’t know the result of the race.
My exercise routine is mainly walking up and down four flights of hotel stairs for 30 minutes each morning since it isn’t considered safe to go to the Kampala streets alone. Each morning starts at 5:00 a.m. with the Muslim call to prayer broadcast loudly from all mosques. The call (broadcast five times a day) does not last long but it does remind the roosters that it is time to get up and crow for the rest of the morning. Not to be outdone, the Christians broadcast music with singing all morning on Sundays.
Almost every business – banks, hotels, malls – are protected by rolls of nasty looking barbed wire across the top of walls, and guards, usually men in uniform, with long rifles. You are required to pass through metal detectors to get into the mall.
Whites and Asians are called muzungus by everyone. I think it means foreigner in Swahili.
I went shopping for household goods at a local department store where irons cost 56,000 – Ugandan shillings, thankfully not US dollars. There were quite a few items in the store that carried the Target brand name. The bedding is being individually ordered (sheets, pillowcases, mattress pads, etc.) and then sent to a seamstress who is custom making them. We missed lunch at the hotel but fortunately there was a “Mr. Tasty” chicken shop which in addition to chicken, fish and pizza also sold ice cream. I had a scoop of butterscotch. Ice cream is hard to find here and is a real treat.
On a second shopping trip I purchased some essentials that I am certain I cannot find in Mbale: olive oil, balsamic vinegar and macadamia nuts. I am still looking for white chocolate.
We had more classes and a trip to the Peace Corps office. Once returning to the hotel, Kampala Friday evening traffic was so bad, we all got out of the bus and walked to a very upscale mall. It had a bookstore, gelato, a fitness center, numerous clothing shops and much more. I had my eyebrows threaded & got a supper of hummus and vegetables. One member of our group, a retired pediatrician from Ohio, had volunteered with the initial class of the Global Health Service Partnership in 2013. He has already seen three students that he taught at that time including one we ran into in the mall.
There are multiple starches for every meal – mashed plantains, yams, rice, pasta and occasionally mashed “Irish” (white potatoes). Every morning I was thankful for cold milk on my cereal. We have “break tea” every day at 10 am (tea, coffee, pastry) and evening tea at 4:00 p.m.
Lectures included psychiatry (which included a reminder that homosexuality is still a crime in Uganda) and African traditional medicine. The lecturer reported that 60% of Ugandans use a traditional healer as their primary care provider. She mentioned that if there is a doubt that the baby was fathered by a member of the clan, the baby is in the doorway. If the domestic animals step over the baby that indicates that the father is a clan member and all is well. If the animals step on the baby, the child does not belong to the clan.
We did practice teaching with students from a local university as the target audience. There were several lectures on HIV/AIDS which is still a major problem in Uganda. Adding to this problem, TB is also a huge issue here. Death from AIDS plus TB is four times greater than death from AIDS alone.
We also visited an 84 year old traditional healer who says she is successful in treating all diseases except epilepsy. Traditional healers are licensed by the government and supposedly the herbs they use are tested. On the same day we saw a bone setter. This family ran a practice and a hospital. Many people go to the hospital for x-rays then take the x-rays to the bone setter (who is trained only by his/her family – no formal education is required). The patient has gauze, herbs and then a bamboo split applied. Some people then go home and come back for checkups. The more serious breaks, such as the femur, stay in the bone setter hospital for three to four months until the bones are healed.
Visit to a Ugandan traditional healer. Image credit: Julia Taylor
Visit to a Ugandan traditional healer. Image credit: Julia Taylor
We had a cultural afternoon visiting the Ugandan National Museum, the tombs of the kings of Uganda, (official title is the Kabaka of Buganda). Four kings are buried there but they don’t really die so they each have nine wives living on the burial grounds. The women are supported by the kingdom of Uganda (which as far as I can tell is physically the same as the country of Uganda so Uganda has a president with political power and a king with no power but tradition and respect). Kingship is passed down by family: the oldest son gets land and the youngest son gets authority so the current king’s youngest son will one day be king. We visited the National Theater which has lots of craft shops. I bought a pair of earrings and a Ugandan nativity set to add to my collection of 70+ crèches.
Another cultural experience was the trip to the Ndere Centre where we watched amazing performances of variety of traditional African dances. The energy and stamina required for the three hour program was incredible. The audience included people from the USA, Canada, China, England, the Netherlands, Switzerland and several other African countries in addition to Uganda. It seemed to me the local version of the Polynesian Cultural Center (those who lived in Hawaii will understand this).
As our time in Kampala draws to a close, the festivities began. One night we had a happy hour complete with heavy pupus and a trampoline. A very welcome treat was the mango margaritas.
Our official swearing into the Peace Corps took place at US ambassador’s house. I wore my new outfit that I had made from African material and tailored in Mbale. In addition to the seven doctors, eight nurses, one librarian, one computer scientist and one accountant in our Global Health Service Partnership volunteers, we were joined by 44 “real” Peace Corps volunteers. It was a surprisingly moving ceremony. I am proud to be part of the Peace Corps!
Orientation is finally finished. Now it is time to get to work!
Recently I said goodbye to a longtime friend and co-worker. I’m not sure that we’ll meet again on this earth. The words of an old Willie Nelson standard just came out of my mouth. Kind of corny, right? And yet the words were so right that we nearly wept with the truth of them.
The words just came out of my mouth. Because they were true. This friend and I have had a lot of interaction over the years. That’s code for sometimes it’s been rough—still code for the reality that all relationships have their ups and downs, aches and pains, joys and heartaches. Isn’t that the nature of love?
In this leave-taking suddenly I was poignantly aware of how much our friendship meant to me. I realized that at the heart of it all was love.
Have I told you lately that I love you? Well, Darlin’, I am telling you now.
So even if you’ve got reasons to be angry or hurt, don’t ignore the love. By all means acknowledge the importance of boundaries. Speak the truth kindly. And in the midst of the messiness of true friendship, tell them how you feel.
