Jun 13 2018

For those affected by the Fuego volcano eruption

Your weekly reflection from Unbound

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Senior Writer/Editor Larry Livingston.

Vulnerability is a relentless fact of life for families in the developing world. We were yet again reminded of that sad truth this past week when, with little warning, the Fuego volcano in south-central Guatemala erupted.

The resulting flow of lava, ash and pyroclastic material has brought devastation to a widespread area. As of this writing, more than 200 people are still missing and the death toll exceeds 100. As rescue and recovery workers gain greater access to the most heavily impacted areas, that number is expected to rise.

The people confronted with this tragedy enter in fellowship with those whose lives have been disrupted by other recent volcanic activity, including the Mayon volcano in the Philippines and Mount Kilauea in Hawaii. A long period of recovery awaits those affected by these events, including many in the Unbound community. As they face the challenges ahead, they will be strengthened by their resilient spirit and encouraged by our care and that of other loving people.

Read more about the eruption of the Fuego volcano and its impact on the Unbound community.

Donate to Disaster Response to help Unbound provide assistance to families affected by events like the eruption of the Fuego volcano.

Please pray

God of compassion, bless and sustain the people of Guatemala. Console the grieving and give them hope as they seek to rebuild their lives. May we be part of their blessing, pouring out our love in acts of generosity and service. As we commit ourselves to living as their compañeros — their companions on the long journey toward wholeness — help us to never forget that we are your hands in the world, not just for a moment but always. We ask this in your most holy name. Amen.

Jun 6 2018

Four things to do this summer so that our joy may be complete

Your weekly reflection from Unbound

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Communication Field Liaison Coordinator Gustavo Aybar.

Happy, healthy, holy and hot. These were the themes of the homily at the Mass I attended with my son celebrating the last day of school. Students and parents received congratulations on their academic accomplishments, but more important was the instruction we received to be part of the “4-H club.” The premise was that a focus on being happy, healthy and holy during the hottest of seasons shall help us find more things to celebrate.

As my son begins his summer break and prepares to enter the third grade, I remember my own third grade year at Glenfeliz Elementary in Los Angeles, with my teacher, Mrs. Summers. I had mixed feelings on the last day of school. So much of what I value regarding words and literature I discovered at home, but Mrs. Summers reinforced them at school. She remains my all-time favorite teacher.

Now, I’m grateful for my son’s happiness because of his triumphs and some upcoming time to be more carefree. I’m also mindful that many of the kids in the Unbound program will spend their breaks from school performing tasks to help support the family, which means there’ll be fewer moments of leisure but also activity to build their minds, work their bodies and keep themselves healthy.

With a new chapter set to begin for many students in the Unbound program, I’ve been inspired by their stories, their families’ commitment to education and what they’ve overcome. May they be proud of their successes and confident in their chosen paths.

The priests at my son’s school Mass urged us to devote time throughout the hot, more leisurely days of summer to our spiritual practice — to pray, attend church and, as I understood it, to find some way to be kind and thankful.

Please pray

Dear God, as many students find themselves advancing in their studies or completing them, we pray they stay happy and embrace the new challenges. We pray they focus on their mental, emotional and physical health. As we all rejoice in our summer activities, the leisure and friendships, we pray we continue to seek grace and give thanks to you, Oh Lord, for the many blessings given and those to come. Amen.

May 30 2018

Sounds of home

Your weekly reflection from Unbound

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Project Manager Alley Stonestreet.

It’s a sound that no one else recognizes, the symphonic jingle of my mom’s silver bracelets as she walks through the house. It’s my dad’s protective whistle that can be heard down the street and means it’s time to come home. And it’s their unbridled, unconditional love that I feel when I walk through the front door. These are just a few of the sounds and emotions that bring me back home.

Being able to surmise the extent to which my parents have impacted and will continue to impact my life isn’t easy. It’s challenging in ways that expose all the good they instilled in me and highlight the different choices I’ve made. All the while, we’re able to love each other without question. No matter what my choices are or have been, I feel the love of and support from my parents.

Supporting another person absolutely is not something I expect to understand until I have my own children. I have great hope that I’ll know what it means from the example set by my parents and by the parents of children in the Unbound program.

The story of Agnes in Kenya comes to mind. She has the unconditional support and love of her parents, Saimoni and Anna, who lovingly explain that they “are still observing what she wants. [They] will support her dreams.”

Not all experiences are the same. There might not be jingling jewelry or high-pitched whistles for everyone, but my genuine hope is that all children can learn from those who raise them and see to it that their children feel the same love and support. On June 1, we all have the opportunity to honor those that did.

