Jun 3 2020

Grace, love, fellowship

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Bilingual Sponsor Services Communication Liaison Benjamin Haley.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” (2 Cor. 13:13)

The last couple of years, I’ve chosen a Scripture verse as a personal theme for the year. This year it’s the one quoted above from 2 Corinthians. It’s a special blessing from the end of the letter. I remember it from my time working in student ministry in Uganda.

Our custom was to hold hands as a group and say the blessing after we had prayed following a special weekly ministry activity. It’s a blessing that calls to mind the work of the Holy Trinity and invites us each to be open to the many gifts of God.

I ask this blessing for Unbound sponsored friends, sponsors and colleagues, and for our whole community. May we experience the unmerited favor of Jesus in our lives. May we experience the deep love of the Father. Lastly, may we experience a fellowship that we were made for with God and each other through the Holy Spirit.

Please pray

Holy God, on Trinity Sunday (June 7) and every day, let us experience the amazing grace of our Lord and savior, Jesus. Grant that we be filled with the love of the Father and extend that love to others. Help us to have sweet fellowship with you and others as we walk this journey together. Amen.

May 20 2020

Experience, promise and togetherness

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.

On the Feast of the Ascension, I always think about the disciples. What was Jesus’ ascension into heaven like for them? He’s gone, but they’re still here — unsure, afraid and without a clear sense of what comes next.

But they did have some things going for them. One was their experience of the resurrected Christ. How wondrous that must have been. Another was his promise of the Holy Spirit, though they didn’t yet understand what that would mean. Plus, they were together.

Experience, promise and togetherness are assets that can sustain us through the darkest times. They certainly proved their value for the disciples in those anxious days between Ascension and Pentecost. Time and again, they’ve also proven their worth within the Unbound community.

Experience tells us that people can overcome great obstacles if given a fighting chance. The promise of a better life gives them the resolve to go for it. And we can never underestimate the difference — emotionally and materially — made by the help of caring people.

Christianity is, at times, a seeming contradiction. Jesus left yet he promised to be with us always. We believe that promise, and at blessed moments see glimpses of it in our prayer, our sacramental life and our interaction with others. It is then that we understand why we’re sustained in our faith. It’s because we live it together.

Please pray

Loving God, renew and strengthen your people as we await Pentecost. Teach us to pray well, love deeply and work diligently to create a world governed by compassion. Help us to empty ourselves of all that keeps us from being worthy vessels for the indwelling of your Holy Spirit. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Lord and brother. Amen.

May 13 2020

Generosity of Spirit

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Unbound preacher Father Joseph Gosselin, M.S.

Unbound sponsors support those in developing countries who need an assist to move out of poverty to a more human and bearable life. That includes children, adolescents and the elderly. Our sponsors do tremendous good for thousands upon thousands.

But from those we help we can often learn so much. One day, while visiting a very poor family, I was taken aback by the poverty of their tiny home. There was only one bed, a table straddled by two benches and a couple of chairs. That was it. Three children were playing on the dirt floor.

Running out of conversation, I asked awkwardly and dumbly of the mother: “And Regina, what do you do on your day off?” Did I expect her to say she played golf or something? She answered without hesitation, “Father, I take care of the poor.”

Dumbfounded by her answer, I squeaked out, “Could you give me an example?” She looked at me and quietly said, “Last year an elderly woman came into our common yard and she had no place to go for she had been abandoned. I felt so badly for her that I asked my husband if we could take her in. He agreed. We gave her our ‘matrimonial’ bed and we slept on the floor until she died a year and a half later. Then we gave her a Christian burial.”

I was so moved; I had the proverbial lump in my throat as I looked out at the utter poverty of her home. I couldn’t help but blurt out, “Regina, your name means queen, and you will always be queen of my heart. I shall never forget you.” To this day, I never have.

What greatness and magnanimity of soul and spirit! I never knew that such charity and love existed.

Please pray

Loving God, bless your people with generosity of spirit. May our days be marked by love for our brothers and sisters, and may we be filled with the resolve to live in solidarity with them. In all that we say and all that we do, may compassion guide us, and may others see within us a reflection of your perfect love. We ask this in the name of your son and our brother, Jesus Christ. Amen.

May 6 2020

It comes to pass

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Unbound preacher Father George Knab, O.M.I.