Mary Chiles serves on the vestry at Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield Missouri.
My husband Noah and I are recent transplants to the Kansas City area from Alexandria, Virginia outside of Washington DC. We came to Missouri to accept my first call as the new Assistant Rector at St. Andrew’s, Kansas City. I recently graduated from the Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) after a long-deferred call to the priesthood.
I grew up in the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) in Utah. I don’t remember knowing anyone that wasn’t LDS until I was a teenager and so my notion of what it meant to have faith was tied to that single tradition. This all changed in 1994 when I enlisted in the Navy. In the military my world opened to new realms of possibilities, to new ways of seeing the world, and to new ways of understanding what it meant to “have faith.” It was while I was in the Navy that I came to understand that faith took on many forms and I found myself exploring what it means to believe in God. Looking back on those years, I recognize now that I was being called to ordained life, but at that time I was not ready to hear or follow God’s call.
When I left active duty military, I decided to return home to Ogden, Utah where I begin working on a degree in Social Work. That plan was interrupted by the events of 9/11. My training in the Navy was in intelligence and satellite imagery, these skill sets were suddenly in high demand. I was recalled to active duty and served as an imagery analyst at the Office of Naval intelligence in Washington DC. When the yearlong recall to active duty came to an end, I accepted a position with a consulting firm in the DC area. It was not social work, but it was a way to make an impact in the world, so for the next 13 years I worked as a National Security & Intelligence consultant.
After many years of discernment, I realized I could no longer ignore the call to ordained life. In 2015 Noah and I decided it was time and so I left the intelligence community to enroll in the Master of Divinity Program at the VTS. During seminary I explored my passion for ministry in the context of trauma, writing my thesis entitled “Confession and the Moral Injuries of War.” I also worked as a chaplain at the local hospital, served as the chaplain to the Alexandria Police Department, and began working on Veterans ministries. Academically, I discovered a love of Hebrew and Aramaic; studying deeper meaning in some of my favorite Old Testament stories through translation. Most importantly, my call to walk with all of God’s people has driven me to explore my passion for the ministries of preaching, pastoral care, and community engagement.
Kansas City St. Andrew Pipe & drums. Image: Gary Allman
Processing. Led by Thurifer Elizabeth Banks. Image: Gary Allman
The Consecration. Image: Gary Allman
The Examination. Image: Gary Allman
Homily delivered by the Rev. Dr. James Farwell. Image: Gary Allman
The Consecration. Image: Gary Allman
The Ordination of Jeffrey Neal Stevenson in to the Sacred Order of the Priesthood. Image: Gary Allman
Fr. Jeff’s first Holy Eucharist as a priest. Image: Gary Allman
Fr. Jeff’s first Holy Eucharist as a priest. Image: Gary Allman
Though we have lived in the Washington, DC area for over 15 years, Noah and I are both excited about this new adventure in Kansas City. We are thrilled to be joining St. Andrew’s and The Diocese of West Missouri family.
You may be asking, “Who is this Mother Terry (Teresa) Deokaran from the Diocese of Western Kansas, and how did she get to be rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in West Plains, Missouri?” Let me see if I can give you a peek into me.
I am a unique woman of 60 years in love with life and God. I am a woman transformed, as are many of you, through loss and love. I am single, divorced 12 years, and I have two children: Sean, 33, in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Melissa, 30, in New Orleans, La. I have no grandchildren as yet. My likes include: good food, good wine, chocolate, a good book, conversation, antique shops, coffee shops, outdoor markets, pottery, plants, rocks, old buildings/barns, old churches, lovely liturgy, and God’s beautiful outdoors!
I grew up in the middle of the cornfields in the small town of Mt. Carmel, Illinois. I was baptized at age 16. I attended college in Louisiana and graduated in 1980, the same year that I was married. My married life took me to Guyana, South America (my ex-husband’s home country) and to Hammond, Louisiana.
My faith journey has taken me from the Disciples of Christ Church to the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church and to the Roman Catholic Church. For 15 years following my Confirmation into Catholicism in 1998, Christ touched my soul profoundly. I was impacted by the preaching and love-filled ways of Dominican friars and sisters. I pursued and completed theological studies at Loyola Institute for Ministry in New Orleans from 2006-2010. From 2008-2011 I was in discernment with Sisters of Peace, O.P. In 2010 I moved from Louisiana to Kansas. In 2010 I undertook and completed in 2013 a three year Spiritual Direction Program at Heartland Center for Spirituality in Great Bend, Kansas, all the while working as Pastoral Minister at the Catholic Church of Barber County, Kansas, a cluster of 3 sister churches.
It was in December of 2013 that the gentle voice of God laid on my heart the thought of the Episcopal Church. As a Roman Catholic lay woman I had always desired to be at the Altar as the Roman priests were. I listened to God’s calling and I entered a chapter that changed my life. I was received into All Saints’ Episcopal Church (Notice the name!), Pratt, Kansas, on June 12, 2014. I completed a year of Anglican studies at BKSM (Bishop Kemper School of Ministry) in Topeka, Kansas. On December 12, 2015 I was ordained a deacon and on July 9, 2016, a priest. During my period of Postulancy and studies I worked full time at Larrison Mortuaries in Medicine Lodge and Pratt, Kansas. From 2016 – 2018 I served as Vicar of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Medicine Lodge, Kansas and worked full time as Manager of South Wind Thrift Shop in Pratt, Kansas.
Sisters and Brothers, God initiated and I responded. In the fall of 2018 the Spirit moved again … in the parishioners of All Saints’ Episcopal Church of West Plains, Missouri who were seeking a priest to shepherd them … and in me, a priest open to the awareness of God’s next step in my journey and seeking a family to serve and spiritually guide.
May the meditations of my heart attuned to the Holy Spirit direct my words and actions as Mother to my new family of All Saints!
