Four years ago I began a journey with St. Francis of Assisi when I began learning stories of his life to tell to fulfill one of the requirements for certification as a biblical storyteller through the Network of Biblical Storytellers’ Academy for Biblical Storytelling. The journey with St. Francis has been life-changing in many ways.
What I discovered is that you cannot spend four years studying everything in print about St. Francis and telling stories of his life without his compassion for the poor slowly seeping into the furthest recesses of your soul.
St. Bonaventure, one of the great chroniclers of St. Francis, said of him:
“In every poor person he met, he saw the image of Christ and he insisted on giving him anything which had been given to him, even if he had urgent need of it; indeed, he believed that he was bound to give it to them; just as if it belonged to them. He spared nothing–cloaks, habits, books, or altar cloths–as long as he was in a position to do so, he gave them all to the poor. He wanted nothing more than to spend and be spent himself, in order to fulfill the duty of being compassionate towards others.” St. Bonaventure, Minor Life of Christ, chapter 3.7, St. Francis of Assisi: The Omnibus of Sources, vol. 1
As Francis’ concern for the poor permeated me, I began wondering, as a follower of Jesus, how could I use my unique gifts and experiences to care for the poor? Over the past year as I spent time in contemplation of the life of Jesus and the life of Francis, I began to sense a strong push to some sort of action; but what and where?
Then in late 2012, through a storytelling listserv I belong to, I received a report from Laura Simms, an internationally acclaimed storyteller and humanitarian, telling about the 501(c)(3) nonprofit she has established to provide an arts and resilience program in Haiti for adolescent girls living in a displaced persons camp for earthquake survivors on Route des Freres in Port au Prince. The program is called “Girls Write Haiti.” Talking with Laura, I’ve realized that this is the “what” and “where” the Spirit has been nudging me to.
In the mid 1980’s I spent a week in Haiti working on projects in an American Baptist church camp in Cap Haitien. My wife and I sponsored a child from Haiti from childhood to young adulthood. I am a storyteller and I have followed and respected the work of Laura Simms for over twenty-five years. I have told stories from Haiti out of Diane Wolkstein’s wonderful book of Haitian tales called The Magic Orange Tree. My heart broke when the earthquake devastated Haiti. My study of St. Francis and Jesus has given me compassion for the poor. The “what” and “where” have come together. It’s time to practice contemplation AND action.
So I am becoming involved in Laura’s Simm’s nonprofit, “Girl’s Write Haiti.” Talking with Laura I see two important and immediate needs. The project needs a grant writer to do pro bono work writing grants to help fund this important work. The project also needs a private plane to take Laura, the team, and supplies down to Haiti several times a year. If you are or know a grant writer willing to help and/or if you know of someone with a private plane who might be willing to transport Laura, her team and supplies please contact us.
Laura has been funding much of her work in Haiti out of her own living as a storyteller as well as by small donations by interested people. Her limited resources have made progress slow in the face of such great and urgent need. I invite you to click on the links in this post to learn more about Laura and her storytelling and humanitarian work and also to learn about Girls Write Haiti. Then I invite you to join me in practicing contemplation AND action to make a difference in the lives of children largely forgotten by the world now that the media has left Haiti. If you can help with grant writing or securing the use of a private plane, please contact Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org or me at email@example.com . Peace and all goodness.