Oct 16 2019

Creating a path out of poverty


Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Loyalty Marketing Specialist Clair Paul.

I worked for Unbound a few years before I truly felt the weight of the conditions families in our programs experience. In 2016, I accompanied a group of sponsors on a trip to Costa Rica. I had been on similar trips and felt prepared for what I would experience that week, but I had no idea how unprepared I was.

After being in the country for a few days, we visited a community precariously built on a riverbank. We were dropped off several blocks away and walked single file down the side of a highway as cars zipped past. Sponsored members and their families greeted us and escorted us down muddy slopes into their homes. We ducked into a small, two-room residence built with scraps of metal and plastic. The floors were dirt, and water leaked and dripped inside. The children bounced from one dilapidated sofa to the other as their mother told us about their life.

She explained that the river below was a dumping ground for trash and chemicals. Flooding happened often, making already treacherous paths nearly impassible. They lived in fear that their home would wash away or that the government would evict them.

As I listened to her speak, I stole glances at her son and daughter, not yet old enough to go to school. I wondered, “How could this be the reality a child faces every day?” That evening, I sat on my bed and cried.

Oct. 17 is International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Let us join in prayer for those living with less than what they deserve. We’re thankful that the Unbound community provides families with options and opportunities that allow them to create their own paths into full participation in society.

Please pray

Lord, we come to you with our burdens that seem too heavy to bear. We know we cannot end the suffering of others on our own, and we ask you to be with those living in poverty around the world. We pray that you will give us opportunities to do what we can, so that one day we may see a world without poverty. Amen.

Oct 9 2019

Perseverance and grace through adversity


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

When I was 16 and it came time to take my driving test, my older brother felt sure that, because I was a girl, I would do worse than he had a few years earlier. He’d barely passed on his third try, and he claimed I would fail thrice and be forced to take driver’s ed. I’m proud to report that, through hard work, practice and God’s grace, I disproved his assumption by passing the first time.

Today, girls and women around the world face all sorts of bias. There are assumptions that they either can’t do as well as boys or should be limited to “traditional” women’s roles. Families may give preference to boys over girls when it comes to education. Despite these obstacles, girls and women in the Unbound program are transforming their lives, their families’ lives and their communities.

I think of the group of mothers in India who, despite challenges of illiteracy and lack of formal education, used a traditional art form to do a high-level analysis of their community, identifying opportunities for new businesses. I also think of the many young women that have worked hard to become Unbound scholars, giving back to their communities while continuing their educations.

In Galatians, St. Paul says we are one in Christ without distinction based on race, circumstance or gender. “For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28)

The women and girls of Unbound are inspirational. They show us what it’s like to overcome adversity with grace and strength, not only in the face of poverty, but in the face of being a woman.

Please pray

Lord, thank you for the endurance you’ve given women throughout history. May we learn from the examples of women who have gone before us, and from those we encounter in our world today who exemplify perseverance and grace in the face of adversity. May we continue to draw strength from you, Lord. We ask this in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Oct 2 2019

The feedback loop of faith


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

Autumn has arrived in the United States. Soon the trees will turn colors followed by leaves browning and dying, paving the way for new life in the Spring. Where I live in New Mexico, this cycle is particularly striking to me as the aspen trees paint the mountainside in solid bright yellow, making the unmistakable change from green to gold to the eventual brown of winter.

In the science world, the seasonal rhythm of trees creates what’s called a feedback loop, where vital phases put positive input into the system — oxygen in growth, minerals in death and a lot of natural cyclical processes in between.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus uses a horticultural image to describe the reciprocal relationship that exists between the divine and humanity:

“Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5).”

Jesus is describing the feedback loop of faith. He believes in us, we believe in him, and this cycle perpetuates in every aspect of our lives. It helps us to believe in ourselves and in others. When I believe in myself, I have more capacity to see the potential in others, and the cycle begins again.

The Unbound community is full of these feedback loops. My sponsored friend writes me a letter and it compels me to write her back. An Unbound mother invests her family’s sponsorship funds to create a greater return. An Unbound family that finds success inspires another family in similar circumstances to follow their own path.

These are the cycles of inspiration, the feedback loops of potential. As we look for the autumn leaves soon to change, may we also look for the potential in ourselves and others to input more positive change into the world.

Please pray

God of all seasons, thank you for remaining in us and believing in us. Help us and our sponsored friends to see potential everywhere we look and bear fruit to better your world. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, amen.

Sep 25 2019

Reasons to embrace our humanity


Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Regional Reporter Coordinator Gustavo Adolfo Aybar.

To cry. To create. To smile. To feel joy, heartache, hope. To love. These are the reasons to celebrate our humanity, the luxury of being alive and experiencing all of life’s miracles: a warm dish to eat, a school fee paid, a helping hand, a soccer ball, or a group of rowdy kids kicking and chasing that ball around a grassy field. A bite of ice cream.

