Back to Haiti

In late January 2015, I floated the idea of a children’s center in Haiti to the Pax et Bonum Communications’ board of directors. Much to my delight, the idea was met with instant enthusiasm and support.

Between May and October of 2015, we made four trips to Haiti. We found a small apartment at the end of a narrow, long, twisting alley that became our beachhead in Haiti. The apartment is a modest, small four room residence on the second floor of a private home in a very poor neighborhood in the Peguyville section of Port-au-Prince. I was tempted to say “slum” instead of “a very poor neighborhood” but in comparison to the many large slums in the city, such as Cité Soleil and Girardoville, this is a few notches above those slums. Nonetheless, it is still an extremely impoverished area where few have running water or jobs. Our next-door neighbors live on the second floor of an unfinished building. They have no running water. The family includes an infant child. The kids are always hungry.

Our humble apartment became a microcosm of what we hoped to do on a larger scale when we move into the permanent home for the Santa Chiara Children’s Center. During our trips to Haiti, we fed six to ten kids three meals every day. Each night four to six kids slept on the floor in the apartment. Our narrow balcony became a beehive of activity, where kids gathered, where we prepared most of the meals and where everyone ate. Some kids were even bathed on the balcony. The balcony also served as a class room, a painting studio, and a dance floor. The apartment became a place for smiles, laughter, games, and a place to be fed and loved. It was a place for a kid to simply be a kid.

During that trip in October 2015 we found a building that will serve as the home of the Santa Chiara Children’s Center. It too is located in Peguyvillle. We’ll take possession of the property on December 1, 2015 after it is completely renovated. The rent is $16,500 per year. The owner of the building is thrilled it will be put to such a positive use. The walled property also includes a small building that will become a one-room apartment for us. Many of the poor women in Peguyville will walk past our day care center on their way to the larger street markets in Pétionville. We hope they will drop off their kids off with us for the day so we can lovingly care for them free of charge.

Tonight we will board a flight for Miami and a connecting flight to Port-au-Prince. Fittingly, we land in Port-au-Prince on the First Sunday of Advent. Being among the poor is a perfect place to prepare for the celebration of the Incarnation of God, when Jesus was born into the poverty of our humanity.

We estimate that we will need to raise $24,000 to feed an average of 50 children a day during the next year. While it is still possible to donate through the Pax et Bonum Communications website, we have launched a crowd funding platform to make it simpler and easier to donate. Here is a link to that platform:

SCCC is a huge leap in faith. We know the need. We know our hearts. And we know what we can do to make things better for some kids in Peguyville. If you are able to help us with a small donation it would be greatly appreciated.

Peace and Advent blessings,


Boredom and Black Friday

“What lies before us and what lies beyond us is tiny compared to what lies within us.”
– Henry David Thoreau

The day after the holiday devoted to giving thanks is the day we rush out to get more stuff. Black Friday is the high holy day of conspicuous consumption. Humans seem to fear boredom. We need to always be busy. We tend to confront our boredom by buying more things. Today we crave for the latest electronic gadget. However, the more things you acquire, the less important they become. In time, many of the things actually become devoid of all meaning. The more possessions, wealth, and leisure time we have tends to lead to a growing boredom with everything. So we keep a watchful eye out for new and more exciting, more interesting things to counter our boredom. The way of abundance is a dead end. Instead of trying to defeat boredom with more things and experiences, perhaps we should just be embracing the boredom and the opportunity it gives us to enter into the deeper recesses of our souls in order to find more a fulling meaning to our very existence.

I split my time between California and Haiti. In California, I have a comfortable home and everything I need. In Haiti, the exact opposite is true. In California, when my work is done for the day, I have lots of diversions to keep me entertained. In Haiti, again the opposite is true. I have no TV, no car…no distractions. What I have in Haiti is time to sit with my my family. We talk. We laugh. We tell stories. We are present to each other. There is time to sit, to be, to think. My time in Haiti teaches me to slow down, to be patient.

More stuff does not necessarily make a better life. I’m beginning to wonder is less stuff makes life less stressful. Perhaps we need to discover our own Walden Pond and simply our lives.

