Our Team in Honduras, Summer 2011

A group of women from our parish returned to Honduras to host a spiritual retreat we call Christ Renews His Parish. The team is expected back today, June 28, 2011 and I’m sure they will have a great story to tell about their travels and the people they served there. Check out the presentation below to learn more about the mission.


Maybe One Day I’ll Go to Africa

I’ve never been to Africa and I know very little about it. Although I realize there are many wild places left on the planet, I always think of Africa as the wildest, with its sweeping vistas, open grasslands, tribal customs, and familiar wildlife. I have some African friends that have shared with me about government corruption, poverty, and widespread disease throughout many parts of the continent, especially in the rural areas. I’ve been doing a lot of reading trying to absorb the culture and the challenges facing people living there. And I’ve been listening to music from Africa – lots of music! The more I read and hear, the more drawn into the struggles of the underprivileged I become. There are so many problems: poverty, diseases such as HIV/AIDS, drought, violence, homeless families, orphans, unsanitary water and open sewage, lack of education for the kids – it is all so very overwhelming and sad.
Several months ago, I was asked to become involved with a non-profit organization that constructed and now supports a children’s home in a small village in Kenya. The Footprints of Faith Foundation (http://thefootprintsoffaith.org) recently opened their home in Rangala to 10 children who lost their parents for various reasons but now have a chance to live in a nice home with other children. They will go to school and help with a small farm on the grounds. The story about the founder of the foundation is amazing and from the first time I heard it, I became hooked. I began working on a song they could use however they wanted but primarily to raise awareness and funds for the upkeep of the home. This is why I started doing the research to learn more about Africa and quickly began to see and read about things I never knew and still honestly can’t believe. After several months of absorbing information and allowing the shock of these apparently hopeless situations to pass, I began to focus on the people and organizations that are trying to bring positive changes and assistance to those in need. 
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is one of the larger organizations in the mix. MSF is an international medical humanitarian organization working in more than 60 countries to assist people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe. Naturally, they are doing a lot of work in Africa and the video below illustrates just one of the ways they broadcast their message calling for action. Check out “A Vulnerable Existence: Migrants in South Africa.” I’ve watched this video a few times and each time, learn something more. Visit the MSF website at http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org and spend a few minutes looking around. Get involved. Read. Follow MSF on Facebook and Twitter and forward the information to your friends and followers. I believe most of us have no real grasp of the size and complexity of these problems.  Maybe we don’t want to know. But I do believe we are capable of stepping up in a big way when we choose to. I may never go to Africa but I can still contribute..and so can each of us.

A Vulnerable Existence: Migrants in South Africa

Video for the Footprints of Faith Foundation

Check out the new video message we did for the Footprints of Faith Foundation. When I say “we” I mean my good friend Mike Stephens and myself. I’ve known Mike for years and he is always willing to help out when I come up with an idea like “hey, let’s do a video” or “hey, let’s master the CD ourselves…” – he never says he can’t do something. He always listens to me, looks at me inquisitively, pauses for a minute and then says, “ok, let’s do it.” Mike is someone I can count on when I need help. And I usually need a lot of help. My wife Lisa is like that too. She is always by my side, encouraging me and trying her best to keep me focused – not an easy thing to do! Lisa and I are excited about working with the Footprints of Faith and see the incredible opportunity we have to help make a difference. These kids are counting on you and me and we can’t abandon them. Check out the video and then visit the Footprints website and read the story about the Foundation and their plans for the future.

Hope you enjoy the video. Spread the message to your Facebook friends and Twitter followers. The Foundation is hoping to step up awareness and increase interest in giving to the orphanage. Your help is appreciated.

Blood:Water Mission

I’ve become fascinated – almost obsessed – with the realization that there are people in the world that don’t have access to clean water and specifically, how the lack of clean water effects more than the obvious. You, like me and most people, think that clean water is just something we have…and plenty of it. We drink it (even in throw-away plastic bottles), bathe in it, use it to wash clothes, dishes, cars, dogs, little brothers, and to water our lush green lawns during the hot summers. (Note: some in my neighborhood continue to water their lawns in the dead of winter, spraying water on the streets in sub-freezing temperatures, creating ice, and driving unsuspecting motorists crazy as they slide through stop signs and traffic lights…). Having an almost endless supply of clean water also provides us with a luxury we probably don’t realize: more time. Time to do the things we love but also the things we must do to be productive people.

Take 3 min to watch the video from Blood : Water Mission, an organization that “creatively and thoughtfully raises awareness and the necessary funds for the provision of clean blood and clean water in sub-Saharan Africa”. This video illustrates the simple fact that people required to spend hours each day finding and transporting water to their homes/villages are not able to do much else. I never thought about it in this way before – obviously because I’ve never had to add it to my “to do” list. I go to work each day to provide an income for myself and my family. We need stuff – food is definitely important. Electricity, natural gas, and water are all part of paying the bills each month. But assuming I pay my bill, water, clean and plentiful, will generously flow from any faucet in the house on-demand. I don’t have to “find” it…it comes without much effort. 

But imagine if that one thing had to be addressed each day. I guess it was this way when we lived in small villages in our native countries. We woke up each day, fetched the firewood, milked the cows, gathered the eggs, and brought water in from the creek or well. If you sent the kids, it would be easier on you – which, by the way, would be focused on skinning and boiling something newly killed to eat for breakfast. Easy right? Now imagine you find out the water supply you are using is making your family sick from animal waste, mosquitoes, chemical runoff. What to do? You can send the kids down the road to the next stream or pond. But this takes more time and now the kids are missing school or other chores, becoming weaker and eventually, sick from drinking the only water they can find. Introduce other factors like who owns the water supply, etc. and you’ve got a real challenge on your hands.  Now, it’s about survival, not luxury. 

