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Sharings - Starcross' Seasonal Newsletter

Sharings - Winter 2000

A SCARY RESCUE IN UGANDA

Throughout December a tense drama was enfolding with our children in Uganda. Rebel forces invaded the remote western area around Ntuma where 12 of our sponsored children lived. Ben Ssenoga feared for their safety. He faxed that the rebels were "walking all night. They have begun to kill people who do not collaborate with them." Cars carrying humanitarian aid were set on fire.

After quickly assessing the situation Brother Toby urged Ben to immediately move the Ntuma children and our co-worker John to our House of Hope at Gganda until things calmed down. This had to be done in complete secrecy. Fortunately, Ben is one of the few people there who happens to know Italian so he and sister Julie could safely communicate in that language using the Ugandan post office fax machine! Plans were made to evacuate children a few at a time so as not to arouse suspicion. Our kids were all rescued and brought to safety.

We still do not have all the dramatic details about how it was accomplished. We do know that a great deal of courage and discretion were required. We kept many of the sponsors informed through e-mail. (If you would like to be on the Uganda e-mail list, send sister Julie your e-mail address.)

We still do not have all the dramatic details about how it was accomplished. We do know that a great deal of courage and discretion were required. We kept many of the sponsors informed through e-mail. (If you would like to be on the Uganda e-mail list, send sister Julie your e-mail address.)

On the first day of the new century Ben faxed greetings and good wishes from the House of Hope to all their friends over here. "I am happy to inform you that we have had a lovely and peaceful Christmas celebration. It was a really good time and everyone was so happy. . . Remember us to everybody there." We remember. We are thankful.

A NEW HOUSE OF HOPE?

Next January I will be 70. Some friends asked me how I wanted to commemorate that milestone. To answer them I need your advice.

I have co-founded Starcross, helped establish our family with the children, and helped found two "Houses of Hope", one in Romania and another in Uganda. I want to open one more "House of Hope" near us, in Santa Rosa. It will have something to do with children and families coping with serious and unusual circumstances. We have had a lot of experience there. Sometimes these are life threatening, sometimes they are taking advantage of great gifts God has given a child but which create major challenges to a family.

But, this is not all there is to "hope" in this new century. What are the directions in which we need to go in order to help our brothers and sisters of all ages find encouragement. How do we find spiritual nourishment? How do we pass that on to those who follow us? So please let me hear from you. What spiritual rooms should there be in our new "House of Hope?"

THE FAMILY JOURNAL

Through the busy wreath season, we enjoyed the fruits of the summer’s labor. Nothing like a blackberry cobbler at the end of a hard-working day! Our new computer program made the office run more smoothly than ever. Now if we could just get the sales up a bit.

This fall was a difficult time for 14-year old Nicki. A routine medical procedure went awry and we had quite a scare. She is ever more fragile, now needing to be on oxygen several hours a day. We are so thankful to have found a living situation for her where she can attend a special school, make friends who are at her developmental level and receive the constant loving care she requires.

Thirteen year old Michelle is thriving in her new school and environment. She is a popular, conscientious student. Now that David has his scholarship and goes to school in England, there was no need to make the long commute to the Bay Area for music school. We sold our little place in Richmond and got a house in Santa Rosa where Andrew and Holly are in second and fourth grades. Everyone enjoys the return to more normalcy. Driving less than 2 hours to Santa Rosa seems simple!

David has adjusted beautifully to The Yehudi Menuhin School. His violin and academic studies are going very well. We were unprepared for him to have a rare, fluky response to a virus which put him in the hospital over the holidays. He recovered just in time to catch his return flight and now is being closely monitored by doctors in the UK. Before leaving he played a moving, impromptu concert in his doctor’s office as a “thank you”. He will be celebrating his 14th birthday away from home for the first time. We hope and pray for his good health.

January seems to have been a hospital month. Brother Toby also was admitted after a trip to the emergency room proved to be more serious than we’d thought. He had a painful blocked bowel which fortunately healed without surgery. Now, we are attempting to reduce the stress in our lives and keep out of the hospital for awhile!

HOUSESITTERS WANTED Would you like a brief time of solitude in a beautiful, peaceful setting? Occasionally we must all be gone at the same time and would like someone to be on the property. We want to compile a list of potential housesitters to call very soon. If you might be able to help please contact sister Julie, 34500 Annapolis Rd., Annapolis, CA 95412. Tel. 707-886-1919 or julie@starcross.org

This year Christmas at Starcross was especially quiet, simple and beautiful. The grace of the season flowed into our millenial celebration. We prayed in solidarity with many people throughout the world focusing on six themes: Respect for the earth, peace for its people, love in our lives, delight in the good, forgiveness of past wrongs, and from now on a new start. These themes are worthy of continued reflection as we begin the new century.

