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Sister Marilyn Lacey: Mercy Beyond Borders & Relationships Beyond Boundaries



Guest: Sister Marilyn Lacey
Host: LuAnn Cooley
Moderator: Pavi Mehta

Welcome to Awakin Calls. Every Saturday, we host a conversation with an individual whose inner journey inspires us and whose work is transforming our world in large and small ways. Awakin Calls are an all-volunteer-run offering of ServiceSpace, a global platform founded on the simple principle that by changing ourselves, we change the world to create a more compassionate and service-oriented society. Thank you for joining us!

LuAnn: Good morning, good afternoon and good evening. My name is LuAnn and I'm excited to be your host for our weekly Global Awakin Call. Welcome, and thank you for joining us. The purpose of these calls is to share stories that help plant seeds for a more compassionate society while fostering our own inner transformation. We do this by holding collective conversations with guest speakers from all walks of life, who inspire us to live in a more service-oriented way. Behind each of these calls is an entire team of ServiceSpace volunteers whose invisible work allows us to hold this space.

Today, our special guest speaker is Sister Marilyn Lacey. Thanks again for joining today's call. Let us start with a minute of silence to anchor ourselves into the space.

[pause]

Welcome again to our weekly Awakin Call, today in conversation with Sister Marilyn Lacey. As an all-volunteer offering, each Awakin Call is a conversational space that is co-created by many invisible hands. In a few minutes our moderator Pavi Mehta will begin by engaging in an initial dialogue with our speaker, Sister Marilyn Lacey, and by the top of the hour, we will roll into Q&A and a circle of sharing where we'll invite all of your reflections and questions.

I'd like to introduce our moderator today. Pavi Mehta is a writer and volunteer with ServiceSpace. She co-leads its inspiring news portal, Daily Good. She's my sister in spirit, a mentor, and frequently, my connection to my universal teacher. Her gentle ways inspire me to look beyond circumstances, to hold a deep space for others, and to try to be a more generous person in my welcoming the stranger and the truly strange into my life. I'm very excited that she's hosting this conversation with Sister Lacey. Pavi will now introduce Sister Lacey and start the conversation. Pavi?

Pavi: Thank you, Lou. Oh my goodness for that very, very beautiful introduction. I hope to continue to try and live into that. Now it's my pleasure to introduce Sister Marilyn, who just flew in from Haiti six hours ago and graciously joined us this morning.

Sister Marilyn Lacey is the founder and executive director of Mercy Beyond Borders, a nonprofit organization that partners with displaced women and children overseas to alleviate their poverty. She's been a Sister of Mercy since 1966 and holds a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of California Berkeley. For decades, Sister Marilyn has aligned her energies and aspirations with refugee communities both here in the United States as well as in some of the most ravaged pockets of our world. For many years she directed programs for refugees and immigrants, including the resettlement of the Lost Boys of Sudan at Catholic Charities in San Jose. She describes her leap into the refugee universe in her breathtaking book, This Flowing Towards Me: A Story of God Arriving in Strangers.
The heart of the Scriptures come glowingly to life in the words, works, and world of Sister Marilyn. She and her team have grappled deeply with the question of what it means to welcome the stranger, to see the Divine in the displaced, and to walk beside and witness those on the burning margins. In 2001, Sister Lacey was honored by the Dalai Lama as an Unsung Hero of Compassion. A few of us here in the Bay Area had the privilege of meeting her recently and it was like meeting an old, wise, delightful friend. Sister Marilyn, we are so happy to have you with us today. Thank you so much.

Sister Marilyn: Pavi, you're wonderful. You got part of that introduction right -- the "old" part.

[both laughing]

Pavi: I meant "old" as in "familiar."

[both laughing]

Sister Marilyn: We'll let the listeners decide about the "wise" and "delightful." [laughing] Thank you so much.

Pavi: Oh my goodness. Well, I just wanted to to begin where we are -- with you fresh off a flight from Haiti, and with the question of what is … what is a life for you in this moment?

Sister Marilyn: Ah, you know, I have the privilege so often of walking with people on the margins -- people who essentially don't matter in polite society, and people who are usually left without names and without influence and our lives go on busily and not even noticing the strangers, you know, in our midst. So the best part of my job are the times when I'm able to go overseas and see our programs and people in action. So I just spent the past week in the mountains of Northern Haiti, where we have a scholarship program for girls. And one of the things that we do in all of our programs in various countries -- we try to make home visits to the family of the refugees or displaced persons or young girls that we're working with. Because that's where you see the roots and the love, or lack of love, that has formed the young women we're working with.

And I went to five different homes in the far mountains. I say "far" mountains -- they're not that far if you could fly like a bird, but the roads are quite poor and so you can only go part way in your four-wheel drive and then you have to get out and walk. So we go up and down these steep ravines and finally get to these little huts made of stone and thatch. And we are always welcomed with great warmth, and they try to share whatever they might have -- you know, maybe they have just a coconut tree or an avocado tree in their small garden. And so they'll always share what they have. And we sit with them and we listen -- what it means to them that their daughter has the chance now for an education; what it means to them that somebody comes to visit them so far away and pay respect to them, to learn their name, and hear a little bit about their story.

But of those five visits, the one that that I kept pondering on the flights home night late last night was to the little hut of our scholar -- high school scholar, she's 16 years old, her name is [name not transcribed]. And when she was 13, her mother died and her father then had a mental breakdown. No one knows exactly why or what, and of course there aren't mental health professionals up there in the mountains that could do an assessment or help out or whatever, but he basically took to his bed and gave up on living. So when we went to visit him, he was lying in bed on his stomach with his face turned away from the door, and I came in and greeted him and he was motionless, not saying anything. Finally he turned his head so that he could see who had entered his hut at the invitation of his daughter. And I just greeted him by name and asked him if he was in pain, and he just kind of stared at me. And finally he said -- I had an interpreter with me, but he mumbled a sentence and there was one English word in the sentence, the word was "photocopy" and he kept repeating it. And so I turned to the interpreter -- I'd put my hand on the man's shoulder -- and I turned to the interpreter and said, "Is he waiting for some sort of document?" I thought maybe he needed some paperwork to get health care or something. And the worker had tears in her eyes, the interpreter, and she said to me, "No Sister. He's saying that, 'you are looking at me, but you are not seeing me. You're seeing a copy of my old self. I am not myself anymore. You are seeing a photocopy of me.'"

