Wednesday, January 29, 2014

news from Nigeria

Deaconess Ibironke O. Oremade-Oworu is Conference Health Secretary, of the Methodist Church, Nigeria, in partnership with the Wesley Guild UK and the Trustees of the Nigeria Health Care Project. 

Recently, she visited several projects including:

* the Health and Restoration Center Agboke, Otukpo Benue State
* Bethesda
Methodist Hospital in a rural Area of Benue State Igede
Edawu Community Psychiatric Hospital, Igede

Below are some photos of the projects. Please remember Ibironke and her colleagues, health professionals and volunteers, and church partners, as together they bring hope and healing to people in very remote and rural parts of Nigeria.

Creator God, as a worldwide diaconal community we join in solidarity with our brothers and sister in Africa. We believe that together, through the power of love, revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus, resentment can be transformed into reconciliation, war into peace, and sickness into health. Awaken within us the power of your Spirit. May we learn to live in solidarity, and come to believe in the transforming power of your love. We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

For those who find grief is a constant 'companion'

Diaconal ministry can may be immersed in the lives of those who grieve. A friend has experienced grief as a constant companion after the death of her mother in 2012. She writes poignantly and honestly about grief.....(and she chooses not to use capital letters!)
I'm sure i met grief some time before 2012, but he didn’t make a big impression on me. he probably came into my house and forgot to bring donuts... so he was dead to me. it takes a lot to get my attention.
the first time i remember acknowledging grief’s presence was when my mum began to lose things. her ability to play guitar. her ability to walk, to breathe, to sing. i saw grief sitting in a corner in those times of loss, but i was savvy to his ways and very skilfully didn’t let him too far into my head or my heart. i’m not good at relationships, and quite frankly didn’t have the time or emotional energy to deal with what grief was asking of me.
then my mum lost her life.
grief has been my constant companion since about midday on thursday the 28th of june, 2012. he was a persistent little critter and there was only so long i could hold him at bay. grief came rolling into my life like a steam train, showering me with gifts of sadness and emptiness, confusion and loneliness. he was lavish in his gift giving, and not being a big believer in confrontation, i didn’t have the heart to tell him that i didn’t want the gifts he was giving me. not once did grief offer me comfort or peace. rather, he wined and dined me relentlessly until i was so full of food and drink that i momentarily hated myself more than i hated my loss. in those moments, i let grief wrap me up in his uncomfortable embrace and wipe away my tears with his cold, grubby fingers.
i hopped on a plane... several in fact... to try and escape from grief. but the cheeky little guy must have had some secret savings squirrelled away, so he came along for the ride too. i thought for sure that if i did something really stupid and physically demanding he wouldn’t want to come. so i rode my bike a really long way over lots of mountains and slept on cold, wet, gravelly beds. it turned out grief was a fitness fanatic. he loved that trip.

grief & i taking a selfie on a gondola in canada*
(*grief not pictured)
people say you have to meet grief. that you have to let him into your life. but i don’t care for his ways. i don’t care for his tear-inducing, or rather, gut-wrenching-sob manufacturing abilities. 
i’m told that eventually grief and i might learn to get along. he may just quietly exist in the back of my life one day and not cause me so much pain. what a blessed relief that will be.
to my dear friends who have met grief this week... and to those who have been travelling with him for far too long... i wrap you in the warm embrace of my heart today. here’s to better days ahead...
A prayer for those who mourn:
Bless those who mourn, gracious and loving God, with the comfort of your love that they may face each new day with hope and the certainty that nothing can destroy the good that has been given. May their memories become joyful, their days enriched with friendship, and their lives encircled by your love. Amen. (1991 Vienna Cobb Anderson)

DACE retreat and AGM this week

DACE Home Page

DACE (English Association of Anglican Deacons) gather for a retreat this week, 23rd-24th January in Oxford. Sr.Ulrike Kellner, who has served as Secretary for World DIAKONIA for many years, has been asked to lead the retreat. Please pray for Ulrike and DACE Deacons as they gather together, that they may be refreshed in the presence of God and each other, and encouraged in their ministry.
On 25th January, the DACE AGM will be held when the revised constitution will be proposed for adoption, and many other matters discussed which affect the missional priorities and practices of diaconal ministers.

An affirmation of the people of faith
We believe in one God:
     Creator, Son and Holy Spirit,
     the Beyond in our midst,
     creating, sustaining, restoring,
     revealing, calling, strengthening.

We believe in Jesus Christ who brings salvation to all:
     fullness of life to those who trust,
     strength to all who call,
     an open door to all who knock,
     love to all who dare to love.

We believe in the Holy Spirit of God:
     the living presence in every open life,
     the healing stream for every wound,
     holy comforter to all who mourn,
     the guide for those who lose their way. 

We are the body of Christ:
     we will be his hands and feet,
     together we will be a community of love,
     we bond ourselves with those in need.
     The Spirit is with us. be it.

(Gemmel Sherwood, Uniting Church in Australia)

Floods in Jakarta (Indonesia)

Flooding hits the Indonesian capital Jakarta(source: ABC)
More than 30,000 Indonesians have fled their homes in the capital after flooding that has left at least 5 dead. Residents have been using rubber dinghies and wading through waist-deep water to reach safer ground. In some areas, the floodwaters reached up to 3 metres.

