Monday, November 10, 2014


After having written about Africa, my life there, the people I know there and my reactions to it all for so many years, I found it hard to write about my time in DC when I was helping with the training of new lay missionaries, or about my time here in Rome, as the English secretary to the Top Dogs.  It seems so . . .  uh . . . mundane or something.  So . . . I just haven’t written much in the past couple of years.

Yet, I’ve heard that’s how life often feels – afterwards - for people who have lived an intense cross-cultural experience.  That period of time is often an influential, powerful, growing and developmental time for us.  We’re in a totally different environment from what we know, having left behind what we’re familiar with, our support systems (at times without even realizing we had support systems . . .  until they are no longer there . . . ) and find ourselves totally outside of what has always just been there, what we’ve taken for granted and never reflected upon.  We’re confronted with our values – with ourselves – and with needing to actually think about these things and to come to recognize and hopefully accept what is really, honestly important to us.

Then, to return to our countries and move into other areas of life can end up feeling all, uh, ho-hummish.  I’ve heard, and experienced, that life can often feel less fulfilling, and maybe that’s also part of why I haven’t been sure what to write about.  Just day-to-day things while I was in Africa could play on my emotions, inspire me and stay on my mind.    Life was so different from what I’d known that it was often just naturally thought-provoking, and writing in the blog was a way to work out my thoughts.  (It was also a way to share parts of my life so that, hopefully, I wouldn’t be a complete stranger to friends and family whenever I would next see them.)  I’m working on finding that inspiration again, and it’s there, of course, waiting for me to acknowledge it.  There is so much around me wherever I am, whether in DC, in Rome, in Wisconsin, Chicago, Nebraska, Warmond, Ghana or Minneapolis - wherever – there’s always atmosphere, people I love, food, wine, beer, etc.  I just need to let it in . . .  and let it touch me somehow.

In the meantime, a few things come up that affect me more than other things.  Often, these things are still connected to Africa.  After all, so many of my friends are there, so much of my adult life was there, so much of my growing up took place there and most of my work is still related to African issues.  For example, talking to my friends in Liberia about how ebola is affecting everyone’s lives has moved me; I felt it inside, in my heart, and wanted to write about it.  (So there you go . . .  my previous blog entry.)

And now, there’s another ebola-related issue which someone in SMA told me he had read about, so I looked up the article(s).  Phew – it really pisses me off!!!  The organization I have been involved with for so many years sends support to this person who is fomenting bigotry and hatred through his promulgation of ignorance.  Here are links to a couple of the articles, but there are more stories that can be found related to this.  The first link is more about what was said and so on, the second is how these statements by an influential leader in Liberia has affected a group of people that he has slandered:

Here’s something said by the same SMA priest who told me about this:

His thinking is inflammatory and could lead to persecution and death of others if  the people think they have caused ebola. This is more than culture and besides if it is it should be challenged. His theology and culture should be transcended. What kind of God does he have? I wonder if people like this still think the earth is flat and that the sun revolves around the earth? It won't be challenged because we are too patronizing....

The US province of SMA has a priest who once said that he didn’t believe that we ever landed on the moon – it was all something put together in Hollywood.  Was he joking? Was he serious?  I honestly don’t know because I wasn’t there.  I wonder why the person who heard him say this ignorance did not challenge him in some way.  And right now, with the Archbishop making these kinds of totally ignorant and inflammatory comments, why aren't we challenging him?

I have already felt like a hypocrite at times.  I struggle with some of the Catholic Church’s stances on certain issues, and yet here I am, going on 16 or 17 years with a Catholic organization which supports a man that spouts this kind of stuff.  He’s supposed to be a leader, a unifier.  He’s supposedly educated.  In my mind he’s supposed to be spreading a message of love and non-judgment, of caring for those who are among the most abandoned – isn’t that a message in the Bible? – isn’t that what Jesus did in the Bible?  Who did Jesus hang with, after all? (And what are some of the statements coming out of the recent Vatican Synod on the family??!! -- the entire document is an interesting read, actually, and point 110 specifically contradicts what has been said by religious leaders in Liberia.)  One of SMA’s priorities, no . . . THE  priority (supposedly) is to the most abandoned of Africa and African descent.  Yet, we are supporting this guy.  To be honest, at this time in history in Africa, homosexuals are clearly among "the most abandoned".