The Global Day of Parents is a good opportunity to openly appreciate our loved ones. The great part is that, as relationships mature, we children can continue to show our appreciation and love by demonstrating that which has enriched our lives over many years together.

Please pray

Father, we ask that you continue to allow us, your children, the opportunity to take in the beauty and wisdom of our parents. We ask that it be rich in happiness and love. And we ask that this love and reverence be passed along to future generations. In Your name, we pray. Amen.

May 23 2018

Mary, the reflection of God’s gentle love

Your weekly reflection from Unbound

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Senior Writer/Editor Larry Livingston.

In Catholic tradition, the month of May is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. As the first of Jesus’ disciples and one who responded with a courageous “yes” to the will of God, Mary is a model for all the Christian faithful.

Mary also holds a revered place in the cultures of most of the countries where Unbound works. It is more than coincidence that, in these lands where people know such hardship, the image of the mother who wept at the foot of the Cross as her own child suffered gives them solace and inspiration.

Unbound works toward a time when no mother must endure the suffering of her child and no child must watch her mother be beaten down by life. We celebrate the mothers in our community and lift them up, knowing their beauty, resilience and giftedness — and knowing, too, that the love of a mother for her child is the purest image we have of the love of God for each of us.

Please pray

Generous God, in the Blessed Virgin Mary we see the grace of one who dedicated herself to the fulfillment of your will. May we, like her, have the courage to let it be done to us according to your word, that we may give ourselves in loving service to our sisters and brothers in need. We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

May 16 2018

A web of prayer among friends

Your weekly reflection from Unbound

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from contributing writer Maureen Lunn.

Late last year my husband, Toby, and I were saddened to learn that our first sponsored friend, an elderly woman named Wambui in Kenya, had passed away. We wanted to continue as sponsors, and decided we were ready to take on two sponsored friends this time. We chose another elder in Kenya, a gentleman named M’Nkanatha, and a young woman named Vivian in Guatemala.

Vivian suffers from severe epilepsy and is cared for by her mother. We knew this upon selecting her from Unbound’s website. What we didn’t know until we received M’Nkanatha’s first letter, was that he serves as a caretaker for one of his children who also has epilepsy.

This connection gave me an idea. In my first letters to each of them, I asked them to pray for one another.

Our sponsored friends around the world are often eager to pray for their sponsors and ask sponsors to pray for them. As sponsors, we learn so much from the families we serve. We take inspiration from their courage and resilience. We learn from Unbound that the families are the leaders of our programs; they are the ones taking action in their lives. I felt confident that these families would also take leadership in prayer.

I recalled everything I’ve heard about Unbound families and staff worldwide, how they understand that they’re connected to the global Unbound community, despite the fact that the majority of them have never left the borders of their country. I thought that, if invited, a young woman and her mother in Guatemala would not hesitate to add an old man from Kenya to their prayer list. I was confident that M’Nkanatha in Kenya would be happy to pray for Vivian, especially knowing she ails in the same way as one of his own children.

Last week I received a letter back from Vivian’s mother, who writes on her behalf. The last sentence said they would be praying for M’Nkanatha and his family. I anticipate hearing the same from M’Nkanatha in his next message. Something about creating that connection, that web of prayer among all three of our families, struck me as what Unbound is all about.

Please pray

Triune God, thank you for the opportunity to be connected with people all over the world. Thank you for all that we learn from the determination and faith of our sponsored friends. Bind us together, Lord, in new ways that strengthen us as individuals and as a community. Remind us to pray for each other, in your name. Amen.

May 9 2018

Accountable for excellence

Your weekly reflection from Unbound

Three Kenyan moms look at paperwork together.

Alice, Lucy and Virginia are members of a mothers group in Kenya. They work together to set goals and create plans to achieve them.

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Outreach Volunteer Coordinator Clair Paul.

Accountability keeps us grounded. It keeps us moving forward. Being accountable to another person changes the way we do things. It might increase our motivation, help us stay focused or make our goals seem more important. Accountability drives us.

Accountability for excellence is one of Unbound’s core values. We hold ourselves accountable and expect to be held accountable by our coworkers, because the work we do each day affects the future of Unbound families. We take this responsibility seriously and strive for excellence in our daily work in Kansas City and in our program sites around the world.

St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians states, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Cor. 5:10) Whether or not we experience accountability in other parts of our lives, we are all accountable to God. Knowing this can serve as inspiration and motivation in our work, in our relationships and in our daily lives. We are all called to be excellent for each other.

Please pray

Lord, keep us accountable to one other. Help us maintain an expectation of excellence for each other and for you. As we hold others accountable, remind us to do so in a thoughtful and balanced way. Let us not demand from others what we would not demand from ourselves. Thank you for calling us to be excellent. Amen.

