Saturday, August 4, 2012

Hope for Vulnerable Children Ministry

I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce you to a man I met recently named Rich Friday. He is a Christian pastor in charge of a ministry called Hope for Vulnerable Children Ministry. His ministry runs an orphanage in Kasese, Uganda, in east Africa. The orphanage cares for children who have been abandoned and neglected, and orphans whose parents could not afford to care for them. The orphanage provides food, shelter, medical care, and education for the children.

Rich contacted me recently and told me that the children in the orphanage would be taking exams soon, and that he didn't have enough money to purchase the exams. Unfortunately, I did not have enough money to cover the entire cost of the exams, but I was able to send him a little money to cover at least part of the cost. When the day finally came for the children to take the exams, Rich had someone take pictures of the children holding up their exams so I could see what my donation helped to provide. Here is a photograph of Rich and some of the children holding their exams:

Here is a photograph of the children taking their exams:

The orphanage depends totally on donations from local churches. Unfortunately, donations have been scarce lately. Rich told me recently that it has been over three months since his teaching staff has been paid. He is also having difficulty paying for the rent for the house that the orphanage uses for shelter. The rent costs only $95 per month, but when you're surviving on donations, even that amount is hard to pay.

If you would like to donate money to help Rich pay the orphanage expenses, here is his contact information:

Hope For Vulnerable Children Ministry / Hope Mission International Ministries P.O.Box 619
Kasese, Uganda, East Africa
Email: /
Tel: +256-772-965-381 / +256-752-965-381
Contact Person: Pastor Rich Friday

The best way to send money to the orphanage is by Western Union. Unfortunately, PayPal doesn't operate in Uganda. When you send money using Western Union, you have to send it to a person. Western Union won't allow you to send it to an organization or company. When you send money, specify Rich Friday as the receiver. When I sent money to Rich, I used the three-day service. I sent the money to Centenary Bank in Kasese, which is a Western Union agent.

Thank you in advance for any help you can provide to Hope for Vulnerable Children Ministry. God bless you.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Healthcare Mandate and the Agony in the Garden

Photo courtesy of
Like many Americans, I was very disappointed to hear today that the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the Healthcare Reform Bill crafted by the Obama administration. I had hoped that the court would find the bill unconstitutional because it contains a mandate that would force people of faith to violate their religious beliefs. I'm referring specifically to the Heath and Human Services (HHS) mandate contained in the bill that would force religious employers to provide health insurance that covers medications and services that violate the religious teachings of the Catholic Church and other religions.

As I thought about the decision, I wondered why God would allow this to happen. I wondered why He didn't touch the hearts of the Supreme Court justices so that the healthcare bill would be struck down.

As I was thinking about it, Christ's agony in the garden came to mind. After the last supper, Jesus and His disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane. While they were there, Jesus began to dread his impending suffering and death by crucifixion. He went off by Himself and prayed to God that He wouldn't have to go through with the crucifixion. He prayed "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 26:39) Jesus didn't want to go through the pain and suffering He was about to experience, but He was willing to go through it if it was God's will. He knew that if it was God's will that he suffer and die, He knew it was for a greater good, and He was willing to endure it.

The predicament that the Catholic Church finds itself in regarding the healthcare reform bill has similarities to Christ's experience in the Garden of Gethsemane. Just as Jesus didn't want to go through the pain and suffering of his crucifixion, the Catholic Church doesn't want to go through the pain and suffering that will happen if the HHS mandate is put into effect. If the HHS mandate goes into effect, the Catholic Church will have to take drastic measures, which might include shutting down Catholic schools and hospitals. If the Catholic Church has to shut down its schools and hospitals, it won't be able to provide the care and education that it gives to thousands of men, women, and children.

Just as Jesus wanted to be spared the pain and suffering of His crucifixion, the Catholic Church wanted the Supreme Court to strike down the healthcare bill so that it would be spared the pain and suffering involved in fighting the HHS mandate contained in the healthcare bill. If Jesus would have been spared the crucifixion, there would have been no resurrection. He had to go through the crucifixion for the greater good. On the surface, it seems like it would have been better for the Catholic Church if the Supreme Court would have struck down the healthcare bill. After thinking about it, I believe that it is actually better for the Catholic Church and the people of the United States that the healthcare bill wasn't struck down. Why? Because I believe that the imposition of the healthcare mandate is an incredible opportunity for the Catholic Church to make a very strong statement to the world. If the Catholic Church stands strong for religious freedom and opposes the healthcare mandate, it will be a strong Christian witness to the world that will hopefully result in the preservation of religious freedom for all. As with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Catholic Church must obediently accept the cup that has been handed to it, for the greater good of humanity.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Abortion - The Symptom of a Deeper Problem

I firmly believe, and have publicly stated on several occasions, that abortion is only the symptom of a bigger problem. It is not the root of the problem. Actually, it's probably the symptom of several problems in our society. 