Sometimes I experience humanity as my son’s sadness or joy permeates a room. Other times, it’s in the realities I discover while reading about an Unbound family’s struggle, their faith, their gratitude, their strength. These reminders reveal compassion, kindness. These moments remind me to remain present, to accept people and situations as they are, while still seeking ways to improve matters.

Please pray

Dear Lord, for each of your miracles, fill us with the ability to discern blessing from lesson. Help us to see humanity in each act, each struggling individual and every smiling face. In your name, we pray. Amen.

Sep 18 2019

Praying, learning, becoming family


Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week our reflection is from Outreach Call Representative Shantel Davis.

When my father was younger, he felt encouraged to visit the Sioux Indians in South Dakota. Sometime before that, Chief Lame Deer, the leader of the Rosebud Tribe, had tragically lost his son. The chief was moved by my father’s visit and, in a tribal ceremony, adopted my father into his own family. He called him “Good Voice Eagle” because he always spoke the truth.

The tribe taught my dad a belief in others that carried him through his later career as a police officer. Their way of life opened his eyes to so many simple treasures and values. They truly became family to him. Among his favorite memories are pranks they played on him as he was just “getting his feet wet” in their culture.

Working at Unbound has given me a unique way to share my belief in others. It also allows me to serve in a way that honors my family heritage. Within the Unbound community, we don’t just see potential. We pray for each other, learn each other’s ways and become family.

Please pray

God, our most gracious father, I pray that we all might reach out in solidarity and befriend one another. May we “get our feet wet” in the courageous belief that loving others means not taking ourselves too seriously, but seriously believing in the potential of others. Amen.

Guatemalan mothers.
Sep 11 2019

The sum of God’s love for us

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

In my Catholic grade school there were many constants, including the singing of “We are Many Parts” at school Masses. While that song rendered many a screech from a pubescent seventh-grader, the scripture it’s drawn from always rings true:

For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. (Romans 12:4-5)

As an intern at Unbound this summer, I’ve gotten to explore different avenues that make a business work, and I’ve learned that they can’t exist without each other. This exemplifies what Paul says.

We see this in the family as well. God works through relationships — mother, father, child. Even within himself, being totally Father, Son and Spirit, he shows us the art of relationship, and that these relationships are greater than the sum of their parts.

At Unbound, we believe that together we accomplish things beyond our own narrow needs. In the words of St. John Paul II, “We are not the sum of our parts, rather we are the sum of God’s love for us.” We accomplish more when we lay down our ego, our pride, ourselves for the sake of many, just as Christ laid down his life for us.

Families participating in Unbound do this every day. In mothers groups they work together. Each mother brings her unique perspective, knowledge and ability. Together, the mothers are the hands working day in and day out, lifting their communities up. They humbly accept their role to bring about a better future for themselves, their children and others around them.

As sponsors, we are also a part of this body. Through our letters we give encouragement and support. We share in the lifting of these communities. We humble ourselves. We’re not in charge, which is liberating. By letting ourselves be just a single part, not fighting over which part we are, not dictating our supremacy or subservience, we allow ourselves to be the Body of Christ.

I want to end with my favorite prayer from St. Ignatius of Loyola. Let us remember that sacrificing all to the Lord allows us to accomplish things beyond our wildest imagination.

Please pray

“Take, Lord, receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, my whole will, all that I have and all that I possess. You gave it all to me, Lord; I give it all back to you. Do with it as you will, according to your good pleasure. Give me your love and your grace; for with this I have all that I need.” Amen.

Sponsored elder Carlos from Guatemala.
Sep 4 2019

Listening to our elders

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

Growing up, I loved listening to my grandmother tell stories. When I was a kid she’d tell me fairy tales, and then we’d play dress up and act them out. She had a large, sturdy coffee table that made the perfect stage for my 5-year-old self.

Now that I’m older the stories have changed. Instead of fairy tales I’m hearing stories from her life. She reminisces about times with friends and family, both good and bad. I’ll admit to being short when some of the stories repeat. I’ve gone from the child-like, “Tell it again!” to the impatient adult, “Yes, I’ve heard this already.”

But just like when reading a book for the 10th time (Yes, I’m guilty of that, too!), it’s helpful to view oft-repeated stories not with impatience, but with the chance to glean something new. Maybe in hearing it again we’ll find new meaning, or perhaps the person telling the story has a new insight. Storytelling goes both ways: There is value for the listener and the teller.

When our elders share their stories with us, listening becomes more than just a sign of respect. It’s also an acknowledgment that this person has lived more, seen more and likely has wisdom we don’t yet have.

