Posts Tagged 'human suffering'

Who We Are, What We Do

This short, fast-paced, visually compelling video shows how we can help create a more compassionate world!

click HERE to order your DVD copy of ‘Mud Pies & Kites’ !

Mud Pies and Kites

Mud Pies and Kites
Death and Resurrection in Haiti

Produced, written and directed by
Gerard Thomas Straub

On January 12, 2010 a powerful earthquake struck Haiti, killing over 300,000 people and leaving more than a million people homeless. Haiti was a disaster before the earthquake; after it, it became an unimaginable nightmare. After nine trips to Haiti during the country’s most tumultuous year in its long tortured history, the first coming just before the earthquake and the second just days after the earthquake. I was left with countless images that are forever seared into my mind…the endless mutilated crush victims, the horrendous living conditions, the sick, dying and dead…yet, for me, all that I’ve witnessed can be best encapsulated in two simple and common objects, a mud pie and a kite, that speak plainly and clearly to both the despair and the hope I found in Haiti.

On my desk in my library I have a mud pie I brought home from Haiti. I could never imagine being so hungry and so broke that I had to resort to eating something made from mud and contaminated water, something so vile it could make me very sick or even kill me. A mud pie symbolizes, for me, the extreme poverty of so many Haitians. Mud pies are baked in ovens of anguish and hopelessness.

I’ll never forget my first visit to Cité Soleil, the worst slum in Port-au-Prince. The devastation, the tin shacks, the rotting trash, the spewing sewage, a little girl urinating in the garbage, a woman defecating in the open, naked kids with bloated bellies running barefoot through pig-infested mud and rubbish, the nauseating stench from rotting garbage…it was all too-much to take in. The nightmarish slum assaulted my senses, left me feeling helpless and emotionally wrought. And then, all of a sudden something joyful caught my eye and filled me with hope. It was a makeshift kite fashioned out of a plastic garbage bag. In a place that made no sense, a kite was something I could understand. The kids and the kites lifted my spirits. It showed me how imagination could lift the human spirit out of the muck of sadness and hopelessness. The endurance and innocence of the children countered the madness and injustice of the adults. And so mud pies and kites came to symbolize the death and resurrection that is a daily event in Haiti.

Divided into two parts, Mud Pies & Kites is about the necessity and importance of compassion. The film captures the dignity, determination and courage of the poor, and, in the midst of the extreme poverty and deprivation, celebrates the possibility of a better future through mutual cooperation and genuine compassion, which is the fullest expression of the luminous force of intentional love and kindness.

After having made 18 films on poverty around the world, I believe, Mud Pies & Kites is the most compelling film I’ve ever made, and I’m delighted that it is the first film produced by my new ministry, Pax et Bonum Communications, which serves the poor through the power of film.

click HERE to order your DVD of this important film!

[youtube.com/watch?v=_lOoBGJO-Ho] [youtube.com/watch?v=Crll_uyFZfo]

Viewers of Mud Pies and Kites are saying:

First, thank you for all the emails you send to keep us up to date on your ministry and work. I feel I get to travel a bit with you to all the fortunate schools and churches who host you by reading of their comments or hearing a radio interview. My awareness continues to increase thanks to the work you do. I rejoiced to know your Illinois trip was such a wonderful success for the launch of your heart-work Mud Pies and Kites.

