Tag: Kelly Demo

Dec 4 2009

Health care around the world

By Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

As the health care debate in this country rages on, I began to wonder about insurance and government-run health programs in the countries in which CFCA works. Do they have insurance at all? What do government-run programs look like? Are they working, and is there anything that we can learn from them?

The British began large insurance companies in India back in the 1800s to cover their nationals living there. In 1870, Bombay Mutual Life was formed as the first native insurance provider. Since that time, the government-run programs have been by far the largest provider of health insurance. However, since 1999, government deregulation has allowed for more private companies to enter the market. Only .2 percent of Indians are covered by insurance.

A CFCA clinic in IndiaAccording to Dan Pearson, CFCA director of program development and operations, ìThe cost of health care tends to be a lot lower in some countries. When we lived in India, we took my son to a private clinic for stitches. They put him under with anesthesia and everything, and the whole bill was under $40. Even those prices are way beyond what most of the CFCA families can afford, so they let injuries and illnesses go untreated, unless they are life threatening. Preventive health care is not even on the radar for most of the families.î However, CFCA mothers groups in India use their shared resources to respond to familiesí medical needs.

In hearing from many of our families in various projects around the world, not only is insurance not an option for them, but the government-run hospitals and clinics where care is more affordable are of very poor quality.

This is certainly true in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. There is a mandated government-run health care system of which most CFCA employees are a part. However, the care provided is often sub-standard.

Surprisingly, one bright spot in the health care struggle is Madagascar. According to USAID, the agency gave a grant to the government of Madagascar who began five community-based insurance programs in five counties. This was started because often those living in rural communities will have an influx of cash during the harvest and have more ability to attend to health issues, but will be cash poor later in the growing season.

Members of the community make an annual contribution to the insurance fund that can be paid in cash or crops. All of their health care expenses are then covered for that year. In 2005, the child mortality rate in these areas dropped to an astonishing 5 percent because of access to preventive health care and immunizations. The program has been so successful the government is expanding the program across the country.

Clearly, without sponsorship money most of the CFCA families around the world would be without health care benefits. Fortunately, because of sponsorship and special funds like Healthy Communities Fund and Project Needs Fund, CFCA field staff are given the flexibility and resources to help families in times of medical emergencies.

Sep 22 2009

Seeing is believingÖand I am a believer

By Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

I have preached on behalf of CFCA for more than a year and a half now. I knew how CFCA worked and how it changed lives and transformed entire communities. I got it.

Or, at least, I thought I did until I went on a mission awareness trip to El Salvador. Only then did I truly understand the goodness, the Godliness of what is happening in our projects. I offer two examples.

On the first full day in El Salvador, our little band of travelers was taken to a small area in Santa Ana. CFCA has had a strong presence there for many years now. We were warmly welcomed by the sponsored children and their families and introduced to leaders who have risen up from the community to take on planning and visioning responsibilities. The atmosphere was one of excitement and pride. The mothers group was eager to show the skirts, purses and towels they were learning to sew. We were told about the community sewing co-op that is starting up, and children came forward to present each of us with a bag that had been sewn by the mothers.

I looked at the parents and children and saw a community of hope that was looking to the future and knowing that, while things may not be easy, there were others who were walking the journey with them.

Cut to scene two. CFCA has just entered into a relationship with the people of Chilcuyo, a town about an hour outside Santa Ana. We were the first group of sponsors to visit, and there were no sponsored children (yet!). We were again greeted by the beautiful children of the town, but there was anxiety underlying the excitement. They did not know what to expect. They had never received a group from CFCA, but more than that, there was a palpable anxiety to life in this town. There was fear. Fear of crime, of hunger, of isolation, and of the future.

When I compared these two towns, I saw clearly how CFCA is making an impact on entire communities, by impacting one person at a time. As each person develops, so develops the town, the area, the country and, in time, the world.

