What happen here, the bad falls on the good

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“What happen here, the bad falls on the good?” The van started ok and I made it to St. Paul’s, to pick up the campers from Camp Stevens. But  when I went to move the van to a new parking place the battery was dead. After a few phone calls I was able to get two drivers to drop everything and give a hand. We got the kids home late but safe.

The kids were very tired when they got back. The last night at camp is always late, some stay up most of the night talking. They were so tired they did not have much to say on the ride home. The car and van were very quite.

The Fest of The Transfiguration is in two weeks and I was thinking about the mountaintop experience of the disciples. The kids came back with their own story of a mountaintop experience some talked about the spiritual connection with the mountain and the pines. Others talked about the special friendships they built on the mountain. Each did have a mountaintop experience knowing it or not. Not knowing is ok as I remember that Peter misunderstood the occasion of the Transfiguration of Christ.

I always come home after dropping the kid’s home with the feeling of awe. Their lives are transformed, they do not know it now but when they grow up then they will know how much the mountain top experience changed them.

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Last Day Intercultural Exchange with Bishop’s School

 

Yes this was our last day with the joint cultural exchange with the students from Bishop’s School. The kids ranged in age from 8 years to 14 years. Bishop’s award winning water polo team was well represented and many different countries were also represented.

They learned how to tread water and basic swimming, they danced, and they told about their cultural. I even told about my boyhood and shared my Autoharp with them. There were many different types of clothing and art object that they shared with all of us. What a fun way to learn about some one and their cultural. They made notebooks of art and pictures and also interviews of their partners. The director had the booklets printed and bound at Kinko’s. In the back of these notebooks a blank page was for them to have others sign or write something; this whole process was very touching

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Today was our potluck dinner. The best part of the week for me, the food was outstanding. So many different tastes and smells, many of the dishes were very hot. I loved every dish and every strange taste. Then we went around the room and said in one word or what every one would like to say about the experience. All were very grateful for the time and program. I could see the change in some of the kids, they just seemed to blossom as the weeks went by. This is theology in its best form.

 

San Diego Food Bank or Bust

 

Each Tuesday and Thursday I go with the volunteers and employees of the Episcopal refugee network. We meet at St. Luke’s at 7am. Our trip to the Miramar area, San Diego Food Bank is in the going to work traffic. So we start the day inch by inch.

We use a pickup truck and two volunteers cars. Four door compact cars will hold a lot of food. Food is stuffed into every nook and cranny by the time we are finished loading one cannot see out the back window, very grateful for side view mirrors.

 

On the first and third Tuesday’s the food is taken to St. Alban’s in El Cajon. After one of these trips a volunteer said we sure made a lot of families happy today. That got me thinking about how I am so task orientated most of the time I do not think of things like this until after the day is over.

 

Tutoring is a real joy for all of us. The kids are ready to go to work and to play. They read to me and then I read to them. We play math games; work on times tables and combination tables. We laugh so loud the others complain about our noise. So we smile and are very quite for the rest of the time together. I have taken some of the children to their homes after tutoring. On the way we sing songs and tell very corny jokes.

 

I am not blind to the cultural shock the families are experiencing nor of the shyness of children and parents. I try to build a safe space for fun, work, and togetherness. I try hard to provide a comfortable and supported environment in which the children can tell their stories. I am not sure if healing can take place in the parents, but the children can heal and move on. There is much written about cultural shock and loss.

These people have lost home, country, friends, and culture (food’s). They  no longer have the extended family support of their homeland. So they deal with,separation, identity, and sexuality, interact with critical issues of being a refugee (loss and grief, survivor guilt, trauma reactions, and cultural discontinuity). They are grieving in a most stoic way. It is hard for me to come to grips with their loss. It is one thing to know intellectually the definitions it is another to work with and through the emotions.

I know we make families happy with food and the children happy with song. But I can’t heal the woundedness of loss. But as I listen I allow myself to feel with the storyteller, which is never easy but so very important.

ps. Benedict of Nursia day so we get a pastry after dinner!

 

 

 

On the way to camp

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Sunday afternoon is warm and pleasant when I picked up the kids at St. Luke’s. Sleeping bags and over loaded duffel bags. Excitement in the air and a lot of nervous energy spent on running around. We are going to St. Paul’s to met the bus that will take them to Camp Stevens. The bus will have other kids from the diocese. All loaded and on their way!

