Hi all! I wanted to take a minute and let everyone know how mercy challenge was going. Fist off, you might not think a three hour time change is all that bad, especially after the euro trip, right Allie! You’d think if I could be lucid for 36 straight hours I’d adjust quickly but not so much. Oh well, it helps me to get up for the 6:30 am prayer time, which I have enjoyed a lot even in the wee hours of the mornin’. Anywho, there are a group of 12 here some are discerning Mercy like me others are sisters (mostly vocation directors but not all of them are). We go off to a place call Loaves and Fishes every morning and work from 9am-3pm. It’s an awesome place you should all Google it because I know I can’t describe it and do it justice. The whole cult-de-sac is owned by loaves and fishes and they provide so many services for the innumerable homeless and poor of Sacramento. (Also you all need to YouTube “Tent city” to get a glimpse of the issues and struggles of the people out here). On Monday I worked the front desk at Mary House, a center for women only where they can have a mail box, use their phone number, receive counseling, showers, toiletries, and just have a place to be! I met so many women struggling so hard to get on their feet despite so many barriers and road blocks. Today I worked at the dinning room. We prepped for the meal and then served the staff, had about 5 minutes to eat our own lunch, and then served 600 guests lunch. It was a lot of fun, the guests have such a wonderful sense of humor (we had dates as a side dish- you can fill in your own punch lines). Tomorrow I will be working at Mustard Seed which is a school/camp. From what I’ve heard its really informal and a place where kids can be kids, feel safe, and gain social skills so that they may be stable enough to attend public school. I’m looking forward to it! I’ll put up pictures when I get back. I have a lot of the retreat center/convent we are staying at (there is a pool!!! And deer)
Sorry it took me so long to write about the second half of the week.
When I went to Mustard Seed School I discovered that teaching kids to read is quite the challenge. I was actually relieved to find out that Wednesdays are half days at the school. The kids were really cute and awesome. You could tell that many of them were dealing with emotional issues, and it was wonderful to spend time in a place where they felt safe and could start getting some help. Since we were done by noon at the school we went over to Mary’s House after lunch and I helped work the desk and put toiletry bags together for the women since Memorial Day was coming up and they would not be able to access services over the long weekend. We had the evening off that night since one of the communities had to cancel dinner plans with us so we got to rest up a bit. Thursday my group was working in the park. Loaves and fishes set up Friendship Park as a place where the guests can access services, just have a place to be, go to the library, etc. There was even a memorial wall where they held services when guests pass away. Sister Karen and I worked at the service desk which was a little hut on one side of the park. We had the difficult task of signing people up for lunch. Every day during our post-work group reflection we heard how hard it was to keep up with the line and get people tickets for lunch. We had hoped they were exaggerating… It took both me and Sister Karen to figure out who everyone was, find them on the list or get the signed up with an ID card, and give them a ticket for lunch. We handed out a little over 700 tickets! After lunch we had some time to just meander through the park and meet some of the guests. But I only did that for about an hour. Many of the people in the group were meeting over by the nurse’s station for the monthly feet washing. Every month Nurse Suzie organizes a feet washing for the guests where they can have their feet washed and massaged and get their nails cut by nurses. Some of the guests’ feet were in pretty bad shape. I almost didn’t participate, but I’m really glad Sr. Dale encouraged me to since it turned out to be a positive experience for me, even though I only washed two people’s feet. One of the women in the Mercy Challenge group is a nurse and she was kept very busy, I was really impressed by her and several other people in the group who were so willing to do whatever they could. I know the experience was difficult for several of us but we were all glad we had participated in the end. During our post-work discussion that day Sr. Marilyn Lacey came to share her story with us. She was such a wonderful speaker. I highly recommend her book, A Flowing Towards Me, which I have just started reading. She told us how she had sort of fallen into refugee work, and her experiences of working in refugee camps. She has started Mercy Beyond Boarders in Africa, and the stories she told us about the school there and the progress that has been made post-war were so moving! Afterwards we all went to Sr. Jeanine’s house for dinner where we celebrated Sr. Redepmta’s 86th birthday and met an Iconographer. Sr. Ann, the iconographer, took us down to her work shop and gave us a brief history and explanation of icons. I had never heard of their spiritual side before, about the prayer and reflection that goes into them, and how people use them to help them pray and meditate. I had always thought they were just decorative pictures! Oh well, just goes to show what I know. 😛 Friday was a bittersweet day. I worked the front desk at Mary’s house in the morning and then after lunch Sr. Libby took us out to see where tent city had been before we made the 3+ hour drive back to San Fran. Since this had been our last day at loaves and fishes and we were all sad to leave. Garran came to send us off and anointed all of us. He made a cross with chrism on each of our hands and said, “To those who are hungry given bread. To those who have bread give a hunger for justice.” Saturday was full of goodbyes. Angie, Sr. Dale, and I all had red eyes so we had all day to hangout before we went to the airport around 9pmish. It was nice to have free time to spend with the other challengers, we all really connected with each other through all our wonderful adventures in mercy.