Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lauren Stanley Haiti-Bound

You will know from some of my earlier blog-posts that Lauren Stanley is a friend of mine. She taught me a great deal when she was in Sudan and gave me great counsel as our diocese established a companion relationship with the Diocese of Lui in Sudan.

I was dismayed when Archbishop Daniel Deng kicked her out of Sudan. He bit off his nose to spite his face. He lost a faithful teacher and a persuasive advocate for the people of Sudan. Too bad for him -- and a grievous loss for the people Lauren taught and served.

Now Sudan's loss is Haiti's gain. Here's the ENS article:

Former Sudan missionary Lauren Stanley heads to Haiti

"Where does God need me most?" For the Rev. Lauren Stanley, this question has led her to the most populous diocese of the Episcopal Church and the poorest nation in the western hemisphere -- Haiti.

An Episcopal priest from the Diocese of Virginia, Stanley will move to Port-au-Prince in August to begin a three-year placement as an Episcopal Church missionary in what she identifies as one of "the neediest places in the world."

The Episcopal Church of Haiti is one of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church's 12 overseas dioceses and part of Province II. Haiti is the least-developed country in the western hemisphere, with more than half of its people living on less than $1 per day. One-third of its children are malnourished and 500,000 cannot go to school. The unemployment rate is estimated to be 60 percent.

In April, Stanley met with Bishop Zache Duracin of the Episcopal Church of Haiti "and we talked about partnership and building up the kingdom of God," she said. "The more I thought about it, the more Haiti kept screaming at me. It has tremendous need and it's about building relationships."

Initially, Stanley will assist with communications work and several programs that will help to develop training for Haitians. "I believe missionaries need to work themselves out of a job," she said. "My hope is to help build the idea that the kingdom of God cannot be done individually."

The Rev. David Copley, mission personnel director for the Episcopal Church, has no doubt that Stanley is the right person for this placement, describing her as "an experienced priest, missionary, teacher and a gifted communicator."

He added, "Her talents will not only be of benefit to the diocese of Haiti; through her ministry we will all be gifted as she experiences the presence of God amongst the people of Haiti and shares that journey with the church."

Stanley is no foreigner to serving in poor and disadvantaged communities, having spent four years as an Episcopal Church missionary in the Diocese of Renk, Sudan, where she taught at the theological college.

She arrived in Renk on July 6, 2005, just a few days before the Comprehensive Peace Agreement took effect, thereby ending more than 20 years of civil war.

"My ministry was about being be a witness to them, to witness on their behalf in the U.S., and to give them an idea of what it means to live in peace," said Stanley, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya in the mid-'80s. "They have never had peace. My call was all about taking the message that peace is possible."

But her term in Renk came to an abrupt end in March when Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul of Sudan chose to terminate Stanley's missionary placement. Deng had been made aware of a debate to which she'd contributed during the Diocese of Virginia's convention in January. Stanley had suggested that a proposed amendment to a resolution -- that affirmed the "blessedness" of committed Christian relationships between two adult persons -- "would not be problematic for the Sudani people because they are more concerned with trying to stay alive."

"The comments I made in Virginia were deemed offensive by our partners in Sudan and Archbishop Daniel requested my removal," she told ENS in a telephone interview. "Personally, it was heart wrenching. It was not how I intended to end my ministry there."

Asked what she misses the most about serving in Sudan, Stanley promptly responded: "My family -- the people. I miss them desperately." In Muslim-majority Renk, which lies on the border between northern and southern Sudan, Stanley said she will also miss the five-times-daily call to prayer and "having life come to a halt and focusing on God."

Bishop Peter Lee of the Diocese of Virginia said in a recent statement that Stanley had "served faithfully in the Diocese of Renk, Sudan, for nearly four years, receiving widespread support among her students and the local community."

Lee called Stanley "a faithful advocate for the overseas mission of the church," noting that she continues to visit parishes and groups in the Diocese of Virginia and beyond, "describing the experience of Christians in Sudan and the opportunities that American Christians have for sharing in the worldwide mission of the church."

When she returned to the U.S., Stanley said she was "blessed to have a colleague remind me that Paul was thrown out of Thessalonica and he went on to do some great ministry." It was this comment that sustained Stanley as she discerned her next call.

Stanley sees a lot of commonalities between Sudan and Haiti, describing them as "two most desperate countries with desperate political situations."

Yet, despite the struggles and challenges, in both places there is an incredible amount of faith, she said. "Faith is not a menu option as it is in the western world. You live your faith every day. What I see in both places is faithful people struggling mightily to help bring about the kingdom of God. This is their gift to us. This is what faith can look like."

While I try to understand that Lauren is called to missionary work, I will personally regret that she will again be outside the U.S. I will miss her, and I will pray for her and her work.


Blogger it's margaret said...

This is good news! What a wonderful heart and mind she has. I stand in awe of her.

6/27/2009 6:19 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Amen, Margaret!

6/28/2009 8:04 PM  
Blogger PVollman said...

She spoke at the Diocesan Council for Virginia, and she was very charismatic--quite inspiring.

1/30/2010 4:28 PM  

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