One of God’s elderly poor had a difficult life. Still, he maintained a positive attitude toward the future. When he was asked why, he replied, “Time and time again I’ve read in the Bible, ‘It came to pass.’ Never did I read, ‘It came to stay.’”

That’s the attitude I find in the Unbound sponsored families I’ve met.

When I joined an Unbound awareness trip to Guatemala in February of 2020, our group was welcomed into the humble home of a widowed mother who had four children under her care as she continued her recovery from surgery for a cancerous tumor.

The house had an uneven mud floor with little drainage for rainy days. The child sponsored through Unbound continued to go to school. The mom secured a livelihood for her family by raising chickens, selling orange juice and making snow cones. She had used her benefits to buy simple appliances for her second and third occupations.

Filled with faith, she welcomed the blessing that I, as a visiting priest, offered her at the end of our visit. Tears welled up in her eyes as the group joined our prayers to hers for her health and for the well-being of her family.

Our visit gave her another reason to hope that her situation would improve, and for that, she gave thanks. God does not mean for trouble to stay. God assures her and her family that they will pass over to a better day. For that, she gave thanks as we took our leave.

For my part, as an Unbound preacher I had another reason to point out that when children and elders receive word that they are sponsored, their first reaction is often to give thanks to God. Then they write a letter to thank their new sponsor-friends.

In the face of COVID-19, all people of faith in a good and gracious God may have hope in the words of Scripture: “It came to pass” and not to stay.

Please pray

Father, in this time of anxiety, help us to see beyond the fears of the moment. Give us hope that we might have the courage to live as Easter people despite the darkness. May we remember that we are called to serve one another, and it is in that service that we see your face and, ultimately, find ourselves. We ask these things in your holy name. Amen.

Apr 29 2020

A life of prayer and work

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from former Unbound intern Marin Brown.

In 2018, I had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala to visit with Unbound sponsors, sponsored friends and staff. Many moments are etched in my memory, but there was one moment in particular that impacted me.

In one community, we wandered between small homes and shacks covered in low-hanging metal sheets. The dirt path we followed was covered in pine needles to welcome us. As we turned a corner, a massive church caught my eye.

As I followed the winding road to the church, I saw groups of men working on patching up homes. The tall, yellow church stood in startling contrast to the unfinished concrete homes, metal sheets and dirt. Above the tabernacle, there was a statue of San Jose Obrero, St. Joseph the Worker.

As I stared at St Joseph, I imagined him to be working right outside with the men I passed on my way into the church, working to provide for his family. I felt so humbled by God in that moment. He showed me the true beauty of humility. Often, I get stuck in a feeling that I must do something incredible, but a life of prayer and work is a life lived for God.

Those same virtues characterized the women we encountered as we spent the week visiting Unbound mothers groups. With the support of each other and their families, they are working to break the cycle of poverty. These women wear many hats in their communities: educators, financial advisers and business owners, to name a few.

Let us keep looking at St. Joseph as a model of dignity in work, care for families and a desire to serve the Lord no matter where we are.

The Feast of St. Joseph the Worker is Friday, May 1.

Please pray

Silent carpenter of Nazareth, model for laborers, by the work of your hands you gave your contribution to the work of the Creator. Your hands earned your living, and you provided for the needs of the Holy Family. Intercede for all workers, in the difficulties of their daily lives. Be with the unemployed in their anxieties for tomorrow, so that through the guidance of God they all may use their strength and talents to make visible God’s new creation. With confidence and trust, we make this prayer through Jesus. Amen.

Sponsored youth Rosemeri in Mexico (left) and her family share a message of support for the Unbound community in the COVID-19 pandemic. The sign reads, "Stay in good spirits!! From prayer to prayer, always together."
Apr 22 2020

Let us stand with one another

Sponsored youth Rosemeri in Mexico (left) and her family share a message of support for the Unbound community in the COVID-19 pandemic. The sign reads, "Stay in good spirits!! From prayer to prayer, always together."

Sponsored youth Rosemeri in Mexico (left) and her family share a message of support for the Unbound community in the COVID-19 pandemic. The sign reads, “Stay in good spirits!! From prayer to prayer, always together.”

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Unbound preacher Father John Anglin, OFM.

As churches around the world are closed because of the coronavirus, it’s important to remember that the Church is not just the building, but rather the people. We are the Body of Christ.

Unbound celebrates this great truth. The bonds of love unite sponsors and sponsored friends and their families, as well as Unbound employees and community members from around the world.