And I can't express what that did to me. It was like his life is so empty now that he's just ... he's a photocopy of what he used to be. And I guess, I don't know, on the flights home I was thinking "there's a lot of people walking around this world who feel like just empty, photocopies of the life that should be there, but just flat and unknown and unrecognized and unnamed." And I don't know, as a Sister of Mercy, as a person who tries to live with compassion, I thought "what can we do to share the compassion we've received with other people who don't yet feel it, who don't yet know their own value and their own goodness, who have sort of given up under the crushing weight of suffering or loss or grief?" So that's where I am right now and I'm thinking so much of him.

Pavi: Not being there, just hearing people's words, and there is something haunting in that statement, "You're seeing just a photocopy."

Sister Marilyn: Yes.

Pavi: I want to come back to many things. Just in this little painting that you depicted for us at these five home visits up in the mountains in the span of a week that you are in Haiti. There's so much there in terms of what scale means, what depth means, in the sort of work that you're doing. But I want to come back to that a little later and instead rewind the storyline in it, and if you could give us a little window into the world you grew up in your formative years and any influences that kind of were pivotal in shaping your journey from that early time in your life.

Sister Marilyn: Well, thank you for the question. I think one of the most blessed people in the world in terms of my early upbringing was my two very loving parents and four siblings -- four brothers with whom I fought lovingly, constantly, played baseball with and just grew up in a happy household. And it's only in retrospect of course that you recognize how extraordinary that is and what a solid foundation it provides for moving outward. I can remember as a five-year-old, I had not yet started school, so I must have been four or five. I had a little two-wheel bicycle that I had been given that I shared with my brother, and my mom would send me to the butcher to buy a certain kind of meat. I bicycle off to do it. She'd give me the money and she would say, "I want you to buy five French lamb chops and always say ‘please’ to the butcher". And I said, “well what if they don't have them? What if he doesn't have them, what should I get?” And she said to me, “then just use your own good judgment.” I'm 5 years old, and I don't remember what I ever bought that was alternative, but I do remember there were times when I brought something different home, and she said, “thank you. Maybe next time when they don't have them you could buy blah blah.” But she never said “you did the wrong thing” and I grew up with this extraordinary sense that I was powerful in the world, that I could be on my own, I could make decisions, I could do things. I wish everyone could have such a foundation because it essentially makes you fearless almost. I'm terrified of spiders but that's another story (laughs). But to move, I think, in the world beyond your comfort zone is something most people fear to do and because of that solid, appreciative, caring environment, I don't have that fear.
So I have been able to move out into the world. I didn't do it until I was in my twenties, really, because I had a sheltered existence, went to private school, became a teacher in the convent with very much control of my environment. I had an answer for every question. Life was fine until I stumbled into the world of refugees, which was in 1980, because I was living in a convent near the San Francisco airport -- where the boat people, the Leftovers to clean the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War, started coming in when Congress passed the refugee act in 1980. They were all transiting from Asian and Southeast Asian refugee camps through SFO airport to get to their connecting flights to groups or churches or temples -- whatever that was sponsoring them around the US.

So that was the entry point. It was a point of great congestion and confusion in the services, and I just stumbled into becoming a volunteer there. Honestly, it's like falling into Alice in Wonderland's rabbit hole and you discover that there is a whole world out there and it was chaotic, upside down and powerless. People were caught up in it and upended and their lives were torn from their roots. It was nothing like the suburbs of San Francisco where I grew up. But because of that foundation that I had, I was attracted to it rather than scared of it and thought this is what the Scriptures are talking about when they say that "You can meet God on the margins" or "The God hangs out with the poor" or "There is blessing in what is other" so I just kind of stumbled into it.

Pavi: That gravitation towards the margins and the fearlessness that you described is extraordinary. And is there a twin story there, because I think your gravitation towards God and your gravitation towards the refugee story is deeply intertwined and you've told us a little bit about your first encounter with the refugee world. What was your first encounter with the spirit of the Divine?

Sister Marilyn: Oh goodness (laughs). Well as long as I can remember, I have felt a friendship with the divine. My earliest memories are of playing baseball. I picked up my first baseball mitt when I was four and I would play with my brothers all day long and then with my dad when he came home at night. I just lived and breathed baseball. When I was very very young, they start the little kids out in the outfield where they can't do any damage. So you stand out in the outer field and maybe once every hour or more [the ball] would come in your direction. I kind of stand out there and talk to God waiting for the baseball, but I always felt … never ever have felt alone in my life. And I don't know how much of that is due to the solidity of the family I grew up in and how much of it is due to this sense of the closeness of the divine in my life.

I think they're probably intertwined and most people probably have a much longer and more difficult journey toward that sense of who God is and how close God is. When you make vows as a Catholic sister you get to choose a motto which is inscribed in the simple silver ring that we wear. And the motto I chose is “God is with me.” As a young nun, that was my sense always, that God is with me, which is so revealing of the individualistic American spirit and Christian spirituality, really, you know. “Me and God” or on your good days, “God and me.” But it's not this communal sense that many other cultures understand, and I came to that slowly over time and I came to that really through my working with refugees -- that we do not stand alone in the world and that we do not go to God or experience God in mystical alone moments. Yes, maybe now and then, but mostly in our interactions with others and in those interactions mostly with those who are other than we are. Not our close friends who are just like us that we've chosen, but I mean the ultimate “other” is God. And when we go beyond our comfort zone to risk interaction with those who are “other,” that's the meeting space I believe. A place where we come to understand a broader sense of God and this narrow tunnel vision drops away that we have of a Catholic understanding or a Buddhist understanding or a Sufi understanding, whatever. We need all of those views; we need all those angles to just stand in awe.

Pavi: I was just going to ask -- if there was this, early on, deep sense of connection, and then, I would imagine, a calling towards cultivating that that came to you -- did it feel like a very straight path or did you have to meander to find your way?

Sister Marilyn: No, as a young child, I always had this sense of companionship with God -- a friendly … like a friendship, but my intent was to become a major league baseball player [laughter].

Pavi: And you were scouted too, right?

Sister Marilyn: I was scouted by a professional scout from the New York Giants who watch me pitching -- I graduated quickly from the outfield to the pitching mound as a youngster and he was watching me play one day at a game, and I must have been about 10 or so. He actually looked up my father and asked him, he said, “you know, we can't use her but do you have any sons that play as well?” [laughing]. Dad didn't tell me that for years because he knew I would have been crushed, but my dad said "yes, I have four sons, but none of them plays that well."