15 minute read. Ministry can take on many forms. In 2015 Julia Taylor embarked on what she thought was to be a three month stay in India, working at the NRI General Hospital, Mangalagiri, Andhra Pradesh, India with Project Hope. Read More
Did you know that we haven’t always referred to the United States the way we do now? Historian Shelby Foote says: “Before the War between the States, people commonly referred to “the United States are”, in the plural. After the Civil War, people began to refer to “the United States is”, in the singular. The older, plural language was still in use when the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was adopted in 1865: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude … shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Before the war, states were tied loosely and most believed they could stand alone, choosing to be in union or not. After the war, a new identity emerged; the nation came to believe that our union is “indivisible”. Before the war, people believed their highest loyalty was to their state. After the war, our identity as Americans became foremost in our political self-understanding.
Before the war, the idea that this nation shall provide “liberty and justice for all” was only genuinely true for white males. After the war, majority opinion and new codes of law identified that certain rights are sacred, such as the right to be free from enslavement, the right to vote, and the right to citizenship if you are born here and a path to citizenship if you come here. Certainly these “inalienable rights” were embraced earlier, at the founding of the country, but it took the upheavals of the Civil War to inaugurate change. The War between the States triggered an evolution in that deep-rooted and seemingly immoveable system of privilege, renewing the march to build a nation that lives out its values.
From our distant point of view, far removed from the Civil War era, we might not be aware how profound those changes were. Nevertheless, they were very real and shaped who we are and want to become.
Now here’s the parallel.
The theme for this year’s convention asks us to make a similar change. The theme is: “Called in. Sent out. One Ministry in West Missouri”. This theme suggests the question: what it means to be a diocese and to be one ministry?
A diocese is a group of congregations bound in community by a covenant of mutual support. If we are bound together, we must think of ourselves as one — one Church, one effort, one ministry pursuing God’s mission in the land we call West Missouri.
Now, here’s why I started with the history lesson. If we don’t think of ourselves as in this together, as depending on one another, easing one another’s burdens, helping one another make disciples, then we are in our pre-Civil War period. We are 48 “states” without a larger identity or commitment, and we will remain competitors rather than one another’s servants.
My challenge to you is this: be One Ministry in West Missouri. Be one ministry that serves God and God’s children in the 48 mission outposts of the diocese. Avoid the temptation to assume that your needs as more crucial than the needs of your brother parishes and sister congregations.
The lesson of the Civil War is that union works better than disunion. Togetherness works better than selfish individuality. And sharing works better than hoarding. The good news for us is this: we’re doing just that.
In traveling the diocese and visiting with many of you, I sense changes in our common life. We are becoming less siloed and more connected. We are getting to know one another and to enjoy one another’s company, across the virtual barriers we erect around our parochial communities. Communities are reaching out. Big parishes are learning about the challenges and joys of little parishes, and vice versa. Deanery Councils are becoming vehicles whereby best practices and good ideas are shared and supported, where outreach is taken up by partnerships of interested individuals, or by groups of parishes in league, or by whole deaneries. And our Deanery Councils are becoming places where discussions take place about how to work in the field of ripe and plentiful harvest.
When the touch of God’s call is discerned, parishes are calling their best and brightest into Christian service, sharing with those persons what they see God doing in those lives. Leaders to lead the parishes and the diocese are coming forward and being readied for their service locally and also (as always) at more traditional places of higher learning.
Under the excellent leadership of the Diocesan Council, and the consent of this convention, we are moving into a new era of equitable and holy stewardship of God’s resources … meaning of course the resources God has placed into the hands of parishes and, through parishes, into the hands of diocesan leaders whose aim is the collective good of all. We are emphasizing both efficient use of monetary and human resources along with faithful use of these resources. Which is important because efficient and faithful needn’t be in competition.
I sense that we are melding into the body of Christ … as St. Paul envisioned when he penned his famous metaphor in the 12th chapter of First Corinthians:
12 … 12Just as the body is one and has many members … so it is with Christ …
14Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot would say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear would say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” … 24 … God has so arranged the body … 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
27Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
We often associate this metaphor with parishes; think how it applies to a diocese. None of us can say we have no need of another. And we aren’t. I see us growing to appreciative of one another’s gifts, of the work one parish does, or another deanery accomplishes. And this is what it means to be One Ministry in West Missouri. Interestingly, after Paul writes about being many members of one body, the very next thing he writes to the Corinthians is his famous chapter on love, the 13th chapter:
12 … 31…Let me show you a still more excellent way.
13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8Love never ends. … 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
Be one body, with all your many gifts and abilities, because that is the way of love!
And oh! what fruits we will bear when we walk the way of love and unity and covenant and mutual support! We will lift each other up to be vital places, thriving communities, caring for one another, reaching a wounded world, and modeling what the Creator wants to accomplish for us, for all of creation, and for those not yet born.
Our Presiding Bishop reminds us that Jesus came to change the world, and to change us. He came into the nightmare this world can so often be so that it might become again the dream that God intended before the world was ever made or the universe was cast into the void.
Jesus came to start a movement, and we are that movement in West Missouri when we act as one and are One Ministry. When we work together we are a dynamic force advancing the Jesus’ Movement. When we are a diocese with one heart, one soul, and one mind, then, we are at our best.
Now may God be praised. May Jesus’ movement catch the fire of the Holy Spirit and grow. And may the Diocese of West Missouri – in each of its 48 mission outposts – bring the light of the Gospel into the lives of their neighbors and communities.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Recording of Bishop Marty’s Address
Here’s a recording of Bishop Marty’s address in full (26 Minutes).
The Rt. Rev. Martin Scott Field (Bishop Marty) is the eighth bishop of The Diocese of West Missouri.
We want you to get excited about formation! The Christian Formation Office is here to provide the support you need for Children, Youth, Young Adults, Adults and Generations in community together.