I used to think, “well, a lot of people don’t agree with everything from their ‘employers’ ” – and, as I said, I have gone on with the same organization for so many years now, so clearly I decided to just see this not agreeing with everything as acceptable and "normal".  But, I go on feeling a little more like a hypocrite each time, and it becomes harder and harder each time.



At 1:21 AM, Blogger TJ said...

thanks for writing about this steve. I had not heard about this particular statement from the catholic bishop though I am not surprised given current religious and political events.

from a religious standpoint, the hebrew scriptures point to plagues as punishment for immoral or liscentious behavior. on the other hand the new testament speaks of punishment in the afterlife for such behavior.

from a political standpoint however, given liberias close ties to the USA, barack obamas heritage and his not so recent trip to the continent where he espoused the virtues of homosexuality to a hostile crowd of african leaders( after which he apologized), many african and even arab leaders see homosexuality as a western construct being thrust upon the african community.

On one hand i applaud african leaders for their independence, on the other hand they are forgetting their calling and becoming political leaders executing power on very easily influenced followers. til now , africans have tolerated and even ignored homosexuality on the continent. however, religious leaders calling out innocent people to blame for calamities isnt new. often innocent people are accused of witchcraft and similarly persecuted as you know.

as homosexuals gain political clout in the usa and europe, no doubt african leaders hearken back to colonialism where their foreign masters forced their views and beliefs onto the population. couple this with the revelation that unicef was caught placing sterilization drugs in immunization medicine and the continent is becoming more and more paranoid. (
In the end, from the catholic standpoint, SMA should contact the vatican and make them aware of these inflammatory statements and see if the pope can intervene to get the bishop to retract the statements and make the church a place of refuge for the persecuted and not the cause of persecution.

At 7:59 AM, Blogger Samuel Whodokweh Jacobs said...

Great comment anf inputs

At 8:09 AM, Blogger Samuel Whodokweh Jacobs said...

Thanks Steve for this post..for some reason, I hate listening to our press and religious leaders for thier ignorance about this virus..what they report and what I have experienced and still experiencing from my wife's line of work, their god must be stupid to punish those poor and innocent families with no homosexuals within their's a shame for a leader to say something like that in this type of society where many would follow the leader and strongly believing what is said by their leader...thanks for this post again...

At 3:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If God punishes a whole continent or a large part of it with worldwide implications for homosexual acts, then what pandemic awaits pedophilism? God almost has to do it if this is the way he acts as he did in ebola. If not, God can't be trusted. He is not just and even handed. He has to unleash the big one for pedophilism. It makes sense. Am I correct? Who is his next target group? They have to be poor, however.

At 6:56 PM, Blogger MJ said...

I remember reading the articles you point to when they first came out and thinking how ridiculous and ignorant that thinking was. I was stunned to see it came from an Archbishop in the Catholic Church--made me feel sorry for his congregation and at the same time wonder what he might be teaching them about their religion and their treatment of each other and the people they meet. Are they learning respect for each other?--will they be willing to help others in need?--what kind of things will they be teaching their children and grandchildren? This is a man that they should be able to look up to and go to for guidance not for this type of thinking that will turn one against another because of a life style that they don't understand or agree with.

At 10:13 PM, Anonymous Christine said...

Ai Steve, don't spend your energy on this. It was the same crap with AIDS... "raping a virgin will cure you of AIDS." Time to find a new job... there are plenty of great orgs that will pick you up in a second and have you back in Africa where you belong. Handicap International is one, and remember, I can connect you with the US director.


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