Day Sixteen

St. Hilda Community of England (Peace Prayer) Brothers and sisters, be at peace, We meet together to share this meal, May  it express our love for one another, Our commitment to each other And point us beyond ourselves To the needs of the world. God make peace within us. Let us claim it. God, make peace between us. Let us share it. Amen Day Sixteen Father Jim Cassidy asked the Harvey-Staloch family to write this last 2014 delegation entry on family: Photo Mar 01, 6 42 10 AMWe were at mass the Sunday morning that Father Cassidy spoke of the three great loves of his life - his hospice work, St Joan of Arc and Arm in Arm in Africa (AIAIA). Our two sons, Tate (13) and Teigen (11) asked us questions about AIAIA that we couldn't answer, specifically, they asked if kids could be part of the delegation to South Africa. We encouraged the boys to ask Father Cassidy and after a two hour meeting over coffee a few weeks later the four of us signed on for the greatest family adventure of our lives - the 2014 AIAIA Delegation Team. Only at St. Joan of Arc would our family be welcomed and encouraged to be part of this mission trip. Only at SJA would we be welcomed wherever we are on our journey; to be welcomed to be whoever we are and to love whomever we love on our journey. As we begin this entry about family, we feel deep gratitude to our spiritual family at SJA. We never imagined that we could raise the boys in the Catholic Church. We never imagined the deep sense of family we could feel after only a few short years in this faith community. We never imagined how powerfully we could feel called to serve with others rooted in social justice. We never imagined we could feel so humbled by the amazing people who surround us. We never imagined how important it would be to us to share the magic of a SJA service with our friends and family. We never imagined we would want to arrive to church at 8:30 a.m. each Sunday in order to secure our seats in the third row for the 9:00 a.m. mass and spend thirty minutes connecting with our Sunday morning family seated around us! YES, we are blessed. When we asked Teigen what family meant to him, he quoted a line from the movie, Lilo and Stitch when Lilo said, "Ohana means family and family means that no one gets left behind." He continued to share this in light of the past few weeks in South Africa. "It is like the people we met were all family. They played with each other and helped each other even though they didn't live together. And they let Tate and me play with them - even though we were strangers and we weren't very good at soccer - they did not leave us behind." Powerful and enlightening words that signify the inclusive nature of SJA and the mission of Arm in Arm in Africa. We welcome you all, we feed you all, we pray for you all, we love you all, we see the image of God in you all. Regardless of the imperfections we have as humans, a family provides unconditional love and support. We feel blessed to not have been left behind! We made the decision to have children and start a family after eight years of being a couple. Creating a family together was important to us. Family has always been important to us.  Our families of origin have been pillars of love and support. In addition to our extended families, we surround ourselves daily with the rest of our family of choice. Friends who have stood with us for varying periods over the past 20 years. We have learned the importance of surrounding yourself with excellence because we believe we are the company we keep. Spiwo reminded us of the meaning of the African word, Ubuntu, which means, "we are because you are". The four of us have grown stronger as a family and continue to evolve into the people we are meant to be through the examples of human goodness we see modeled to us daily. Again, we are humbled by the family who surrounds us daily and we are filled with gratitude for each person who is truly a blessing in our lives. In the past few weeks we have grown as a family. We have held hands during spiritual Eucharistic celebrations. We have worked side by side during the food distributions at Itipini and Malungeni. We have observed with awe at how naturally Tate and Teigen have connected with children and adults each time we met new people. We have sat next to each other in silence as we passed miles and miles of Townships made up of tin shanties and filled with people made in the image of God living in such profound poverty. We walked through the Nelson Mandela capture site together and we wondered how we can continue to empower our boys to use their voice and their talents and hone their leadership skills to serve those without a voice. And how we can do the same. We have shared knowing looks, tears, laughter and joy. We have learned that our family is larger than the four of us. Tate also shared his thoughts of family. "Family comes in every way, shape or form. It doesn't just mean you are related to one another, it means that people who touch you in a way that makes it seems like they are family. They love you. They care for you. They would do anything for you. All the people we have met in South Africa that have touched us like that - Olga, Kwena, Mava, Spiwo, the JL Zwane Center and all the community of Malungeni". Family is about building meaningful relationships grounded in love, joy, gratitude and compassion. As the African Proverb states, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together". We traveled far together to meet our new family in Malungeni. We feel blessed to have experienced and learned as a family on this journey.  We feel blessed to have built a new family with the AIAIA delegation and with the people we met throughout the past three weeks. We feel blessed to have extended our family to South Africa. We pray for the courage to lean into our questions, to feel discomfort and to always love, give and accept so that no one is left behind. Thank you for sharing this journey with us and again for all of your prayers love and support. Peace and blessings, The 2014 Delegation