Faith Journeys

We have collected a series of articles which represent what faith means to the ordinary person.

My Garden

Sometimes my mind reminds me of my garden -full of things I don’t want or need, but which seem to grow much more profusely than the things I am trying to nurture. The time I spend sitting quietly in church each week serves as my ‘mind clearing’ time when I clear out all the clutter and concentrate on the things that matter – the rest gets dumped in my mental compost bin! Life is so busy we rarely have time to just sit and think and when we do we are interrupted by the phone, the family, work – and we need to respond to all of those things but it doesn’t leave much time for quiet thought. So, as well as listening to the liturgy I value my quiet time every week – after all, who needs a head full of nettles?!

Inner Calm

In our busy lives, filled with all manner of distractions; be they children, work, social or community – how much time do we give to our self? Not just time relaxing with our friends or in front of mindless TV, but quality time with our self, listening to that still quiet voice inside?

‘Which little voice?’ you may ask, ‘ I have so many.’

That small one, yes that one, the one we hardly notice amongst all the internal arguments, contradictions, opinions, judgments and discontents. We always hear the constant chatter of our minds, essential for our human uniqueness, yet amongst all of this is our golden inner voice, often called the God within.

How can we spend time listening to that voice? The essential voice that will bring us stillness and peace, that will help to guide us, will lead us to everyday freedom and joy, will be our friend? How much time will you spend today to sincerely seek your God within?

Reading the Bible

To be properly understood, the Bible must be read and understood as one book. That means that any particular part of the bible must be understood in the context of the whole Bible. If read piecemeal, it will be found that the Bible seems to contradict itself on many occasions. That is one reason why some people, who claim to follow the Bible, may believe and teach contradictory things.

The Bible is a book about God and man. It is a book about the relationship which exists between God and man. The Bible was written by human beings – many different human beings – and tells us what these people thought about God.

Each of these persons had a different relationship with God and their writings reflect these differing relationships. For example one man’s relationship with God may be one of awe and fear while another’s relationship with God may be one of love and trust. The writings of the former may portray God as someone to be feared while the writings of the latter may portray God as a loving and forgiving father. The perspective of any one writer does not give us a complete picture of God but the perspectives of all the writers together give us a more complete picture of God.

Prayer

A few years ago I was having a problem with one of my children – nothing serious, but I felt there was a distance between us and I needed advice and help. I discussed it with my friends who had children of the same age but I didn’t feel any better. I went to my mother – after all she’d brought me up and was an expert! But I still didn’t feel better. I read a few childcare books – no help there either. Then I lay in bed one night feeling depressed and a failure as a mother – and I asked God for help. From that day on the problem faded, communication was better and my child and I became friends again. But why did I use God as the last resort? Shouldn’t I have been discussing the problem with him from day one? I still make the same mistake, I forget that God is always there and always listening – perhaps one day I’ll learn to ask Him first . . .

Forgiveness

Have you ever been really hurt by someone and become full of bitterness? Do you go over and over the hurt in your mind thinking – if only I’d said this, or if only I’d done that? Do you imagine the scenario where you make your point with fluency and “come out on top”? Sometimes it seems impossible to put the incident out of your mind. So do something radical, try praying for the person. It’s really hard but as time goes by it becomes easier and you’ll discover that your enemy is in fact a fellow human being who is loved by God just as much as you are. The wall you’ve built between “you and him” will disappear and you’ll find that it’s impossible to remain angry with someone for whom you’ve really and truly prayed. You’ll start speaking differently to them or about them, and the past, with its hurt, can be put behind you.

On Prayer

Most of us know at least one prayer that we say on occasions like weddings and funerals: I am thinking about the Lord’s Prayer. I also expect that when we have been in a tight corner, perhaps hearing bad news about an ill friend, we find ourselves saying something like “Please let him get better”. Whether we use words that we learnt as a child or find words in the moment, we are praying and I have recently been wondering what that means. The Assyrians, a very ancient civilisation, described praying as ‘opening one’s fist’ and I find this a thought-provoking image. In praying, however we pray, we let down our defences and allow ourselves to be vulnerable, which can be scary. However, in letting go of the tension of a closed fist, we also relax. We can then be open to the help that will surely come both from those around us and from the source of help that never ends.

