Tag: Kelly Demo

Mar 11 2009

Finding our voice

Lenten reflection: Week 3
By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

In the Gospel of John, we see Jesus entering the Temple in a fury of righteous anger at the unjust practices of Temple and driving out the money changers and vendors. He knew his fellow Jews had to pay to buy Temple sacrifices. Thus, a system of commerce had been established for Temple worship that would exclude the poor who could not pay to worship. (John 2:13-22)

At CFCA, we do not get involved in the politics of the countries or local areas where we work. However, just as Jesus became a voice for the poor and took on those who would keep them subjugated so, too, when poor find they have a voice (both personally and as a community), they discover the strength to take on the powers that keep them oppressed.

In Hyderabad, India, there is a CFCA community called Church Colony. It is about half a mile from the main road, so everyone walked that unpaved distance to catch a bus or get anywhere. The women in the CFCA mothers groups went to the local officials to demand that the city pave their “road” so vehicles could get to their community and walking would be easier. The local officials agreed. Then, the mothers asked the officials to pay their community members to do the construction, instead of outside laborers. Again, they agreed. So, Church Colony got a road as well as some temporary employment.

After some time, the women returned to the officials to say that the road was great, but they needed it to be well-lit at night for safety reasons. They got their lights.

The women then turned their attention to water. The community only had access to water a few hours a day, but the adjacent neighborhood (which is slightly better off) had water all day, every day. The women realized that, because of the way the local roads were laid out, people from the neighboring community often used the new road the women had petitioned for.

They organized a blockade of the road, aimed at people from the neighboring community and said that they would share the use of the road if the neighboring community would share its water. Now Church Colony has water all day, too.

Sometimes making changes in society requires righteous anger, marching, protesting and turning over tables, like Jesus did in the Temple. But not always. Creative community building, tapping into gifts of the individuals in the group, and a little non-violent opposition can go a long way toward changing opinions.

Reflection questions:
1. When have you ever felt indignation or anger? Looking back, was it warranted or were there other motives?
2. What are the elements in our society that do (or should) make us angry, and what does God require of us at such times?

Watch a video about this community in India >

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Mar 4 2009

Freedom from thinking about yourself

Lenten reflection: Week two
By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

“Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all.” -William Temple

If this is true then what on earth am I supposed to think about? In my little world how can I not think about my next meal, fret about my finances, or worry about my work, my future, my car, my marriage, my, my, my? Even some concerns about my children are really fears about my own parenting.

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mk.8:34)

This is a call to deny the self. That is, to recognize our powerlessness. When we take our “self” out of the picture, what is left? God and others. In fact, the practice of giving up something for Lent (chocolate, meat, etc.) or taking on something for Lent (attending Mass everyday, visiting the sick, reading scripture daily) is simply an exercise that helps us in the greater practice of giving up ourselves to God. When we engage in whatever discipline we have taken on for Lent, for that moment our desires are placed to the side and God is at the heart of our decisions and our lives.

When we put God and others first in every decision we make, starting the moment we wake up, our day will begin to look a little different. I can sleep late or get up and pray. I can have a fast-food breakfast or I can eat healthy, locally grown food. I can drive myself to work or I can carpool, walk or take a bus. I can complain about my co-workers or I can compliment them. I can watch TV or play a game with my family, or sit down and write a letter to my sponsored friend.

This is what CFCA is talking about when we use the phrase “walking in daily solidarity with the poor.” When we put God and others – ALL others ñ first, we have taken up the cross that Christ bears for the world and have begun to walk with Him, for Him and toward Him.

Reflection questions:
1. In what ways do you put yourself before God or others? What can you do to become more other-centered?
2. Where in your life do you find that you do deny yourself and live for God and others? How is that part of your life different?

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Feb 25 2009

Our interconnected world

Lent is a time for personal reflection. Traditionally Christians engage in acts of self-denial as a means of personal discipline and awareness of the sacrifices of Christ. It is also a good time to recognize these acts of self-denial as a way to grow in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in developing countries, for whom going without is a way of life.
Every Wednesday throughout Lent we will post a reflection that we hope will help with your own personal Lenten journey.