Click on Christian Formation at diowestmo.org to find a collection of recommended resources and tools. Our intent is to simplify your research and organize the wealth of information available online today into a single source for individuals, families and congregations.
The Ministry Handbook and Confirmation Guide introduced during convention are included!
In addition to managing the resources of this website, the Christian Formation Office is here to walk with you. Let us help you discover the unique tools you are looking for that will help you incorporate a philosophy of formational ministry and serve Christ. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how we can further support you.
If you have resource reviews, suggestions or can offer up a “best practice” to help others, please send them to Kim Snodgrass.
Kim Snodgrass is Assistant to the Bishop for Christian Formation..
On Christmas Eve in 1968, three American astronauts became the first human beings to travel to another world. The Apollo 8 crew — Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders — had made the quarter-million mile journey from the Earth to the Moon, a hazardous voyage through the deadly vacuum of space. Even though this mission would be overshadowed seven months later by the first manned Moon landing, the flight of Apollo 8 was a remarkable technological achievement. And it was made even more memorable by the way in which the crew decided to mark this historic event.
The astronauts wanted to do something special during their live television broadcast from lunar orbit, and had been contemplating it for weeks prior to the mission. They considered several different ideas, such as rewriting the words to “Jingle Bells” or “‘Twas the Night before Christmas” with a space-moon theme, but that idea didn’t seem to fit the occasion. They attempted to draft a message of world peace, but everything they came up with seemed too hollow. Just a few days before launch, however, they knew that their dilemma was solved thanks to a suggestion made by a friend of the crew.
As the Apollo 8 spacecraft circled the Moon on that Christmas Eve, millions of people on Earth tuned in to witness the broadcast. The astronauts pointed out the contrast between the lifeless surface below them and the tiny, blue orb outside their window that was home to all known life in the universe. Then, each man took a turn reading the first few verses from the book of Genesis:
1 In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth, …
These mortal men, as they moved through the dark void of space, had an unprecedented view of creation and chose to mark the occasion by praising the work of the Creator.
The year 1968 was a troubled time in American history: the conflict in Vietnam was still raging; riots at the Democratic National Convention and elsewhere had caused millions in damage; and the country reeled from the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. But the mission of Apollo 8 and its message from the Moon offered hope to a divided country and an uncertain world. Fifty years later, while we face our own conditions of national and global anxiety, we can reflect upon the mission of Apollo 8 as a time when the world came together as one, if only for a brief moment, as the crew wished everyone “good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you — all of you on the good Earth.”
The Rev. Mark W. Ohlemeier serves as Assistant Rector at Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield, Missouri.
For eight months in 2012, my husband, Mike, and I were on the staff of an alpine dreamland. Holden Village, a Christian retreat center housing 500 persons, was situated in the Wenatchee National Forest in the middle of the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. Snow-capped peaks surrounded historic dwellings of the former mining village built in 1938. Rustic footbridges traversed the mountain stream that practically sang as it flowed through the Village. It was like living in a Christmas card.
We lived together in Christian Community. We worshiped together daily. There were artists and musicians. Theologians and children as well as retirees and recent college graduates engaged in conversation. High school church groups from around the country came to groom wilderness trails by day and play pool by night.
Our work conflicts were framed in the idea that as Christians, God enabled us to forgive one another as we walked through encounters with one another in an isolated setting. We ate together. Lifelong friendships forged around rousing table talk and challenging ideas. We laughed and cried together.
It was hard to leave. Often people thought that the communal dining, hiking, and worship were so unique, so lovely, that they should stay forever.
But it was not to be. This was a place to soak in practical world changing theology for the very purpose of leaving in order to be the Church in the world.
The express intention of the place was that we were equipped to be sent.
The Eucharist is like that. We come to kneel in a beautiful setting. Hundreds, often those we have known and loved, have knelt to receive the Body and Blood of Christ at that very spot. It is a liturgical wonderland. There are babies and elders. The choir and congregation sing as we receive. The physical surroundings are exquisite. We are connected in community through our common meal and Lord.
It’s such a holy place. I don’t want to go. And yet—the express intention of that place is to equip me to be sent.
Before we go we ask God,
… Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen. Post-Communion Prayer, Book of Common Prayer, p. 365.
Equipped and ready to be sent.
Mary Chiles serves on the vestry at Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield Missouri.
After one Sunday morning service a pastor said to me, “We’re doing something wrong. We’re not growing. What you’ve seen at other churches and faith traditions could help us.” I said I’d love to talk about ‘The Thing’s I’ve learned, whenever the pastor had time. Over the next few days I couldn’t stop thinking about that request. I’d seen so many things, and before I knew it, the concise answer was there — thank you God, as usual, for providing me an answer before I even asked You.
For me, successful faith communities have the following three key attributes:
Dynamic preaching, with the homily/message/sermon including clear to-do’s;
Inspiring and interactive music;
‘The Thing’– that ‘something’ — a congregation needs, that is promoted within and outside the community.
My first two articles were very much about what I gained and learned from my experiences worshiping with other faiths. This article is first, a filtering of what I’ve experienced around the question – what makes a faith community successful? And second, it puts words to what I have seen, the actual, specific things faith communities do, that made me feel they were successful. It comes from the many places of worship I’ve visited as an outsider over the past two years.
Needless to say, these are my personal conclusions, and I hope that there is something useful here for everyone to take away. Whether you are: just sitting in the pews, vestry members, worship leaders, clergy, or musicians. I offer these observations in the hope that they can help you strengthen your community by talking about them, making comparisons, and by implementing anything that might be appropriate to your situation.