So, couple years went by, I realized Major Leagues seem to be all men not girls, so I had to give that up. So then I set my sights on becoming a teacher but there was a deeper sense of wanting to surrender to something bigger and more profound. I was sensitive ... how do you surrender your life to God? And of course, there are many ways to do that -- many, many, many paths, but I was attracted to becoming a Catholic sister. I don't know why -- just it seemed a good way to frame or shape a life of devotion to God. Again it was at that point very individualistic; I was 18, I thought "I'll just give my life to God and then find some way to live that out; I guess I'll be a teacher," you know. So I did -- I became a mathematics teacher.

Pavi: And even within that, you chose to teach in the inner city schools.

Sister Marilyn: Yes. Well, as I got into the convent and, of course we began to study the Scriptures, and there was this.very evident call from the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures and from the life of Jesus -- toward the edges, you know. It's "don't settle down in the land. Pay attention to the poor among you. This is what you need to do in your life." And I was teaching in a suburban private high school and I went to the Sisters in charge. I said, "could you transfer me to our poorest school?" And so they did. I was teaching in inner-city Los Angeles for a number of years, and I really loved that. That was a lot of fun. But then I was transferred back to the suburbs here in the San Francisco Bay Area to do some administrative work for our congregation, and during that time the refugee crisis erupted. I won't call it "crisis"; the law changed, allowing the Southeast Asian refugees to come into the U.S.and so there was this opportunity to volunteer and help out. And it was just this curiosity that got me over to the airport. I'd never met a refugee. I wondered what that would be like, I was sort of attracted to step out of this little safe corner of the world that I had grown up in. And, as I say, it blew my mind and it became like a magnetic thing -- like this is what I'm meant to do. And I haven't looked back. That was 1980.

Pavi: I wonder ... one of the things that comes up for me as I listen to you talk is there is such a commitment to, in your order, to work in the world and to really channeling acts of mercy. I am wondering what is that dance in in your life between the relationship between action in the world and surrender?

Sister Marilyn: Hmm. What a great question. Yes, the history of our congregation, Sisters of Mercy, about a hundred seventy five years old, began with works of mercy -- visiting the sick in their homes, taking in abandoned children, starting hospitals, doing schools, and always among the poor. We came to San Francisco in the 1850s, right after the Gold Rush, and so wild and crazy place. Within a couple of months had started a hospital, St. Mary's, which is still there, and schools -- St. Peter's, still there. It's the quality of mercy, as we understand it in our congregation, is practical response to immediate need. So that's what we did for, you know, a hundred or more years.

What we understand now is that "yes, that is critical and we must continue doing it. But we also need to look at the systemic reasons why people are poor." It's not enough just to give food to a hungry person, but what caused this in the first place? Our work in South Sudan is a good example. When I first went there during the long war, I saw just ghastly scenes of starving people. I can't put it into words. And your immediate response is "feed them and, of course, heal them, try to do something with them." Then you have to step back and say "what is happening here? Why is this war happening is happening? This is happening because of oil, it was discovered. It's happening because of greed for that oil. It's happening because of power -- between powerful men fighting each other." That also needs to be addressed. So our understanding of mercy now is: mercy and justice. The root word in Hebrew for "justice" is the same root as the root for Holiness because it isn't just something external that you do. It comes out of this deep understanding of our connectedness that the mercy, the works of mercy, spring from this essential movement of God toward uniting and reconciling and healing and giving life.

So you asked about the dance between action and surrender. A big part of our life of really all Catholic sisters is contemplation, silence, prayer, annual retreats, time to sink back deeply into that center of who God is and how that spirit of God moves through us to ... I don't know, demonstrate, or what the right verb is, that everything and everyone ... they're all connected. We are all kin. So I'm horrified at the way we are treating migrants. In our own country, at our southern border especially, but also around the world. It's as if these people are enemies, threats. Certainly they are "other", but God is "other" and God chooses -- if you believe in not just the Scriptures, but all kinds of stories and literature and experiences -- that it's when we welcome the "other" that we have our best chance to welcome and experience God.

I don't know how to say it -- how many ways to iterate it -- but it's that initial surrender to the otherness of God that causes, that allows the openness to interact with others in merciful ways, I think, so they're intimately bound. And even if you don't believe in religion or God or whatever, it doesn't matter. Even physics, quantum physics, is now teaching us the exact same thing. I find this astounding. If you interact with subatomic particles here in California and make them wiggle, or whatever they do, it can affect one over in China, and it will also wiggle at the same moment because -- the word the physicists use is -- that those particles are entangled. That's a great word, "entangled." The Christian phrase has always been for centuries the "mystical Body of Christ," which sounds kind of esoteric but at its root what it means is somehow, in a way we don't understand, everything and everyone is one body and we are all connected. So if there is a woman dying in South Sudan because her village has been burned, because she's been trekking through the forests and deserts for two weeks with her children to get to a refugee camp, if she's suffering, I cannot be at peace. I cannot rest. And that once you believe that, you're energized to do something, do something practical. Whether it's raise money to help alleviate that situation or advocate in Congress for stopping the greed of the companies that are extracting oil and armies that are building those pipelines and dropping bombs on the people to protect the pipelines. We're all interconnected. We are all interconnected. And the fact that we want to build walls on our borders to keep people out is so blatantly wrong. It's backwards. The world is going to be safer when we make friends with strangers, not when we try to keep them out or kill them. I understand that it's fear that causes people to lock the doors, but we are really on the wrong path.

Pavi: Well, I remember in one of your talks and when you were in a circle with us, you quoted Mary Oliver, a line that just has stayed with me ever since, where she says, "Except as we have loved, all news comes as from a distant land."

Sister Marilyn: Yeah. It's absolutely true.

Pavi: And I think about how... I really thought that... There are so many powerful stories in your book, but the story of how you first ended up in Sudan, I think, is worth revisiting for our listeners who probably haven't heard it. And what strikes me there is you were so open to an invitation that others may have just brushed by and not recognized as that. And so if you could tell us the story of your first visit to Sudan and how it eventually led to the work that you're now doing there.

