Dominican Sister of Hope Debbie Blow, OP went to Nicaragua twenty years ago on an isolated mission trip. Upon her return, she co-founded the North Country Mission of Hope, which now celebrates its twentieth year of fostering hope among the people of Nicaragua through community development, ecological sustainability, education and healthcare. 

Recently, I listened to some very poignant folk songs of my youth from the 60’s. One song, among many, speaks of both the pain and the promise.  Some of you will remember:

Can you hear the prayer of the children….??

There is nothing that breaks my heart quite like hearing the cries of the children. Throughout my life, I’ve reflected on how it is always the children who get caught in the crossfires. I recall the Vietnam War, and I recall the civil war in Ireland and a movie that actually was entitled: “Children Caught in the Crossfire”.

Likewise, I recall the Croatian war, Desert Storm, the Israeli/Palestinian war, the civil war in Nicaragua and Central America and of course, the wars of our most recent decades. While the faces of war may have changed and the styles of terror and destruction have become more vicious, the reality hasn’t.

I recall accepting children into the elementary and Junior High school where I was principal back in the 80’s (and yes, sometimes the voices of those who objected tried to drown out the voices of the children).  We accepted children from Lebanon, Ethiopia, the Middle East, the terror in the Phillipines, the civil wars and revolution in Central America, and many other places.

There is one thing that is absolutely clear to me amidst this murk and evil and hatred: we, as adults, have failed far too often to hear the cries of the children. If we truly heard their cries, we’d be people of peace. Isn’t it a bit scary that it often seems that our misguided loyalty to country, to faith, or to our family can easily be twisted as our excuses to exclude the children of anyone or anywhere that do not look like our children?

In my opinion, that is not patriotism, and that is not faith, and it sure isn’t love of the human community or of creation.

Sister Debbie Blow with her goddaughter in Nicaragua

On my VERY first mission trip to Nicaragua, we stood in the midst of darkness on the Nino Jesus de Pragacompound, with the only electricity around being the electric presence of the Holy Spirit. We used flashlights and candles as hundreds gathered together to pray, and then the locals sang to us as we departed during the night. In the midst of that emotional evening, a little girl came up to me. I bent over and she grabbed my face in her hands and whispered something in Spanish. She was maybe four or five years old. I grabbed a translator and asked her to repeat it.

She had said, “Thank you for hearing us, for coming to us.”

I’m not sure I got the full impact of her words at that moment, but over the years, I’ve come to believe that this girl was a messenger from God, an angel who spoke to me when I least wanted to hear it. You see, originally, I had no intention of continuing the Mission of Hope beyond one trip, one year. Yet, this year, we celebrate our 20th anniversary as a Mission of Hope!

So, day after day, year after year, consumed by hatred and evil and war, it is easy to get lost in the pushback of despair and to live as if we have a right to “an-eye-for-an-eye” way of life.  Yet, we are surrounded by reminders that our prayer must ask the Spirit of the Divine (whomever we believe that Divinity to be) to “send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.” (Ps. 104)

As we walk the journey of life this week, perhaps we can focus on the cries of the children and be beacons of HOPE to them, and we can be bearers of peace and we can be the voices for the voiceless –the children in our midst– worldwide.

Perhaps we can hear the prayers of the children because they are watching us and they are still uttering their prayers.  Will we listen to them?

Live and Be HOPE this week and every week, because the children need us to hear their cries!

This article is the first in our World Population Day series.

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