Saturday, May 30, 2009

Missionaries of Charity

For those unfamiliar, Missionaries of Charity was established by Mother Teresa in 1950. Read the two links for lots of history and interesting information.

Last month when our friends from Minnesota were here they allowed me to tag along as they went to visit one of the Port au Prince locations. It was a blessing to be allowed to go with them because I had heard about M.O.C. but had only briefly visited the other location, a home for the dying. The location shown above is at Delmas 31 and is a home for children. Families bring their kids there for a time to help them recover from injury or severe forms of malnutrition - this is not a permanent home for the kids. It is a place to recover.

The Sisters allow teams and volunteers to drop in and work for a few hours. There is no shortage of things to do and see. You can walk around aimlessly staring at the massive number of sick and malnourished kids, you can jump in and change diapers, you can pick kids up and try to give them some human touch, you can grab a bowl of food and feed them, you can do something to try to bring a tiny bit of relief.

Admittedly, it is not much, and you feel that while you are there ... but it is something. If you visit I think it is great to remember that even if it is uncomfortable, we can all learn from doing uncomfortable things. On my first visit I sort of took it in and did a lot of observing. Last Friday we went back for another visit. We held babies and cleaned up puke and changed diapers.
If there were forty of us instead of four, we could have all stayed busy.

For me it is an uncomfortable place to visit. I found myself feeling a lot angry and a little thankful. That was kind of an odd combo to figure out.

It is easy to look around and get angry. It made me mad that so many kids are sick and hungry. It is anger I don't know quite where to direct. It made me mad that they had to be there, that they were so ill. I was angry that there was not tons and tons of staff to give them non-stop one-on-one attention - it made me mad that there were 25 families waiting outside to place their children into the rooms with rows and rows of cribs. It just made me angry. But my anger serves no one and changes nothing - so I try to look on it with different eyes. I try to remember that I don't have the whole picture.

If the kids were not there, many would most likely be dead.
They are getting a chance to gain weight and be given three meals and a couple of small snacks a day. They are being given medicine when needed and the Sisters and nannies try to keep up with the needs of each child as best they can. It is not good enough by my standards, I doubt Mother Teresa would think it was good enough, but it still beats the other option. (They are trying. They are showing up.) An under-staffed room full of 40 very sick babies is not easy to accept, but when the alternative is slow death at home of starvation, my paradigm suddenly shifts. These babies just hit the jack-pot. They are guaranteed dinner tonight.

I am completely fascinated by Mother Teresa. I read this quote below and felt nothing but admiration for her raw honestly, her struggle and her courage ... and I can safely bet that many who work in these front-line positions day in and day out feel the same way at times.
[I think about Licia and Lori and the Sisters at MOC and many others across the world that deal with tragedy, death and abuses daily.]

"Where is my faith? Even deep down ... there is nothing but emptiness and darkness ... If there be God—please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul ... How painful is this unknown pain—I have no Faith. Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal, ... What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true." -Mother Teresa

I am hoping to make Missionaries of Charity a semi-regular part of our summer. I know I grow when I force myself out of the comfy places and I know I have lots of that to do.
After we left we were discussing how overwhelming and devastating a place like that can be. My Dad summed it up best when he said, "Yeah, I spent a day there one hour." When you think of it, please pray for the people in Haiti working with the sick and the forgotten ones.

Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.

Mother Teresa

Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.
Mother Teresa

God doesn't require us to succeed; he only requires that you try.
Mother Teresa

Photo Credit: Marcia Lard Erickson

*We're off to our "trading spaces" adventure in the village tomorrow. Not sure how often we'll update.*