One of the root problems that leads to abortion is a lack of sexual morality. Many people view sex as a recreational activity that any consenting person can have with any consenting person. The procreative aspect of the sex act has become a foreign concept to many. As a result, there are many people having sex who have no desire to have children. Some of those having sex actually have an aversion to having children. Some wouldn't mind getting pregnant, but are in no financial position to have a child. There are some who are having sex who have no business having sex, such as underage children or unmarried college students. Having sex in these situations is a recipe for disaster. It's like playing Russian roulette, but instead of the person pointing the gun at their own head, they point it at the head of any child they might conceive.

Another root cause that leads to abortion is a lack of support by society for women experiencing unwanted or unexpected pregnancies. When a girl experiences an unwanted pregnancy, often times her family ostracizes her, instead of providing her with the support and understanding she needs. Outside of the family, there are organizations like Planned Parenthood that are quick to offer abortion as a solution to the "problem". There aren't enough people who are willing to offer their time, talents and treasures to help women in these most difficult circumstances to give life to their child, and support the child afterwards. One of the things I want to accomplish in my life is to do more to help women experiencing crisis pregnancies.

I believe that the solution to the abortion issue will involve a combination of actions. Above all, the best thing we can do to make abortion unwanted is to work tirelessly to increase the morality of society. The way we do that is to stop hiding our Catholic faith under a bushel basket and share it with others. Our faith is a pearl of great price, and we do people a great disservice by not sharing it with them. Our faith has the answer to so many of the problems people face in life. Getting people to understand that sex is a beautiful thing that is meant for a husband and wife only would greatly reduce many sexually related issues, including STD's and abortions. Getting people to understand the negative effect that contraception use has on society will also greatly reduce many sexually related issues, and also strengthen marriages. Helping people to understand the Christian concept of selflessness and self-sacrifice will enable more families to support their daughters when they find themselves in crisis pregnancy situations. Teaching our young people to abstain from sex until marriage will result in less STD's and abortions. Opposing same-sex marriage will strengthen the institution of marriage, and enable more children to experience their right to be raised by both a mother and a father.

While we're working to make the things mentioned above happen, we must make abortion illegal. We have no choice. Killing an innocent unborn child is never the solution, and should never be legitimized by being given a legal status. As I said before, we can't just make it illegal and do nothing to help women in crisis pregnancy situations. We must do the other things I mentioned above at the same time.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Handel Messiah - Academy of Ancient Music

After much searching, I finally found my favorite performance of Handel Messiah on YouTube. It was recorded in 1982 by the Academy of Ancient Music, conducted by Christopher Hogwood. After hearing this rendition, I could listen to no other.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Wild West Adventure

On January 13, 2012, my eldest son and I made a college visit to the University of Dubuque, in Dubuque, Iowa. The University of Dubuque is one of the colleges my son is interested in attending for a degree in aviation. While we were having lunch in Dubuque before the visit began, I jokingly told my son that we should drive out to South Dakota after the college visit to see Mt. Rushmore. To this day, I'm not sure why I thought of Mt. Rushmore. It just popped into my head. Even though I was joking, my son thought it was a great idea (naturally!).

During breaks in the college visit, my son and I continued to joke with each other about driving to South Dakota. As we talked about it, my son became more and more serious about making the trip, and I became more and more afraid of how my wife would react if we did it.

After the college visit was over, my son and I continued to talk about South Dakota. After much agonizing, we decided that we would go for it. We agreed that we would do everything we could to minimize the cost of the trip, like eating peanut butter sandwiches for meals. We decided on peanut butter sandwiches because peanut butter and bread are cheap, and don't require refrigeration. The only clothes we had were the ones we were wearing, but we decided it would be worth it to wear the same clothes for the few days we would be gone. One of the bigger expenses would be lodging. We toyed with the idea of sleeping in the car, but the thought of dying of hypothermia didn't appeal to us, so we decided against it. As an alternative, we decided to seek out inexpensive motels.

After picking up some supplies at Wal-Mart, we pointed the nose of our car westward. Using the GPS, we determined that the closest city to Mt. Rushmore was Rapid City, South Dakota. We programmed Rapid City as our destination into the GPS, and the GPS estimated that we would arrive in Rapid City at about 2:30 AM local time. The thought of driving into the wee hours of the morning didn't appeal to us, but we decided to do it anyway, to save both money and time. We decided that once we got to Rapid City, we would find a motel and catch about 4 hours sleep, and then head to Mt. Rushmore first thing Saturday morning.