Dynamic preaching, with the homily/message/sermon including clear to-do’s
The people who preach exhibit massive body and vocal energy. And energy does not equal volume, but it does include changes in volume and pace – like when needing to exhibit calmness or compassion, and pauses for emphasis as well as hand and body movements even facial expressions that illustrate the point:
they are incredible storytellers – the stories are told in such detail you can see what they’re talking about unfolding, they use humor and jokes when they fit the message;
the wording in every sermon calls us to apply it to our church and us corporately, not just to us as individuals as most of the sermons I’ve previously heard do;
they verbally and physically involve the congregation with questions, and wait for answers;
they expect people to take away things to do. The churches enable this by giving people a place to write what they’ll do. For example, small cards or a blank page in the bulletin.
I’ve seen many successful styles that caused the congregation’s eyes to be glued on the preacher, including one that was an hour-long sermon – I was shocked when I saw the time, it had just flown by.
Inspiring and Interactive Music
This is not about the genre of music or how skilled the musicians are, though those do inspire us. We each have very different tastes and if it’s not to your liking you likely won’t feel inspired, and then won’t want to interact with the music.
This is about music in which the words tell a meaningful story about our relationship with God:
Music and music leaders who create ways to get everyone singing. Lots and lots of music so it becomes clear to people that it’s a method for worship;
A song leader or choir to encourage people to join in, use a pitch that most people can sing;
Every so often have the congregation choose hymns;
Get many people/and not just instrumentalists and choir members involved in the music;
Include people outside the congregation – some churches call it “special music”;
make the making of music a priority.
I knew that a place of worship I was attending had inspirational and interactive music when I looked around and saw a clearly expectant look on the faces of the congregation.
Repetition: some churches used a piece of music — other than service music — over and over, seasonally and as interludes in the service. Over time people even began singing during the instrumental interludes.
Catering to different tastes: a church with 3 services chose a different styles of music and a different way to produce music for each service. Another with one service designated different Sunday’s for different styles of music: contemporary, spiritual, camp songs, traditional.
Spontaneous singing or music: either from the worship leader, priest, or instrumentalist – I’ve seen this during the sermon, when a prayer is requested. Even on birthdays, and it was very moving because it fit exactly with what was being said at that moment.
No instruments: without an organist or instruments you can use recordings designed specifically for this situation, or provided you have the necessary licenses and permissions you can make your own from other sources such as YouTube and play it on a phone or a computer. Some faith traditions don’t allow instruments, but oh do they sing — I was at one where we sang eight hymns and the congregation did it in parts!
The Thing’– That ‘something’ — a congregation needs, that is promoted within and outside the community
It’s easy to tell what ‘The Thing’ is within a few minutes – it’s on their walls, it’s in their formal mission statement, it’s talked about in each sermon, it’s evident in the types of groups and activities they have, and you’ll hear it in informal conversations ; during coffee hour, in side comments at vestry meetings, while passing the Peace – not that you’re supposed to be socializing while passing the Peace, but …
I realize this sounds like I’m only talking about how a church promotes its mission to its community, but most of the churches where I saw this clearly demonstrated had not done a formal assessment to determine what ‘The Thing’ was. In the vast majority of the examples I give below ‘The Thing’ was realized organically.
That takes listening/discernment of God’s calling as well as the people’s.
Something for Everyone: one church with large number of people worked to provide something for every part of the congregation. They worked to bring in every age, race, and socio-economic class. On Sunday morning there were many activities going on from 8 a.m. – noon. There were an even larger number of activities on weekdays. Their main method of promotion was not planned as such, but they had their building used each day of the week by internal and external groups. Hundreds or more people passed through the doors each week — a church may not be huge but it will likely benefit it to be inviting and accepting.
Church Buildings: built for all the local community to use in the fulfillment of the church’s mission. Building that are used virtually every day of the week by by the whole community. Part of a sermon one Sunday was a story with this vision and everyone works toward it. This is a church where one sermon made each part of the mission statement come to life and “our life and work together” is mentioned throughout all the other sermons – even when asking for volunteers the words are “so if you want to be a part of________”, as opposed to “I need three people to do ___________”). They are outward thinking and say they “want to make a country, and a world we want to live in.”
Involved Membership: Even if only one member is doing something they talk about it as a church activity. They list things in their newsletter and it’s mentioned during the announcements in the service (some project it on a screen before and after service). It’s in the external community paper and on the church’s up-to-date website. Things like – weekly internal/external community dinners; Easter egg hunt and brunch; haircuts for children of parents who can’t afford it just before the first day of school; community craft shows, seasonal/issue-based help to community members.
A Vibrant Church Community: you feel instantly that they care for each other and for you. Things like – very specific prayer requests from the congregation, occasionally, so many that they last as long as the sermon; each section of the Prayers of People read by a different person from their seat; prayer requests read by the congregation from a list in unison; people using the announcement time to ask who needs help after an issue (flood, big storm, etc).
People have spoken to me about what I’m doing – some think I’m brave, some think it’s a wonderful experience, and others think it’s dangerous for me to participate in “other religions”. These three, very different reactions are exactly what I’m getting out of this! My objective in participating in different faith communities is to strengthen my relationship with God, with others, and with myself.
Jesus said it wasn’t going to be easy to be one of his followers, and that people, (some will say the Devil) will try to sway me away from understanding too much. But I’m also told that the more I understand the more God will reveal to me. My personal understanding of God has become so much clearer with the teachings of other faith traditions co-mingled in my being. I am thankful every day for those who speak the truth.
One visit or experience of a different faith’s worship is not enough to understand all of a faith’s nuances. Imagine the impression you would get if you were to only visit an Episcopal Church on Maundy Thursday! Here are some of the books I read after visiting faith traditions that were radically different to my Episcopalian upbringing. I’ve also included some others I happened upon that had a large impact on my journey.
The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew and Heart of the Middle East
Written as a fiction, it’s a good explanation of the reason for the Muslim vs Jewish issues.
The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew
Three women search for understanding.
The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent
This put words to why I love being an Episcopalian.
The Life of Mary Baker Eddie
A biography that helped me get the basics of Christian Science.
