In the fall of 2014 IHNFA, the Honduran Childcare services were restructured by the Honduran government. The agency’s ineffectiveness had been clear for some time with the vast majority of their budget enriching administrators and bureaucrats rather than serving the vulnerable population it was to protect. So a new government institution was formed, but with a more limited scope.
Many of the services the IHNFA had provided were cut, including the government-run children’s homes and some of its foster programs. As a known and trusted player in service to children, NPH Honduras was involved in discussions with the new authorities from the beginning. The result was that NPH Honduras agreed to take in more than 60 new children between November and December of 2014. Merry Christmas, huh?
The vast majority of these kids are under 11 and immediately became part of Casa Suyapa, what is commonly referred to as the Baby House. This effectively doubled the population of the house and created all sorts of immediate needs in terms of space, staffing and many other matters in relationship to the transition, not to mention the immediate impact it had on the kids already there, and one the ones who were coming from state-run homes.
It was an impossible task. They didn’t have the people. They didn’t have the building. They didn’t have the funding. And yet, they knew this was what they were created to do. This is what they were called to do. This is what they had to do. So they did it, giving themselves to the faith that NPH’s founder Father Wasson had so beautifully stated: “We refuse to believe that we can be more generous than God.”
I don’t know about you, but stories like this fill me with hope. They are why I love NPH and want to support it and be a part of their work. It is this commitment to doing the difficult—even, and perhaps especially when the way forward is hidden from us—that speaks to me of something deeply authentic and true. It speaks to me of gospel.
We see something similar, of course, in the story that unfolds in John today. The story is filled with compassion. The disciples are tired. Jesus is no doubt tired. They have not been able to get away, and yet they see these deep needs: the crowds hungry and in need. And what does Jesus do?
He sets up his disciples! Ok—maybe compassion isn’t the first word that comes to mind! He deliberately puts them into crisis. He grabs Philip and says: Here are all these people, hungry. Phillip, where are we going to buy them bread to eat?
If I’m Philip, I’m thinking, “What’s this we stuff?” Here are all these children, they have no place to go. They have no family or future. What are we going to do to take care of them?
But good for Andrew, right? You can rely on St. Andrew. He chimes in: “Well, here’s a kid with some loaves and fishes.”
You kind of hope Andrew had a conversation with the kid first, but maybe its best that we don’t ask about that. My bet—the kid was the one who came up to Andrew and offered to share!
And then this miracle happens. Now, of course, we aren’t told how it happens but all of a sudden a simple meal suitable for a small family becomes enough to feed five thousand, with leftovers to take home. Did Jesus defy the laws of physics and biology to multiply these elements? Did he shrink everyone’s stomachs or magically increase the nutritional content and create the first superfoods?
The story doesn’t say, does it? It just says that there was enough. The accountants have been at work, of course. Thanks to God for accountants! Quick calculations on the back of a few napkins, no doubt, determined it would take about half a year’s budget to feed the group. Thankfully no one said, “therefore we must not do it.” Instead they did as Jesus told him, and they trusted—or at least pretended to! Sometimes I’m not sure if there’s a difference when it comes to faith.
I tend to move away from the magical interpretation. I think the real miracle here occurs if people, as they sit down, start pulling out their lunches, and offering a little bit to the stranger next to them, so that they suddenly discover they have what they need. I mean, that’s it, isn’t it? Isn’t that what will ultimately save us?—Especially in this first world culture of ours where we have so much more than we need, and yet people are sleeping in the woods in Issaquah, and in churches in Renton. And in Tacoma they haven’t been able to figure out how to put together a tent city after a year of trying.
I mean, it’s not as if we don’t have a sufficient inventory of tents. There’s enough to go around, for sure. It’s just that we can’t seem to figure out that distributions thing. There’s the miracle waiting to happen.
It does seem that there is an inverse relationship between our comfort and our ability to practice faith. Certainly that’s one of the lessons found in Samuel, as David, who should have been on the front line leading the troops, decided to stay back and let others fight his battles. And there’s Bathsheba, and there’s Uriah, and we know the rest of the tragic story.
The miracle is that hearts are opened, and lives follow, and needs are met and friendships are formed, and a small family becomes a much bigger family as we begin to realize that we really do belong to one another. That’s the miracle. That’s what seems so uncommon in this day and age. And what’s become less surprising to me over the years is that it’s a little more common in places like Honduras, or at least NPH Honduras where joy and kindness and time and resources seem to be present in such an abundance that your heart begins to burst after being there for a few days, and tired fears and distractions seem to fade away as the volume of laughter and conversation builds.
We tend to make things so complicated, but faith is a very simple, and impossible thing. It is simply about trusting that this Word we encounter each week we come here is true, and then shaping our lives around it. It is simply trusting that God is in the mix and giving ourselves to acting as if that’s true even if we aren’t so certain. It is simply recognizing that these tensions and challenges may just be the risen Christ setting us up for joy so we can see this Kingdom that exists right beside us, ready to show itself, as we give ourselves to it.
Generous faith is what makes for life. It is where the fruits of God’s Spirit are found. And even when generosity lacks, as in David’s story, and real tragedy is the result, God’s purposes can still prevail. In fact sometimes the most astonishing thing about this faith of ours is how little faith it takes for God to do remarkable things: “to him who is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.”
There is, of course, an invitation here. First of all, it takes us. It takes you saying “yes” even when you can’t see the way—especially then. It takes our willingness to give of ourselves, to take a chance, to live by faith when sight is limited and budgets are unfunded, and problems are mammoth, and doubt, perhaps most of all about ourselves, is abundant.
I was lucky enough to be hanging out in the right place when someone opened up the newly remodeled building that some of those newly adopted NPH kids moved into. Perhaps you saw the picture floating around of Kendra Thomas towering over one of the sinks in the sparkly new bathrooms.
NPH looked into the heart of their mission, remembered who they were, and gave themselves to generosity refusing to believe they can be more generous than God. And to be sure, the budget is still tight, much is still unfunded, but that amazing work goes on, and it softens hearts like mine.
This is our work too, isn’t it? Aren’t we in the business of trusting God for the miracles? I know we are, because I’ve seen you do it. And you know, it just may go to our very core, to our very heart too. And it just may have the power to change this little corner of the universe. In fact, I think it already has.
Thanks be to God.
St. Andrew Sermons