Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I Saw Jesus Everywhere I Turned

The Lord was everywhere on Charis Ministries' Habitat for Humanity Service Trip to Pontotoc, Mississippi last week. I saw Jesus' face in the smiles of the people who greeted us like family instead of strangers. They are people who don't have much in material or personal wealth, but are rich in Christian kindness. I saw Jesus' heart in the 12 amazing Charis volunteers I worked alongside in the blazing Mississippi sun. I saw Jesus' soul in Habitat Pontotoc's Barbara and Wayne Carter and Keith and Linda Thomas. They are people who live their lives by God's simple creed: Love Thy Neighbor.

In an imperfect world gripped by a crippling recession where so many people today are struggling to provide for their families, battling illness, depression, hopelessness and are just summoning up the strength to make it through each day, I saw what a perfect Christian community is. I felt the power of God's love in so many ways. I saw Heaven in the real world in Pontotoc. And I was reminded how we each can be a symbol of Jesus' love to every one we know and everyone we meet. His love is inside us all.

-Clete C.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Longview

We are finding ourselves right at home here in Pontotoc. Our days have been filled with everything from building stairs to laying sod and landscaping. Keith, Habitat's Project Manager, has been very patient in teaching us the many skills it takes to build a home. After a hard day's work, the gracious community fills our evenings with good company and mouth-watering meals. We've enjoyed some of the best biscuits, chicken, and deserts we've ever tasted. We're all jotting down several new recipes, but we'll be hard pressed to recreate that Southern hospitality that makes these meals so special.

Last night, Liz guided us through a reflection on "The Longview" by Archbishop Oscar Romero. In it, Romero challenges us to see our service as part of something greater, as we may never see the results of our labor. That message has peppered my thoughts today, as the house we are working on is beginning to take the shape of a home. While we may never witness first-hand how this house will enrich the family living in it, we know that our collective effort is part of something far greater than ourselves, something that will last far beyond one week in Mississippi.

-Mary Ellen M.

Monday, June 15, 2009

What Do You Have in Your House?

What do you have in your house? This is a question that I didn’t think about much before I came to Pontotoc, Mississippi. It did not even cross my mind when I signed up to go on the trip with Charis. I thought I was going to be volunteering to help build houses.

Well, in just three days my life has been transformed, and my spirit has come alive in so many ways. I am now getting in touch with the very gifts I already have inside of me and learning how to use them for good. I am learning that it does not take a whole lot to be a servant for God.

Living in Chicago, I am used to being surrounded by noise, staying connected to Internet, cell phones, and, of course, finding ways to keep busy. I didn’t remember how important it is to receive the gifts of warmth and comfort. I am in the country now where life is quiet and simple. This is the life. I am sure the 13 participants of this group can all agree that this is the way life should be.

This morning was the first day of work. We watched a video to introduce us to the mission of Habitat for Humanity. In the video, the speaker talked about the story in the Bible from 2 Kings: 4. A woman who had lost her husband was about to lose everything, and her two sons were about to become slaves in order to pay off her husband’s debt. She thought she had nothing to offer, but The prophet Elisha showed her how she could use what she already had in her home to pay the debt and supply her families needs for years to come.

The passage stayed with me throughout the day. I am learning how to use the fruits of the Spirit. I am soul searching, but I was looking for the gifts somewhere out there. We are in the South to help build a home for someone in need, but I am finding that many of my own needs are being met on this trip. The new friends I have met on this trip and here in this town have melted my heart. They have helped me find what service really means.

I think I am seeing how God can be found just in a simple smile, a wonderful home cooked meal prepared by the town’s people, or His love could be found just in an honest and encouraging conversation that uplifts someone in a time of a tough life decision. These are gifts we already have. This week we are tapping into them. I am looking forward to the rest of the week. After all, this is only the beginning of our mission.

I believe we are all learning what it means to be a Christian who walks in the spirit. Being around other young people who love God and want to do his work is a beautiful thing. I am witnessing what it means to be blessed and how I can be a blessing to others just by being myself. I am learning what it means to feel God’s love and give love.

-Anita B

Monday, June 8, 2009

A huge thank you for everything you do!

Last night, the Charis Ministries staff was honored to be joined by some of the many volunteers, retreat team members, benefactors and other leaders who have helped make Charis programs possible in the last year at the annual Recognition Dinner.

We are so grateful to have such a wonderful group of young adults involved in the ministry and who give of their time and energy to serve their peers. Some have been musicians on retreats or at Masses or served on a team for one of our retreats. Others have helped with logistics and hospitality for one of our evening speakers or Masses.

After dinner, we were honored to have Patrick Curran tell us a bit about his experiences with Charis over the last several years and what that has meant in his life. Then Jenene Francis shared some of the fruits of Charis both in Chicago and around the country at national retreats. If you'd like to hear what Patrick and Jenene had to say, check out the Charis Ministries podcast on iTunes.

To all who have been involved in the various programs of Charis Ministries, we want to say a big THANK YOU! We couldn't do any of this without you!

~Lauren G