The film is simply wonderful! It is WONDERFUL! Congratulations. It is such a journey, one I chose to make in its entirety from beginning to end. I was left bare-naked at the end and despite my copious tears, my sad emotions and my complete sense of utter emptiness, I was deeply grateful, hopeful and most especially motivated. One cannot see and hear all you are sharing and not change one’s view each day of each and every person we encounter and the myriad of sufferings right in front of us. It really begs us to awaken to our choices. Though I have not seen what you have nor can I smell what I can only imagine in your descriptions, when your images arrive into my comfortable living room I am reminded to yet again ‘change my life.’ To not indulge my passions for making sense of suffering but to allow the experience of your film to be converted to better choices in every area of my life so that we ALL may benefit. To bring my own healing presence to every person I encounter and to grow to accommodate the space needed inside for that. That each moment we respond trusting WHO we are is always enough even when we think we have nothing to give. A smile plenty. Fr. Tom’s interview is a jewel in the crown of the film and I was so appreciative of the hope demonstrated in small stories after seeing the children with special needs and the hospital with its abundant lack. The despair of the mud pies is interwoven splendidly with the beauty and hope in the kites throughout the whole film, you are an inspiring filmmaker with a great gift. Your passion for Haiti and its people is incredibly moving.

And most important, Gerry, you are in my prayers. I cannot tell you of the intention my heart sends forth that your ministry grows to touch many, many lives and awaken hearts. You inspire me personally to increase my silent time with God so that when I do serve I do not just alleviate pain but really ALLOW myself to see others in the way that transforms and creates. Each moment adding love or hate to the world and falling, letting go more and more into the trusting arms of our ever loving Creator.
THANK YOU. YOUR WORK IS SO APPRECIATED.

-Jane of New York
(a financial sponsor of this film)

The experience of watching Mud Pies and Kites is one of full immersion in unimaginable misery. It’s a journey to a place that I don’t want to know exists. It shakes up my comfortable life and challenges me to re-examine the “good Christian” life I lead. It reminds me that simply not choosing to be more informed about the devastating scope of poverty doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and, more importantly, doesn’t excuse me from doing something about it. Looking into the eyes of the people you met, seeing the ravages of the life they are forced to lead, and then seeing their moments of joy, their hope and faith in Christ and their gritty resiliency, I am ashamed of the times I have complained about petty inconveniences. They are truly my brothers and sisters and I came to understand fully your message of compassion that calls us to companionship.

This film is more than just a documentary, it is a journey to the soul of each of us. Your beautiful reflections give me much to ponder and I know I will replay many scenes to better dwell on the profoundly spiritual coupling of images and prophetic wisdom. I am proud to have been able to contribute in a small way to this tremendously important piece of work. It inspires me and convicts me and I find that I am more eager than ever to live its message.
-Lisa of Detroit
(a financial sponsor of this film)

We Anoint Their Wounds

We Anoint Their Wounds
A film by Gerard Thomas Straub
currently in production and
anticipating release in early 2013

We Anoint Their Wounds will be the second feature-length documentary film produced by Pax et Bonum Communications. Set in Eastern Africa, the film tells the inspirational story of the noble and heroic work of Jesuit Refugee Service whose mission to the suffering refugees living in remote, massive refugee camps and in the bleak, lonely shadows of urban centers can be reduced to three simple yet powerful words: accompany, serve and advocate. The principal filming was done in Kenya during the last sixteen days of January, 2012.

In Eastern Africa countless people are left outside the circle of life; they are marginalized, disempowered, ignored and forgotten. They are refugees, desperate people fleeing hunger and violence in such drought-stricken and conflict-riddled nations as Somalia. They live in huge, isolated, over-crowded refugee camps. This film features the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwest Kenya. It is home to 95,000 refugees. Under the burning heat in Kakuma, life is direct and raw. To be a refugee means to live on the edge of society, socially and politically ostracized. Around the world there are more than 50 million people who have been forcibly displaced, and 80% of them are women and children.

Jesuit Refugee Service has been bringing life into these dreadful refugee camps around the world for more than 30 years. Their sole mission is to accompany and serve refugees and to advocate on their behalf. Their motto has been reduced to three simple yet powerful words – accompany, serve, advocate – that taken together form a tangible sign of love and hope. JRS works in 50 countries around the world.

The film will also look at the harsh, hidden and lonely lives of refugees who fled the camps and are living in the shadows of Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. Many refugees live in massive slums. In order to survive some refugees have no other option than picking through the rotting waste of garbage dumps, desperately searching food to eat and recyclable items they can sell.

