06 February 2013

Regarding CRS Rice Bowl

Some years ago, I had the good fortune of being invited as part of a team that had convened to assist in a bridge-building effort that would bring together Oblate School of Theology and three different institutions in Zambia.  Having been part of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, I found this invitation a great opportunity to further develop my relationships with missionaries from other countries, and to continue my own discernment to a missionary vocation.  The team met for several months before the trip and the attempt was made to prepare everyone by helping us gain a better understanding of what we would encounter.  The preparation was difficult at times, but eventually the day came and with much excitement and joy, we were off!  After almost 24 hours of travel, we finally arrived to the South-Central African country of Zambia.  The weather was much like it is here in west Texas, dry and windy, already, I felt comfortable.  The reception was quite warm and the capital city of Lusaka reminded me of a city in Mexico, not rich, but not devastatingly poor either.  Overall, things seemed to be pretty manageable.  After a few days, we were scheduled to leave Lusaka and to travel to the Western Province to a town called Lukulu.  The trip there would normally take us two hours here in Texas, there, it took almost 11 hours.  When we finally arrived, after much excitement along the crazy road, we were once again greeted with a warm and welcoming spirit.  Our time in Lukulu consisted of some realities that I had never anticipated encountering, the services available to the people were dismal at best, water was brought in from the Zambezi River each morning, and everyone lived in a poverty unlike anything I had ever even imagined.  During our time there, we tried to acknowledge the needs of the people.  We did what we could, always with our goal in mind.  We visited with different organizations and tried to make connections where possible.  It was intense but manageable; at least that’s what I thought until one night when things became quite clear as to how desperate the people were.  On this particular night, we had had our dinner and had enjoyed an evening together, recalling the day and trying to debrief.  Throughout this time, we had been very conscious of the needs of the people, helping where possible, and taking notes for future assistance where not immediately available.  This night, however, we, or at least I was made very aware of the fact that while we had been working very hard to help the different people, we had only begun to scratch the surface.  That night, as we gathered in the living room, just having had a simple but good dinner, we heard some noise outside.  Being the youngest and perhaps the most ignorant in the group, I “bravely” went to check what was causing the noise.  As I went through the dark kitchen to look out the window to where the noise was coming from, I anticipated seeing some mystical African animal scrounging through the remains of our dinner.  Instead, my heart sank as I gazed on several small children scraping up the chicken bones which we had just thrown out.  At that moment, I realized that while I had believed myself to be doing all I could, I could do more.  I, and the others, did what we could, recognizing that we would never find answers to all the questions.  We did what we could and helped many people, knowing full well that there were countless others who were being left without assistance.  
As I prepare for Lent, as we enter this sacred time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, I remember the faces of those children and recall my realization that what I had done, while plenty, could be supplemented by more.  As we live our Lenten journey, CRS Rice Bowl is another way in which we are able to further enrich our sacrifice.  It doesn’t take much to participate, we take a CRS Rice Bowl, and fill it as we go along the season of Lent.  If the bowl is too small, a coffee can or other container can work just fine.  CRS Rice Bowl is the opportunity to become aware that while I am doing plenty already, maybe there is something more I can do.  It is an invitation not only to give during this season of Lent, but to do so in the knowledge that in my giving, in my sacrificing, there is life.  Maybe through the sacrifice that I put into the CRS Rice Bowl, I will be able to encounter God in a way different than before.  As I live CRS Rice Bowl, perhaps I will become aware not only of the suffering that exists in our world, but of the change that I can make, just a little at a time.  The group that went to Zambia and I had done all that we could to help the people we met, and just as we believed ourselves to be doing very well, we were reminded that sometimes there is just a little bit more that can be done, in that case, it was chicken bones, today, it can maybe mean making CRS Rice Bowl and added part of my Lenten offering.  Whether we do CRS Rice Bowl alone or with family, God calls us to Himself and in our prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we experience different facets of God’s love along each step of the way.  And so, as we celebrate this season of Lent, let CRS Rice Bowl serve as another tool along the road to knowing and loving God, and neighbor.  
As always, God bless you and know that you are loved.  Fr. Ricky

No comments:

Post a Comment