As an Unbound preacher, I see myself as not just promoting sponsorships, but, through that, as bringing together in spirit — and sometimes in person — people from around the world making real the awareness that we are, indeed, one body in Christ.

As an Unbound sponsor, I pray for my sponsored friends Anthony in Peru and Pedro in El Salvador. United in prayer, my solidarity with them deepens.

At this time, let us stand as one with the human family, with people who suffer from this virus and their families, with medical workers and with all who are on the front lines of fighting COVID-19.

We may not be gathering in churches right now, but let us still celebrate the faith and love that binds us together.

Please pray

Loving Creator, as we celebrate this glorious season of Easter, when we remember your Son’s triumph over the grave, help us to claim our own triumph over fear and despair. Help us remember that darkness has been defeated and that life shall once again be victorious. We place our trust in you, God of hope. Amen.

Apr 15 2020

Our lives are intertwined

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Unbound preacher Father Joseph Uecker, C.PP.S.

If we ever needed each other, it’s now. The coronavirus pandemic is such a powerful teacher. It’s bringing the obvious into focus.

For us old guys, especially us older guys with pre-existing conditions (diabetes, heart issues, cancer, some or all of the above), it’s humbling to realize just how much we need each other for the basics of life, like food. Having to depend on others when you’re feeling fit as a fiddle points out how intertwined our lives really are. I’m finding that the virus is like a huge magnifying glass, pointing out both the good in our human nature and our failings.

My guess is that our sponsored friends might say something like, “So what’s new? Are you just finding this out? Poverty is like the virus in this sense.”

As I write this, it was 40 years ago this day and about this hour that St. Oscar Romero was gunned down while celebrating the Eucharist. He was killed for his outspoken defense of the poor, because he stood in solidarity with his people, because he had, to use the phrase of Pope Francis, “the smell of the sheep.” It means he was a pastor who wasn’t afraid to be with God’s people.

In the Unbound community, we are all in the flock together. May our sponsorship magnify the good that is being done in partnership with our sisters and brothers, as well as what still needs to be done.

Please pray

Loving God, let us not be paralyzed by fear in this time of anxiety. Though we can’t physically be with our brothers and sisters in need, help us to be aware of the many ways we can still reach out to them. Keep us united in the Body of Christ. As we die with him in the suffering of our world, may we rise with him to new life in this Easter season. We ask this in your holy name. Amen.

Apr 8 2020

This day was given to us by God

Throughout Lent, our weekly ePrayers have included a special series of reflections on the upcoming Sunday readings. This final reflection for Easter Sunday is from Director of Sponsor Experience Mary Geisz.

The responsorial psalm for the Easter Sunday liturgy says, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” Since I was about 11 years old, that has been one of my favorite Scripture verses. When things got tough (as defined by an 11-year-old), I remember saying it, silently, over and over to myself when I prayed at night. What defines “tough” has evolved since then, but that psalm brings me as much hope now as it ever did.

As we prepare to celebrate the most important event of our Christian faith, the death and resurrection of Jesus, we find ourselves in surreal times. We don’t have a reference point in terms of life experience for this pandemic. Yet, as followers of Jesus, we believe that no matter what happens, this day was given to us by God, and we are to do with it the best we can, modeling his words and actions.

The times bring out the best and the worst in people. It’s disheartening to hear about all the hoarding going on as fears rise. Yet it’s reassuring to absorb many more stories about the kindness and resourcefulness of people whose words and actions speak of the spirit of looking out for the greater good above self. And it’s been especially inspiring to see the responsiveness and collaboration of coworkers as they’ve transitioned to work from home in a very short time frame.

More than usual lately, I’ve found myself reflecting on the families Unbound serves in communities where we work around the world. They form support networks in which they encourage and are accountable to one another. In the midst of obstacles they face daily, I’ve witnessed gratitude and joy expressed as though it were part of their DNA. Being kind and resourceful is not new to them. It’s part of what sustains them. They are experts at living out what the psalm says.

They remind us that we live resurrection not just on Easter Sunday, but every day.

Please pray

Loving Father, Redeeming Son and Sanctifying Spirit, we thank you for the gift of faith that sustains us through our challenges. We pray for comfort and healing for all afflicted with illness and those caring for them during this frightening time. We also commend those who have died to your loving embrace and ask for comfort for their loved ones. Help us remember that each day is a gift from you, a gift with which we are to do all the good we can, and for which we are to rejoice and be glad. Amen.