Jul 16 2009

Serious fun: part 4

By Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

Soccer has grown from an obscure game played by a handful of kids to being the most popular, organized sport for children in the U.S. With more than 3 million youth registered each year in formal leagues, soccer has firmly established itself as part of the American childhood.

Without knowing it, kids who play soccer here in the U.S. are aligning themselves with the millions, perhaps billions, of children worldwide who play soccer (more commonly known as ìfootballî). However, these kids in developing countries donít always experience soccer with minivans, uniforms, coaches and juice boxes waiting for them when they are done. These are the kids who find any round object and a group of friends and play wherever they can find an open space. They run barefoot, kicking the ball through a goal they have fashioned out of scrap metal or their imaginations.

Henry Flores, director of the CFCA Communications Center in El Salvador, says that CFCA staff will often organize soccer games with the scholarship students because they find this to be a great way for staff to connect with the youth.

ìWith these games we are telling the students, ëWe want to spend time with you!í î Henry also observes that soccer is only fun when you play with others. It is a community sport. It unifies responsibility, ability and discipline.

Marissa Gargaro plays soccer during a mission awareness trip to El Salvador.“Plus, you donít need lots of equipment, just a 25-cent ball and a small space in your community. You often see children in the different communities who spend hours playing street soccer. When a vehicle is passing trough you hear, ëGAME OFF / GAME ON!í to let the children know.”

Often, when there have been teen mission awareness trip groups, the staff will organize soccer games because it is a simple way to break the ice, create community and strengthen bonds of friendship. “And,” says Henry, “You need no translator for it.”

In your next letter, have your soccer kid ask their sponsored friend about “football” in their country. Do they enjoy playing? Does their country have a national soccer team? Talk with them about the idea that they are in solidarity with their friend simply by playing soccer. What similarities does your child see in the way their friend plays football, and how soccer is experienced here in the States? What are the differences?

Related links
Serious fun, part 1
Serious fun, part 2
Serious fun: Creative play

Jul 1 2009

Serious fun, part 2

By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

Upon my return from a mission awareness trip to El Salvador, my children were greatly interested in the details of the trip. I told them about our day spent on a volcano, showed them a jar of sand from the beach and pictures of all the beautiful people I met. And, I kept wistfully talking about pupusas, calling them ìSalvadoran comfort food.î

We decided to make pupusas, and we had the most fun! They are so simple to make and so wonderful to eat. The best part, however, was how making dinner together easily fell into a lesson about solidarity. For instance: at first, our dough was too dry. As I went to the sink for more water, I started talking about how hard it often is for the women to get water and how easy it is for us. The kids asked questions about where the water comes from for the Salvadorans and began to understand how a simple faucet is a luxury.

As we pulled the cheese from the refrigerator, my daughter asked me how they keep things cold with no electricity. So, we talked about how they have to go to market every day to buy food since people in developing countries generally donít have a refrigerator. (My kids hate going to the grocery store, so the idea of going to market every day really hit home!)

Below is the recipe for pupusas (they are super easy for kids to make), but we encourage you to do a little research to find kid-friendly recipes from the country where your sponsored friend lives. As you cook with your children or grandchildren, talk with them about what it must be like for their friend to cook. How is it the same? How is it different? Tell them what an indescribable luxury meat is in most countries, but how easily we have access to it here. Have them picture walking up to a mile to fetch water for cooking (this is often the job of children in a family).

Pupusas
(Please supervise children closely during the cooking.)

Ingredients:
2 c. Masa harina (this is a corn flour that can be found in most grocery stores)
1 c. Water
Filling can be grated cheese, refried beans, veggies, whatever!

1. In a bowl mix the Masa harina and water. Knead it well. If you need to, add a teaspoon of water at a time to get a consistency similar to play dough. Set the dough aside to rest for 10 minutes.

2. Roll a ball of dough a little smaller than the size of a baseball and, with your thumb, press a hole in the middle. Pinch the sides a bit to make the hole bigger. Put some of the filling in the hole and pinch it shut. Now comes the fun part. Slap the dough from hand to hand, pressing it out flat. But make sure none of the filling leaks out. They should end up about º – Ω inch thick.