Sister Marilyn: Thank you for that. Well, after helping out of the San Francisco airport, I became so fascinated by refugee work and just kind of pulled into it, that I ended up working overseas in Northern Thailand with Laotians in a refugee camp for a year and eventually switched from being a high school teacher to doing refugee resettlement work in the U.S. to help arriving refugees whom the State Department allows in each year and are usually resettled by various faith groups or civic organizations in different towns all over the U.S.
So I was doing that for many years and every couple of years we would have a professional conference of the Catholic Network, which was the largest resettlement network in the US. And I was directing a large program in San Jose for migrants and refugees from all over the world. So I went to this conference at a hotel in Los Angeles. There were 600 of us from all around the U.S. And the opening session/plenary session was three people on a panel. One, I believe, was from the State Department talking about refugee pipelines and who would be coming in the next year or two from which part of the world, blah blah blah. The other one, I believe, was a speaker from what at that time was called the INS -- now it's called the Border Patrol -- talking about the laws that were changing and the funding streams and all that.

And the third speaker was a Catholic bishop from South Sudan. And he was the third speaker. He got to the microphone. He started talking about this war. And this was in 1991 that I heard him speak. He's talking about this huge war that's going on in his country. He says it's the longest running war in the world and going on for decades. And he said, “I have a million refugees in my diocese, my region. I have refugee children living in my house. I have a bomb crater in my front yard because the other side, the Khartoum government, is bombing us every day.” I was like on the edge of my seat because here I am, I'm a professional refugee resettlement director and I have never heard that there is a war going on in Sudan and I read the international papers and New York Times every day. It wasn't even on our radar screen that there was a war over there. So I was so interested in what he was saying, you know. He started to talk and the moderator of the panel walked over to him and took the microphone away and said, “Excuse me. We're out of time. Would everyone please go to your first breakout session?” And the other five hundred people got up and walked away to their interest sessions. And I was like “what just happened here, he got to speak for five minutes”, so I threaded my way against the upstream to find him in the quarter.
I didn't even remember his name. He's a black African guy with a beard, very stately looking gentleman. So I said, “Excuse me Bishop. I would like to know more about the suffering of your people.” He looked me in the eye and he said, “Come and see.”

Now, if you know the Christian scriptures, you know that that's the first words in the Gospel that Jesus speaks when people say like “hey, where do you live? What are you about?” or are curious about Jesus. He says “come and see.” So of course that reference popped into my mind when he said “come and see,” so I blurted out, “okay, I will.” I'm sitting in the corner looking at this guy and then my next thought was not so holy, it was like, “oh bleep. How am I going to do that? I don't have any money. I have never been to Africa. What did I just say?” As I'm thinking these thoughts, I get a tap on my shoulder and I turn around and there's this American guy standing with me who says, “Sister, do you really want to go to South Sudan? It's a war zone.” I said, “Yes I do.” He said, “okay.” He handed me his business card and he said, “call me on Monday, I'll make all the arrangements.”

This guy was the vice president of Catholic Relief Services, which had apparently sponsored the trip of this Bishop whose name I later learned was Bishop Paride Taban. He's like the Mother Teresa of East Africa, and they had brought him precisely to the panel to raise awareness about the problems in Sudan which was the worst war in the world at that time and nobody had ever heard of it. People heard of it about three months later when the Lost Boys of Sudan emerged from that war as a long line of starving children into a refugee camp in Kenya, so then it became publicly known. But before that happened, I was on an airplane, two weeks later, flying off to the South Sudan. And here I am, I do refugee work. I've lived in refugee camps so I thought I knew what I would see when I got there, but I was so wrong. I was so naive. I got myself to the northern part of Kenya and then I was picked up by the driver or the Bishop, a young man, and we drove for fifteen hours to get to the town where the Bishop was living. We saw nothing on that 15-hour drive -- not a gas station, not a market, not a store, nothing. Except every 10 miles or so, there would be branches across the -- it wasn’t a road, like a track -- and young boys, 10 or 11 years old, with AK-47s guarding. And they would say, “Who are you? Where are you going?” We'd say, “Bishop Taliban” and they would say, “Okay” and they let us go. It was like a magic mantra.
And when we got there, I don't know what I expected to see -- like a settlement or the UN organizing displaced people or something -- but there was nothing. It was this little town of huts that were all bombed out; starving people just kind of walking around, like sleepwalking, with maybe a half of a blanket draped over one shoulder, eerily silent. Lots of children sitting on the ground, nobody crying, nobody talking. They were so weak. They were skeletal, and the Bishop wasn't even there. He had been airlifted out to go to some peace conference -- peace talks between the rebels. So I just, I don't know, it shook me to my core -- that level of suffering and that level of ignorance by the rest of the world, that nobody even knew this was happening. So I went back home after a week or so, and I thought, “someday, somehow, I must do something to find some way to be with the people of South Sudan.” It's a long story, but eventually, I got the chance to start the current project that I head, which is Mercy Beyond Borders, a nonprofit. Our mission is really to work with women and girls and forge ways to help them learn and connect and lead so that they can pull themselves up from extreme poverty. It's really a leadership program for women and girls because war has to stop being seen as the answer. War is never the answer.

Pavi: Sister, I think it would be wonderful to have you speak a little bit for our listeners to get a picture of what the life of women and girls, in particular, is like in that part of the world and what this program you're running offers in that context.

Sister Marilyn: Well, I can assure you that you do not ever want to be born female in a place like South Sudan. Historically and even to the present day, it has cultures which do not really believe that females are human. I know that sounds harsh, but it is harsh. Almost unbelievable, but it's real. Girls born in South Sudan are told by their parents that love them that they are worth less than cows. Their hierarchy of understanding is for those who are Christian and animist and Muslim. Whatever their hierarchy in those cultures is that God is on top and right below God, there's men. And right below the men, there is cattle. Then, lowest of all, is females. So, in the culture, females are used essentially as domestic servants or slaves, and then bartered to other families in exchange for cattle. It's a cruel circular system that traps the girls. Because of that, they don't send the girls to school.