Learning to Breathe: My Year long Quest to Bring Calm to My Life
Just enough description of Buddhism to get me started.
The Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet
A biography that helped me understand the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Unity: A Quest for Truth
A straightforward description of the ideas behind Unity Church.
God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World
A generic introduction to key religions.
Carolyn B Thompson is a cradle Episcopalian with an unquenchable thirst for more relationship with her beloved Father.
Ministry can take on many forms. In 2015 Julia Taylor embarked on what she thought was to be a three month stay in India, working at the NRI General Hospital, Mangalagiri, Andhra Pradesh, India with Project Hope.
My journey for three months with Project Hope began with two boring days driving to Arizona. After I arrived in Phoenix (the temperature was 105°F) I read the instructions for my trip to India (I thought I had read them several times, but apparently I had only printed them). I discovered that I needed a visa! And antimalarial medicine! I completed my online application for an e-visa and contacted my primary care provider in Ozark who sent a prescription for doxycycline (antimalarial) to Hawaii (my next stop).
With my e-visa approved, but only for 30 days — I could renew it in India (or so I thought) — I left for Honolulu.
I spent five days in Hawaii, and while I was there, I attended church at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral. I went to the 8 a.m. service which is mainly in Hawaiian. It was a special service remembering Prince Albert’s (son of Queen Emma and King Kamehameha) baptism. Because in 1862 the four year old prince had become an honorary member of a fire fighting company, the Honolulu Fire Department was there in uniform and with a fire truck. Hawaii’s governor and first lady were also at the service as well as black gowned descendants of Hawaiian royalty. The school my three daughters attended while we lived in Hawaii, St. Andrew’s Priory, is on the same property as the cathedral so I took a few pictures for them.
All too soon my time in Hawaii was over, and I was up early for my flight. I had a quick walk around Waikiki to say aloha to Oahu and then went to the airport. I was flying China Eastern Airlines to Shanghai and was the only Caucasian passenger. The seat next to me was empty so I enjoyed good food, my Kindle, and some sleep during my ten-hour flight. I had to get a one day visa just to spend eight hours in the airport. I walked a lot during my layover.
My flight to Delhi was almost all men. After we landed I slept in one of few comfortable chairs in the airport. My Kindle continued to supply me with great reading material and I found some tea and pastries when the food court opened at 4:30 a.m. Although there was an earlier flight directly from Delhi to Vijayawada (my final destination), Expedia had booked me through Hyderabad. That added ten hours to my trip. Hyderabad airport had terrible food but there was diet Coke available. There were many heavily veiled women including one with thick black gloves to coordinate with her total body black covering. I watched with interest as she gave her husband money and apparently told him to go buy some food for the children (which he did). Another stereotype slightly damaged! Airport security was now segregated by sexes with full body pat down for everyone. Other than being a very long trip (over 40 hours from Honolulu) it was not a bad experience. There were at least two meals on each leg of the trip and vegetarian options on all.
My destination was definitely not a tourist attraction. On my last two flights I was asked if I were on the right plane. From Shanghai on, I was the only non-Indian passenger.
Vijayawada airport is tiny. I was supposed to be met on arrival. However, my pick up was 90 minutes late. I was beginning to be concerned – it was getting dark and the airport closed after my Air India plane returned to Hyderabad – when my ride with two nurses and a driver arrived. The hour-long ride to the hospital showed that the most important car accessory in India is the horn. The traffic was crazy. Buses, people, motorcycles, three wheeled motorized carts, bicycles and cars. All was chaos but everyone survived. I was housed in the hospital’s “staff quarters.” My room was basic but clean. I had a private bath and shower. The shower was a bucket and small pitcher but I had hot water.
The next day I learned three important things:
The tea was great – just like chai latte.
I was wrong about the visa. It could not be extended. I would have to leave the country and reapply for a new visa. That was not an option since any country near India also requires a visa so I would have to leave India for home in 30 days.
Although the doctors and nurses were taught in English and the hospital officially used English, actually everything was done in Telugu. Even the people who spoke English reasonably well had difficulty understanding me because my American accented English was very different to the Telugu accented English they heard in school.
They wanted to assign volunteers to the area in which they were currently working. However, they had no concept of Case Management – arranging for patient care after hospital discharge — In India that is a family responsibility. In fact, unless it is an emergency, patients are not admitted to the hospital without a family member (or neighbor or someone) to care for them. That care giver goes to the pharmacy to buy the medications and supplies the patient needs, provides meals and in general cares for the patient. Some of the hospital wards are 60 beds with only one or two nurses. Family assistance is required. Often entire families stay at the hospital for the totality of the patient’s stay. There are always people sleeping in the hallways. At night the hallways are crowded with families sleeping.
Nurses rotate through three shifts: 8 am – 2:30 p.m., 2 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. – 8:30 a.m. Transportation (or lack of transportation) is the reason for the arrangement of the shifts.
There is no way for nurses to get to or from the hospital at 11 p.m. If it safe to do so, nurses are allowed to sleep during the overnight shift.
The hospital and associated medical and nursing schools were started by Indian doctors originally from that area of India, who had practiced in the United States. The hospital offered a wide range of services including open heart surgeries and renal transplants. Since I had experience in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU – the recovery room) I was assigned there. One of the highlights was attending a nurses’ conference on Stress Management. At the end of the two day program, a yoga master was introduced. After a brief lecture, he led 250 nurses to a large room where we lay on the floor and “relaxed.”
One of PACU nurses was the wife of a pastor of a Christian church. Vimala asked if I would attend the church and (I thought) she asked if I would pray for them. Of course, I agreed. Later I learned that I had agreed to preach at the Shalem Evangelical Church. I also learned that I should wear white to church. Santhi, the PACU charge nurse, took me shopping for white church clothes and a sari.
