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Theme: Be a Person of Wonder
Persons of wonder look at the world and desire to learn more about it. When they encounter someone or something new, they actively listen to learn more. Then, they lead by example taking actions to make the situation better.
OBJECTIVE: Advent is a time of waiting and wondering. In this issue we invite you to wonder about the lives of those who have had to flee their homes as refugees:
Examine their stories to better understand why they fled and the challenges that they faced;
Imagine yourself in their place;
Decide how you would like to respond as a person of faith.
READ the story of the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt Matthew 2: 7-15 two times. The first time, read to UNDERSTAND the story. The second time, read to UNDERSTAND what it must have been like for Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. EXPLORE it through the lens of wonder, by asking “I wonder…:
- What would it be like to have to flee my home?
- What might Joseph and Mary have felt about having to flee their country?
- What it would be like to have a dream and be certain it was my Guardian Angel telling me to do something?
- How did they decide what to take with them and what to leave behind?
- What I would take and what I would leave behind?
PRAY: Loving God, we pray for displaced people who like the Holy Family are forced to flee their countries, driven by war, poverty, and necessity. We pray for those who have to leave their homes and lands, to seek refuge in safer places. Help them to find the strength to persevere. Give them comfort in sorrow and courage when things are difficult. Help us to respond generously, open our hearts, and welcome them as friends.
READ THE FAITH PERSPECTIVE MISSION STORY FROM MYANMAR
Bro. John Beeching, M.M. shares the following story from a refugee camp in Myanmar where he and many people of wonder work to provide the displaced people in the camps with food and medical supplies.
Deep in the forest of Kachin State in Myanmar (a small country in Southeast Asia) were 2,000 people trapped and waiting for help. They had fled to the forests when their village was hit with bombs during the longest civil war in the world. With no way out and food supplies dwindling, the bishop knew they needed help to escape. So he asked for a volunteer to rescue the villagers. He knew that it would take a person of wonder, courage, and faith to enter a conflict zone still at war and filled with landmines. The person who volunteered was Yohan Tingrenan La Aung, a catechist in the church. Yohan told Bro. John that because of his familiarity with the area he felt he was being called, perhaps like Moses, to try and lead the people to safety.
After the experience, Yohan narrated how he had to first calm everyone’s fears upon reaching the villagers. The group started the hike out of the jungle, taking care to move together and not leave anyone behind. It was a very difficult hike. Children older than 3 had to walk; the younger ones were placed in baskets on peoples’ backs. Men took turns carrying the elderly and sick. They had to find work elephants to carry the children and the elderly across swift rivers. The first time they tried to cross without the elephants, a 10 year-old boy drowned. Four babies were born along the way; five people lost their lives. Many fell ill and others suffered injury while trekking through the thick jungle. Yohan spoke with a calmness, of a journey that most would describe as a nightmare. The group walked many miles to the refugee camp. It was a hard journey but Yohan led the way with his strong faith and belief that God was with them. Read more about the ministry of Bro.John at Maryknoll Magazine.org.
READ THE NEIGHBOR FOCUS MISSION STORY FROM SOUTH SUDAN
People wonder, says Maryknoll Fr. Mike Bassano, “What is it like to be an internally displaced person?” meaning someone forced to flee his or her home in one part of the country to seek safety in another.
He answers from his experience as the chaplain in a U.N. camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in South Sudan. “Our camp outside the northeast town of Malakal, is one of the most congested camps in the country. Approximately 30,000 people are cramped next to each other in plastic or tin sheet houses.” Each family receives a two-month supply of sorghum, cooking oil, soap and cereal mix for the children, which is just enough for them to live on.
These people have been here since they were forced to flee their homes when the country’s civil war began in 2013. It escalated into a war that claimed some 400,000 lives and displaced millions of others, within, and beyond South Sudan’s borders. “Living in an IDP camp for so long has certainly taken its toll on the people,” says Fr. Mike. “They want to return to their homes. But the journey to peace, reconciliation, and justice is still a long road ahead. So, our people remain in the camp with the hope of one day returning home.”
Maryknoll Fr. John Barth works with refugees who fled S. Sudan to a camp in the neighboring country of Uganda. He describes the reality at the camp, “Hunger is rising to the level of starvation.” Due to COVID 19, “these people who live from hand to mouth literally don’t have a chance to make the money they need to pay for today’s food.”
DISCUSS THE FOLLOWING: Yohan, Bro. John, and Frs. Mike and John accompany refugees. A refugee is a displaced person who has been forced to cross national boundaries and cannot safely return to his or her home. Being a person of wonder sometimes involves risk. Each of these men took risks to do what they believed God asked them to do.
READ THE FOLLOWING SCRIPTURES:
What challenges did people face in the Exodus and Matthew passages? Did they feel that God was with them?
What does the passage from Hebrews 13 tell us about God’s love?
From these readings, how is God inviting us to be persons of wonder who respond in love to refugees?
RAISE YOUR VOICE
READ this poem written by Fr. Mike Bassano while in quarantine:
Reflecting upon wonder, fragility and resiliency of life. Awareness of living in the present moment, accepting whatever happens, amazing beauty of nature. Longing for healing of world’s suffering, ending war, violence, and disease, dawning day of peace, without hatred. Imagining that you are life in us without end. You are Sun rising in our hearts, never setting. You are endless ocean of which we are loving waves of your making.
WRITE your own poem about wonder and share it in your school paper, on social media, etc..