I only have time for a very short post this morning as we begin our long journey home and say goodbye to Pasto, Nariño today.

I started to recognize the "symptoms" of separation anxiety yesterday. After my travels with CRS in Africa, I now know that the longing I feel to remain here is a normal part of my "process" of taking these types of adventures. I linger over goodbyes. I can't get enough of looking at the sweeping landscapes. I wonder if I will ever be able to be present with these new friends again... I pray about the great challenge and amazing privilege of sharing their stories.

Maria learns about CRS Rice Bowl Maria learns about CRS Rice Bowl

But even though this is my third CRS trip, saying goodbye to Colombia isn't any easier.

The highlight of our busy day yesterday was the opportunity to visit the home of Maria and her family. Maria was featured in this CRS Rice Bowl video:

To meet Maria after hearing of her story through Rice Bowl for the last few months felt surreal. We were welcomed into their small home with open arms. They prepared for us a feast of empanadas, rice, beans, cheese, omelettes, and rich hot chocolate. Over breakfast, our CRS team shared with Maria and her family the Rice Bowl and told them about the work being done around the globe through Rice Bowl funds to help families like hers thrive. Rice Bowl is not about handouts. It is about creating a better future for people who are gifted, allowing them to work and learn and grow with dignity and the opportunity for future success.

To share with you their reaction to learning about Rice Bowl leaves me in tears as I type these words. Precious Maria listened, tears dripping from her eyes and she shared with us the great privilege of working with CRS and what it has meant for her family. So much happened over this meeting that I do not have the time to share right now. But one precious moment happened when our Father Rafael Capo blessed them and their tiny, humble home at their request. I will share a video of this soon, when I have better wifi.

We prepared to go about the next portion of our agenda and said our goodbyes to Maria and her family. Then the unexpected happened: Maria had filled out the Rice Bowl and slipped it quietly to Fr. Rafael with their family's gift inside. As he told me this story, Padre choked back the tears I was unable to contain. Here was this amazing young woman, giving of her poverty to help other families like hers around the world. Here was a family that "gets" what Rice Bowl means because they have seen firsthand in their own life how the simple prayer, fasting and almsgiving we do during Lent can offer security, health, education and dignity. Fr. Rafael was still grappling with the grace of this moment when Maria's father and brother came to add their own gifts to the Rice Bowl.

Father Rafael will carry that Rice Bowl home to Miami and submit it during Lent. I wish I could be there when Father shares this story with the congregations he serves. I've learned his heart well enough this week to know that he will be unable to choke back the tears he felt yesterday when he shares with them how received such a precious gift. Maria's family's offerings will be united with the Rice Bowl funds Father's community donates, and with my family's and yours. Lives will be changed--both in Rice Bowl recipient countries around the world and in our own homes, schools and parishes as well.

In Mark 12, we read the story of the widow's mite:

He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.q Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

How graced I am to have witnessed the living out of this gospel lesson. How humbled I am to share it with you, even in such a quick fashion. I beg you today to prayerfully consider this Lenten season how Christ's gospel is working in your heart. Let us follow the lead of Maria and her family in living with hearts open to God's great grace. Let us give of our poverty with full confidence in the richness of God's abounding love.

Please join me in praying through the intercession of Colombia’s patrons Our Lady of Chiquinquirá, St. Louis Bertrand, and St. Peter Claver for the success and safety of our journey.

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Copyright 2016 Lisa M. Hendey