3. Heat an ungreased skillet over medium heat. Cook each pupusa for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown on each side. Serve with salsa.

Related links
Serious fun, part 1
Serious fun: Creative play
Make Filipino oatmeal soup
CFCA food benefits in Kenya

Jun 23 2009

What is the good news?

By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

Time and again in scripture, and in my life, I find that people define God through the lens of their own life. Scripture says Jesus came to bring good news to the poor. On my trip to El Salvador, I asked several people what this good news is.

Their answers told me much about where they are in their lives and their relationship with God.

Liberation and salvation
I first asked this of a charismatic priest who celebrates Mass in the town of Tacuba. He is loved by the community, and sees himself as a servant of the people. What is the good news Jesus brings to the poor? ìLiberaciÛn y salvaciÛn.î

He said that without God we are all poor, and that we are all equal in the eyes of God. As a priest, it is his job to pastor everyone in the church, both wealthy and poor. So, the good news for him is equality.

A real presence
For Henry Flores, the good news was when Jesus said, ìI will always be with you.î Henry is the director of the CFCA Communication Center in El Salvador and has been a project director in El Salvador for years. He said that prayers are answered every day in very tangible ways, be it money, food, or just a helping hand. ìSomeone needs help and help always comes.î

It was Henryís job for many years to make sure that the children receive what they need. It is natural that the good news for Henry is that real presence, the help of Jesus in their daily lives.

A better life waits
Tim Clancy sponsors 10 children through CFCA. He is a deeply generous and caring man. The good news for the poor in Timís eyes is that, while things here on Earth are bad, a better life awaits them with God in heaven. Tim talked a lot about his frustration at not being able to do more, despite his multiple sponsorships. But the good news for Tim is knowing that God will make it better for the poor in the next life.

0109HenryFloresCH587523(6)Everyone is important to God
I asked Rosa, a 34-year-old mother of three boys, two of whom are sponsored. She is the poor for whom the good news was given. Her answer took my breath away. ìIt is that God will never throw me away like an old piece of bread.î

The good news that Jesus brings to Rosa is that, no matter what the world sees when they look at her, she knows that, in Godís eyes, she is important.

I am deeply grateful for those I have met on my journey who have shared their stories with me. It is in these stories that I find the good news.

What do you think is the good news Jesus brings to the poor?

Apr 8 2009

A present-day transformation

Lenten reflection: Week 7
By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

ìLord, remember not only the men and women of good will but all those of ill will. Do not only remember all the suffering they have subjected us to. Remember the fruits we brought forth thanks to this suffering ñ our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, and generosity, the greatness of heart that all of this inspired. And when they come to judgment, let all these fruits we have born be their reward and their forgiveness.î
-Words scratched on the wall of a concentration camp in Germany

Transformative power: that is what bursts forth out of the tomb on Easter morning. The power of God to change that which was ugly to something beautiful. Changing darkness into light and destroying death to give us the chance for a real life. That is what we celebrate on Easter morning. Somewhere amidst the candy and Easter eggs we find the message that no matter how hard we try to get rid of God, we cannot and that God will transform our lives and our world if we only let God in.

If a woman in India is a widow or comes into a marriage with little dowry, she is seen as a burden and written off as worthless. This is a rather practical consideration for a family living on the edge because she is seen as not contributing to the family and is, instead, just another mouth to feed.

For the thousands of women who participate in CFCA mothers groups, however, they are given the chance to begin small businesses and bring income to the family. They are literally transformed in the eyes of their family members, as well as in their own eyes. They are given a new-found dignity and respect.

There are elderly in our projects who, after a life of hardship and struggle, were slipping away all alone, bereft of help or companionship. But, they are now part of a life-giving CFCA community where they can watch out for each other and care for each other.

