Come to the water

| Father Charles Lachowitzer | July 13, 2017

Father Charles Lachowitzer, vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, stands with children cared for at the St. John Eudes Rehabilitation Center in Kitui, Kenya, June 8. Father Lachowitzer was part of a delegation from the archdiocese that traveled to the Diocese of Kitui as part of the continued partnership between the dioceses. Courtesy Father Charles Lachowitzer

“All you who are thirsty, come to the water!” (Is 55:1)

I do not think I have given much conscious thought to the act of turning on a faucet and letting it run until the water is cold. In the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” water scarcity rarely crosses my mind. I have experienced far more floods than droughts.

However, the partnership between the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Kitui, Kenya, focuses a lot on water. As part of a delegation in June from the Twin Cities to Kenya, I found myself hyper-conscious about my water use and immersed in all the issues that surround the scarcity of water. (See related story.)

I saw hundreds of people carrying jugs of water along roads and highways. Some had walked miles. In the villages some distance from the main city, crops were stunted from lack of rain. This forced the villagers into the city marketplace where increased demand on food drove up prices, further complicating the effects of the ongoing drought. In some cases, poverty even forces families to abandon the smallest and weakest members.

Yet, these street children are not totally without hope. The St. John Eudes Rehabilitation Center is made possible by our partnership. The center staff rescues as many of these vulnerable children as possible and provides them with a safe home. As one dedicated staff member told me, “We save the children from the nightmares of the streets and give them back their dreams.” I realized with a prayer of gratitude to God that if it were not for the Catholic Church, there would be no one to rescue these children.

It is common for well-intended visitors to developing nations to want to make everything better and make life easier. Nonetheless, I felt a sense of helplessness. I cannot make it rain. I cannot solve all the material needs within the Diocese of Kitui. But the good people did not ask me for any of these things that they knew were beyond my control. They did, however, ask that I pray for them. They did ask that I return.

Since coming home to Minnesota, I have thought, reflected and prayed much about my experience. I learned from the people of Kitui that there is a joy of faith that perseveres through a poverty I’ve never known and challenges I’ve never faced. I learned from their acceptance of what appeared to me to be insurmountable challenges that when I practice patience with long lines at the grocery store, I really have a trivial understanding of what real patience truly is.

I heard during a gathering of families who were reflecting on the Gospel that the mercy of Jesus Christ is not my personal possession, but must be generously shared. I witnessed in the lives of so many people a trust in God’s providence that fills the heart with the treasures of heaven regardless of whether we are rich or poor. I experienced a people who are rich in the eyes of God.

I concelebrated Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Africa in Kitui. I was delighted and in awe as everyone, old and young alike, sang, danced and gave offerings.

In comparison to the good people of Kitui, I am a billionaire with access to more water than I ever need.

However, in spite of poverty and social injustices, the people of Kitui are spiritual billionaires. The waters of baptism overflow through their generous and joyful hearts with an abundance of grace.

“As a deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.” (Ps 42:2)

Venid a las aguas

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Category: Only Jesus

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