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Cross Stitch

I have been an avid cross-stitcher for 13 years now. Most of the designs I work are simple ones that only take a few hours to complete but occasionally I like to get my teeth into something more challenging that can have hundreds of stitches in it and take months to finish. It’s often hard to see a picture emerging while I’m sewing one small patch at a time and the more colours I use the messier and more complicated the back of the work becomes. At times like that I look forward to finishing so I can step back and see the full picture in all its glory.

Life can be like the back of a cross stitch picture. At the time it’s hard to see what’s going on and it can be messy in places. Only when we reach the end can we turn the fabric over and see the full beauty of the completed design. -The One working on our tapestries knows what He is doing even if we can’t see it at the time.

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Looking for Help? Where can you turn?

Sometimes, these days, when you want advice or help in this busy, selfish and superficial world – it seems that there is no-where to go and no-one to turn to – do you know what I mean?

Well – help is usually near, there is a quiet place to go to and think and people to provide advice. Where? Well, a church, with clergy and parishioners. However, in many ways, churches are like pubs. You may not like the landlord, the other customers, the decor or the ambience – so, sometimes we have to look at more than one church to find the one that suits us as individuals. But, and this is the important point, it is worth looking. There is peace and quiet and calm, to sit and think and pray. There are people and organizations to offer help in almost every conceivable way.

So – when it feels as though you’ve no-one to turn to, turn to God, he’s there – listening and waiting. God Bless.

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Living Christianity

Christianity is not a private matter between oneself and God. Christianity is the Family of God striving to help one another in their need, supporting one another in time of trial and suffering, sharing with one another in times of joy and in times of sorrow and coming together as one family from time to time to praise and thank God our Father.

You cannot be a member of a Church ‘on your own’. It is a contradiction in terms. A Church is a community of people who know each other and are aware of the needs of each other, a community who care for and help each other and share what they have so that nobody goes in serious need. How can we come together as one family to praise and thank God our Father if, in between, we do not live as one family? Perhaps that is why many of us seem to get so little help from our prayer, our reception of the Sacraments and our attendance at weekend services?

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EastEnders

Dot in EastEnders, what a character; stiff, upright and fearful of God. How the lives of the other characters could be transformed with more appreciation of what she tried to say.

Take this Bible quote:

“Listen my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path ” (Proverbs 23:19 )

If Dot had said this, I am sure Kat’s thought would be “listen to what? I don’t know what to listen to.” Isn’t she like many of us, so deeply involved with our own thoughts that we can’t even begin to imagine how to listen to our hearts? Perhaps Kat does try, so what is she missing?

She is missing God’s Word spoken from her heart. Not fully engaging with her heart’s voice, nor understanding how right and wrong can be discovered through listening to God’s Word spoken from our hearts. The power of ‘Lust and Sin’, as Dot calls it, overtakes the heart’s great voice. Remember, Dot might say to Kat’s distress, “And Peter remembered the word of Jesus…and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75).

Try to listen to your heart today, hear the precious words from God and be sincere on working out the right actions for your day.

Living With, Not Dying From

When I was asked to write this article, my first reaction was to refuse, because it involved writing about myself. However, I had second thoughts, and agreed to write about the cancer with which I have now been living for fifteen years. Cancer is a sensitive topic, which needs to be handled with care. It is not a single disease, but takes on many forms: two people might have the same form of cancer, but it may behave differently in each. The treatment for cancer has to be tailor-made for each patient, and the reactions of two patients on the same treatment may vary radically. Finally, the patient’s own attitude to the cancer has a key role in dealing with the illness. The reason why I feel I should write this, is that I feel the more cancer is demystified, the better, and the only way I know to do that is to speak openly and frankly about it myself.