And then there are the children. Hundreds of thousands of children that our sponsors have watched over the years transform into confident young adults. Our sponsors have seen the change from the first pictures of the small children, dressed in borrowed clothes, looking much too small for their age. Sponsors have watched them grow, overcome obstacles in their path and reach maturity with the ability and confidence to use their God-given gifts and talents.

Through womenís empowerment in the mothers groups, a childís maturity into adulthood and the companionship of the elderly, we are given the opportunity to watch, in present day, the transformative power of God that burst forth from the tomb on the first Easter morning. It is an amazing thing to watch God in action.

Happy Easter

From all of us at CFCA around the world, we wish you a most blessed and glorious Easter!

Mar 18 2009

Concern for the whole person

Lenten reflection: Week 4p1000566
By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

Lent, as we know, is a time of preparation and self-reflection. It is a time set aside to examine our relationship with God and our need for healing in our own lives. Scripture shows us time and again that God is greatly concerned with our wholeness, in mind, body and spirit. In fact, ìwholenessî and ìholinessî come from the same word that means ìcompleteness.î

In 2 Kings, Chapter 4, we hear a strange and wonderful story of Elisha bringing a family back to wellness and wholeness. Like Sarah before her, God promised a Shunammite woman a son in her old age. God kept that promise but years later the young boy died. However, God would not forget his promise and, through Elisha, brought the boy back to life, restoring the faith of the mother.

CFCAís benefits are structured to follow this guideline of concern for the whole person and the family. We do not simply feed children. Nor do we just educate them or see to their medical concerns. We are concerned for the whole person and we walk with them and bring others along to do the same.

Take, for instance, a widow in Guatemala whose son was sponsored through CFCA. The woman was suffering from depression and because of her†illness she was unable to move forward in her life. She was unable even to address the health concerns of her son. He began to have trouble in school, and it was believed to be because of hearing loss.

CFCA was helping this family financially, but it was not until we brought in another CFCA mother to minister to the little boyís mother that changes started happening. It took more than just the CFCA staff to help this woman back to health in mind, body and spirit. It took God working through someone who was not that different from her, to help heal her.

God, as the ultimate and perfect parent, is deeply concerned for the wholeness of each of his†6-billion-plus children. We need only open ourselves to the Spirit and to our fellow travelers through whom the Spirit works.

Reflection questions:
1. Where do you need healing in your life in mind, body or spirit?
2. Who might God be placing in your path who needs the gifts you have to offer for their healing?

Mar 11 2009

Finding our voice

Lenten reflection: Week 3
By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

In the Gospel of John, we see Jesus entering the Temple in a fury of righteous anger at the unjust practices of Temple and driving out the money changers and vendors. He knew his fellow Jews had to pay to buy Temple sacrifices. Thus, a system of commerce had been established for Temple worship that would exclude the poor who could not pay to worship. (John 2:13-22)

At CFCA, we do not get involved in the politics of the countries or local areas where we work. However, just as Jesus became a voice for the poor and took on those who would keep them subjugated so, too, when poor find they have a voice (both personally and as a community), they discover the strength to take on the powers that keep them oppressed.

In Hyderabad, India, there is a CFCA community called Church Colony. It is about half a mile from the main road, so everyone walked that unpaved distance to catch a bus or get anywhere. The women in the CFCA mothers groups went to the local officials to demand that the city pave their “road” so vehicles could get to their community and walking would be easier. The local officials agreed. Then, the mothers asked the officials to pay their community members to do the construction, instead of outside laborers. Again, they agreed. So, Church Colony got a road as well as some temporary employment.

After some time, the women returned to the officials to say that the road was great, but they needed it to be well-lit at night for safety reasons. They got their lights.

The women then turned their attention to water. The community only had access to water a few hours a day, but the adjacent neighborhood (which is slightly better off) had water all day, every day. The women realized that, because of the way the local roads were laid out, people from the neighboring community often used the new road the women had petitioned for.