This bishop who introduced me and invited me to South Sudan, he said to me, “you know, Sister, for 50 years here in South Sudan, we have been educating boys. What did we get? War. I'm going to try and educate the girls.” This is in the late 90s when he opened a little school under a tree in his town and took a bush plane and went around during the war and invited families to trust them with one of his daughters. So, nobody would give up all their daughters but some families did. So he had several dozen girls learning under a tree. Of course, he couldn't pay the teachers and the place was very chaotic because the refugees and displaced people kept moving through and trying to get out into Kenya into Uganda to where there were refugee camps. So, the school was sort of haphazard, but it was a school. It was a place where girls were learning and it was a place where different tribes of girls were learning together. It was probably the only place in South Sudan where you had tribes that historically hated each other and were killing each other, actually living and learning together. So, I recognize that as a seed of great hope for the country.
The war eventually ended in 2005. Then, in 2011, a referendum overwhelmingly voted in favor of seceding from Sudan. So, the new country was created, South Sudan. There was a period of wonderful hope and that's when I started Mercy Beyond Borders -- as an international nonprofit that could go into South Sudan and focus on changing the trajectory of the lives of young females in the country, giving them access to school, and keeping them in school. The bishop was doing a wonderful thing in this school, but nobody ever graduated from eighth grade. It's not that they were done. It's just that by the time they were in fifth or sixth grade, the parents would come to the school and pick up the girl and marry her off in exchange for cows. So, at least that was a positive step. At least, those girls knew what education was and they would try and fight to get their daughters to go to school.

But as an organization, we decided that if we gave high school scholarships, maybe some families would allow the girls to spend a couple more years in school. So, we started offering scholarships to anyone who could pass the national exam in eighth grade and, lo and behold, families did allow some of their daughters and we did begin to get a pipeline through high school. Then this other amazing, unintended, consequence was that all the girls in the primary school, which there were hundreds, started to see that there was hope for them. So, they started studying really, really hard because everybody wanted one of those scholarships. Nobody wants to get married when they're 12, especially not to an old man. Because the old men have more cows to give away so they can pay a higher bride price. So it's very to have a girl of 12-13-14 being married to a man of 60 or 65 and she's not even his first wife. She's his fourth or fifth or sixth wife. So she becomes a slave not only to him, but to all the prior wives. So, it is not a happy life. So the chance that education was providing them is a golden opportunity. “I'm going to hit the books and really study hard.” So, we now have a pipeline of hundreds of girls going through high school and already we have now 55 who have graduated from university.

Pavi: It's tremendous and to see some of their stories on the Mercy Beyond Borders website.

Sister Marilyn: It's so amazing because all the odds are against them. Everything. They would rather study than eat. Literally, that's what they do. They work so hard and now they're going right back. There's no brain drain. All 55 of them working back in what is still a war zone. Why? Because even though the main war ended after 37 years, those tribes in the South no longer had a common enemy in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. All these different ethnic groups in South Sudan started fighting each other for the oil, gold, land, the resources, power, or for the money. So, there is tremendous devastation. That has caused more than a million and a quarter people to leave South Sudan again.

This is a country of only 12 million people. One-third to one-half, no one can count exactly, of all the people inside South Sudan are currently displaced. Can you imagine if that were the U.S.? Millions upon millions of people no longer in their own home or their own territory with farms or anything. So, Mercy Beyond Borders, as an organization, has moved with these displaced people. We are now working in the refugee camps in northern Uganda and northern Kenya, as well as still continuing our work inside South Sudan. Also, in Haiti. So, we try to be where the need is greatest.

Sometimes our board of directors shake their heads and say, “Marilyn, couldn't you have come upon easier places to work?” Well, of course...but, Mercy needs to be with where the need is greatest. So we're never going to scale. We are never going to get the attention of the Gates Foundation or anything like that, but what we are doing in these very difficult local places is making a tremendous difference. Among that, a few thousands that we work with and that's enough for me. I'm not out to be in the limelight. What I want to do is is see the light in the eyes of a girl or in the eyes of a woman who suddenly understands “I am worth more than cows. I do have talents. I am going to make and forge a future for myself and my family.” That change is one by one. I am no longer thinking I'm going to save the world. It is a blessing just to be with these people.

Pavi: That blessing is something I want to touch upon before we open it up. This idea of deep hospitality, and the idea of welcoming the stranger, and the possibility of unknowingly entertaining angels, and this idea that the stranger in need is the person who brings the blessing is so deep, so deeply embedded in the Scriptures. You've led this life of such paradox. You bridge one of the wealthiest pockets in the world.

Sister Marilyn: Yeah, I live in Silicon Valley!

Pavi: And then you're flying at the beginning of next month back to Sudan and you live a hair's breadth away from these cultures of extreme violence and the totem pole that you just described, those women at the bottom. And yet you also live so close to acts of extraordinary generosity, humanity, to communities that have such a deep understanding of community that it almost puts our Western world to shame a little bit.

Sister Marilyn: You've got the word almost.

Pavi: Exactly. Could you speak a little bit about -- the word that comes to mind is just a deep nobility -- that you've encountered in these communities?

Sister Marilyn: It is so true and even after 40 years nearly of working with so many different cultures, not just the poor where I'm currently working, South Sudan, Haiti, and then refugee camps in Kenya and Uganda, I worked with at least 30 or 35 different nationalities of refugees coming from all over the world when I was doing US resettlement and I constantly brought up short by how narrow our ideas are in our culture and what poverty we have in our lack of hospitality. We measure our progress by how rich we can become, how our communities are gated communities where we think we can have everything by keeping other people out. My experience is just the opposite.

I think about one of the lost boys of Sudan who was resettled by Catholic Charities where I was working in San Jose, California. The lost boys are all very tall. Many of them were from the Dinka tribe, which is not unusual to be between 6' 6" and 7' tall. When you're emaciated and you're tall, you really, really look very skeletal almost. Besides teaching these new arrivals about our culture and our norms and how to prepare for a job and how to present yourself and all of that so that they could become independent here, because independence, individuality, making it on your own is how we think of success in America. This is different for them. They've taught me about togetherness and community and sharing. I was driving him to a job interview about four o'clock in the afternoon in San Jose. I was coaching him. “This is how you shake hands firmly, and you do this, and you look people in the eye who are interviewing you” -- all these cultural things which are not normal for them in their culture, and then I noticed that he was kind of slumping in the seat and he looked tired and I said, "Anyuan, have you eaten today?" And he said, "no, I didn't eat anything yet." It's four o'clock in the afternoon. Of course in the refugee camps, they were accustomed to eating only one meal of ground-up maize porridge and always in the evening because they would say to me, “you can distract yourself in the daytime from hunger, but you can't distract yourself at night. The pain is too great in your stomach.” So they always would save their rations and eat at night.

