Oct 17 2018

Two saints who expanded the frontiers of faith

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.

On Oct. 14 the Roman Catholic Church canonized Archbishop Oscar Romero and Pope Paul VI. In Catholic tradition, canonization is the formal recognition of a person as a saint. It’s granted to a select few who were known to have led lives of extraordinary virtue, or in other ways provided an edifying witness of the faith.
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Oct 10 2018

Remembering co-founder Bob Hentzen, who kept us connected

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.

Bob Hentzen passed away five years ago on Oct. 8, 2013. I remember it as both a sad time and a time for deep reflection. Of the five founders of Unbound, Bob was with us the longest. He had great influence on what we stand for and his loss was profound.

Bob was Unbound’s president and, though he lived in Guatemala and spent much of his time visiting our communities around the world, he made it a point to come to our Kansas City headquarters several times a year. On those occasions he’d always affirm and encourage the staff here, but he never left without also giving us something significant to think about.

When Bob would speak to the community of staff and volunteers, it was easy to underestimate him because of his self-effacing manner. He might tell a rambling story or pull out his guitar and sing a song or two. But then, just when you’d be lulled by his folksy gentleness, he’d hit you with a message so astute, urgent and focused that I’d always come away thinking, “Yes. That’s why we do what we do. That’s why it’s important.”

It always seemed to me that Bob felt that one of his most crucial jobs was to keep the U.S. staff connected to the lives and reality of the families we serve. That’s partly why he chose to live in Guatemala. He saw what can happen when charitable organizations give in to the false assumptions that come with distance, and he was determined that it should never happen to Unbound.

Bob believed that liberation is a matter of communion — of developing relationships that transform and give life. That belief flowed largely from his Catholic faith and was fused into the DNA of the organization he helped found. Today, Unbound remains committed to staying vitally connected to the families in our program. That commitment is both an affirmation and a validation of Bob’s conviction.

Liberation and communion — at the heart of the Gospel and the heart of Unbound. Thank you, Bob, for helping us own that.

Please pray

Loving and generous God, your goodness knows no limits. It saturates creation and overflows into life and beauty. We give thanks for your servant, Bob, and all those who teach us how to recognize that life and beauty. May we, like them, be filled with the kind of gratitude that can only find expression in service. We ask this in the name of your Son, our brother, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Oct 3 2018

Pull up a chair

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 Outreach Volunteer Coordinator Clair Paul.

When I meet new people, one way I get to know them better is by inviting them over for dinner. I ask them to come to my home, have a seat at my table and share a meal with me. I find that new acquaintances become friends a lot faster when you break bread together.

I’m sure we can all recall the feeling of knots in the stomach while standing in the school cafeteria, nervously scanning the room for a friendly face to welcome you to an open seat. Remember the relief when your friend waved you over to the spot they saved for you? It feels good to be included.

In Luke 14: 13-14, Jesus said, “Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

We are called to make room at our tables for those who have less than us. One way we do this is through sponsorship. By sponsoring someone with Unbound, you’re offering them a place at your banquet table, and telling them they matter to you.

As I’ve traveled with Unbound, I’ve had the chance to meet numerous Unbound sponsored families. They’ve welcomed me into their homes and pulled up a chair for me. Though they may have little else to give, they’re always willing to offer me a spot at their table. The gesture shows that they value my presence and I’m accepted, as well as serving as a sign of gratitude for all sponsors.

As we head into the holiday season and prepare our tables for the banquets we will share with our loved ones, I encourage you to remember to make a little extra room. Make room for our sponsored families, for those who need a place to feel welcomed, even if they don’t have much to offer in return. Let us make room to bless others with what we are blessed to have.

Please pray

Lord, thank you for the blessings you’ve provided us. You’ve made room for us at your banquet table. Help us to make room in our lives for others, and to share the blessings you’ve given. Grant us opportunities to pull up a chair for those who need to feel included, just as you have done for us. Amen.

Sep 26 2018

People unite in a common desire for good

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 Managing Editor Loretta Shea Kline.

The ability to fulfill our mission at Unbound depends on people of goodwill from all kinds of backgrounds and circumstances. Our mission statement says, “We invite people of goodwill to live in daily solidarity with the world’s poor through one-to-one sponsorship.”

So who are “people of goodwill?”

One of my favorite parts of the Catholic Mass is “The Gloria,” an ancient hymn of praise, thanks and prayers for mercy. It begins, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.” The text is derived from Scripture. In Luke 2:14, angels bring the good news of Jesus’ birth, saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

In the Unbound community, sponsors represent people of goodwill. Sponsorship offers them a practical and trustworthy way to connect with and support families overcoming poverty. Their grace-filled “yes” to that invitation makes room for more opportunities in the lives of others.

Sponsored individuals and their families also represent people of goodwill. Children and youth study hard so they can learn, get good jobs someday and help their families. Elders offer examples of resilience and wisdom to younger generations. Mothers form small groups in their communities to support each other, develop livelihoods and move their families forward.

Finally, staff and volunteers represent people of goodwill in Unbound. They devote their talents and hard work to support those sponsored and their families in fulfilling their potential and aspirations.

