Big World Small Boat

Private Diary of A Priest. OK, so we're not all angels...Everyone needs a place to get things off their chest! And yes, I do talk to God about it all! Even He has a sense of humour! Want proof? Well, he made me, didn't He? Oh, one last thought-If you don't like what I've written, please keep in mind - it's MY diary. Go write your own!

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Location: England, United Kingdom

I've been serving children in crisis for over twenty five years. My goals are not to raise money, but to find organisations and individuals who can help change lives! What may be outdated equipment for you could change the life of a child in Eastern Europe! To learn more please visit our site at: www.ProjectNewLife.org

Thursday

A Bedside Prayer for Death of a Child

I was honoured to have attended a child’s passing last night. Kayleigh was nine years old. She would have turned ten in November. Leukaemia had ravaged her body and she was extremely weak from both the illness and the aggressive treatments she had endured over the past few months.

Several hours earlier, the doctors had worked determinedly to resuscitate her when her heart failed. I didn’t need to ask in this case, I instinctively knew that Kayleigh’s mother still had not moved to acceptance that her daughter’s body was failing and thus had refused to sign the ‘DNR’ order, allowing Kayleigh’s spirit to pass on without further interference with her body. But you could see in the eyes of the kind doctor and nurses that they knew what the inevitable outcome would be.

In the early afternoon Kayleigh was talking with her seven-year-old sister Justine and mother. I sat in a chair far in the corner of the room. I could still just barely hear them speak, but couldn’t always clearly hear what was being said. Justine had been devotedly swabbing Kayleigh’s lips with a small sponge on a stick to provide moisture to her lips.

It was just before 5 when Kayleigh’s mother said she needed to take Justine home where her grandmother was preparing dinner. She would return within the half-hour. I promised I would remain with Kayleigh while she was gone.

As I walked with the mother and child to the doors of the ward, Justine looked up at me and said ‘ Kayleigh said she is going to send each of us a card.’ She said it with that beautiful conviction that only children can show, as if they were speaking of Father Christmas arriving the following morning. ‘That’s wonderful Justine,’ I said. ‘I’ll look forward to hearing from her.’


I said goodbye at the hallway and watched the pitiful figure of the mother move down the hallway, with Justine half-skipping, half-running beside her. I could hear Justine cheerfully chatting away about something as I turned back into the hospital ward.
When I returned to Kayleigh’s room, she was still. Her eyes were open and in any other setting, saving the pale grey appearance of her skin, you might have thought she was just gazing at the ceiling. It had only been a matter of minutes from when we had walked out the door to my return and Kayleigh's body had taken its last breath.

I felt the tears welling up in my eyes, but I also felt myself smiling. She was at peace. But there was something much more powerful in the moments that had passed. Kayleigh had fought hard to remain there for her mother and sister – to impart that powerful message to Justine – that she’s only going on a journey, not that she simply wouldn’t exist anymore.

And for both her mother and sister, Kayleigh’s passing occurred at a moment when little Justine would not have been subjected to a repeat of her mother’s frantic and poignant fight to try to protect her daughter from a disease that had ravaged the child’s body.

One of the nurses named Betty, came into the room and saw me standing at the end of the bed. It only took seconds for her to realise that Kayleigh had passed. I was deeply touched because without any words she put her arms around me and hugged me. Betty removed the IV line whilst I closed Kayleigh’s eyes and together we straightened the bed and turned down the lights. I didn’t really think about it, but I took a floppy eared sock rabbit that Justine had brought her sister from the nightstand and tucked it in beside Kayleigh.

I asked Betty if she would like to stay with me as I offered prayers for Kayleigh. She held up her finger to indicate ‘just a moment,’ and she left the room. Seconds later she returned with another nurse and one of the ward assistants. We gathered around Kayleigh’s bed and prayed:
Christ Jesus, most merciful Saviour,
Hear our prayers as we gather in Your name
We commend this child into Your arms of mercy.
Kayleigh has been a blessing to all who knew her.

She brought laughter, warmth, and comfort to many
And in the moments when her mother and others showed despair
Kayleigh provided a noble message of hope and promise,
in her unfailing conviction that her life here may be limited
but is by no means final.

Grant comfort and strength to those who gather here now,
dedicating their lives to the care of others,
who often must face life as it moves to shadows.
Embrace them with Your eternal love
through everything they do.

Thank you for the love we would never have known,
but for Kayleigh’s brief days with us.

May the angels surround Kayleigh
and the saints welcome her with joy.