Many of these charitable organizations help by providing funds to drill water wells in villages throughout Africa or Central America. As the video points out, once people have access to clean water, children have more time for school and doing the things kids do.

Jennifer’s Story, Nyamonge, Kenya from Blood:Water Mission on Vimeo.

Are We Wealthy?

Monetarily speaking, I wonder what it would be like to be really wealthy. You know, the kind of wealthy where you don’t have to watch every dollar you spend so closely. What does that feel like? A good friend of mine likes to say that although we might have one set of financial woes, wealthy people have woes too – they’re just more expensive woes than ours. In other words: it doesn’t matter how much money you make, you still have financial challenges…another example of the “sliding scale” theory. I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying that wealthy people DO watch every dollar they spend and that’s why they are wealthy.

And I think that makes a little sense.

Wealth is one of those tricky things. On several occasions, Jesus warned the wealthy about the evils of money. It’s not that having money is a bad thing – it’s just what we do with it that counts. But being wealthy is something most of us probably do wish for, “secretly” maybe, and if not for ourselves, then for our families. There’s got to be a mathematical equation out there somewhere that takes a person’s gross income and subtracts yearly operating expenses, including taxes, Starbucks coffee, mortgage payments, bills, and haircuts and then determines by looking at what’s left over whether you can afford to purchase that 46″ Samsung flat screen TV – all WITHOUT experiencing buyers remorse. What is the “wealthy” threshold? When does it become crystal clear that “we have enough?” Can we ever really have enough? Tough questions.

Our pastor reminded us this Sunday that wealth does have a purpose and that purpose is sharing it with the poor. We are obligated to take care of our less fortunate brothers and sisters and we, the wealthy, will be judged on whether we carry out our obligation or not. Look at the outpouring of aid to Haiti. My gosh – yes, of course they need it! But look at the amount of money that is being donated. It’s amazing the amount of money the wealthiest countries in the world can fork over when we feel the desire to do so! Millions of dollars have been donated by individuals texting for $10 – that’s a lot of Starbucks coffee, my friend! Most people agree that Haiti will need money and assistance to rebuild its infrastructure for years to come. Will we continue to give as we should? Will we feel the tug on our hearts to continue giving? Will we skip the 46″ Samsung for those in need, even 5 years from now? Will we wait for the next crisis to once again open our wallets? I think we have to make a determined effort to be disciplined about giving. Each week or each month, through donations to our church or auto drafts from our paychecks, we have to give something from our abundance, something from our wealth. Pick a charity and support it. Choose an organization you believe in and give to it. Most of us do have enough to give regularly, even if we have to watch every dollar we spend – and even if it’s $10. We may never know what it’s like to be really wealthy, but we know we are among the most fortunate, the wealthy, and it’s our obligation to share it.

Africa – Water is Life

Great website found today and The Elms is a band worth listening to. They do a lot of charity work for different causes – most recently for the relief efforts in Haiti. I think this is what more musicians should do with their gifts. Many already do, and that’s great. I’m not preaching to anyone here. I just think it’s an effective way to get help to more people in need. Because music cuts through so many segments of the population, both in the US and globally, it reaches people like no other medium. With a click or two of the mouse, you can find music from anyplace in the world thru google, Facebook, twitter, etc. – all kinds of music at your fingertips, easily purchased, and downloaded for listening all in a few short seconds. People are already plugged in several hours a day listening to their favorite artists. Add a video, and potentially reach millions of people worldwide on formats like YouTube:

I believe musicians have an incredible amount of messaging power, especially to young listeners. If more would to take the opportunity to reach out to various charities and causes, just one, the money donated to these causes would increase exponentially. I think it’s great when artists come together during a crisis to help raise money – often millions of dollars in a short time – but I think more artists should adopt a charity or a cause and support it for the long haul. The Elms is one band that has set a great example.

A Health Care Exception–For the Amish

This is a few days behind the curve, but check it out – great thoughts from Raymond Arroyo:

January 12, 2010
A Health Care Exception–For the Amish
Posted by Raymond Arroyo

Both the Senate and House Health Care bills have one religious conscience clause. Unfortunately it only applies to the Amish and a few other religious sects. According to the Watertown Daily Times, the exception would allow the Amish to avoid the health insurance mandate and a fine should they refuse to carry health insurance. So get this straight: the Amish, Old Order Mennonites and possibly Christian Scientists can opt out of the health care plan, with no penalty, while Catholics and other Christians are bound to pay premiums that fund abortion. How is that fair? Hundreds of Christian, pro-life hospitals, doctors and nurses may soon be forced to violate their consciences and offer or perform procedures they consider morally objectionable. The Congress could care less. If the pro-life community fails to demand conscience clause protections, and loudly, they could find themselves morally compromised by this new health care regime. Even the leading voice for conscience clauses, the US Catholic bishops, have been muted in recent days, preferring to convey their desires via letters and statements issued by their Conference. Now is the time for a full throated, public discussion of this critical issue. The ethical future of health care is being negotiated now in the back rooms of Capitol Hill. Of course if everyone would rather focus on Harry Reid’s comments, I suppose there is the option of riding a horse and buggy to work. Though some Catholic doctors I know will look pretty silly in those straw hats. Let me know what you think at raymond@raymondarroyo.com