Goodwill binds our community, despite our differences in race, religion, geography, culture, politics and income. We’re united in our common desire for good in people’s lives. That’s a powerful witness in our world, one that heralds good news and gives us a reason for optimism.

Please pray

Lord of endless possibilities, look with favor on the Unbound community. Bless our community with your peace and grace. We humbly entreat you to make room in the hearts of more people of goodwill to connect with and support families overcoming poverty. We ask this in your holy name. Amen.

Sep 17 2018

For all who weather storms

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.

There is a fellowship of people who suffer, a bond of empathy others may not understand. Though those who’ve undergone such trials may never meet or know one another by name, they often share a compassion forged through difficulty.

The Unbound community has been touched by many examples of this compassion through the years. Often, when a natural disaster strikes in the U.S., among the first to let us know of their prayerful concern are the families in our program. Having known hardship themselves, their hearts readily go out to others, just as the hearts of Unbound sponsors go out when their sponsored friends are affected.

This past weekend, two major oceanic storms severely impacted different areas of the world thousands of miles apart. In the Carolinas in the southeastern U.S., Hurricane Florence is blamed for 18 deaths, untold property damage and the loss of power to hundreds of thousands of homes, while on the island of Luzon in the northern Philippines, Super Typhoon Mangkhut caused at least 69 deaths, major flooding and immense property loss before moving on to strike Hong Kong and mainland China.

The full extent of the damage wreaked by both storms will likely not be known for some time, but we do know that hundreds of Unbound sponsored persons and their families have been impacted by the event in the Philippines. Unbound will provide support through our Disaster Response Fund to help with their recovery.

It’s also likely that many sponsors in the U.S. will have been affected by Hurricane Florence. We ask that you hold all impacted members of the Unbound community and everyone affected by the storms in prayer, both now in the immediate aftermath and going forward as they rebuild their lives.

Please pray

God of mercy, you who love us more than we can know, grace us with compassion. Move our hearts, strengthen our hands and make straight our path, that we may be agents of your healing in the lives of those who suffer. May the example of your Son, who poured out his life in service, inspire us to reach out to all our sisters and brothers in need. We ask this in your most holy name. Amen.

Sep 12 2018

Authority and common sense

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 today’s world, power is often seen as an acceptable substitute for authority. It isn’t.

Power coerces while authority invites. Power intimidates while authority inspires. Power presses in while authority reaches out.

Jesus understood the difference and so did those who heard him. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that, at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, “… the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” (Matt. 7: 28-29)

From a worldly perspective, Jesus had no power and he resisted those who urged him to seek it. But his authority was unmistakable. It flowed from his integrity, his conviction and his connectedness to the mind of God. Most importantly, unlike the religious leaders of his time, it manifested itself not in control but in service.

Like Jesus, the families in the Unbound program have little power, but they have great authority. In their case, it’s the authority of those who’ve suffered and persevered. Because we believe Christ dwells in a profound way among and within them, we pay close attention to what they teach us.

That close attention has paid off in the form of a practical, common-sense program of sponsorship, one based on the simple notion that those with the greatest interest in solving a problem are best equipped to do so. They’ll need some help and encouragement along the way, but what they don’t need is for us to impose a solution from a distance.

That’s how Unbound does it and it works. With all due humility, we can say that with authority.

Please pray

Creator God, you are the source and summit of all authority. Everything that is loving, just and wise emanates from you and flows back to you. Help us answer your call to be agents of change in our world and bring your healing love to all we encounter. We ask this in the name of the one who astonished all he met, your Son and our brother, Jesus the Christ.

Sep 5 2018

A new kind of resume

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.

When I think of the work I’ve done in my life, I often think of it in a linear way. “I used to be a youth pastor, then I worked as a program director before I became a writer.” I think of the jobs I’ve had in resume format, a list of my personal accomplishments. But what would those accomplishments mean without those who worked alongside me?

I couldn’t have been a youth pastor without a supportive church staff. I couldn’t have been an administrator without a functioning organization, and I couldn’t have become a writer without people to write for and about (and to provide some editing!).

This is co-creation, a word we often use in the Unbound community. It’s the reality that my work benefits your work; your work creates good for my work. This is the same work of Biblical times and the same work of families in Unbound. All are creating a system of good for the benefit of the community.

In a reflection on the meaning of Labor Day for The Washington Post, Rev. Bill Haley wrote:

“… [There] are a lot of jobs in which there is an immense amount of dignity because the work itself plays a part in helping another flourish through the provision of food, shelter, clothing, medical care, education, a just society, effective government, religious freedom, the possibility of meaningful work, access to the arts, freedom and other things required for a society where individuals can flourish, where others can live into God’s design for them.”

As I rest this Labor Day, I’m reflecting not on my work, but our work. I’m grateful for all of those who have been co-creators with me and helped me to flourish, and I aim to remember them when I talk about my accomplishments. It’s a new kind of resume, where the accomplishment is God’s design, not my own.