Lord God, we commend this child to Your everlasting care.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

One of the staff very sweetly offered to remain with Kayleigh as I walked to the entrance of the hospital to await the return of her mother.
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Now Lord, You let Your servant go in peace. Your word has been fulfilled. Support us O Lord all the day long of this troublous life. Until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes. The busy world is hushed, The fever of life is over and our work is done. Then Lord, in Your mercy, grant us a safe lodging, A Holy rest, and peace at last. Through Christ our Lord. Amen
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Wednesday

Preparing For Christmas

We’re now reaching the last weekend before Christmas. And as with every single year in the past, the newspapers will be sure to find someone - usually a clergyman, to voice the complaint that the whole season has become nothing more than an orgy of spending and consumption, and to declare that they intend to 'drop out' and give the money they save to people who need it.

With equal certainty, this will then be matched by another voice, condemning such a killjoy attitude and insisting that we should join in the full festivities, grateful that even such a secular world as ours still gives so much to a major Christmas festival.

This little ritual is a regular occurrence because both voices strike a chord. Sometimes it really does seem as though Christmas Day, when it comes, is more of a whimper than a bang, and all the preparation and expenditure ends in a 'celebration' that for a lot of people doesn't amount to much more than a day in front of the telly, watching special editions of programmes they would have watched anyway.

At the same time, it's deeply built into human beings that from time to time they should push the boat out, and organise occasions when the economical gives way to the extravagant. To refuse ever to do this is not to remain sensible in the face of general foolishness, but to cast ourselves in the part of Scrooge.

It might seem that the answer lies in striking a balance, but the matter goes deeper than this. To know how and where to strike that balance, we need to experience a genuine sense of celebration; we need to know what the point of all the activity is, and what gives it meaning.



Otherwise, Christmas really is just going through expensive, if not time honoured motions, a case of perfectly pointless 'shop till you drop.'

Perhaps this Christmas season, amidst the financial woes of the world, we will think a bit less of the commercial and begin to focus more on our greatest and most meaningful gifts - family, friends, and the greatest gift of all - the one that arrived in a grotty barn on a star filled night.







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Saturday

A Thought For Advent

This may seem an odd subject to write about at the beginning of Advent, but this year there have been many successes in the arrests of child-traffickers and those who exploit women and children for gain. I see this as a wonderful blessing. But there is still a long way to go.

The trafficking of the young and innocent is an appalling offence. It inevitably affects the most vulnerable and least secure of women and children, making them false promises and offering false hope. These girls from Eastern Europe, often struggling with poverty, come to our country in trust, dependent for their safety on those who brought them over, believing that here they’ll find a loving home, honest work and have legal protection.

Instead, they’re betrayed, exploited and abused by the very people they depend upon. Often lured by women working for the traffickers, the girls are sold the dream of a safe, loving family of other girls in similar circumstances who will care for them and help guide them along the way in their new life. How tragically different the truth is.


Enforced prostitution is an utter violation of women. It is a violation by a whole racketeering industry, which treats them as commodities and robs them of sexual integrity. It is a violation by individuals who want what the women have, without any respect for who they are.

And yet, this is an appropriate Christmas story. For it taps us into the darker side of Christmas. It reminds us this is the kind of world that God came into: a world where the vulnerable are abused and where to be fragile is to be easily exploited. Human violation of the defenceless was as great at that first Christmas as it is now; with homeless refugees on the move, and the slaughter of hundreds of innocent children.

The irony of the Christmas event is that God didn’t come as a great military hero to impose a new regime, or as the world’s policeman to do a clean-up job. He came precisely as one of the world’s most vulnerable: a baby, defenceless, fragile, unable to help himself, utterly dependent on those who were His protectors.

The Christian story challenges the very foundations of all our play-safe policies, our protection against being vulnerable, our fear of powerlessness. For it says instead, that the vulnerable matter, the weak are highly significant, the susceptible are important, the defenceless count. In taking on human vulnerability at its most fragile God gives dignity to each defenceless person, and requires us, in our relationships and our laws, to do the same.

Living without defences, Christ knows the sufferings of people who struggle under evil, whether girls sold into prostitution, or parents of murdered children, and God will act on their behalf. For in the vulnerability of a baby in a manger lies the power of divine love and justice.

The story of Christmas is Emmanuel, God with us.

May your own coming Christmas be filled with warmth and joy!

