Jul 19 2017

Casting our nets and opening our hearts

An image of a boat on a shore.
Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week’s reflection was written by writer/editor Maureen Lunn.

In May I had the opportunity to travel to Colombia on an awareness trip with a group of Unbound sponsors. One of them was Joseph Rivard, a retired psychology professor who signed up for the trip less than a year after beginning to sponsor a youth through Unbound.

Joseph wrote a reflection about his experience on the trip, and we posted it on the Unbound blog last week. He wrote about the time Jesus asked Simon to cast his nets in the deep, even though Simon had gone all night without catching any fish. When Simon did what Christ asked of him, he pulled in a catch so massive that it nearly sunk the boat. Joseph wrote:

“To [our] natural and human concerns, we need only witness what happened when Simon let go into the deep. His nets became full, and his heart was overwhelmed.”

Joseph’s reflection got me thinking about my own life and where I withhold my “nets.” Where am I holding on too tightly to my own expectations and attachments? Where am I missing out on opportunities to give to others, whether financially, with time or words of encouragement?

I think of Joseph and the other sponsors I traveled with in Colombia; all of them were my elders. They let go of their comforts of life at home and traveled to a foreign place with a group of strangers. What a way to cast your net, and what a way to be blessed in return!

I also think of the Unbound families we met in Colombia, for whom being sponsored is, at first, unfamiliar, yet they cast their nets deep and wide in community and opportunity.

Among my greatest inspirations from the trip to Colombia were my co-travelers and the families served by Unbound. They taught me a lot about what it means to let go, take a risk and let your heart be overwhelmed.

Read Joseph’s reflection, “Cast your net.”

Please pray

Lord Jesus Christ, you empower us to let go of our attachments in mind and body and open our lives to your blessings. Illumine the areas of our lives where we should cast our nets. From sponsored friends to our own family members to strangers we meet, put people in our path that teach us what it means to open our hearts and minds to receive your love. Amen.

An image of a brother and sister giving each other a hug.
Jul 12 2017

In search of empathy

An image of a brother and sister giving each other a hug.
Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week’s reflection was written by writer/editor Jordan Kimbrell.

As a child, I remember being able to tell when an adult was upset. I didn’t always understand why, but I could tell there was something going on. My solution? To go up to the adults and tell them they looked like they needed a hug — and then give them one. I figured that if getting a hug made me feel better, it would probably make others feel better too.
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An image of a young Guatemalan man with his sheep.
Jul 5 2017

Freedoms big and small

An image of a young Guatemalan man with his sheep.

Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week’s reflection was written by writer/editor Maureen Lunn.

I’ll never forget the first time I drove a car by myself. It was summer, I was 15 with a learner’s permit, driving in my grandpa’s hunter green Ford Ranger. My parents let me take the 15-minute drive down the highway to go to youth group at church, and then straight home. I still remember how amazing, how grown up, that felt! For a young person in America, that inaugural drive may be one of the greatest feelings of independence many of us will experience.

For people around the world, an opportunity for this type of independence also holds a lot of power, both personally and economically. For Ronaldo, a young man in Guatemala, the freedom to make choices for his future led to improving the economic situation of his entire family. One of his earliest memories of being in Unbound is of saving his sponsorship benefits to buy livestock.

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An image of the sun setting behind a mountain in El Salvador.
Jun 28 2017

So that others may increase

An image of the sun setting behind a mountain in El Salvador.
Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week’s reflection was written by Senior Writer Larry Livingston.

Last week we observed the summer solstice, marking the longest day of the year. Going forward, the days will grow increasingly shorter and the nights longer, until December 21st and the beginning of a new cycle.

In Christian tradition, this time of year is symbolically associated with the birth of John the Baptist, just as the winter solstice is with the birth of Jesus. It was John who, knowing that his work served a purpose greater than himself, said of Christ, “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).

There is grace in the recognition that we are each called to serve a purpose greater than ourselves. When we choose to ‘decrease’ — in personal gratification, in ego fulfillment, in material comfort — for the sake of others, we follow the model of John the Baptist and, like him, give glory to Christ.

Please pray

Loving God, thank you for our Unbound sponsors and the generosity that allows sponsored friends to ‘increase.’ As we reflect on the seasons of the year and the seasons of our lives, may we grow in the humility and compassion that allow us to serve others with joy, and may all we do reflect your goodness on the Earth. We ask this in your holy name. Amen.

An image of a magnolia tree in bloom.
Apr 17 2017

The joy of spring

An image of a magnolia tree in bloom.
Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week’s reflection is from Unbound writer/editor Jordan Kimbrell.