To be a refugee is to live a life of fatigue and long journeys. It’s a draining, dreary life, filled with fear and anxiety. For many it can be a life of constant uncertainty and unbearable physical suffering. For the most part, it’s a life of being ignored and scorned. Refugees are often greeted with deaf ears and hard hearts, forced to face a wall of ingratitude. To be a refugee is to endure a life of mental anguish, a life of being unwanted and unloved.

There are basically two types of refugees: those living isolated lives in camps and those living marginalized lives in cities. Both realities are dreadful, just in very different ways. We’ll explore both realities in this film.

People who are starving, homeless, friendless, so easily lose the sense of their human dignity. It is not enough to give them what they need. We must restore their self-worth, their human dignity, in such a way that their hope and trust in humanity are rekindled.

From the very beginning, Jesuit Refugee Service was a ministry of being with refugees rather than doing for refugees. At its core JRS shares love, hope and faith with people in intensely difficult situations.
[youtube.com/watch?v=EUqdDMjL2D0]

Fragrant Spirit of Life

Highlights from The Fragrant Spirit of Life: Misery and Hope in Uganda:

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In this scene from The Fragrant Spirit of Life, we found Sam, Esther, and Jane outside the small village of Serere in eastern Uganda. They are currently being cared for through the nonprofit organizationVillage2Village. They now have a future and are embraced by the whole community with love and care.

A Note from the Director
The war-torn nation of Uganda, located in sub-Saharan East Africa amid lush landscapes offering an almost Eden-like existence, is one of the saddest places on earth. Death from the AIDS pandemic and the cruel violence of a brutal civil war and ethnic genocide have left countless numbers of children with nowhere to turn. They are tiny nomads, aimlessly wandering the streets, exposed to a host of dangers on every corner. Many of the countless orphans and their frail grandparents are digging up roots to eat. Untold numbers of children have their lives prematurely snuffed out by preventable diseases.

Childhood in Uganda has become a cycle of fear and despair. 40,000 children in Uganda have been violently abducted to fight as child soldiers or forced to serve as laborers or domestic slaves…or worse, sex slaves. I will spare you the bitter, numbing statistics that document the relentless, endless march of suffering and death that tramples the people of Uganda, destroying in its bloody wake families and communities. This film is about Uganda and four amazing people who are bringing the light of hope into this dreadful darkness.

You can feebly feel the pulse of infinite love beating within the rhythm of life in Uganda. Here you see the hands and feet of Jesus nailed to scrap wood over and over and over again. But the agony of poverty and violence cannot still the Spirit in the soil of the earth, in the souls of the people. The fragrant Spirit of Life smiles through the pain of living and the mystery of death.

In The Fragrant Spirit of Life I invite the viewer to enter into something beyond what is seen on the screen, and share deeply in the wonder and the sweet fragrance we inhaled in Uganda, the sweet fragrance of life, hope and joy we found in the midst of the pain, sorrow and death we encountered.

The Fragrant Spirit of Life is actually two, separate yet connected feature-length films. Spread over three trips, the two films document a five-week pilgrimage through dreadful darkness and into the heart of goodness. As you watch each film, pray; breathe in the Spirit, exhale the Love, and give birth to faith and hope in the dark corners of your life.
Gerry Straub

Sam, Esther, and Jane in January ’08 at Mama Helen’s home, four months after we first found them.
(January \'08) Sam, Esther, and Jane at Mama Helen\'s home, four months after we first found them.

Sam, howling with laughter as he dances to the beat of a song crackling through an old radio.
Sam at Mama Helen\'s

Some of the Village2Village children at the primary school, across from the new V2V Children’s Center.

More photos from Uganda (slums of Kampala, IDP camps of Gulu, and rural life)

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*Please do not use our photos without permission.  Thank you.


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