Please pray

God of creation, help us to see beyond ourselves. Thank you for the community you’ve provided us, our coworkers, family members and those we serve. Remind us to be grateful for the work of all of society, and empower us to be kind as we create together. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Aug 29 2018

The true meaning of sacrifice

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 Communications Liaison Coordinator Gustavo Adolfo Aybar.

According to poet and philosopher Mark Nepo, “The original definition of sacrifice means giving up what no longer works in order to stay close to what is sacred.” Recently, I’ve made some decisions in my own effort to separate the sacred in my life from what I’m willing to sacrifice.

This summer, I got up early to watch cartoons with my son. We committed to attending Sunday morning Mass, to worship God and renew our faith. We made choices about how we spent our time so we could be with friends, our center for love and support.

Each of these choices represents sacrifice. They also lead to the sacred.

The Unbound community experiences sacrifices daily in the way sponsors invest their money and time to care for another person or family, and in the way families in our programs show trust and their willingness to grow as they establish goals for their lives and work toward them. Through their stories, along with my own, I’ve realized anything that hinders our journey must be shed.

I believe in God’s vision for my life, that of my son and every human being.

I believe in us!

Please pray

Dear God, I pray each family in Unbound will believe in their strength and capabilities. I pray the families, our staff and our sponsors will, with each sacrifice they make, renew their spirits and be replenished in your love. May they be drawn closer to fulfilling their true purpose and live in your mercy and your grace. Amen.

Aug 22 2018

Believing in the one who believes in us

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.

I sometimes think about the disciples on the hillside outside Jerusalem after Jesus’ ascension. I imagine them looking at each other and asking, “Now what?”

The answer would become clear in time, but first they needed to go back to the upper room. They needed to be with one another. They needed to pray for guidance. (As you might recall, they eventually received it, and in impressive fashion.)

We each live, at times, in our own upper room. We wait, we dwell together in mutual support and, if we’re wise, we pray. All the while, if we listen closely, we can hear God whispering to us, with loving assurance, the words that give us the confidence to step back out the door.

“I believe in you.”

As important as our faith in God is, it’s God’s faith in us that gives us the courage to be agents of change in our world. We embrace our giftedness because we believe in the giver. We love because we’ve first been loved.

This week, most of the 41 Catholic priests who preach on behalf of Unbound will gather in Kansas City for our annual preachers conference. They come back every summer to share stories from the road, to learn about what’s new with our program and, like the disciples in the upper room, to pray together and encourage one another. Then, nourished for the journey, they go forth to continue to carry the Unbound message into faith communities across the U.S.

And what is that message? It’s no more and no less than what God says to each of us.

“I believe in you.”

It’s the same message we share with the young girl who’s been told that education is for others, not for her. It’s the message we deliver to families who, generation after generation, have heard they’re not good enough or capable enough. And it’s the message we give to our staff around the world who, every day, go the extra mile to serve those children and families.

The Unbound preacher’s role is to believe in those who, though they don’t yet know it, are waiting to join our community of compassion by becoming sponsors of children and elders. It’s to help the good and generous Catholic faithful make the connection between the Christ at the table in the front of church and the Christ who waits to be discovered on the table in the back of church.

Our preachers share that message well and wonderfully. But that doesn’t surprise us. After all, we believe in them.

Please pray

Glorious God, you created the human person to proclaim your goodness. May we never shrink from that magnificent calling. Bolster us in times of doubt and send us companions in times of loneliness. At all times, give us the grace to live life to the full.

Aug 15 2018

Welcomed into belonging

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.

When arriving at a party at a friend or family member’s house, my experience is usually underwhelming. I walk in the door, perhaps the host greets me and thanks me for coming, and then the handful of people nearest the door may or may not hug me or say hello. Beyond that moment, it’s up to me to work my way around the crowd.

I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time in East Africa, where welcoming is treated much differently. If you show up at any kind of gathering in Kenya or Sudan, every person in the room will approach you to welcome you. It will not stop until the last hand has been shaken. And when someone leaves the group, it starts over again. In fact, most of the party will just be people shaking the hands of whoever is coming and going! Attending a church service in rural Kenya is almost entirely a greeting session.

I love this form of welcoming, and I’ve tried to incorporate it into my life. I want to communicate, “I see you, I’m prepared for you, and I’m glad you’re here,” to everyone I can. I learn this from Christ, too, the ultimate greeter. He welcomed every person who came into his reach. He acknowledged people, he touched people and he dispelled their fears that they didn’t belong.

This kind of welcoming reverberates beautifully in the Unbound community. There’s nothing like going on an Unbound awareness trip and being welcomed with hugs, handshakes, gifts, music and dancing. Every time I’ve had the chance to meet someone in the Unbound community, they’ve said to me, with their words and actions, “Even though we’d never met, even though we don’t know each other, I’m glad you’re here. You belong.” Experiencing that deep, genuine acceptance and invitation changed my perspective on what it means to welcome others.

Please pray

God of open arms, thank you for welcoming us into your love and forgiveness. Thank you for making space for us in your heart. Give us the wisdom to see others with the same welcoming eyes through which you see them. We desire to foster a world where everyone belongs, and we pray for your guidance. Amen.