The Only Unhappiness

“The only unhappiness,” Thomas Merton wrote, “is not to love God.” Loving God requires prayer. Prayer for Merton was a matter of awareness, of being alert to the possibilities of the hour, what he called “the grip of the present.” Most of us are stuck either in the past or the future, making the present moment lost time. We’re too busy to be present…present to each other, present to the poor, present to God.

Merton learned that waiting for a “word” he could not speak to himself was the essence of prayer. In our age of instant communication and instant gratification, waiting has become intolerable. Stillness, poverty of spirit, keeping vigil, guarding thoughts, and fasting from one’s own selfishness were essential attributes of Merton’s practice of monastic humanism. He wrote that contemplation was “essentially a listening in silence.” According to Merton this listening in silence should have an air of “expectancy” to it, but not an expectancy that “even anticipates a special kind of transformation.” Merton learned how to sit in the darkness…and wait—even if answers never came. Merton knew far too well that answers rarely do come.

In 1941, after being at Gethsemani for less than two weeks, a young Merton penned this prayer: “Your brightness is my darkness. I know nothing of You and, by myself, I cannot even imagine how to go about knowing You. If I imagine You, I am mistaken. If I understand You, I am deluded. If I am conscious and certain I know You, I am crazy. The darkness is enough.” The darkness is not enough for us. Religious terrorism which threatens us today might disappear if the fundamentalists of all faiths, those willing to kill for “their” God, had the inner honesty to pray that prayer Merton penned long ago.

So much of life is contradiction and chaos. Only in stillness and prayer can harmony emerge from the confusion. I pray the emptiness and darkness that still occasionally consumes my inner life does not overcome me, does not prompt me to seek the false light of the world and all its empty promises and illusions. My past experience has taught me that whenever the light of God truly penetrates my disordered inner being, I’m able to see clearly how far I am from God, how great the contrast is between who God is and who I am. God is as large as the expanding universe and as intimate as the cells in our bodies. Thank God.

Strive to be Heaven

On February 10, 2013, I posted the following blog titled “Heaven on Earth”:

Heaven is a hard word to pin down. What it is or where it is…is a mystery. Perhaps the simplest way to define it is: heaven is the reality of God. Heaven touches earth whenever we catch a glimpse of God, whenever we encounter God in a truly real way. Heaven can be found in a tender touch, in a glass of water, a morsel of food given to a hungry person. Heaven is seen in an act of kindness, an act of compassion. Heaven is the reality of Love, self-emptying, self-sacrificing love. We should not strive to get to heaven; we should strive to be heaven. The 20th century Carmelite nun Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity said it best: “I have found my Heaven on earth, because Heaven is God and God is in my heart.”

Heaven is within all of us, and all of us can be in heaven if we enter our hearts, encounter and experience God and then become God’s ambassadors of love and peace.

Within 30 minutes a Protestant minister living in Belize posted this response:

Well put; still a lot of that old toxic theology about Heaven/Hell out there. I saw a giant Christian bus in Belize yesterday with warnings about Hell plastered all over it, like “Turn or Burn.” As if the God of Heaven and love who loves us in spite of our sins will barbecue us forever and ever and ever and ever if we don’t get right with God. People living in that fear of judgment are being denied the true Heaven and those who spread that theology of Judgment and Hell are still out there around the world. God bless them–they mean well, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Always looking forward to your stuff, Gerry. Keep up the great work and blessings on you.

Another Day, The Same Question

Everyday, God asks the same question:
Are you willing?

Let God lead.

God loves mercy and tenderness,
Yet we all to often, in countless ways small and large,
turn from these godly virtues.

From Thoughts of a Blind Beggar
Published by Orbis Books


Prayer should not turn into a self-analytical couch.

Salvation: God loves me and I love God.

Our biggest challenge: restore harmony within ourselves.

St. Augustine said that a friend is someone
who knows all about us
and loves us anyway.
That is a perfect description of God.

From Thoughts of a Blind Beggar
Published by Orbis Books

Bread and Wine

True poverty is total trust in God.

No human life is meaningless to or forgotten by God.

Within the frailty of our humanity,
the majesty of God resides.

God reveals himself in simplicity,
in the simplicity of prayer
and the simplicity of bread and wine.

From Thoughts of a Blind Beggar

Published by Orbis Books

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