They were 12 years in a refugee camp. He's now about 19 years old. He's in the US and he's going to a job interview. He hasn't eaten all day. So I really got impatient. I was annoyed with him. I said, "Anyuan, look, I am knocking myself out here trying to get you job interviews. You at least have to eat breakfast and you need to bulk out a little bit. Nobody's gonna hire you if you look like you can be knocked over by a breath of wind." He said, "oh sister, I wanted to eat breakfast, but my roommates were not fast enough." I said, "What? What are you talking about? I'm asking you if you had breakfast." He said, "well I wanted to but it was time to go to class at Catholic Charities and so my roommates were not fast enough," he repeated. I repeated again, "why didn't you eat?" At that, he turned to me and he said, "well sister, I could never eat alone."

Wow. Welcome to fast food America where even families don't sit down, but he, living with four roommates in a little apartment that we had, because his roommates were not up yet and he had to leave to catch the bus to come to class, even though he's hungry, he wouldn't even dare think about eating alone. It's just not something you do. Food is precious. Food is a gift. You share it. That's just one example. There are hundreds of examples in the book of the ways that I learned about the poverty of our value system in many ways.

Pavi: That was one of the most powerful things to me, the poverty of presence, how we often tend to rush from one thing to the next. There's such a moving chapter in the book where you talk about people who haven't forgotten the deep humanity of blessing each other with our presence, just showing up to say hello and to witness each other --

Sister Marilyn: taking three buses to come across town just to knock on my office door and say “good morning.” And as the director I'm focused on "what are you here for? blah blah blah" and it's like "no, hello. I just want to say hello." The title of my book is a little strange. People are like, "what does this mean?" The title is This Flowing Toward Me. The subtitle is "a story of God arriving in strangers". But the title comes from a Sufi poem -- Sufism of course being the mystical tradition within Islam -- and the poetry of the Sufis I was introduced to by a co-worker whose father was a Sufi master who worked alongside me resettling refugees and who is just an extraordinary human being. His name is Reza Odabaee, and he introduced me to their poetry. Honestly, it has become very central to my Christian prayer. In one of his poems -- I can just quote you the first section because I know it by heart, I just love it -- it's called “The Music”. It starts,

For sixty years I have been forgetful,
every minute, but not for a second
has this flowing toward me stopped or slowed.


This flowing toward me, it's like this goodness, this welcome from God, this graciousness, this spirit of openness is flowing toward me. Even though I'm not thinking about it. I'm forgetful every minute, but it never stops and I think when we become, perhaps through crisis in your life, perhaps through daily meditation, perhaps through falling into an encounter that you weren't expecting such as my introduction to refugees, when we become conscious that this goodness carries us, transforms us, frees us, melts away our fears so that we can encounter the other. It doesn't stop inside us, it flows through us to kind of openness and connectedness to seeing that deep, deep connectedness and kinship. The surprising thing is the joy that comes then.

Refugee work is not grim work. Yeah, it's grim reality, but there's nothing grim about being close to dogs, encountering the divine. I think that it happens when we leave our comfort zone, that we see that the refugees are bringing blessings not threats. That welcome is what we all deeply need and for sure, the refugees and migrants need it the most because they are not welcomed and they are perceived as dangerous and “other”. That is just wrong and people of deep spirituality from any tradition, I think, know that it's wrong. We need to be speaking out about it. We need to be acting. We need to be changing our policies. The people who say that religion and politics need to be kept separate, my goodness, what world are they living in? That is that danger of the individualistic thing, that religion is private -- something between me and God and doesn't have to do with the way I live. That is ridiculous. [laughing] I forget who it is now, but somebody said, "Religion is always personal, but it is never private."
There is a big difference. It is personal. It is interpersonal. It is communal. It is not private. And when we privatize it, we bastardize it. It is not true anymore. We make God very small.

LuAnn: This is Lu and I would like to open up to questions. Thank you, Sister Lacey. I am in awe. Let's put it that way. I am in awe. I do have one question from Jane Jackson: "Sister Marilyn, is there much opposition to the work of Mercy Beyond Borders in the countries you work in, since the education of girls in the areas you work is not culturally the norm? And do the girls themselves face danger for becoming educated? Thank you so much for the hope and light you bring."

Sister Marilyn: Thank you, Jane, for that question. It is a very good question and one which I'm often asked. I would say that yes, there is opposition, and yes, there is danger for the girls and the women we work with, but they recognize it and are not going to turn back from the opportunity the education provides.

Most of the Sudanese people were in refugee camps during the long war if they were lucky enough to reach a border and get over a border and get into a U.N. camp. In those camps, South Sudanese females for the first time in their lives saw that females in other parts of the world apparently had real jobs and high education, because in the refugee camps they saw U.N. administrators who were female. They saw doctors and nurses who were female. They saw teachers in the camps, social workers, business people, pilots. This was a revelation to the females in South Sudan.

And when the long war ended and they went back to their villages in South Sudan, at that time Mercy Beyond Borders came in and we listened to the women. We said, "You're starting your life over. You have been in a refugee camp for 15, 20, 25 years. Now you are going back. What will be helpful to you? What do you need?"
And everybody said the same thing. The women said, "Could you educate our daughters? We know there is a bigger world now. We know that it is not right to hold them back."

So the women's eyes were opened, and they began pushing for it. They are not always successful, because the men make the decisions, the men and the uncles. But when I was in the refugee camps last year in Northern Uganda, there is a 1.2 million refugees in 21 camps along the border just south of South Sudan in Uganda. And every refugee camp has a government official from Uganda that oversees it, but they also elect a refugee to be like a chief of the camp, and the camp could have a quarter of a million people in it as the biggest camp does, Bidi Bidi, which translates to "many, many." Or it might have 5,000 people in it as some of the other camps.
But every camp has a leader. And those 21 refugee leaders, who of course are all men, elect one of their number to be the uber-leader, the chief of all the chiefs, who of course is also a man. So I was at a meeting of all the NGOs and at each monthly meeting a different NGO presents. And that month it was our turn, so we were talking about the work of Mercy Beyond Borders in 4 of the camps. And in those camps, we were doing micro-enterprise loans and training for women to start businesses.

So we give our presentation, and the first hand to go up is this 6'8" tall Mandika man who stands up and proceeds to harangue my staff who just presented. "Don't you realize that you should not be giving loans to women? If you give loans to women, they may become self-sufficient, then they will leave us. You should be giving loans to the men, because we are the decision makers. And you are causing problems by giving loans to women. And we have to beat them, so they understand the money they are earning belongs to us. And you are causing division in the camps." And he went on and on for about 15 minutes.