May 2 2018

The beauty of hard work

Your weekly reflection from Unbound

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Church Relations Director Paco Wertin.

My imagination runs wild when I see the stained-glass portrait of St. Joseph at the workbench with Jesus by his side.

It conjures images of my own father and the way he gently (and not so gently) led me through my early years, teaching me about work and its centrality in life. He was a plumber and pipe fitter, down in the dirt and muck, fixing things up for businesses and households and our neighbors and friends. His generosity and consideration of others was expressed so beautifully in what I saw as the artistry of his work, the beauty hidden behind walls, in floors and under the streets. And he coaxed me to hold the soldering iron in just the right position for the silver solder to flow around the copper fitting.

Carlos, the father of our former sponsored child, Vanessa, is a clockmaker and repairman in a small town in Costa Rica. He walks to his small shop in town each morning, settles in and puts his creativity and ingenuity to the test, serving the community, providing for his family. His love is expressed through his work.

We don’t know much about St. Joseph the Worker, but we do know that he was attentive to the Spirit of God who appeared to him in a dream. He walked with Mary and Jesus as they fled the violence in their homeland, and he was worried silly when Jesus stayed behind in the temple. Joseph was present, every day, gently going about his work, just like my dad and Vanessa’s dad, providing a safe place for his family and pouring out love on them, his daily labor of love, and that’s what impresses me.

Please pray

God ever at work in our world, we are filled with gratitude and joy when we, with you, labor every day in the building up of the new world you are creating. May you, who are love, flow abundantly through us, and may this love express itself in the work we do. In particular, we pray for parents and children and the families they are creating, that their daily labor of love will be a sign of your presence in our world today. So be it, Amen!

Apr 28 2018

Embracing the ‘other’

Your weekly reflection from Unbound

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Writer/Editor Jordan Kimbrell.

In the early years after the Resurrection, the Apostles had the enormous task of keeping Jesus’ ministry alive and flourishing. Leading by example, they sought to spread his message of love of neighbor. They didn’t just reach out to their fellow Jews but to everyone, overcoming their own religious preconceptions.

In one instance, Peter was challenged for speaking to, and even breaking bread with, gentiles. Though Peter’s first instinct had been to stay apart from those outside Judaism, the Holy Spirit instructed him not to discriminate. He came to recognize that God’s love embraced all people.

We can all learn from the example of Peter in overcoming our own instincts to reject the “other,” whether that’s someone with different skin, a different cultural background or a different point of view. We have much to learn from each other, as many Unbound sponsors have discovered in forming relationships with their sponsored friends. When we get to know one another, we begin to recognize we’re not so different after all.

Please pray

1 John 3:18 says, “Children, let us love not in word or speech, but in deed and truth.” Lord, we ask for the strength so that our actions toward each other may show the love, and especially the forgiveness, that you have shown us. We ask for the clarity to recognize your Spirit in others, and the bravery to do what is right, even when society tells us to go another way. Amen.

Apr 18 2018

Blessings that yearn to be shared

Your weekly reflection from Unbound

An Unbound sponsor sitting with a sponsored elder.
Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Senior Writer/Editor Larry Livingston.

As people grow older, they often become less concerned about acquiring things and more concerned with using what they’ve acquired to serve others. I’ve seen this in many I’ve worked with over the years — both employees and volunteers — at Unbound’s Kansas City headquarters.

These individuals have known professional success and achieved positions of respect in their chosen fields. Now they want to use their abilities to help the children and elders Unbound serves.

There’s an attractive serenity to such people. They’ve learned one of the most important lessons of life, that what we give to the world matters more than what we take from it. They’ve come to know that blessings, by their nature, yearn not to be stored but shared.

Unbound is grateful for this spirit of generosity, which is found in so many of our sponsors as well. We celebrate having such wisdom in our community because it helps keep us true to the path set for us so many years ago by our founders.

It keeps us on the journey from power to love.

Please pray

Loving God, you are our first and finest model of generosity. Continue to bless the Unbound community, both in the U.S. and throughout the world, with employees and volunteers who see their work as not just a job, but as a sacred calling. Teach us that all we have is gift, given not just for our benefit but for the good of all. We ask this in your most holy name. Amen.

Apr 11 2018

Learning from the past comes through sharing

Your weekly reflection from Unbound

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from contributing writer Maureen Lunn.

Often those who’ve endured unthinkable violence in their lives, such as serving in a war, don’t want to talk about it. Many people have parents and grandparents who never speak of their past because of trauma and pain. But for Holocaust survivors like Nat Shaffir, telling the story of what happened is crucial so that future generations might learn from the mistakes of the past. On Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah) April 11, we honor the importance of those stories.

Nat tells his story to reveal how racism and violence creep into society.
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