Many parts of Jakarta were under murky, brown water after days of torrential rain produced the city's first significant floods of the months-long rainy season.
Buildings in some parts of the sprawling capital, which has a population of more than 10 million and is regularly afflicted by floods, were half submerged, with roads unpassable in many areas, and power cut. The number of those forced to leave their homes jumped from less than 5,000 on Saturday to more than 30,000 on Sunday after heavy rain deluged Jakarta overnight.
People waded through the floods clutching their belongings.
Others used boats to make their way to evacuation centres. 

Flooding is a perennial problem in Jakarta, the political and economic heart of Southeast Asia's biggest economy, a fast-growing, poorly planned city. Meanwhile on northern Sulawesi island, the death toll from flash floods and landslides triggered by torrential rain earlier in the week rose to 19, with about 40,000 people still displaced.

Please hold in your prayers the people in Jakarta, those who have been displaced, those whose livelihoods are threatened, those who provide emergencies services, those who have lost loved ones.

We are also mindful of the ways that abuse of the land (logging, and a failure to reforest denuded land) exacerbate the floods, and pray for wisdom for those in leadership to tackle the pressing environmental issues. 

Please also remember the work of the Deaconess Association in Indonesia, IKADIWA HKBP.

The Art of Presence

I read this article today (David Brooks, New York Times) and appreciated the wisdom about 'being present' in the the suffering of others. It is very appropriate for diaconal ministry and 'being with' those who endure suffering and hard times.

Tragedy has twice visited the Woodiwiss family. In 2008, Anna Woodiwiss, then 27, was working for a service organization in Afghanistan. On April 1, she went horseback riding and was thrown, dying from her injuries. In 2013, her younger sister Catherine, then 26, was biking to work from her home in Washington. She was hit by a car and her face was severely smashed up. She has endured and will continue to endure a series of operations. For a time, she breathed and ate through a tube, unable to speak. The recovery is slow.
The victims of trauma, she writes in a remarkable blog post for Sojourners, experience days “when you feel like a quivering, cowardly shell of yourself, when despair yawns as a terrible chasm, when fear paralyzes any chance for pleasure. This is just a fight that has to be won, over and over and over again.”
Her mother, Mary, talks about the deep organic grief that a parent feels when they have lost one child and seen another badly injured, a pain felt in bones and fiber.
But suffering is a teacher. And, among other things, the Woodiwisses drew a few lessons, which at least apply to their own experience, about how those of us outside the zone of trauma might better communicate with those inside the zone. There are no uniformly right responses, but their collective wisdom, some of it contained in Catherine’s Sojourners piece, is quite useful:
Do be there. Some people think that those who experience trauma need space to sort things through. Assume the opposite. Most people need presence. The Woodiwisses say they were awed after each tragedy by the number of people, many of whom had been mere acquaintances, who showed up and offered love, from across the nation and the continents. They were also disoriented by a number of close friends who simply weren’t there, who were afraid or too busy.
Anna and Catherine’s father, Ashley, says he could detect no pattern to help predict who would step up and provide the ministry of presence and who would fumble. Neither age, experience nor personal belief correlated with sensitivity and love.
Don’t compare, ever. Don’t say, “I understand what it’s like to lose a child. My dog died, and that was hard, too.” Even if the comparison seems more germane, don’t make it. Each trauma should be respected in its uniqueness. Each story should be heard attentively as its own thing. “From the inside,” Catherine writes, comparisons “sting as clueless, careless, or just plain false.”
Do bring soup. The non-verbal expressions of love are as healing as eloquence. When Mary was living with Catherine during her recovery, some young friend noticed she didn’t have a bathmat. He went to Target and got a bathmat. Mary says she will never forget that.
Do not say “you’ll get over it.” “There is no such thing as ‘getting over it,’ ” Catherine writes, “A major disruption leaves a new normal in its wake. There is no ‘back to the old me.’ ”
Do be a builder. The Woodiwisses distinguish between firefighters and builders. Firefighters drop everything and arrive at the moment of crisis. Builders are there for years and years, walking alongside as the victims live out in the world. Very few people are capable of performing both roles.
Don’t say it’s all for the best or try to make sense out of what has happened. Catherine and her parents speak with astonishing gentleness and quiet thoughtfulness, but it’s pretty obvious that these tragedies have stripped away their tolerance for pretense and unrooted optimism.
Ashley also warned against those who would overinterpret, and try to make sense of the inexplicable. Even devout Christians, as the Woodiwisses are, should worry about taking theology beyond its limits. Theology is a grounding in ultimate hope, not a formula book to explain away each individual event.
I’d say that what these experiences call for is a sort of passive activism. We have a tendency, especially in an achievement-oriented culture, to want to solve problems and repair brokenness — to propose, plan, fix, interpret, explain and solve. But what seems to be needed here is the art of presence — to perform tasks without trying to control or alter the elemental situation. Allow nature to take its course. Grant the sufferers the dignity of their own process. Let them define meaning. Sit simply through moments of pain and uncomfortable darkness. Be practical, mundane, simple and direct.
Ashley and Mary went to Afghanistan a few months after Anna’s death. They remember that as a time out of time. They wept together with Afghan villagers and felt touched by grace. “That period changed me and opened my imagination,” Ashley recalls. “This thing called presence and love is more available than I had thought. It is more ready to be let loose than I ever imagined.”