I was grinding my teeth because I was about the strangle the man, which shows you how uncompassionate I am after all these years of trying to be a Sister of Mercy. But that is the prevailing attitude of the males. And the fact that he stood up and said that in front of the U.N. officials and all the other NGOs who were on our side, not his side, but that's the dominant culture. So yes, there is opposition and I am frequently stopped when I am walking through the camps or the schools where we work by young men who say, "Hey, I want a scholarship too. Give me a scholarship. Why are you giving it to them and not to me?" And I always stop and engage them in conversation. I say, "Oh, I would love to give scholarships to you and your younger brothers, as soon as the day comes when females have all the same opportunities that males do." And they laugh because they know that the world is completely tilted in favor of the boys, not the girls. So they get it. They say, "Oh yeah, Ok." And they walk away.

So it is going to take generations and generations for it to change, but I do know of one woman who was killed for going to a literacy class. But in general, I think more and more of the men are recognizing that a girl who becomes educated, let’s say becomes a nurse, gets a job in a hospital, is going to have income which she will share with her parents for a lifetime. And that is worth more than ten cows.
One of the first programs we started in South Sudan was a weekly radio program where the young girls who were on our high school scholarships--this was like a talk show--went on the radio and talked about the value of education and how it was changing them and what it would do for their families and their extended families to have an educated woman as part of the family and all that.

And we actually had one person, a guy, call in and say, "Do you mean to tell me that girls go to school in other countries?" Because for 40 years they were isolated and cut off. And there is very little literacy which is why we did a radio program that was later shut down because the radio stations were shut down, because the government didn't want the rebels using the radio as a means of communication.
I think it is a long, long struggle, but there is eagerness for education that out-strips the opposition at this point, and I think that trend will continue.

LuAnn: I would like to move on with that thread of thought because my background is in education and one of the things that I frequently hear from other teachers and I experience only a little bit, not nearly as much as I read about, is the difference between American students and students from other countries, especially what you are talking about from the Sudan where they are so eager and want education so much, and here it seems that we have to force some students, not all, some students to understand the value of just being able to read. If you could talk about your experience there, because I know you taught in impoverished schools, and I did that for one year, and the difference that you see between the two, if any, or if that is just a myth that we tell ourselves.

Sister Marilyn: Well, what can I say? If you were dying and there was a magic pill that could save your life, you would do anything to get that magic pill. Right?

LuAnn: Right.

Sister Marilyn: But if you're leading a comfortable life and somebody says, "here's a pill but it's going to cost you 12 years to get it and if you get it, it might open some doors for you to get a good job" -- you don't have that same burning desire to spend 12 years to get that pill that might open a better door for you. But if you're dying, you're going to do anything to get that pill. That pill is education for girls and they know it. So, they -- not just girls, both genders in really poor countries -- everybody knows and research has proven it in country after country after country, that the single most effective intervention you can do against poverty, extreme poverty, is the education of females; and in most countries the boys already have a much better opportunity for education. So, the focus of international aid really ought to always be on educating girls. It's also, I learned from a doctor who's on our board of directors, that education is the strongest predictor of global health. I had not known that -- you know, rigorously scientifically proven. So, if you want a healthy world, you want a world that's less divided by extremes of poverty and wealth, education of girls is the solution.

But we don't feel that in the U.S. because we are not under such deprivation and such severe pain. And so, I don't think you can expect U.S. students to have that same drive or grasp of the value. It's just not our experience. It's just a given that you go to school every day. You don't recognize what a gift it is. Whereas, believe me, many of the girls in primary school risk their lives because it's a boarding school -- the school that we support, Mercy Beyond Borders pays the whole budget of this struggling school; it happens to be a Catholic School started by Bishop Tabban, but I wouldn't care what it taught religion wise. It's just the only girls school in the whole country; the only primary school for girls.

In a culture that denigrates and dismisses the value of girls, it isn't really helpful to go to a mixed gender school. The government is opening schools but they're all boys and girls together. The girls are ridiculed, so they drop out. So, this oasis, this St. Paquita School, is so important because there the girls are valued. They're treasured. They can learn on their own terms. They're not being laughed at by the boys and all that. So, we pay the salary of that whole school and it's a boarding school where they are safe. But they have to go home at Christmas time -- that's when their three months’ vacation is. Many of them don't come back because they're married off during that period of time. But we have numerous instances of girls being told, "okay, next week you're going to be married...blah, blah, blah," and the girls run away from home. They walk for weeks through the bush -- through a very dangerous area with bandits, rapists, and snakes and terrible poison spiders, scorpions -- and they come to school ragged and bleeding and all that, and we hide them in the school. When their families come and say “we're here to get our daughter,” we say, "oh, sorry, we haven't seen her." As much as possible, we try to hide them.
The first time I went to the school, I was staying in the convent which is built from several corrugated iron shipping containers that have windows cut into them. Let me tell you, it's hot in South Sudan. It's always about a hundred degrees or a hundred and ten. Can you imagine living in a metal shipping container? Anyway, that's an aside.

There was a 12-year-old girl inside there. I said, "what's she doing in the convent?" And they said, "we're hiding her, we're hiding her from the family that wants to sell her." So, girls, themselves, recognize that “it's worth my life to get back to that school.” And even the ones who don't have to escape, their journeys are arduous. The vehicles, if you can get on the back of a pickup truck for two days, with the blazing sun, bouncing over these dreaded roads and through the flash floods and all that and then to be ambushed by bandits. All my co-workers have -- I'm the only one, I go in and out of South Sudan, I have yet to be ambushed -- been shot at, accosted, relieved of all your clothing and possessions and left by the side of the road or shot if you resist. It is not an easy place to work. But when you see that a small bit of money, a small intervention, can change lives dramatically -- particularly in a country, I mean this is literally virgin territory. Girls have not been educated. So the fact that in the past 10 years, we've managed to get 55 girls through University -- graduate from upper primary and get them into high school and a scholarship and then into University -- that's huge. It's not to scale. It's not 10,000 women but 55 educated women are now working. They are the first educated women in the country -- working.

Our next project is to try to start an advocacy network of alumnae because, obviously, they go to work in a hospital, they're the only female in the hospital. All the nurses and doctors are men. They go to work in a school; they're the only female in school. All the other teachers are former rebels -- some of whom I might add, cannot read or write themselves but got the jobs because they were in the army and the army won so they gave them the jobs. So, there's a lot to be done. The thirst for education is palpable among the females, so it's going to spread.