After leaving Dubuque, the highway took us north and west for a few hours, and then eventually headed straight north into Minnesota. Shortly after crossing the Minnesota border, the highway turned to the west. We continued to head west into South Dakota, all the way to Rapid City. Most of the trip was in the dark. The light, blowing snow that we drove through for most of the trip made driving difficult for my son, who ended up being my chauffeur for the trip. Like his father, my son loves to drive.

After many hours, we arrived in Rapid City on schedule at about 2:30 AM. We checked into the hotel and promptly hit the sack. About four hours of fitful sleep later, we woke up. After a continental breakfast, we got in the car and headed south towards Mt. Rushmore.

One of the fears I had as we were driving the night before was that the weather at Mt. Rushmore would be bad. It was the middle of January, after all. I had visions of explaining to my wife that we decided to drive all the way to Mt. Rushmore, but couldn't see it because it was shrouded in rain, fog, snow, or a combination thereof. It wasn't a pleasant vision. As it turns out, my fears were unfounded. On the morning we drove to Mt. Rushmore, the temps were chilly, but the cloud-free sky was a crystal clear shade of blue.

Mt. Rushmore was just as beautiful as I remember it to be when I saw it in 1968 with my family when I was eight years old. Since I didn't have my DSLR camera with me (dang it!), I had to take pictures of it with the camera in my Palm Pre phone. My son took pictures with the camera in his iPod Touch.

After experiencing Mt. Rushmore, we decided to explore Custer State Park, which is a massive area right next to Mt. Rushmore. The park was absolutely jaw-dropping gorgeous. We enjoyed driving the curvy, mountainous roads, and driving across the prairie. The weather continued to be fantastic. While we were there, we saw antelope and bison. One of the highlights of our visit to the park was when we stopped next to a herd of bison grazing in a field. As we were watching the bison, I was amazed by how quiet it was. We couldn't hear any man-made sounds. All we could hear was sounds that the bison occasionally made as they grazed. It was a fantastic experience. 

As the day progressed, we started thinking about when and how we would head back home. If we went back home the way we came, we would have to go all the way back to Dubuque, and then three and a half hours south to our house. Rather than go back the same route, I suggested that we go home via Colorado. The distance home would be about the same, since we would have to go south to Denver, and then straight east to our home, rather than straight east to Dubuque and then south to our home. My son readily agreed to the plan (big surprise!). We decided to spend the rest of the day driving to Denver, then spend all of Sunday in the Denver area, and then drive home on Monday. 

Later that day, we headed south towards Denver. We followed a route that took us through the southwestern corner of Wyoming. The scenery was pretty flat, but it was still interesting. The weather was good, making for a pleasant drive. We decided to make Colorado Springs our destination. Colorado Springs is about an hour south of Denver. We arrived there at about 8 PM that evening.

The first thing we did on Sunday morning was go to Mass at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Colorado Springs. I was impressed by the pro-life display near the entrance to the Church parking lot. Mass was wonderful, and it rejuvenated us after our long journey.

After Mass, we decided to drive to the top of Pike's Peak, a 14,110 ft. high mountain near Colorado Springs, just west of our motel. The drive up the mountain was incredible. The skies were partly sunny, and the views were to die for. The ranger station at the base of the mountain asked us to crack open our car windows before we drove up the mountain. We asked them why, and they said that the winds at the top of the mountain were currently 40 miles per hour, but if they got up to 60 miles per hour, enough pressure might build up inside our car to blow our windows out. Yikes!

After spending time at the summit of the mountain, and experiencing 40 mph continuous winds, we drove back down the mountain and had lunch at the Hell's Kitchen Pizza restaurant in Steamboat Springs, a touristy town at the base of the mountain. The pizza was heavenly.

After lunch, we went to a beautiful park called the Garden of the Gods. The park was donated by an oil baron to the city of Colorado Springs at the turn of the last century, with the stipulation that the public would be allowed to enjoy the park free of charge. How cool is that? My son and I spent the rest of the day exploring the park, enjoying the jaw-dropping views. We did a lot of rock climbing on the reddish colored rock formations that are all over the park. Once the sun went down, we decided to have dinner at a restaurant to celebrate the end of our wild west adventure. After dinner, we went back to our motel room to unwind before retiring for the evening.

We departed Colorado Springs at about 5 AM on Monday morning and headed for home. The trip was pretty uneventful. The weather was good for almost the entire trip, except for the last half our before we got home. On our way through Kansas, we spotted an unusual billboard that was a painting of Jesus standing in a field of wheat, holding up some wheat in his right hand. It was so unusual, we had to go back and take pictures of it. The story of how this billboard came to be can be found here.

We arrived home at about 10:30 PM Monday night. Taking the trip was kind of a crazy thing to do, but I'm glad we did it. My son will be going to college in the fall, and I won't see him much after that, so it was important that we spent this time together. I will always remember it in my heart.

To see the photos I took during the trip with my Palm Pre's humble camera, click here.