Thursday, April 08, 2010

Prayer Makes Community

The Diocese of Missouri has posted a reflection by the Rev. Daniel Handschy, who has served as missioner and chaplain on a couple of mission trips to Lui. We reproduce it here.

Prayer makes community and community requires prayer

Watch with Me One Hour: excerpt from Church of the Advent’s newsletter, The Scroll (April 2010), by the Rev. Dan Handschy, rector of Advent, and chaplain to the missioners on our most recent trip to Lui in November 2009.

When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, he asked Peter, James and John to stay awake with him while he prayed. Whenever a person is faced with a difficult situation, it helps to know that others are praying, too.

On our most recent trip to Lui, one of the missioners became very ill, most likely with giardia, (a parasite) which not only messes with a person’s digestion, it also makes a person feel depressed and anxious. The missioner felt not only physically miserable, but emotionally terrified. She had a long night ahead of her. We asked if she wanted us to pray with her. The bishop took the lead, and we all laid hands on her while he prayed. Then, I asked her if she would like someone to sit with her through the night. With tears, she said yes.

We quickly agreed to take an hour each during the night. We put a chair outside the door of her room, and put a candle on a table, so if she woke up, she would see the light of that candle. We made it through that night, and the medicines began to work. She felt a little better in the morning, although it would be weeks after we got home that she would feel back to par.

At a retreat we had in February, she remarked on how the whole event had changed her perspective on prayer. When the bishop had prayed for healing, and we all had laid our hands on her, she said she felt connected to the whole of Christian history.

Anointing and laying on of hands is a very ancient rite for healing. She said that before Lui she hadn’t understood what it meant—now, she knew that it meant others were with you in the crisis. She also said she would never go through the Maundy Thursday Vigil the same way again.
I know from my two trips to Lui, we are a people who think we can do things on our own. But, when it comes right down to it, none of us can get by alone. Sitting through a long, lonely night under African skies makes a person realize how connected we are to one another. The biggest discovery that we can make in mission, certainly the biggest discovery that any of the missioners has made in Lui, is that prayer makes community and community requires prayer. On this side of the ocean, we think we can do without either, but we cannot.

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