Spring has always been one of my favorite times of year. Not only because the weather is getting warmer, but also because everything starts growing again. There’s something eternally hopeful and uplifting about spring.

In a way, joining the Unbound sponsorship program could be considered a spring-like event for many families. Sponsorship benefits are like the warm spring rains, awakening the potential in sponsored members and their families that had lain dormant, needing encouragement and resources to grow.

And because we have a culture of learning at Unbound as part of our nine program characteristics, there are always spaces for renewal, from our Kansas City headquarters to our field offices and the homes of sponsored children and elders around the world.

Please pray

Lord, thank you for giving us springtime. Not only do we celebrate rebirth through your Resurrection, we witness it with each leaf that unfurls. Thank you for the hope and joy that comes with spring. Guide us so that we may bring that same hope and joy to others in all our interactions. Amen.

An image of a desert.
Feb 27 2017

Faithfulness to the God of ‘do overs’

An image of a desert.
Throughout Lent, our weekly ePrayers include a special series of reflections on the upcoming Sunday readings. This reflection for the First Sunday of Lent is from Unbound preacher Father Greg Schmitt, CSsR.

There is a term, known to most golfers but not found in any official golf writings. The term is “mulligan.” A “mulligan” is simply a “do over.” Playing partners may, by agreement, allow one or more of these during a round of golf. A mulligan means a bad shot magically disappears, allowing a better shot to take its place.

Matthew sees Jesus’ 40 days of temptation in the desert as a kind of do over for the Israelites who compiled 40 years of repeated failures as they journeyed across the desert. While the Israelites doubted God’s faithfulness and even turned themselves to false gods, Jesus does the opposite. He refuses to let his physical hunger and the clever proposals by Satan tempt him to doubt God’s loving faithfulness.

First, the Israelites complained about not having food to eat, and again later about the quality of the food God provided. In refusing to leaven stones, Jesus recognizes that physical food isn’t the only kind. He announces that God’s word is the food that truly nourishes.

Secondly, the Israelites, on several occasions, set up tests for God. God needed to do what they demanded or they threatened to reject God. In contrast, Jesus rejects Satan’s proposal to throw himself off the parapet of the Temple to see if God would rush in to save him. God is not to be tested. God does not act just because we click our fingers.

Finally, the Israelites lost their confidence in God and danced around the golden calf they had deified. The devil offers Jesus the opportunity to possess the riches of the world if only he will fall down and pay Satan homage. Jesus responds, “The Lord your God shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”

Jesus, tracing the path of his ancestors in the desert, does a great do over. What happened before is reversed. The proper order between God and humans is restored. Jesus is setting up a new order of relationship between God and his people.

Jesus will call this new order the Kingdom of Heaven. It belongs to the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers and those who suffer for what is right.

It belongs to those we sponsor through Unbound and to us who reach out to them. Together we are the new order. We are the Kingdom. We walk out of the desert with Jesus to grow the Kingdom even more. Our relationship with God is mirrored in the relationships between sponsors and sponsored.

Thank goodness for do overs.

Please Pray

O Lord, victor over Satan in the desert and teacher on the Mount of the Beatitudes, you show us the way to live in the Kingdom of Heaven. Bless our sponsored ones and all with whom we walk in deserts and meet on mountains. Open us up to your Kingdom. Teach us to resist forces of evil and deceit and to embrace what you call blessed. Amen.

Feb 20 2017

A prayer for the grace to ‘get out of the way’

An image of a mother and daughter standing in front of their home.
Every week we offer a prayerful reflection from a member of the Unbound community. This week’s reflection is from Senior Writer Larry Livingston.

One of Unbound’s established program characteristics is decentralized decision-making. In a nutshell, it means we believe that sponsored individuals and their families know how to use their available resources better than somebody sitting in an office thousands of miles away.

It also means that Unbound, as an organization, is anchored in our belief in the capability of the human person. We understand that sponsored members don’t want their sponsors to save them, but to be their friends and companions as they find their own path out of poverty.

The commitment to decentralized decision-making has been a part of Unbound from the beginning. Our first preacher, Father Peter Hereley, recalled how important it was to our late co-founder, Bob Hentzen.

“I remember one thing Bob Hentzen said: ‘With the poor, all you have to do is give them a hand up and then get out of the way.’ He had such respect for the poor, it was remarkable. That impressed me.”

Please pray

Loving God, you have endowed the human person with abilities beyond our understanding. Help us to develop our own gifts and nurture the gifts of others. May we embrace the dignity of your Son and learn from his example of a human life, freely and joyfully lived. We ask this in your holy name. Amen.