Apr 1 2020

Love that brings resolve in an anxious time

Throughout Lent, our weekly ePrayers include a special series of reflections on the upcoming Sunday readings. This reflection for Palm Sunday is from Senior Writer/Editor Larry Livingston.

Our traditional gatherings are precious to us. They give us a sense of belonging and continuity. This is especially true of religious gatherings, and it’s common to members of all faiths.

Experiencing God in community both enriches and challenges the human soul. In a sense, our common worship is a moment out of time. It weaves together past and present and binds us in ways beyond understanding.

This is on my mind now because the gatherings that are so important to so many are denied them in the COVID-19 crisis. As I write this, places of worship in the U.S. and throughout the world have suspended religious services and other public gatherings, and it seems likely this will continue beyond Easter.

So, as we enter this Holy Week on Palm Sunday, we’ll be without our normal expressions of community prayer. That is to say, we’ll be without some of the gatherings and rituals that help define us as members of cherished faith traditions. We’re invited to connect, as best we can, through televised and streamed services, but there’s no getting around the fact that, this year, our experience of this most sacred time will be uniquely personal.

Perhaps there’s an opportunity in that. After all, Jesus’ experience of that first “Holy Week” was also uniquely — and profoundly — personal. If each of us can relate our own current anxieties to what Jesus went through, maybe it will help us enter more deeply into solidarity with his Passion. In so doing, we may also enter more deeply into solidarity with the Christ who dwells among, and within, the marginalized and suffering of the world today.

The great temptation of isolation is to feel existentially alone. Even Jesus, in his human nature, struggled against that in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew his “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” moment was coming, and I’m sure he dreaded it. But the important thing is that he came out of the garden with a greater resolve because of his love for the Father and his love for us.

That resolve led to Easter. And it will again. It will.

Please pray

God, your love for us is deep and mysterious. In this time of anxiety, bless us with the strength and the wisdom to place our trust in you. As your Son, Jesus, prayed for resolve in the garden, so may we have the resolve to endure our current trials. As he sacrificed his life out of love for us, may we dedicate our own sacrifices, big and small, to the care of our world, especially those most in need. We ask this in your holy name. Amen.

Mar 25 2020

Freed of what binds us

Throughout Lent, our weekly ePrayers include a special series of reflections on the upcoming Sunday readings. This reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Lent is from Unbound preacher Father John Anglin, O.F.M.

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday. On the last Sunday before then, we’re presented with what I believe to be the greatest miracle that Jesus performed in his time here on earth, raising Lazarus from the dead. In John’s Gospel, it’s the seventh and final sign in a segment known as the Book of Signs.

It bears that title for a reason. Notice that it’s not called the book of miracles, although each of the signs was indeed miraculous. Jesus changes water into wine at Cana, he cures a blind man and performs several other wonderful miracles. Each sign, however, has a lesson for us.

After Lazarus came out of the tomb, wrapped in the burial cloths, Jesus says, “Untie him and let him go.”(John 11:44). Other translations use the word unbind instead of untie. These are the words that inspired the naming of Unbound.

Over the years, spiritual writers have seen great symbolism in these words. They remind us that we’re called to be unbound from sin, from injustice, etc. In Unbound, our sponsored friends are given the opportunity to rise above poverty and to rise beyond the fears and negative thoughts that hold them back. Those of us who are sponsors are also unbound from believing that we can’t make a difference, as well as, perhaps, being unbound from a limited worldview as we connect with someone from another country and culture.

My life has certainly been changed by my sponsored friends Anthony from Peru and Pedro, an elder from El Salvador. Last year, right after Easter, Pedro wrote to me and told me that he went to Mass every day of Lent and prayed for me. Wow! I consider him my spiritual sponsor.

As the season of Lent draws to a close, I’m grateful for the 75 years of life that God has given me and for continuing to unbind me from a variety of errors and limitations. I’m grateful that by his grace I’ve been able to unbind people from all sorts of difficulties. As we contemplate this wonderful story of Lazarus, let’s all continue unbinding and being unbound from all that keeps us from being the persons that God made us to be.

Please pray

Lord Jesus, you called your friend Lazarus back to life. You invited his family and friends to unbind him and set him free. We thank you for the ways that Unbound sets all of us free from the things that bind us up. Help us to continue this great work of sponsoring and giving assistance to those in need. Amen.