Shortly after my mother died of cancer in 1981 (aged barely 60), I heard a programme on Radio 4, in which were outlined four basic mental states in the face of cancer, and the effect that they had on the course the illness took. There were the people who were extremely angry, and fought the disease tooth and nail – they tended to survive. There were those who absolutely refused to acknowledge the illness, without actually refusing the treatment offered – they tended to survive. There were those who resigned themselves to the disease, and accepted it – they tended to die sooner rather than later. Finally, there were those who simply went to pieces, fell apart, as it were – predictably, they died fairly quickly. It was only after listening to this programme that I finally realised that my mother, who had been a ‘fighter’ all her life, had not fought her cancer at all: she had deliberately ignored the early signs, so that by the time she was diagnosed, the cancer had spread, and she died a bare three months later, with cancer in every tissue of her body. Tired of fighting, she had embraced her cancer as a release from a life of toil and turmoil.

When I was myself diagnosed with breast cancer in 1991, I still believed that I was like my mother. My greatest fear, as I was taken to theatre for my biopsy, was that, if I did have cancer, I would react to it in the same way as she had. I need not have worried: when I got the news I was extremely angry, and raged against the disease that had invaded me, and vowed to fight it with all my might. From the start, I have always asked questions of my consultant: how can you fight something if you do not know what you are fighting? I have always asked for, and received straight answers, however bad the news might be. From the start, I have always spoken openly about it, when asked -although I do not volunteer the information. The more cancer is talked about, the less mysterious, and the less powerful it becomes. Time and time again I have been told by others how much it has helped them that I have been prepared to speak openly about the cancer.

Ten years on, after surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy, including seven years on Tamoxifen, I was given the ‘All Clear’ in December 2001 (the day before the birth of my first grandchild!). However, in the summer of 2003 (just before the birth of my second grandchild), I developed what seemed to be a more acute form of the arthritis I have had for thirty years, and investigation of a condition that was crippling me, revealed a stenosis of the spine, but, more significantly, revealed that the cancer had returned, this time in a much more serious form. An MRI scan revealed that I now had bone cancer, chiefly in my spine, worst where the stenosis was, making it impossible for that to be operated on. I also had a soft tissue tumour in my neck (how I had missed that I’ll never know – it was the size of pigeon’s egg!)

Even before that cancer was confirmed, I was prescribed an oral chemotherapy, which within a week had visibly shrunk the soft tissue tumour in my neck (this disappeared altogether within three months), but the bone cancer continued to spread, albeit slowly. Two years of chemotherapy followed, trying one type after another, as each ceased to be effective. Some had savage side effects, and I fetched up in hospital on several occasions, because of a suppressed immune system. About fifty per cent of cancer patients have in their blood a useful protein that acts as a tumour marker. I am lucky enough to be one of those, and this marker (CA15.3) is monitored by regular blood tests. In the course of the two years of treatment, the tumour marker was brought down from 4400 (about 35 is normal!) to 735, last summer, at which point I was given a rest from aggressive treatment.

At that time I started to take a whole range of ‘alternative remedies’, on the shotgun principle – fire at the cancer anything that might do good and will not do harm. For some three months I was taking Essiac herbs (an ancient American-Indian mix of eight herbs), Goji juice from the Himalayan wolfberry (imported at great expense from the USA), and Zango (mangosteen juice from the Far East), and I was feeling absolutely on top of the world, full of life and energy. Unfortunately, though, within weeks, the tumour marker had risen to 3000, where it has stayed.

The pain that is an inevitable part of this disease is kept under control by an enormous battery of painkillers, but at the end of November I began to have new and different pains, and suspected that there was something seriously wrong. My consultant agreed, and an urgent CT scan confirmed my worst fears – the cancer has taken up residence in my liver. Doctors hate to give prognoses, but I needed to know how much time the doctors thought I had. They give me six months, depending on how I react to the course of chemotherapy I have now started. This prognosis does not take into consideration my own determination to fight on against the odds. I am not a quitter!