They organized a blockade of the road, aimed at people from the neighboring community and said that they would share the use of the road if the neighboring community would share its water. Now Church Colony has water all day, too.

Sometimes making changes in society requires righteous anger, marching, protesting and turning over tables, like Jesus did in the Temple. But not always. Creative community building, tapping into gifts of the individuals in the group, and a little non-violent opposition can go a long way toward changing opinions.

Reflection questions:
1. When have you ever felt indignation or anger? Looking back, was it warranted or were there other motives?
2. What are the elements in our society that do (or should) make us angry, and what does God require of us at such times?

Watch a video about this community in India >

Mar 4 2009

Freedom from thinking about yourself

Lenten reflection: Week two
By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

“Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all.” -William Temple

If this is true then what on earth am I supposed to think about? In my little world how can I not think about my next meal, fret about my finances, or worry about my work, my future, my car, my marriage, my, my, my? Even some concerns about my children are really fears about my own parenting.

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mk.8:34)

This is a call to deny the self. That is, to recognize our powerlessness. When we take our “self” out of the picture, what is left? God and others. In fact, the practice of giving up something for Lent (chocolate, meat, etc.) or taking on something for Lent (attending Mass everyday, visiting the sick, reading scripture daily) is simply an exercise that helps us in the greater practice of giving up ourselves to God. When we engage in whatever discipline we have taken on for Lent, for that moment our desires are placed to the side and God is at the heart of our decisions and our lives.

When we put God and others first in every decision we make, starting the moment we wake up, our day will begin to look a little different. I can sleep late or get up and pray. I can have a fast-food breakfast or I can eat healthy, locally grown food. I can drive myself to work or I can carpool, walk or take a bus. I can complain about my co-workers or I can compliment them. I can watch TV or play a game with my family, or sit down and write a letter to my sponsored friend.

This is what CFCA is talking about when we use the phrase “walking in daily solidarity with the poor.” When we put God and others – ALL others ñ first, we have taken up the cross that Christ bears for the world and have begun to walk with Him, for Him and toward Him.

Reflection questions:
1. In what ways do you put yourself before God or others? What can you do to become more other-centered?
2. Where in your life do you find that you do deny yourself and live for God and others? How is that part of your life different?

Feb 25 2009

Our interconnected world

Lent is a time for personal reflection. Traditionally Christians engage in acts of self-denial as a means of personal discipline and awareness of the sacrifices of Christ. It is also a good time to recognize these acts of self-denial as a way to grow in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in developing countries, for whom going without is a way of life.
Every Wednesday throughout Lent we will post a reflection that we hope will help with your own personal Lenten journey.

Lenten reflection: Week one
By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

The story of the flood has given biblical scholars in all three Abrahamic faith traditions much to ponder over the years. Written during the Babylonian exile, it tells of a people wiped into non-existence by their own sinfulness.

In Genesis, we hear of the first covenant that God makes with His creation. ìThis is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations.î (Gen. 9:12-13) The interconnectedness found between God, humankind and all of creation is firmly established.

It is easy in the world we live in to feel separate from creation. We buy our meat cleanly packaged, giving little or no thought to the life that was taken so that we could eat. We have grown accustomed to having whatever fruit or vegetable we want, regardless of the season and how far it had to travel to get to us.

At CFCA, we do our best to recognize the interplay between humans, creation and the divine. We hold up as examples the Dumagat people of the Philippines. When they sleep at night they choose not to sleep on a mat or bed. They sleep on the ground because they want to ìsleep in their motherís arms.î That is how intimate they are with all of creation.

Look at those in our projects who survive on subsistence farming, and you will see the tenacious and dynamic interplay between themselves, God and all that God has created.

Reflection questions:
1. Has there been a time when you have felt your world was completely washed away? During that time where did you find hope?
2. How would you describe your relationship with creation? Landlord? Caretaker? Parasite? Friend? Or something else?
3. The Christian faith teaches us that nature is not God but that God can be found within nature. When was a time when you experienced God in nature?