Lenten reflection: Week one
By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

The story of the flood has given biblical scholars in all three Abrahamic faith traditions much to ponder over the years. Written during the Babylonian exile, it tells of a people wiped into non-existence by their own sinfulness.

In Genesis, we hear of the first covenant that God makes with His creation. ìThis is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations.î (Gen. 9:12-13) The interconnectedness found between God, humankind and all of creation is firmly established.

It is easy in the world we live in to feel separate from creation. We buy our meat cleanly packaged, giving little or no thought to the life that was taken so that we could eat. We have grown accustomed to having whatever fruit or vegetable we want, regardless of the season and how far it had to travel to get to us.

At CFCA, we do our best to recognize the interplay between humans, creation and the divine. We hold up as examples the Dumagat people of the Philippines. When they sleep at night they choose not to sleep on a mat or bed. They sleep on the ground because they want to ìsleep in their motherís arms.î That is how intimate they are with all of creation.

Look at those in our projects who survive on subsistence farming, and you will see the tenacious and dynamic interplay between themselves, God and all that God has created.

Reflection questions:
1. Has there been a time when you have felt your world was completely washed away? During that time where did you find hope?
2. How would you describe your relationship with creation? Landlord? Caretaker? Parasite? Friend? Or something else?
3. The Christian faith teaches us that nature is not God but that God can be found within nature. When was a time when you experienced God in nature?

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Dec 23 2008

A Christmas of coming together

The following blog entry was written by Rev. Kelly Demo, an Episcopal priest who preaches for CFCA. From 1990 to 1991, she served as a volunteer for International Christian Youth Exchange in Sierra Leone, West Africa.

Just outside my little house there was a large boulder upon which both lizards and I enjoyed lying. One evening very close to Christmas, I was sprawled out on my rock enjoying conversation with a sweet 8-year-old Sierra Leonean named John. We talked many nights about a great many things, and that night he asked me about Christmas in America. I had been missing my family, so I waxed on about my memories of childhood Christmases at my grandparentsí home, of going to midnight Mass, and of Santa Claus.

We lay silently for several minutes looking up at the stars, and finally John said, ìSanta Claus doesnít come to Africa.î
†I looked at him and was overcome with sadness. He fully believed in Santa Claus. He had heard about this guy who travels around the world bringing gifts to good boys and girls. However, neither John nor any of his friends had ever received anything from Santa. He judged himself and his Christmas by Western standards, and he simply could not measure up.

The irony in this is that most Westerners long for the exact kind of Christmas that John and so many others in developing countries have. Christmas in America is generally a time of frenzied activity, of spending money and feeling tired, guilty, lonely, anxious. Then there are the precious moments of joy, of connection and Christís peace that come and go too soon and leave us yearning for more.†

Just yesterday, three friends and I tried to meet for a cup of coffee before Christmas. We all love each other dearly and draw strength and encouragement from one another. But one had to meet her mom to go shopping for her kids, one had to meet with a contractor who is remodeling her home, one rushed off to work, and I had my own errands. Nothing is more important than our relationships, yet the tyranny of the urgent always supersedes that which is important.

Imagine instead, Christmas where many families come together to cook and eat and sing and play and celebrate. There is no pressure or expectation to buy gifts. There is nothing more urgent in the world than to sit down with your elders and listen to stories. There is no errand that is more important than visiting a friend you have not seen in a long time. And yes, Virginia, a place where there is no Santa Claus. That is the kind of Christmas that my little friend John would have along with billions of others around the world.

That is one of the many gifts the poor have to offer us. They stand as a witness to our Christmases past, the past that we look to with nostalgia. A Christmas when Jesus is truly at the center of the celebration as we welcome him, a homeless child, into our hearts and into our world.

We here at CFCA wish you a peace-filled Christmas. Please keep the children, elderly and their families whom we serve in your prayers, just as you remain in ours.

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