I firmly believe that seventy-five per cent of fighting cancer, is sheer bloody-mindedness. I refuse to let this thing win. I have seen with my own eyes just how much control it is possible to exert over one’s own body. During one of my stays in hospital, there was a patient in my bay who had been operated on for bowel cancer. One evening, when she had been on the ward for a few days, her consultant came to see her, and (it is impossible not to eavesdrop in those small wards) he told her that in spite of the surgery, they had not been able completely to remove her cancer, and he then moved on to talk about palliative care. This was at seven o’clock. By eight o’clock, she was dead. She had decided to die and simply switched herself off. It was profoundly shocking to witness, but it reinforced my belief in the power of mind over matter. I have chosen to employ that power positively.

I am constantly being told how brave I am, how courageous, and so on. But I am not brave, and I am not courageous. Were I afraid, then facing cancer in the way I do would be brave, would be courageous. But I am not afraid. I am facing the beast, and I am fighting it, but I am not afraid of it, nor am I afraid of death. Naturally, I have no wish to die for a very long time – I have far too much to live for – and in the meantime I am living the life I want to live, and am living it to the full. I am serene, and happy, and, for the most part comfortable, although I am very well aware that this is possible only because of my excellent pain-management regime. Now, there, there I am a total coward: I can put up with pretty well anything this disease and its treatment can throw at me, so long as I am not having to cope with pain.

Although I am officially designated ‘terminal’, with a six-month prognosis, I am not dying from cancer, I am living with it, as I have done for the past fifteen years – and I intend to clock up a great deal more years yet! – Gale Curry

Gale’s battle with cancer ended on 24 April 2006. We will miss her greatly. May she rest in peace.

WUSIWYG

WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get), is an expression which comes from the world of computers. But in my experience of computers you don’t always get what you think you are seeing! That’s also true of many people. It is certainly true of me. I’m certain because of the number of times I hear (or more often see the look which says) ‘I’m surprised at you!!’ We all have a public face and a private one too, kept for those whom we trust and of course for God. God knows me through and through. The psalmist says it all:

Yahweh, you examine me and know me, You know if I am sitting or standing, You read my thoughts from far away, Whether I walk or lie down, you are watching, You know every detail of my conduct.

Surprisingly, I find this a great comfort, (Unlike Moses, a man brave enough to approach a burning bush in the desert and then terrified when he heard the voice of God. The bible says ‘Moses hid lest he saw the face of God). And this is a Jesus gift, an Easter gift. For it was Jesus who taught us to know and call God Abba, Father.

Yes, God for me is my creator but also my father, my trusted, ever present companion.

This is a prayer I found many years ago. It has just three lines.

The first line:- I thank you Lord for knowing me better than I know myself.

This is a great blessing. God understands. I don’t’ have to explain myself nor make any excuses. God knows me and accepts me and loves me as I am. I don’t have to explain myself because God already knows my hopes, my fears, and my concerns. When my best intentions disintegrate He is there full of patience and encouragement.

The second line has more bite:- I thank you Lord for letting me know myself better than others know me. (repeat) -there are many out there who don’t agree with this one!

This to me is a vital gift. This gives me a safe haven, a space where I am safe from outsider’s criticisms and judgement. ‘Know all’ comments, nit picking, tut tuts, put downs. And it’s also in that space that I can look at myself, know myself and admit to my failings and get to work on them. And God is there as a welcome friend and mentor.

When He knows I am ready, I get the practical suggestions as to how I can brush up the better bits and chip away at the rest. Then the third line of the prayer has a chance.

I thank you Lord for knowing me better than I know myself.

And I thank you Lord for letting me know myself better than others know me.

Make me better than they suppose and forgive me for what they don’t know.

Listening and not hearing but seeing and believing

I fractured my wrist after falling when Vic and I were moving a sack of twigs in the garden. My first thought was pain, coinciding with several expletives, then secondly “oh no”, because having a busy husband, not being able to drive perhaps, 2 hairy dogs, washing, housework, shopping, cooking and a million tomatoes to “pot on”, produced immediate frustration, tears and tantrums, until I finally realised that, yes, I think God is trying to tell me something like a loving Father does (even if I don’t see it is for a good reason).