Father Bill Haymaker+

Publicat în memoria iubitoare de Părintele Bill
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Wednesday

Angels Among Us

A few months ago, when Sarah Gorrell, from BBC Southern Counties Radio, put out an appeal for a knitting instructor to come out to Moldova with me, not in my wildest dreams did I imagine how we were about to hit the Angel jackpot!

The knitting machine I carried to Moldova last Winter was as long as I am tall. To me, it looked to be such a mechanical monstrosity, I simply couldn’t imagine anyone ever grasping its technical aspects. So I was surprised when one of our sewing teachers asked me to find someone to teach her and the children how to use it. And I was shocked to discover several weeks later that a villager brought in another machine, as she too wanted to learn.

Enters Alison Casserly. Actually, it was her mum who phoned the BBC to volunteer Alison. (Aren’t mums great that way!) Alison lives way up north – so far away that she is not able to hear the radio show. We chatted on the phone a couple of times and Alison was ready to come.

I felt badly as my limited knowledge of anything relating to knitting and sewing left me simply acknowledging that we had a machine and that was all I could tell her about it. So on blind faith, Alison prepared to leave her husband and children and travel thousands of miles to a heretofore-unknown smattering of ink on a world map.

As we chatted on the phone, Alison rattled off names of ‘thingys’ and ‘widgetygrubs’ and ‘whatnots’ that she thought she’d bring. All I could do was say that this sounded great. I hadn’t a clue what she was talking about! Alison was much too polite to point out that even a slug knows more about knitting than I did, but I’m sure she was thinking it!

Our first rendezvous was quite out of the norm. Alison and I had never met before the morning we boarded the flight. Whatever age you might be, there has to be a degree of discomfort with the idea of a stranger picking you up at 3:30 in the morning, taking you to an international airport and carting you off to a country that few have even heard of!


Nevertheless, blind faith was the catalyst for Alison. The night before, Alison drove down south to where her mum and dad live. I was warmly greeted at the door by her father. I can't imagine many people being so hospitable at 3:30 in the morning. As I sipped a desperately needed cup of tea, surrounded by people in their jimjams and slippers, their small dog sniffed me with suspicion, no doubt trying to determine whether the scent of my Jack Russell, Mr. Piddles, branded me as friend or foe.

I sincerely felt nervous for Alison and as we headed up the M25, I found myself talking even more than usual about anything and everything. There were points when I felt I should just shut up, but in some ways, I was afraid she’d back out at the last minute and go back home.

During the flights, there were times when she was very quiet and I chose to let her reflect, uninterrupted, on the adventure that lay before her. As the tiny aircraft pulled up to the Chisinau airport building, I tried to read Alison’s face. What I felt I saw was a healthy balance of excitement and apprehension. Certainly an appropriate reaction to the experience, especially in light of some of the things she had heard.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget Alison’s words a full week later, when I asked her for her thoughts about what she had experienced. She was full of emotion about her profoundly powerful journey of self-awareness, and discovery.

I had to hold back my own tears as I listened to her. Alison had experienced what I find myself longing for each time I leave Moldova. She not only could see, hear, and feel the powerful sense of pride that exists in the hearts of Moldova’s children, but she was able to see hope in their eyes.


The children were perplexed that a perfect stranger would travel thousands of miles to come help them and ask for nothing in return.

Alison demonstrated a gentle admiration for them; for the fact that each and every child considered the education they are receiving as a gift; the fact they take pride in what they have, which by material standards is little or nothing. Instead, their measurements are in friends, the power of families, and community pride. And as Alison so poignantly pointed out to me, despite the fact the homes many of them live in would have been condemned in Britain, those homes are immaculate, the streets are clean, not a scintilla of trash, not a marking of graffiti, and not a single disrespectful young person.

We live in an addictive society where those who live their lives as sponges have the audacity to complain that the level of handouts they receive, their free homes, their free medical services and medicine, are simply not enough. When we offer money to Moldovan children, it’s like the Parable of the Talents. They’re humbled by the responsibility for which they’ve been entrusted. They want to find ways repay the trust you’ve invested in them.

I received an email from Alison this week. She was almost stumbling over herself with excitement, telling me about all the people she has shared her experience with, the plans she has for returning to Moldova and the creative ideas she’s developing to help the children achieve their goals.

Sarah Gorrell and the BBC helped me plant that small mustard seed of hope. Alison is becoming the Vine and Branch of hope for so many of our youth.

What a wonderful gift. Thank you Sarah. Thank you Alison. And thank you God for hearing my prayers.


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