Lent 2022 newsletter
Louise Locke, Bolivia
As we approach the Lenten season, I find myself meditating on the vulnerability of our Lord to be willing to become completely human in a specific time and place and to undergo persecution, immense suffering and even death for the sake of all of us.
As St. Paul says, “existing in the form of God, [He] did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:6-7). Our God, voluntarily becoming one of us in service to us so that we may know how much we are loved and learn how to love one another — it is mind-blowing to me!
After my first month in Cochabamba, Bolivia, I am finding that to become vulnerable is God’s invitation to me also. However, vulnerability is a state of being to which I am not accustomed, and it is uncomfortable. My 5’ 10” frame, white skin and inadequate Spanish mean that I can’t hide from scrutiny — which makes me feel vulnerable.
I am also having to get used to being dependent on others and asking for help, which isn’t easy for me. In my previous employment, I was very self-sufficient and loved my job working with seniors in a retirement community. I had been able to build relationships with them that were meaningful, mutual and satisfying. In Cochabamba, I am recognizing that I will have to start over again in finding community, forging relationships and figuring out where I fit into the life and people of Bolivia. It is all very humbling.
Thankfully, one of my colleagues here connected me with a group of people who are part of a world-wide organization called Sant’Egidio, which is a lay Catholic association comprised of volunteers dedicated to “prayer, the poor and peace.”
I am grateful for this connection because it not only introduced me to people living on the margins here in Cochabamba but also because I have been warmly embraced by this group in spite of my challenges in overcoming the language barrier. They accept me the way that I am, even if I am unable to communicate adequately yet or understand them completely. We somehow make do with sign language, smiles and good intentions.
Currently we spend one night a week bringing snacks, drinks and a compassionate presence to people living on the streets in downtown Cochabamba. The experience has taught me a lot about being vulnerable because the people we serve know the word intimately.
It is reflected in the weathered faces of the many elderly indigenous holding out hands or hats to me hoping for a little change to carry them through the day. It is reflected in the eyes of a homeless mother with three young daughters under 5.
It is reflected in the face of a girl, no more than 10, who touched me in a powerful way. I caught sight of her from the bus on my way home. She was sitting on a sidewalk, by herself, surrounded by a few scant possessions. Her face registered numbness — eyes staring blankly in front of her. As I watched, she picked up a blanket and threw it over herself, cutting off contact from an uncaring world.
I felt such pain and grief for her that it took me by surprise. As tears rolled down my cheeks, I reflected that God used this encounter to break into my hardened heart and show me what it means to be really vulnerable.
To quote Brené Brown, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
Toward the end of our ministry that day, a magnificent double rainbow filled the sky with its beauty. I thought of God showing me the way to embrace vulnerability and breaking into my life in unexpected and transformative ways and I felt profoundly grateful. I concluded that being vulnerable is not a feeling to be avoided but one to be embraced, celebrated, and shared because it draws us closer to the heart of God.
Please consider making a special Lenten gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign, which raises money for the recruitment, training and ongoing support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us. Thanks to matching gifts, every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. To donate ONLINE, click the “Walk With Us” button below. Thank you so much for your generosity!