LuAnn: I could listen all day. I've got two more questions that I need to get to. I love your stories. The first one is: are there volunteer opportunities in Haiti or Sudan? And this is from Elizabeth Norment in Richmond, Virginia. So, volunteer opportunity....

Sister Marilyn: Thank you Elizabeth, for even thinking that thought and wanting to do that. We, in the beginning, did accept some volunteers coming to South Sudan to help out in St. Paquita Primary School. But it has since become so dangerous with the resurgence of the civil war, that we're no longer taking volunteers in Africa at this point in time. We are, however, taking volunteers in Haiti. Each summer, we have leadership camp and English camp for high school girls. High school, in Haiti, follows the old French system -- it used to be a colony of the French. So high school starts very young, seventh grade, and it goes up through 13th grade, junior college. So, we have the scholars for a period of seven years. We like to get them together. Haiti is dirt poor but it is not oppressive of females intentionally. Poverty oppresses females because it causes early marriage and it causes early death and it causes, you know, all kinds of problems -- lack of education when they send their boys to school but not their girls; but it's not an intentional denigration the way it is in South Sudanese cultures.

So, the problem in Haiti right now, since last summer, is that the State Department in the US has Haiti listed as a level 4 danger, which is the same level as Afghanistan and Yemen and South Sudan. It's because of the political problems in Haiti. There are sporadic violent riots which close down sections of Port-au-Prince but also sections of the highway, the main highway, which leads to the far north of the country where our programs are. So, it's a little bit dicey right now, but you could stay tuned and you could always send me a CV, if you think you might be interested someday in helping out. There are currently some long-term volunteers through the Mary Knoll Sisters. These are young lay women who pledged to stay for two years and they're just great. They work with the girls. They organize our learning center, our library; they come to the leadership camp. So, there are opportunities we like to provide -- role models, females, of course -- to show these girls what's possible.

High school takes such a long time -- seven years -- so we've just had our first graduate a year ago, and she's now in medical school in Port-au-Prince. A scholarship that was made possible by a wonderful donor named Pat Conlan from North Dakota -- her adult children set up a scholarship fund in Pat's name that is going to pay for university scholarships in Haiti. You can go on our website and make a donation to the scholarship fund. That would be fantastic because we will be awarding our next scholarship in September to the current graduate -- their marks are not out yet from their June graduation. So the most important way you can help right now is to, I think, talk to your friends and neighbors about the blessings of strangers. If we break through these walls -- these mental and physical walls that we're trying to build to protect ourselves. And secondly, pray for those who are doing the work on the ground.

And thirdly, if you are able, or you know anyone who is able, tell them about Mercy Beyond Borders, if people could make us a donation. We are small but mighty. We're doing great work, but people really don't know about us. It's one reason I'm so indebted to you, Pavi, for giving me this opportunity to talk about our work. And go on our website, you know, $100 keeps a girl in school in Sudan for a whole year. That means she's learning, yes, but it also means she's protected from early marriage, which oftentimes means early death. A girl who marries at 13 is not ready for pregnancy, and one in every seven females in South Sudan dies in pregnancy or childbirth. So, you know, education is not just ABC's; its life-giving.

LuAnn: Yes, and that leads into the last question because you've answered the last question that I would have, which is how you can help, but I think this question from another participant follows into what you just said. It is from Mish Rosen in Brooklyn and she's asking -- she was wandering the level of medical care that might be available in the areas you've served. Doctors Without Borders -- are they able to get into these areas to help people?

Sister Marilyn: Yes, they are. Doctors Without Borders is a fantastic organization. I encourage everybody to support them. They have less ... certain parts of South Sudan, which are currently too dangerous, but they are still there in other parts. The medical care, as you can imagine, is very incomplete and sporadic. You cannot do vaccinations when a country is at war and half of the population is on the move. You cannot properly treat for significant illnesses when the clinics are not staffed, when foreign doctors or well-trained medical professionals leave the country because of the danger, and the NGOs call out. So a very high percentage of the girls that we educate or that we provide scholarships for choose nursing and they do it because they have seen their mothers die. And they've seen people die of very preventable diseases.

One out of every five children dies before the age of five. In today's world, that's utterly ridiculous. These are preventable things. So medical care, if Mish -- if you want to email me, I can send you more information, but medical care is a huge need throughout Sudan. The government builds clinics, but then there's no train people to work in those clinics, you know, so a lot of the work is done by NGOs and the government is so corrupt and so dysfunctional that they have threatened to tax all the NGOs 10,000 US dollars per head, per year for the privilege of working in their warzone. So of course everybody from the UN on down to us is saying "no, we're not going to pay that tax." And so the government backed off -- but they're just, you know, they can't pay the teachers. They can't pay the nurses and doctors so they leave, you know, the ones who are trained. So I'm very proud of the fact that our 55 have gone back into Sudan and are working in Sudan and I think it's a testament to the resilience and the beauty of the women that we work with. It's great to be called to this work and we would love your support. Thank you.

LuAnn: Would you give your website, because it I think rather than go back through ... how can they get in touch with you?

Sister Marilyn: MercyBeyondBorders.org. Mercy Beyond Borders [dot] org. Just, you know, my conviction that we have to move beyond borders if we want world peace -- to move with compassion in a bigger world. So for questions, particular questions, you could send an email to info@Mercy BeyondBorders.org, Other than that our website has a donate page and more information and photos and stories. Thank you so much for your interest.

LuAnn: Oh, listen, thank you so much for being our guest today. This ... you have done my heart so good. [laughing] I work on the periphery of an immigrant organization and never feel like I do nearly as much, and I don't do anything like you do, let me tell you. I am strictly from home. So you have just ... you have given me so much to think about. So I have, want to ....

Sister Marilyn: We all do our part. We all do our part and, you know, just spread the joy and drop the walls. That's my advice.

LuAnn: Yeah, that's mine, too. Thank you. And thank you Pavi.
Thank you, Pavi, so very much for moderating so beautifully, and to all the invisible hands behind the scene who are doing the work to make these calls possible. Again, thank you, Sister Lacey, so much. I would like to invite everyone to hold a short collective minute of silence in gratitude for what we've shared here and to take into our day.

[pause]

Thank you. This concludes our call. Thank you again Sister Lacey, and thank you Pavi for this wonderful conversation, and thank you both for your service.

Thank you for listening to a recording of Awakin calls. To access archives visit us at www.awakin.org, and to get more involved, volunteer at www.servicespace.org.

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