 Christmas Eve

Christmas Day

OVERFLOWING THE HOUSE

Our House of Hope at Gganda is filled to bursting. The third phase of construction which will include an indoor kitchen and more living space cannot begin during the rainy season. The compound is designed to then accomodate up to 20 children. With the recent emergency influx from Ntuma, we have surpassed that already.

It is not easy to blend so many into a family. We have kids from deep in the jungle living with star students at British-type secondary schools. But the sense of community and sharing is strong. The children adapt in a good natured way despite all the colds, flu and fevers that circulate. However, there really is not room for more.

At Starcross we are considering how to expand the House of Hope without changing its unique "Kin"-like nature. Brother Toby plans to go there soon with sister Julie to lend his expertise gained from designing the program for the House of Hope in Romania in such a way as to keep it home-care oriented. In the meantime, prayers and good wishes are most welcome!

Ben Ssennoga opens the door at the House of Hope

HELP NEEDED AT STARCROSS We wish to hire reliable, long-term people to help at Starcross both in secretarial and in housekeeping duties. Please contact sister Julie for more information.

SOME ATTENTION AT LAST!

With the publication of the United Nations shocking report that by the end of 2001 there will be 13 million AIDS orphans in Africa, the world press and public have finally begun to take note. The magnitude of the crisis boggles the imagination. By the time the parents die a family's resources have been exhausted. Children are left destitute with no social services network and no extended family to care for them.

There are international conferences about solving the huge governmental problems of prevention, medical care and general poverty. Those issues are beyond us at Starcross, but what we are able to do is to rescue individual children from misery, pain and the despair of being alone.

We realize that some of our children will die. Most, however, will grow up to inherit their devastated homeland. We can provide them in their formative years with adequate nutrition, basic education and a stable loving home. As they mature, we see signs of leadership developing. Some of these bright and promising young people will make important contributions to the world.

It is hard to understand why it took so long for the world to recognize this disaster. Three years after Kin Initiative contacted Starcross and we began a program in Uganda, NEWSWEEK ran a cover story on the AIDS orphan crisis. As in Romania, the House of Hope in Uganda could serve as an easily replicated model to help in Africa. The children are the future of the continent. The children need hope. They need it now.

 STARCROSS FUNDS RETURNED

We are happy to report that all the money we had deposited in the Diocese of Santa Rosa’s private banking system has finally been returned to us. They are trying to cope with a lot of problems. We will use only regular banks in the future.

A REFLECTION FROM BROTHER TOBY

As the organizational aspects of religion show increasing signs of stress, the need for the home to become a primary spiritual center is correspondingly important. We can learn much from the traditions which developed during the Diaspora when the Jewish people were scattered from their homeland. The weekly Shabbat meal and ceremonies can be a model for all. It would be nourishing for any family to gather around the dining table once a week with practices to make explicit the relationship between spirituality and family life.

A number of years ago I wrote an article for PARENTS MAGAZINE titled "Bless Your Kid!" which advocated a return to the old practice of family blessings. It had a strong positive reaction from the readers. Let me share one example I used.

Sara was a bright and active ten-year-old. She was riding her bicycle home from school, wearing her helmet, when she was struck by a speeding car. For several days Sara's father and mother were at her hospital bed as she drifted in and out of consciousness. The doctors were unsure of the future. Dan, Sara's father, was an active person who had trouble accepting that there was nothing he or anyone else could do. Late one night the nurse checked the tubes feeding Sara, pulled back the curtain dividing the quiet room, and left. After a few minutes Sara slowly opened her eyes. Dan knew the look of confusion but before either he or his wife could say a word of reassurance Sara's eyes closed. Without thinking Dan stood up and went to the bed. He placed his big hands gently but solidly on Sara's bandaged head. He did not say anything. In a moment he felt his wife's presence on the other side of the bed. Her hands now joined his in the silence. Whatever strength they had was being offered to their little girl. In the weeks that followed Sara improved. Months later, when asked about her memories of those bad times, Sara once said that she remembered the time when, "Mom and Dad gave me everything they had."

We need to find more ways of giving each other everything we have.

 
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