Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blood and Water From Our Lord

This reading is an excerpt of The Catecheses (Cat. 3, 13-19; SC 50, 174-177) by St. John Chrysostom, one of the greatest Early Church Fathers of the 5th Century.

It is a powerful reading on the blood and water from our Saviour's side as he was sacrificed on the cross for our sins. It beautifully brings the life source of the church to light - the sacramental life.

Suffering is the essence of the life of the Church. The message of the Jesus is sacrificial - bloody - and therein lies our salvation.

The cross of Christ comes to us in Word & Sacraments. It is from the cross that all true Christians live, in the humility and foolishness of blood and water.
This is our purpose.

This is the reason why Friends of Mercy exists. To bring the mercy of blood and water to the poor, the meek, and the lowly.
We all are the poor, the meek, and the lowly as our baptism calls us to repentance daily and absolves our sin.

The sacrifice of the Lamb comes to us in His victorious body and blood at the altar. Humbly we receive His gifts of eternity.
Yet eternity is not then, it is now. At the altar. At the font.

“Sacrifice a lamb without blemish”, commanded Moses, “and sprinkle its blood on your doors”. If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood.

In those days, when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ. If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side.

The gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy eucharist.
The soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own.

So also with the lamb: the Jews sacrificed the victim and I have been saved by it.

“There flowed from his side water and blood”. Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you.

I said that water and blood symbolized baptism and the holy Eucharist.
From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, “the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit”, and from the holy Eucharist.

Since the symbols of baptism and the Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: “Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!”

As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death. Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat?

By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Strength in the Midst of Suffering - Great Luther Quote

Thanks to Pastor W. Weedon for pointing this passage out on Facebook.

How could a man wish for anything more blessed than to come into this fellowship or brotherhood and be made a member of this body, which is called Christendom? For who canharm or injure a man who has this confidence, who knows that heaven and earth, and all the angels with the saints will cry to God when the smallest suffering befalls him? “ (Day by Day, p. 353, Luther’s exposition of John xvii 1528)

All the company of heaven, angels, archangels, cry out for the believers on earth. It's always good to remember that believers are saints because of our trust in the work of Christ. He earned forgiveness for us. He suffered all things for us. He suffered the wrath of God for us. He endured hell for us. He gives us all things.

Everything on earth - all of history - is geared to strengthening our faith and the proclamation of the Gospel. The quote by the 16th century reformer (Rev. Martin Luther) reminds us of His compassion and mercy on us. Not only does everything on earth work to call us to faith, repentance, and forgiveness, but so does everything in heaven. His church is one on heaven and earth.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lutheran AIDS Widows & Orphans in Kenya Need a Home

Who are the widows?
Think about the widows in your congregation. There are many, who in the midst of their sorrow and loneliness cling to the Word of God and the fellowship of your church. They are kind. They can be stoic and yet compassionate. Now let me ask you a question?

When you thought about your church's widows, how old were they?

For the most part, I'll bet they were... well, let's say over 55? There are those few who are younger, rarely with 5-10 children to care for, right?

Who are the Widow in Kenya?
$800 Will Build a New Home for a Suffering Widow

In Kenya, as with most Sub-Saharan Africa countries, the widows are young, 20 -40 years old. It goes like this. A wife notices her husband is losing weight and the alarm sounds. It means he is "sick." The word "sick" is a reference to AIDS, which causes extreme weight loss and eventually kills the bearer. She knows that soon she will be alone and will need to raise her children alone. Most families have at least 3 children of their own and are already caring for other family members children who died of AIDS.

However, this means that she, too, "might" get sick and die. Then what?

Her husband, if he was fortunate, earned $1 a day. She doesn't have a job. Eventually, after her husband dies, she too, will begin to lose weight.

Too often, parents die by the age of 30. Then, other family members step in and try to raise the orphans.

And chances are, her children are also infected with HIV.

AIDS is now taking its toll on her and other diseases creep in, usually malaria, and her body, because of HIV, can do nothing to stop any kind of illness, even a cold. A sneeze and cough is likely to kill her.

She gets sicker and weaker. She is so weak, she can't even get herselft to a medical clinic or a doctor. If somehow she does get help, she could end up in a state hospital, there she will share - NOT A ROOM - BUT A BED with one or two other women.

Friends of Mercy, in partnership with Pr. Dennis and Deaconess Lorna Meeker, provides funds to help these women in this devastating and heart breaking circumstance. The Meekers seek out AIDS widows of the community and especially the Lutheran churches and provide help. They will provide anything from medical assistance, to food, to education, and even funds for the local church to build a home for her.

Because the widows are raising so many children and are sick, their mud-dung homes quickly fall into disrepair. The annual rains wash away portions of the mud walls and the thatch roof deteriorates on a daily basis.

When Friends of Mercy provides funds to build a home for an AIDS widow, we provide enough funds to build her new home with a tin roof, which protects the walls better than the grass roof. In turn, the walls don't deteriorate so quickly.

Caring for Body & Soul - Part 3 of 4

The following article is continued from here...
Lutheran Nurse & Kenyan Deaconesses are Making a Difference with AIDS Widows & Orphans in Kenya

(Above: The HIV Widows, after getting better, work to raise vegetables and here, they are digging a pond to raise Tilapia.)
Pamela Bohele-Silva is a parish nurse at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Rocklin CA. She travels with Dr. Just, exegetical prof from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN. This is the 2nd year they trained deaconesses and Friends of Mercy, with your help, will send them back to train the Kenyan ladies in God's Word and medical assistance. We still need to raise another $7000 so that we can provide transportaion, room, and board for the Kenyan deaconesses.