 

The network had sixteen young people going to camp this week. I was thinking about my first trip to camp at Julian. I do not know what year that was but I think it was the first year the camp opened. Since then I have had three children and seven grandchildren that I have taken to Camp Stevens. The kids in my car today were all from the Sudanese community. They all had been to camp before so they were very excited. We all enjoyed a camp song on our way to St. Paul’s. You remember this don’t you?

“b-i-n-g-o, b-i-n-g-o,Bingo was his name O” if you do know this one  it  will stick in your mind for the rest of the day or night.

 

I was having a problem getting excited about them going. I keep thinking about the girls the Boko Haram took captive. Some of them are the same age as these kids. I took a name of one of the captive girls from a list provided to our church. My girls name is Sarah Samuel. In news flash just in as I write that some of the girls have escaped. I hope Sarah is with them.

A side note to all of this; the refugee community has no idea how to tell us volunteers the sizes of their children. We have bathing suits, underwear, and socks but when we went to assign clothing to names the sizes were way off. All of just sat down and laughed and said it must be a cultural thing. After much time and patients we were able to get most of the kids their size. The staff is very good at this kind of work they have the patients of all dear mothers. They also know the culture of the families and are able to work with them, we could not do without them.

Want to go to the water park?

Ya ! I want to go to the water park. We met our children at St. Luke’s about noon on Wednesday. Three of the girls went in the car with me. What a great place the county has put in on the Harbor side to the County administration building. A play ground with water and everything else that children can enjoy. We had a great time and the girls got wet and very wild. On the way back to the church the girls were singing and telling me stories.

As I was getting ready for bed the day started to come back to me in full color. I realized that I had lost myself in the fun of the day. I had not taken care to watch for the subtle nuances of the girl’s actions or speech. I had just enjoyed their laughter and songs and stories. I also know that they were very grateful. Do I want to go back?

YES

Today was regular Thursday run to pick up food from the San Diego Food Bank and take it to St. Luke’s for distribution in the Sudanese Community. Then in the afternoon we tutor. No splashing, no giggles, no songs, just hard work in the heat.

My two young men were ready to study and study we did. Working with words and concepts. No laughter, looking at the clock wishing for the snacks and the ride home. They were very polite and thanked me, but I could tell they were very tired this afternoon. The heat was getting to them, and I was not at the top of my game. Driving home I thought about the strange way that the weather can effect the mind and personality. How I abounded in energy yesterday and with the heat of today I was sapped.

At Morning Prayer we said the 131st Psalm and this afternoon I wished to still my soul and make it quiet, like a child upon its mother’s breast. I will try this evening, but I may just fall asleep. For at evening prayer my mind could not stay with the Psalms or the readings. Compline will be very short.

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Commemoration of Catherine Winkworth (The Choral Book for England)

 

 

Catherine Winkworth               Paul Gerhardt

Early to rise this morning, I was off to the Network to help with the food bank. I arrived about 0650 and we were soon off and running. It was a fine morning and the sun came out by the time we delivered food to the El Cajon community. The route then went to City Heights and around that neighborhood ending up where we started. Lunch and a nap for me (all on the clock), then it was time to set up for the afternoon tutoring.

 

The kids came in droves and soon filled the room. At times I had three to work with, but soon more volunteers showed up and we settled in and worked with one child. This very bright fellow was full of fun and ready to work. While he was working on his homework I thought about how he may grow up. Maybe a space engineer, or a surgeon, or well I could go on, but bottom line is I would hope it would be something he enjoys.  As we worked together it took me back when I would have my grandson read to me. I would  think of what he will become. He was such a good reader and is a very good writer. Yet he loves to play in a rock a roll band and work in a coffee shop where he is loved. He has found his job and calling for now.

 

I do have the advantage of many years following many young people growing up and picking their way through life. This whole train of thought started this morning at morning prayer, as we remembered Catherine Winkworth, who went to Germany to study the great hymns of German composers. She was just going for a year but then she spent the rest of her life translating and putting together Choral Books. In addition to translating hymns, she was deeply involved in promoting Women’s rights. It would be great if someone would make sure that this minority group of girls had all the benefits of higher education and employment. I do fear that the girls will have it harder than the boys.

 

Hither come, ye poor and wretched;

Know his will is to fill every hand outstretched;

Here are riches without measure,

Here forget all regret; fill your hearts with treasure.

(Paul Gerhardt, Praxis Pietartis Melica, 1656)