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Hope stands.
Hi. It’s a warm December evening in Mombasa and I’m enjoying our newly-hung Christmas lights and Christmas carols being sung by the voices inside my computer.  We are now entering the last week of advent.  Someone told me yesterday that it’s like the final stretch of a horse race when everyone is on their feet with excitement. I must say this year I feel more like I’m one of the horses trying to make it to the finish line.  My ministry is supporting the education of children who have been orphaned by AIDS.  The school year starts again on January 3rd.  The holiday season has become mixed with buying pencils, pens, notebooks, erasers, and balancing my 2011 budget so that I can pay 2012 school fees in time for the high school students to take their post-holiday exams  on the 4th.
On Friday I toured the Kenya Port – the gateway of goods to East Africa – with some of my students. I was most amazed not by the tons of goods, types of ships, 2400 cars per ship, etc, but by my students. We have been accompanying a group of 18 in career counseling for the past four months. I struggle to know how best to help them, but this is one new mechanism we’ve tried. If only we could translate their intelligent questions into an education system that honors differences in learning styles, their self-reflection into skills that help them succeed academically, their hopes into an economy that offers opportunities for young people without connections or top notch grades.
Since the tour ended earlier than expected, we managed to fit in a trip to Fort Jesus, a testament to the 16th century Portuguese presence and power in Mombasa. On it, the students found the painting above.  It’s messages are hopeful ones for a chronic disease like HIV.  Hope is vital.
This weekend I have been reminded to set aside my expectations of how many Christmas cookies I can bake and be present to the coming of God in our midst.  This time of advent is to be a time of waiting in hope for Christmas – for a new beginning in the new year – for new life to be born again within us – to believe in not only possibilities but also in miracles.

Erik Cambier
Erik Cambier served as Maryknoll lay missioner for 25 years, in Tanzania, the United States, Venezuela and El Salvador.