As a child I can always remember thinking there was always a reason for everything and sometimes, much later you found the answer but not always so I assumed I might find out when I died!!!! Anyway I am just coming to terms with the go-slow routine over a week later. Like a previous contributor I have a garden. After years of Army life moving every 2 years we moved back to the UK and my lovely husband provided me with a blank canvas to create a garden….my dearest wish. You see, I find God in the garden ——-in His creation ——watching something sprout, blossom or provide some fresh food out of the earth, itself a source of nutrients and insect life. At this time of year it is a symphony as each bulb, bush, tree and flower rises to life in glory. Our garden holds so many gifts and memories. Yes, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit—– with us always. Even the birds sing His praises. Thank you Lord and sorry I get grumpy!!!!!!! Jan S.

Iona

In May I found myself transported to the wild, beautiful Hebridean island of Iona. St Columba and his fellow monks left Ireland as penitents and arrived on Iona at Pentecost 563 AD. They scrambled up the beach and legend has it they climbed a hill to the west of this bay (known as St Columba’s Bay) to confirm that Ireland couldn’t be seen. “The Hill of the Back to Ireland” as it was known was an important landmark to them for many reasons! This event seems so long ago but Geologists have dated rocks on Iona to 2700 million years old and probably communities were working the land about 3500BC. Through the ages it encompassed all manner of beliefs and practices but Christianity prevails and thrives in this ecumenical island.

I was privileged to stay at Cnoc a’ Chalmain … the Hill of the Dove. …..the RC house of prayer which, of course, is open to all faiths or none! The Colmcille Trust was established to promote Christian unity by the building of the latter with a view to being involved with the established ecumenical movement. I must admit that initially my pilgrimage took a turn for the worse as I moaned like a child… “is it much further?” when tiredness took its toll. Even an overnight stay in Oban didn’t quite erase the memory of a journey by car, bus, train, plane, coach, with ferry, bus and ferry again to complete the journey! Thank goodness I didn’t accompany St Columba and in any case I am not a saint (yet?)!

On the next day, my flagging spirits lifted immediately at the initial glimpse of turquoise sea and the wonderful welcome that came in the person of Sr Jean (who, to me, bore an amazing likeness to special friend Hilda Jefferson RIP) lifted. A comfortable room with a sea view too, such a feeling of almost coming home in the peaceful lounge overlooking a pretty bird filled garden and the seashore from its hillside position. That evening we attended a Eucharistic service in the Oratory; such a beautiful chapel with its cross of Iona marble and small fountain guarding the altar and a panoramic sea view beyond the curved windows. To the right of the altar an ornate golden door in the wall holds the Blessed Sacrament. An opening hymn, sung unaccompanied, the service and closing CD music often chosen so carefully to welcome or bid farewell … very spiritual.

Apart from one morning when I overslept (anyone watching “The Convent” on TV will appreciate how I felt), my days began and ended with a voluntary visit to the Oratory to listen to God and give thanks. Lunches were devoured with gusto in local hotels after walks, shopping for mementoes or gifts. I managed to post a (very long) thumb stick one afternoon and it arrived for my husband next day … very canny these Scots! Supper was always taken at the house of prayer as Sr Jean provided excellent food and others donated wine. I think of her often, sat in the kitchen peeling the vegetables while any number of us watched and chatted, warming ourselves by the Aga.

For a little while, I was part of a lovely community with different personalities and or faiths; an American Presbyterian minister, the couple who had married in the house of prayer and who practiced yoga and meditation during services, a lady so tiny and alone, the tired teacher seeking rest. I met the wider community of islanders and visitors at a healing service in the Abbey where many names were called out for help and healing. This service was organised and delivered entirely by men and women aged between 25 and 45. Deaf people were specially seated to watch the service being signed. The place was packed to capacity and everyone seemed to go to a circle for the laying on of hands. I had walked a lot this particular day so the service rounded the day off well and a fellow “pilgrim” and I got a good soaking on the way home in the dark lanes past the various buildings and ruins.

