Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Chairperson's notes

Cards and letters surely! The gifts that people offer us of themselves and their journeys through them. I’ve had a number of moves in the last few years, so some people are still catching up with where I am.

  Each year there are Christmas greetings (cards, letters, emails) from people I’ve met recently. All these, greetings, love, wishes, hopes, prayers, stories of journeys are gifts offered to me.

A newfound friend I met in September lives in West Australia.  A member of the Catholic Church she wrote in an email in Christmas week: ’ On Christmas Eve the 6 grandchildren are coming to vigil mass – last year there were 5,000 there.  It is held on the oval, our priests still can’t believe the reverence that is showed, we have Mary on a donkey, the donkey’s friend is an alpaca and trails behind, Father Joe has found three camels now so the three wise men now ride them in – he has homing pigeons, balloons, the children of the parish dress up as shepherds, angels, etc.  Lots of grandparents attend and it is all wonderful.” (A subsequent report is ‘a new donkey this year had with cross on his back; three wise men made it safely to the crib; crowd was 5,500’) I know she treasures that time. From Lalgadh Leprosy Hospital, Nepal, where he and his wife are serving, Dr. Graeme Clugston wrote to family and friends: “Christmas can easily go by un-noticed as, because it is only us small group of Christians that celebrate Christmas. We Christians comprise only about 2.5% of Nepal’s population (25 million) whilst 80% are Hindu – especially (and at times militantly so) along the Indian border where we are and most of the rest Buddhist mainly up in the mountains. The hospital wards are full as usual, and for those leprosy patients that are here we will have a good time here at Christmas. We have Christmas carol singing around the hospital, and a little message about the meaning of Christmas and then we pile into our old land-rover and go round the villages nearby for more singing and the gospel message for which they are actually interested and even hungry ... it is something new and exciting for them where life is otherwise pretty hard. For all our inpatients here there will be nice things to eat like sweet rice and samosas, ... and all of them get a present a scarf, jumper, sari or another item of clothing. It is wonderful for them, because most of the patients are used to being shunned or ignored or ostracised by their families and communities because of their leprosy. It’s wonderful and moving to see such happiness in people who for much of their lives are used to being rejected. On the work side of things we go on getting busier and busier each year – even more so the world’s busiest leprosy hospital. We diagnosed and treated 1,400 new leprosy patients over the past year, managed some 8,000 old leprosy patients, and coped somehow with over 52,000 outpatients over the year. Lots of children with leprosy too, can you imagine! So in this part of the world it is not just an old disappeared Biblical disease. In Net Work (VicTas UCAF magazine) I learned of the death of Dr Helen Mackenzie who with her sister Helen established the ‘Il Sin’ hospital caring for mothers and babies, in Pusan, Korea. They stayed in our home some fifty years ago when on furlough. I remember them talking about the prayer life of the church life in Korean. We learned something of the Korean culture as our mother knitted and collected baby clothes in colours not used in this country. The story of these sisters and others following on their ministry is breathtaking. In 2010, how will you use the treasures of Christmas to tell the good news of Jesus Christ born “For such a time as this…” Alistair Christie Lastly, be inspired by this thought from an anonymous author: “In the end what matters is . . .
Not what you bought but what you built;
Not what you got but what you shared;
Not your success but your significance;
Not what you learned but what you taught;
Not your competence but your character;
And not how long you will be remembered
But by whom and for what.”