That Sunday at the church and I was nervous at the beginning. The congregation was Telugu speaking so everything I said was translated by the pastor. Any Bible verse mentioned was immediately located in their Bibles. The women covered their heads. Men and women sat on opposite sides of the small church. The service was over three hours long and filled with lots of music and enthusiastic singing. Communion in the form of dense bread and a sweet liquid was given to all. Everyone was so gracious and encouraging. It was a wonderful experience.
In the room across the hall from me was a doctor from Calcutta who was at the hospital to administer tests to the medical students. He was visiting a temple and asked if I would like to go too. The visit was interesting and very confusing. We had to be barefoot. I received a tap on the head with a silver vase, sweet water and a handful of spicy cooked rice. I later learned that food – often rice and small yellow chick peas – is often associated with Hindu worship. The hospital had a temple across from the main lobby and a small shrine in one of the hallways. I often noticed hospital personnel stopping for a few minutes in front of the shrine. It is common for families to have shrines in their homes. At first I thought I had caught a man just coming out of a shower – he had just a towel wrapped around his waist. Later I learned that Hindu men often pray wearing only a prayer towel.
There is a trinity of gods in the Hindu belief: Shiva the destroyer, Vishnu the preserver and Brahma the creator (The total number of gods in the Hindu pantheon is difficult to pin down, varying from three to 33 million).
I knew September 17 was a holiday for some reason, but I could not understand the reason for the holiday. I learned from Wikipedia that it was Ganesh Chaturthi, the festival of the elephant headed god. A temporary shrine to Ganesh was constructed in the hospital lobby. At first the elephant face was covered in newspaper. The priest / monk/ Hindu altar guild member(!?) uncovered the face, dressed the statue in cloth and flowers, poured a sack of rice at feet of Ganesh, then added more flowers and some fruit. All this took about one hour. People came and watched and prayed at the shrine. Within a day the fruit was gone and flowers had wilted. The statue was supposed to remain in place for 10 days However, after three days the statue was moved with great ceremony. There were fireworks, bands, loud speakers, and much dancing as the statue was moved via tractor to the canal where it was “drowned.” Every small community had its own celebration. It was an amazing cultural experience. I danced, was pelted with pink powder (my hair was still pink on my return to the US), had my hands painted with henna and had a wonderful time.
During the four weeks at the hospital I discovered:
Banana juice is wonderful!
There is life without toilet paper.
Plain yogurt with salt is not my idea of great dessert.
Putting on a sari is very complex.
Hawaii is not crowded. India is crowded!
One issue I had never considered – how to keep monkeys from stealing the food you are preparing for dinner.
How to drink from a plastic water bottle without my lips touching the bottle (because the bottles are reused multiple times!)
Both the rules of cricket and the Hindu beliefs are too complicated for an ordinary human to comprehend.
Many Hindus also pray to Jesus.
Doxycycline for malaria prevention is hard to take. Every morning I was reminded of morning sickness.
My laptop allowed me to listen to the St Louis Cardinals games. The 10.5 hour time difference did make catching all the action almost impossible.
“Had your breakfast?” seems to be a greeting similar to “how are you?” Or perhaps everyone was worried that I was starving.
In India after a woman gives birth, she gets 84 days paid maternity leave.
Everyone eats with their hands. Apparently I was incompetent at this task. Someone usually gave me a spoon after a few minutes.
Transportation is normally by three wheeled motorized cart. There was a bench for three passengers. One trip I took carried 11 passengers. It was crowded! Another method of traveling was by motorcycle. I rode as the fourth rider on one. Not necessarily safe but fun.
As India is a former member of the British Commonwealth, residents refer to nurses as “sisters”, elevators as “lifts” and lab coats as “aprons”. I was “madame” and the nurses stood up when I came into the room.
The only person I saw during my days in Mangalagiri who was lighter skinned than me was an albino Indian man. I got used to stares everywhere I went.
I nearly caused a riot in a girls’ orphanage when I brought out bottles of bubbles for the girls.
This is a middle-class home (wife is a nurse, husband an accountant): a two room apartment – one bedroom with a double bed for the couple, nine year old daughter and six year old son, squat toilet, no hot water, no oven, no refrigerator, dishes and clothes were washed outside, a motorcycle, and lots of beautiful saris.
Soon it was 22 September, my last full day in the hospital. Time had gone by so fast. I really was not ready to leave but I had to.
During my brief stay my work accomplishments were:
I observed both the PACU (Post Anesthesia Care Unit) and the step-down Post-Op ward. For each unit I wrote up my findings and submitted them to the hospital administration.
I participated in an EKG class taught by the hospital nursing educator. Later I developed student worksheets for identifying various cardiac rhythms.
I created information papers on the ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) medications.
These papers will be used as the hospital develops an ACLS certification class for the ICU and PACU nurses.
In the afternoon the PACU nurses dressed me in my sari. I had absolutely no idea how to do it myself. The nurses were really amazed at that I had no experience with a sari.
Dressed like, but not looking like a native resident of India, I made the rounds to say goodbye to the hospital executives. PACU had a party for me complete with a gift of a replica of a Hindu temple and a cake. Apologies were made because my name was spelled wrong on the cake but no one noticed that the cake read “Happy birthday July”. It was the first real dessert I had tasted in over four weeks, and it was very good.
Next I went to a gathering of the head nurses of the hospital who had prepared a farewell gathering for me. There were speeches and refreshments. I was presented with a beautiful cloth (apparently the giving of a cloth is an Indian tradition). One of the comments I heard several times during the good-byes is that it is amazing how long (how old) Americans keep working. Apparently by the time someone in India is my age, he or she spends their days in bed having children and grandchildren wait on them.
I left clothes including my white church outfit which was now permanently pink and Project Hope t-shirts with the staff. I gave the last of my bubbles to a boy waiting somewhat patiently outside the OBGYN ward and presented an 11-year-old girl hospitalized for electrical burns with a small bottle of hand lotion.
