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Quezon City, Metro-Manila, Philippines
I am a runner, pastor, sociologist, teacher, and missionary. After living in Chicago for 6 years, I discerned a call to go to Manila, Philippines to live and work among the urban poor, and combine my passions for ministry, running, and the oppressed. After serving in the Philippines in 2012 and 2013, I returned to the United States for two years to finish my dissertation, get ordained, spend time with my family, and work at a neighborhood center in Kansas City. Since then, I have been working in the Philippines with Companion With the Poor as a missionary. Each day I look forward to how God will direct my steps as I live into His work of restoring a broken world.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"If Ever There Was a Country"

As I reflect over my last two and a half years, from Chicago to LA to Manila, I think about how far I have come, and yet how far I have left to go. This leg of my journey has brought me at times great sorrow and at others great joy, as well as many new friends, many of whom have become like family. Though not a perfect representation, and written over fifty years ago (though in a time not too different from our world today), this poem by Thomas Merton gives me hope to continue down the road less traveled, not necessarily as a monk in a countryside monastery, but as a sojourner in a foreign land...seeking a country where all men and women give their lives to the "one activity which is the beatitude of heaven."

"If Ever There Was a Country"
- Thomas Merton

If ever there was a country where men loved comfort, pleasure, and material security, good health and conversation about the weather and the World Series and the Rose Bowl; if ever there was a land where silence made men nervous and prayer drove them crazy and penance scared them to death, it is America. Yet, quite suddenly, Americans – the healthiest, most normal, most energetic, and most optimistic of the younger generation of Americans – have taken it into their heads to run off to Trappist monasteries and get their heads shaved and put on robes and scapulars and work in the fields and pray half the night and sleep on straw and, in a word, become monks.

When you ask them why they have done such things, they may give you a very clear answer or, perhaps, only a rather confused answer; but in either case the answer will amount to this: the Trappists are the most austere order they could find, and Trappist life was that which least resembled the life men lead in the towns and cities of our world. And there is something in their hearts that tells them they cannot be happy in an atmosphere where people are looking for nothing but their own pleasure and advantage and comfort and success.

They have not come to the monastery to escape from the realities of life but to find those realities: they have felt the terrible insufficiency of life in a civilization that is entirely dedicated to the pursuit of shadows.

What is the use of living for things that you cannot hold onto, values that crumble in your hands as soon as you possess them, pleasures that turn sour before you have begun to taste them, and a peace that is constantly turning into war? Men have not become Trappists merely out of a hope for peace in the next world: something has told them, with unshakable conviction, that the next world begins in this world and that heaven can be theirs now, very truly, even though imperfectly, if they give their lives to the one activity which is the beatitude of heaven.

That activity is love: the clean, unselfish love that does not live on what it gets but on what it gives; a love that increases by pouring itself out for others, that grows by self-sacrifice and becomes mighty by throwing itself away.

*This is an excerpt of Thomas Merton's poem, "If Ever There Was a Country"

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