Rev. Amy Gopp | March 8, 2014
Her eyes were the deep, gorgeous brown of chocolate kisses. And the moment she looked at me, I felt as though she was telling me something without ever uttering a word. Her eyes said it all. This child, such a beautiful girl, was destined for something.
She had almost run into me as she raced down the dusty dirt road on her banana bike, flying over mud puddles and heaps of garbage and other unidentified objects - until she had to brake to miss me. Clearly I didn’t belong there; I was a new and foreign face and thus, somewhat suspect. Rarely did outsiders come to visit the community where she lived; she seemed intrigued as her chocolate brown eyes met mine.
But I could tell that I would have to be the one to make the first move.
So I smiled and introduced myself, and she reciprocated. “I’m Jasmina,” she said. Within sheer seconds there must have been ten or twelve other little girls surrounding us, wanting to know what this surprise encounter was all about. No one ever came to this community, and certainly no one would bother to speak to the girls there.
Andrew Gifford | March 7, 2014
I’m sitting here in my warm office in Ohio having survived two or three polar vortexes and several massive dumpings of snow. One thought seems to continually enter my head: What are the people who call the outside home doing this winter? And then a second question: What am I doing for them?
There are many instances in our lives when we feel absolutely helpless, specifically concerning such monolithic issues as poverty and homelessness. I think back to one of those bitterly cold nights and remember the homeless man who asked if I could help. The best I could do was direct him toward a homeless shelter two blocks away, which may have been full.
I felt so helpless. My heart ached for this man - my neighbor - and his need, but I really didn’t know what else to do. Yet, I think if we take the time to look there are very real solutions that can make a significant impact on the lives of these sisters and brothers in need.
Luciano Cadoni | March 5, 2014
If someone told you they took part in an event where both children and adults were extremely happy ... where they all played, had fun, respected the rules and - most important - respected one another and had a moment to forget about all the problems they have … probably the last thing you would imagine is that the event took place inside a prison and these people full of smiles were the inmates and their families.
A couple weeks ago, CWS supported an activity, organized with Argentinean partner ACIFAD and Médicos del Mundo Argentina, giving children a chance to play and enjoy a special day with their imprisoned parents and relatives.
Kelly Cohen-Mazurowski | March 3, 2014
One evening a month I lead volunteer orientation here at CWS in Durham, N.C. College students, retirees, moms with young children, immigrants and many others surround the table to learn about refugees. I am always impressed by the incredible enthusiasm of our volunteers to get involved with refugees - people they’ve never met, whose languages they don’t speak. Before the formal presentation, we each go around and share our names and how it is that we got interested in this kind of work. People share about finding their feet as newcomers here in North Carolina, about classes they’ve taken and about the desire to learn about new cultures and languages. When it comes to my turn, my mind always travels back to my first experience outside of the United States - studying abroad in Mukuno, Uganda.
As an American college student in Uganda, I was continually welcomed. I couldn’t go anywhere without someone saying, “Karibu! You are most welcome.” Whether I was out running on the dusty road around campus, riding on a group taxi to Kampala, drinking tea with my host mom, or wringing out my dirty laundry in the little field by the dorm, I was made to feel at home. One student invited me every Sunday after church to come to her dorm room and eat biscuits with her. Even though she was herself being sponsored by a parish priest and had little to share, she always went out of her way to welcome me.
Joann Hale | February 27, 2014
The February 18 meeting with survivors of January’s ice jam flood in West Seneca, N.Y., was seething with raw emotion. About 100 people filled the pews at St. John’s Lutheran Church. I was at the podium, talking about the long-term recovery process following disaster, when audience members started shouting out questions and accusations.
“You don’t understand! People can’t live in their houses!”
“Where is the government? Where is the Army Corps of Engineers?”
“You tell us volunteers are coming in this spring to help us rebuild? We need them now!”
“What good is long-term recovery going to do us? We need help now! We are hurting!”
The meeting had originally been planned as a workshop for the newly forming West Seneca Responds Team, a community flood recovery effort led by a Lutheran pastor and a Presbyterian layperson, both with disaster recovery experience. It gave way to flood survivors’ outpouring of grief at their loss and worry about how they would find the resources to clean up, repair and rebuild.
Rev. John L. McCullough | February 25, 2014
I am looking forward to spending time this week with representatives from the Cuban Council of Churches, who will be in Washington D.C., Feb 26 – 27, to make the case for improving relations between the United States and Cuba, from a Cuban religious perspective.
It has been more than five decades since the U.S. government barred Americans from engaging in trade with, travel to or investments in Cuba. The island nation has changed dramatically over the past five decades and it is time for the U.S. to also rethink its policies toward Cuba.
Joya Colon-Berezin and Sarah Ivory | February 24, 2014
Mother Teresa once said: “I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?”
In saying this, she takes a biblical axiom – ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself’ - and emphasizes that concern for one’s neighbor is rooted in something deeper: relationship.
The CWS Immigration & Refugee Program is in the business of fostering relationships. This year alone the program will welcome approximately 7,000 refugees. Each newcomer will be resettled by a local office and community across the United States. These communities are engaged in creative ways of bringing together, and building relationships between, native-born Americans and diverse refugee newcomers.
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