On my recent trip to Ireland and Scotland, I enjoyed what I learned about the history and tradition of the areas we visited. I was surprised to see in the corner of one castle’s banquet hall, a display featuring what appeared to be a Native American painting. The story accompanying the painting reminded me how the distances between us are only as great as the barriers we create.
The painting was a gift from the Choctaw Nation to the people of Ireland. In 1831, the Choctaw were among those who suffered the devastating effects of U.S. policy, as they were forcibly marched 500 miles from Oklahoma to Mississippi. Sixteen years later, these same people who suffered not only humiliation but tremendous loss of life, heard of the plight of the Irish during the Great Famine of 1845-1847. The Choctaw people took a collection from the little they had and sent it to Ireland for Famine Relief.
The relationship did not end there. In 1990, Choctaw leaders visited County Mayo, to take part in a re-enactment of a famine walk undertaken in 1847. In 1992, Irish leaders visited the United States, taking part in a 500-mile trek from Oklahoma to Mississippi. The note next to the painting, created by a Choctaw artist and titled “The Gift of Life,” included words inscribed on a plaque which hangs in a prominent building in Dublin, recalling the gift of the Choctaw:
“Their humanity calls us to remember the millions of human beings throughout our world today who die of hunger and hunger-related illness in a world of plenty.”
As I read this, I was reminded of our partnership with our friends in Kenya’s Kerio Valley. A few months ago, the Mission & Service Team was able to wire funds to our Kenyan partners, for the purchase of maize and beans for the elderly and vulnerable in the conflict-ridden valley. Mildred Chepkonga just sent me a note of thanks, intended for our whole congregation, indicating the food was deeply appreciated and had been safely distributed. She asked that we continue our prayers for peace in the Kerio Valley. And she added her prayers for our well-being. We continue to walk together through this life, don’t we – all the better for those times when our shared humanity rises above the illusion of our differences.
Please keep our Kenyan partners, their children, their homeland and their hope for peace and security in your prayers; and know that you are held in their prayers as well.
Your friend and fellow minister,
Pastor Kathryn Kuhn