On a very personal level I felt a great happiness and oneness with my surroundings. I loved the changing colour of the sea depending on the weather. We were fortunate to have left the worst weather down south. Yes, it rained and blew a gale but the sun also shone, the sea twinkled like millions of stars, the lambs were tame enough to touch and feed a handful of grass, cows ambled haphazardly past, having gone down the wrong path. I saw a big snail carefully scrambling its sticky way over a tussock of grass on the sandy beach while 2 tiny fish swam happily in a rock pool. I watched the farmer’s son next door let the cows out to wander. Again I was fascinated to see them going into gardens eating the plants; however I also noticed that the one and only black cow and its calf remained in the field. Putting a human face to this I thought of how isolated, poor and discriminated against some people are; while the more fortunate one is, the further you can go and how better nourished you are, in so many ways. Yet are we really richer? While near a beach I came across some silver pennies (honesty) which have a deep meaning for me. I saw a corncrake … how lucky is that … I even met a few twitchers who hadn’t!!! I saw a million pretty pebbles on the beach and wanted to bring them home. I had the oddest feeling that my whole life so far was revealing itself to me. I laid a few demons to rest and found some angels!

I had a trip to Staffa to see puffins and Fingels Cave of music fame. The day started stormy so I and two companions had to cancel the trip however a 2nd sailing seemed more hopeful but not to the other two ladies. Sr Jean took one look at me and insisted I don waterproof trousers 3 sizes too long with them rolled up and Wellington boots also fit for a giant but ok with 3 pairs of socks. With these and my waterproof cagoule, off I went. I met a very nice girl who was obviously very hardy as she had been swimming at 6am. Having my wrist in plaster, she was to become my buddy. I couldn’t make the climb to see the puffins so she said she would come and search for me should I not return from my walk across the big square boulders to Fingels Cave! All went well and I entered the huge cavernous cave. I almost couldn’t do it but I asked the Lord for help and all was well! I telephoned my husband from outside on the slabs of granite and he was astounded as I’m not very brave and scared of heights. How amazing to even be able to contact him from Staffa to Chippenham. The boatman took me off to see the puffins by boat, so that was wonderful. On the way back it was extremely rough and, yes, I got soaked but my newfound friend and I laughed into the wind and spray, it was great and we saw seals, to boot. Back at the house of prayer a lovely salmon supper awaited us and I regaled everyone with my stories of courage.

All too soon, our stay came to an end and it was back the way we came with a tear in the eye. We said our farewells to Iona, waved to the Highland cattle on Mull, spent a couple of days in Oban and returned to the world of. haggis, kippers and naughty boys in the next room keeping us awake with their boozing and noise till the early hours. The contrast was stark but we are all children of God and come in infinite varieties.

If anyone would like information regarding a visit to the house of prayer email mail@catholic-iona.com.

Cheshire Home, Mongu, Zambia A talk given by Sr. Stella Bourke, August 2007

I am grateful for this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to all of you at St. Patrick’s for your unremitting generosity in your financial support, your prayers and also for your cards and letters at various times. They keep me in touch. Special thanks to the Lenten Project and the many other individual fundraising activities. Also for the many generous personal donations.

Well, believe it or not it is now 3 years since I retired from St. Patrick’s school. Again my thanks goes to the school staff, parents and children. Their support has also been great. I am told that I’m prayed for at school Masses. I know your prayers are continually being answered. You all have the missionary Spirit!

So what have I being doing in Zambia for the last two and a half years? My work, as most of you know is with the physically disadvantaged children in Mongu. Our Cheshire Home is the only place to answer this need in the whole of the Western Province which is a vast area about twice the size of the West of England. The children and parents come from very remote places and often spend days travelling by ox-cart, bicycles, walking or often being carried on the back. Most are malnourished and need all sorts of basic care before beginning any medical procedures. Children from 3 months to 3 years are accompanied by a parent or guardian who stay with them. Your financial support helps to provide them with nourishing food, vitamins and accommodation.

Three times a year the Flying Doctor Service visits us and Professor Jellis who has being coming for over 20 years carries out surgery on an average of 12 children per visit. Although in June because he had the assistance of a post-graduate doctor he managed a record of 18 surgeries in one day! The children are admitted to the local hospital for their surgery but because conditions there are so basic they are brought back to us at Cheshire Home and with the resident nurse we nurse and care for them. After six to eight weeks in plaster they are given daily physiotherapy for several weeks -often months.