On a recent trip to Guatemala, I had the chance to meet a sponsored elder named Carlos. When he started telling a story about the city of Antigua’s history, even though I had already heard the story earlier that day, I didn’t stop him and say, “I’ve already heard this.”

I listened.

Grandparents Day is Sept. 8. Let us celebrate it by really thinking about the stories our grandparents have told us. We might learn something if we do.

Please pray

Father in heaven, thank you for giving us natural teachers in our grandparents, with their wealth of experience and hard-won wisdom. Give us patience in how we treat our elders, as we hope younger generations will one day have with us. Open our minds and hearts to new insights from the stories our grandparents and other elders in our lives tell. We ask these in your holy name. Amen.

Aug 28 2019

How do you say it?


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.

The way we treat one another is the measure of how we are living the Gospel.

In a 1986 pastoral letter, the U.S. Bishops said it like this: “Human personhood must be respected with a reverence that is religious. When we deal with each other, we should do so with the sense of awe that arises in the presence of something holy and sacred. For that is what human beings are: we are created in the image of God.” (Economic Justice for All, #28)

Thomas Merton, the late Trappist monk and spiritual writer, said it like this after having an epiphany on a street corner in Louisville in 1958: “… then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts …, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes.” (from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander)

Unbound says it like this: I believe in you. We work with sponsored members and their families as they walk a path out of poverty as full members in a community of compassion. We believe in one another and recognize the dignity and beauty of each person and how that expresses itself in community.

Here’s how an Unbound social worker and a sponsored child’s family lived it out. The family was grateful to receive eggs as one of the benefits of belonging to the Unbound community, but in conversation, the family and the social worker decided together that it would be better if chickens were the benefit instead.

Chickens, you see, would produce eggs that would both feed the family and be available for selling. It may be a small thing, but that’s how dignity works.

Please pray

Thank you for the beauty, O God, that lies deep within each of us. Help us to love everyone and everything that you love. Help us to know that recognizing the dignity of each opens a door to new possibilities of forging that path out of poverty, a path that emerges from and leads to the depths of our hearts, where you live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

Aug 21 2019

Homecoming


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.

Quoting a Latin American proverb, Pope Francis once famously said, “You can always add more water to the beans.” What he meant was that you can always find a way to feed one more hungry person, to serve one more soul in need.

There’s always room for more.

The 33 Catholic priests who currently preach on behalf of Unbound have spent their lives in the tireless quest for that “one more soul.” They’ve served as pastors, chaplains, teachers, missionaries and in a variety of other ministries to share the Gospel and act as as the hands and feet of Christ in a world in need.

Today, our priests go the extra mile (usually, the extra frequent flyer mile) to share the invitation to join our community of compassion with members of Catholic parishes across the United States. They celebrate each new individual and family that joins us because they understand that the relationship between a sponsor and a child or elder is a sacred thing, with the power to transform every life it touches.

This week our priests come home to our Kansas City headquarters for their annual preachers conference. We love this time of year. We love having the guys here, sharing fellowship and hearing their stories from the road. We love laughing with them, feeding them, praying with them and blessing them for the journey yet to come.

Sure, when all the preachers are here, it can get a little crowded. But we don’t mind.

After all, there’s always room for more.

Please pray

Thank you, Lord, for honoring the Unbound community with the service of dedicated priests. Bless them with joy and a renewed sense of purpose as they gather. May they know the gratitude and affection we hold for them, and may we do all we can to affirm them in their holy calling of service to the Christ who lives within and among the poor and marginalized of the world. We ask this in your holy name. Amen.

Aug 14 2019

Hearing, trusting, walking and giving


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.

On a recent awareness trip to El Salvador, I was moved by the vibrant faith of the people there. It was a great encouragement for me to meet sponsored friends and Unbound staff who have faith in God to move forward, despite the circumstances many of them are facing. These families are dealing with violence from gangs, the aftermath of a war and many other difficulties, but they continue on in the midst of the struggle to improve their lives.

At the beginning of my trip, I found a verse that became a theme for me during my time there and has become a challenge for me to live out since I have returned. “In the morning let me hear of your mercy, for in you I trust. Show me the path I should walk, for I entrust my life to you.” (Psalm 143:8)

This verse speaks of hearing, trusting, walking and giving. I was blessed to see our Unbound family doing those things in El Salvador, and I felt challenged at the same time to do them in my own life.

May we hear and think of God’s mercy, compassion and love. Let us hear of it each day. May God show us the path to walk in our sojourn here, as we walk together and are led by him. Because we have heard and been led, let us trust in the Lord and give our lives to him.

Please pray

Gracious God, open our ears to hear your voice. Lead our feet on your path as we walk with you and in solidarity with others. Fill our lives with your presence and peace as you bless and make use of us. Amen.