As you may recall, Dr. Arthur Just and I spent a week with the deaconesses of Kenya teaching them about palliative care which is comfort care given to someone who is chronically or terminally ill. Keep in mind that in most situations, there are no pain medications, no available medical help and limited resources. The deaconesses are called to minister to those in need given these difficult circumstances. Thus, our teaching was geared toward basic comfort care of body and soul.

After our week with the deaconesses, we had 4 more days in Kisumu, Kenya. Kisumu is a fairly large city next to Lake Victoria. It is green and beautiful and warmer than the capitol city of Nairobi. We were spoiled this time because we stayed at the Sunset Hotel—and I say spoiled because the rooms at the Sunset Hotel are air conditioned, there is always water for a shower (it may not be hot, but at least the water is available), and the view of Lake Victoria is spectacular.

On the grounds of the Sunset Hotel there were often monkeys running around?! It was great fun to watch them frolic and play in the trees.

This hotel was chosen this time for security reasons. The last time I was in Kisumu, we stayed in a small, very “African” hotel which was great, but not in the most stable part of town. One of the highlights of my visit to this area was traveling to Deaconess Josephine’s house in Kisii for an afternoon of feasting and gathering with her family, and the Emesa Church family. Josephine and I have become great friends since my visit in 2006. Holy Cross Sunday school children have exchanged pen pals letters with Josephine’s children, Sylivia and Stephannen. (Some of Holy Cross's mission project monies fund Josephine’s deaconess work with those she serves.)

I was received with open arms, great food, lots of hugs and much appreciation. Josephine’s church is an example of the progress that is being made in Kenya. The women there have started many different projects to provide income for themselves. They have a Tilapia fish farm, sewing projects through the poly technical school, and a new cereal project. All of these projects are considered Income Generating Activities which help people become self-sustaining.

We also visited the Lutheran seminary in Matango. They have built a new “dormitory” for prospective deaconess students. The seminary is set in the hills between Kisumu and Kisii and it is a beautiful setting. Maybe I can go to deaconess school in Matango?

The last 2 days of our time in Kenya was spent in Nairobi with Rev. Dennis Meeker and his wife, Deaconess Lorna Meeker. We spent one day with Nairobi Deaconess Mary Khaenga visiting the slums of Kawangware. These slums are the smaller of the two main slums of Nairobi. Kawangware is home to about 200,000 people.

Our first stop was the Elim House of Grace—a school headed by a lovely woman Veronica who has about 200+ children under her care each day. Due to lack of available funds, no food is served to the children (the smallest ones get milk) and these children go all day without eating. Sometimes, when the Meekers have funding from Friends of Mercy, they will provide occasional lunches to for the children. Yet we were impressed by the singing, dancing and recitations of the children who seemed very happy and enthusiastic.

After this visit, Mary took us to visit an HIV+ widow, Veronica. Veronica lives in a very tiny, dark tin house in the slums. We were able to do the service of healing from Visitation. And just before leaving, we discovered that this woman had also lost her 5 year old son one year before. It was another reminder of the grief and loss that is so pervasive in Kenya. The afternoon was spent at Springs of Life Church with HIV+ widows. They gather regularly and make crafts as a way to support themselves. As with most Kenyans, they embraced us and welcomed us warmly.

The next day, Dr. Just, The Meekers, Pastor Rabe (from Oroville, CA), his team and I, all went to Springs of Life Church in Kibera to meet with People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). Lorna and I also went to the Nakumatt (large grocery store in Kenya) to purchase ugali flour and oil to give to those we visited later in the day. Many PLWHA spoke about their histories and current situations.

We heard a very moving speech by Sallie (she and her family receive funds from Friends of Mercy in partnership with CSC, Meeker's nonprofit in Kenya), an HIV+ widow who when diagnosed with HIV was shunned by her family and she resorted to rather desperate means to support her children. She has been embraced by the ELCK and has come home to Springs of Life Church. Sallie and her children were also given refuge with the Meekers in January during the post-election violence.

To be continued ...

If you have questions, please contact Pam Boehle-Silva (cparishnurse@gmail.com ). She would be more than happy answer questions and speak to your group in Northern California. Pamela is finishing up her degree from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne for deaconess training.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lutherans on the West Coast are Making a Difference in Kenya

Recently, I made a west coast swing and met with Lutherans from Bremerton WA all the way down to San Diego. I know you are thinking how rough that must have been... San Diego in March. Ha!

LWML Pacific Zone - Spring Gathering - Thank you!

The trip started with a day in the presence of those beloved women of LWML. I spoke to the Pacific Zone at their Spring Gathering in Hillsboro, Oregon. Zion was the host congregation and Pastor Grant Knepper had a great sermon at their opening service. It never fails that I can always count on having a great time at LWML functions. The ladies are always special and willing to laugh. We had about 60 ladies from the zone. One of the things they were excited about was that the LWML national convention is to take place in Portland this summer. Here is the poster for their convention.

Other Churches and Pastors I Visited

I met with over sixteen people and 5 congregations on my trip. Unfortunately, I took on the flu for three days of the trip and I lost. I holed up in a hotel in Gilroy, CA for 3 days. I missed a couple of visits those days. Then I made my way to San Diego and spoke at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Pacific Beach CA. St. Paul's is a congregation that is very strong in their support of outreach in the community and missions around the world.

There were many others I visited with while on the west coast, and I'd like say thanks also to Peace, Bremerton WA. I met with Pastor Huelle and thanked him and Peace for their support from day one of Friends of Mercy.