Namonde, who is training to be a physiotherapist for Cheshire Home and whom St. Patrick’s Parish has sponsored, will hopefully complete her studies in December. This will be a tremendous bonus to us when she is qualified.

As well as running Cheshire Home Sr. Cathy and I are involved in other development projects. During the last two years we’ve had two boreholes sunk and twelve shallow wells opened up. Clean water is one of the greatest needs of the people. The Council water supply is very often interrupted as the erratic electricity supply tends to burn out pumps very quickly and they don’t have the financial support to get them repaired or replaced. Every day I see people -mostly women and children carrying heavy drums of water -one on the head and one in each hand and often a baby on the back. They make journeys of 2/3 km. twice a day just to get what they need.

Our Block making Project is going well. We have up to 18 men employed. Five have been trained in building skills and are making good progress with building small houses for homeless and handicapped people. From time to time there are obstacles which crop up -it may be the local chief or shortage of cement in Zambia because much of it is going to building villages and stadiums in South Africa as they prepare to host the World Cup in 2010.

Famine Relief is another project we’re involved with. When I arrived in Zambia in February 2005, the Western Province was experiencing severe drought after three years without adequate rains. The crops had failed badly. The next year the rains were good but then last year’s wet season brought severe flooding and the crops were washed away leaving the people without homes or food. Only for the support from various charities we would be helpless.

Be assured that every penny donated reaches us and is used for the benefit of the people we serve. Alongside all of this we are contending with the HIV Aids pandemic which touches us every day. In the last four years 4 of our staff have died and at present we are supporting several people with medication and food supplements.

On the hopeful side I’m delighted to tell you that we now have seven young Zambian Presentation Sisters already in nursing and teaching ministries. They are full of enthusiasm and we are confident that our service and presence in Zambia is assured. Please keep them and all of us in your prayers.

God, Arthur & I

When I met Arthur over fifty years ago, he had no real faith. He was baptised Church of England but never followed his faith in any way.

At twenty two he met me and after going out together for two years we got married at St. Patrick’s in Corsham. Fr. Supple officiated at our marriage and it was a wonderful day. I was brought up a Catholic and Art promised me he would never stand in the way of my faith and however many children God blessed us with, they would be brought up in the faith. He kept his word and we have two beautiful sons who are grown up with children of their own.

When Malcolm, the eldest was sixteen Art and I bought him a silver cross and chain and while on a walk around Castle Combe he lost it. We had got home before he realised and got very upset.

Art got us all back in the car and we went to look for it, trying to walk the same way we had been. After walking for some time my two boys and I were giving up but Art looked at us and said, we will find it.

As we walked back to the car, still looking, a couple saw us and asked if we had lost something? On telling them the lady said, ‘follow me.’ We walked to her car, which was parked a few spaces from ours and at the feet of a small statue of Our Lady which she had on the dashboard of her car was Malcolm’s cross and chain. Art gave the lady a big hug and we made our way home.

The journey was very quiet and when we got indoors Art turned to me and said. Lu, I am going to become a Catholic. God has been calling me for a long time but today I am sure. I burst into tears with sheer joy.

Art was Baptised on Christmas Eve and went for his first Communion on Christmas Day with all the family present. What a Christmas! My best gift ever.

On our silver wedding anniversary Art and I had a Mass in which we renewed our vows and once again the whole family were present as we and our two fine sons stood at the altar – a day of peace and joy, not forgetting how close we all felt, and it’s a feeling that has stayed with us.

Next year, my Art and I will have been married fifty years and he is as close to God now as he was the day we found the cross and chain.

We have been blessed with two beautiful sons and four beautiful grand children and our cup of life is overflowing.

Our journey is ongoing, and on my fridge I have a lovely magnet which reads “lord help me remember that nothing is going to happen today that you and I together can’t handle.

God bless all the people, who like us are on their journey of faith.