Early on 23 September I was packed and ready to go. Santhi (the PACU charge nurse) and her husband accompanied me to Vijayawada airport from which I left for a two-hour flight to Delhi.
At Delhi airport I was met by a tour guide and driver, and was delivered to my five-star hotel. I had gone from Spartan living to the lap of luxury. After a lunch of Thai curry (I needed a change from Indian) I had a brow threading, facial and scheduled a hot stone massage for later. There was a fourth floor outdoor pool that overlooks the city and several trendy looking bars. However, I did have time for some culture. I toured the National Museum. There were lots and lots of statues of Hindu gods. Santhi and her husband had given me a print out of what was essentially “Hindu for Dummies”. I planned to study it and then go over the multiple pictures I took at the museum. Hopefully I would be able to link a picture with a god. I also walked around India Gate, the giant memorial for soldiers killed during World War II. Back at the hotel the doorbell for my hotel room rang! It was a bellman who asked if I wanted the turn down service. I declined. Too much luxury too fast might be harmful.
The 75-minute hot stone massage was awesome. And there was fresh fruit in my room! My supper was two bananas and two apples. I did not try walking or running outside the hotel now that I was in a big city. The traffic was unbelievable, and I was lucky not to get run over because I couldn’t figure out which way to look when crossing a street (they drive on the left). I checked out the television stations. The listing identified programs in English, Hindi, Punjabi, Spanish, French, German, Arabic, Chinese, Korean and … Australian!
The next day I traveled to Agra – home of the Taj Mahal. The trip took almost four hours and was interrupted only by a 45 minute stop with a man shouting and claiming my driver had hit his car. Somehow it was resolved without involving the police and we continued on our way. We passed a restaurant advertising ‘multi-cuisine pesto bar”. I was sorry we couldn’t stop. We passed a fresh meat market – the goats were waiting at the door to be selected for dinner. I was becoming more vegetarian every day.
The trip took me through rural India for the first time. There were grass huts that I think were for storing crops, not for housing, but I could not be sure. I think I glimpsed an even deeper level of poverty than I had seen previously.
Nevertheless, I proceeded on to my next five-star hotel where one of the many services offered was “astrologer available on request.” Compared to the Western tourists I saw, I was dressed like a very poor country relative or a missionary. I had no other clothes except those I wore in Mangalagiri which is much more restrictive in acceptable fashion than are the cities of Delhi and Agra.
I visited the Taj Mahal. As expected, it was awesome. A few facts:
It was built in the seventeenth century by Shah Jahan as a tomb for his favorite wife who died at age 39 after her fourteenth pregnancy.
He had planned a matching black Taj Mahal for his tomb but that did not happen because the Shah was jailed by his son during the last eight years of his life.
The scripts on the front of the building are chapters from the Koran. They are not painted but are made of precious stones.
The exterior is cleaned with layers of Pakistani mud which is rinsed with distilled water.
The entire building is an amazing work of symmetry and detail – all completed without the aid of a computer.
One of the most popular places to have a picture taken is at the “Lady Di” bench, the location where Princess Diana sat and viewed the Taj Mahal when she visited.
One of the newest attractions I visited was the Swaminarayan Akshardham, a ten year old temple which includes boat rides, movie theaters and displays promoting a vegetarian diet. The focus was an 11 foot high gold covered statue of the holy man Swaminarayan. Also on the 100 acre campus (because of the importance of the elephant in Hindu culture and India’s history) are carvings of 148 life sized elephants. Even though I injured several toes walking into recessed lighting (you have to be barefoot in a temple) it was a great experience.
I finished my time in India with visits to the Red Fort and Agra Fort, both planned by Shah Jahan who designed the Taj Mahal. I also visited a carpet factory and, of course, bought a knotted wool carpet. Hopefully it will go well with the silk carpet I bought in China. I rode in a bicycle rickshaw through the streets of Old Delhi (it was terrifying – so crowded!) and visited the site of Gandhi’s death – he was killed by a fellow Hindu who disagreed with his policy of allowing Muslims to live in India.
I spent my final hours packing and repacking and leaving clothes in my hotel room (hoping that someone could use them and that I would be under the 50 pound weight limit on luggage). At last I was ready for my 15-hour flight from Delhi to Newark, NJ then on to Phoenix and finally a 1,300 mile drive back to Missouri.
I was not certain what my next adventure would be, but I did know that my first priority at home would be to do something about my fluorescent pink-orange hair. Even though it was a reminder of a great time in India, it just wasn’t my style.
This article was originally published as a series of posts on Julia’s personal Facebook account.
Julia Taylor attends Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield, Missouri
What We’re Learning About The Episcopal Church That Can Help Us Grow Spiritually
The church, that wonderful and sacred mystery, is a community brought together by grace, as gift, not because of what church members have done, but because of what God has done in Christ. And the grace is just the starting point. The story doesn’t end there. As Annie Lamott says, the grace of God loves us enough to meet us where we are, but loves us too much to leave us there. So let me pose a few questions we must ask, prompted by the letter to the Ephesians: What is the way of life that lies before us? What is that way for our congregations, for our leaders, lay and clergy? What is the way for each person’s spiritual journey?
No additional information on legacy giving was available at the time of publishing. We’ll update this article when details are available.
Human Trafficking and the Sex Industry: A Moral Challenge For The Church
Our Diocesan Convention was blessed to have Brittany Zampella as our speaker on Sex Trafficking. She delivered an impassioned presentation imploring individuals to become aware of the “insidious injustice” of sex trafficking and the damage it does to trafficked victims, their families and our society. Brittany emphasized the importance of abolishing the entire sex industry if we hope to rid ourselves of the horrific evil of young girls and women trafficked for the sole purpose of greed and male sexual gratification.
Attendees were leaving the room after her presentation shaking their heads in disbelief that the problem of sex trafficking was so severe. Bravo and thanks to Brittany for a making a complex subject understandable. A job well done.