Life past the darkness


When it comes to the Christian community, I think many times people provide bubbly feel good phrases without ever answering the true questions of our faith. Far too often I hear references of “God’s Plan.” Yet as I work for St. Vincent de Paul, I meet so many human beings experiencing lives of complete despair. So in response to this “God’s plan” business, I find myself compelled to doubt the reality of this.

Recently, I attended the mid-year retreat with the rest of the Vincentian Volunteers of Cincinnati. It provided me a quiet area to reflect on who I am and who I want to be. I began to ask myself, is doubt a part of my being? Is it okay to question the ultimate truth? Far too often my conscience does not allow me to accept something so blindly. I mean it is a “conscience” which means with knowledge or reason. So when I think of “God’s Plan” I am baffled with finding reasons at times. So I sat puzzled for a moment asking myself, why should I trust in a God that is beyond me? Why should I have trust a plan that at times I do not have the knowledge to understand?

This is my answer:

Matthew 27:46 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This verse is absolutely incredible and gives me chills when I read it. Christ in his humanness doubted himself. The weight of the world made him think perhaps he is lost. I for one can relate to this all too well. For me, it is hard to trust in a God that is beyond me. This was very apparent to the prophets in the Old Testament as well. In response to this, God loved creation so much that he came in the flesh and struggled in solidarity. He provided us a way to live out our faith but also showed how incredibly hard it is. With God taking human form and struggling with doubt too, I can trust in my God. Because through the resurrection we are able to see that there is life past the darkness. We see that doubt is part of our nature and can be defeated.

It is remarkable really. Jesus doubted too! It is a part of who we are. Doubt is not evil. Rather doubt becomes morally neutral. And so it is how we as Christians react to doubt that justifies our faith. Can we push forward in life when doubt arises? This is what I continually am taught at St. Vincent de Paul. The clients suffer so immensely at times and yet they have the courage to look past doubt. I pray that doubt continues to build my faith, not weigh me down. For doubt can allow deeper relationships and new perspectives. And that I think is “God’s Plan.”

Luke Greene RetroFittings
Doing Industrial Engineering by day, Luke Greene enjoys delving into theological issues by night, bringing a real depth of conversation to the table at the VVC house. We are grateful for his insights and intentionality.


Every Little Bit Helps

I look out into the blur of frozen foliage mixed with man-made structures as a train propels me backward toward the city of Philadelphia during my short break at home. I gaze out the window at the continuous line of backyards and feel I have been allowed the rare opportunity to gain an inside look at the lives around me through the intimacy of their own backyards.

I begin to reflect on my year in the Vincentian Volunteers of Cincinnati (VVC) program thus far (I was four months in at the time) and think about how not unlike this opportunity to see the world from someone’s backyard, I have similarly had the rare and humble opportunity to experience a taste of the lives of those we serve through visiting their homes to provide assistance with St. Vincent de Paul. Beds made out of crates and covered by blankets, barely enough food to make it through the month on the food stamps allotted, and bare apartments without a trace of their inhabitants’ presence- these are a few of the conditions that I have witnessed from weekly home visits. Being able to witness a family or individual’s situation within their own home is such a blessing, not only because areas of help can be recognized and addressed (especially those areas with which the individual or family may not have asked for assistance) but also because it is such a humbling experience to be able to be reminded to never take such necessities as food, clothing, and shelter for granted.

In the beginning I was so overwhelmed by the needs of the individuals coming to us for help that I felt that my work and service would not make even the smallest dent in the mounting poverty our neighbors in need are faced with everyday. However, after working in the Social Services department of St. Vincent de Paul for about six months, I have come to realize that every little bit helps. I also strive to uphold a high level of quality in the interactions I have with our neighbors in need rather than solely focusing on the quantity of assistance I can provide. If my suggestions and overall help with things such as providing material assistance or information on how to budget can prevent someone from experiencing the same types of hardships once again, then I believe that I am doing my work correctly. Although I have learned that we cannot always help with every material need they have, I have also discovered that even just lending a listening ear to a person who is not being heard, or even giving one small bit of assistance or other resource to someone who is asking for much more is appreciated and can make all of the difference in the world.

Although I have not yet reached the final destination at the end of my year of service, I know I will arrive shortly. With the moments I have left, I hope to be able to change the lives of others as they continue to change mine.

The horizon is fast approaching, but I am not ready to get off quite yet.

photoJeanette Lesenko (left, at the VVC mid-year retreat), originally from Philadelphia, finds herself extending her listening ear to those who come to SVDP in need of assistance, working in our Social Services department. Since beginning her year with VVC, Jeanette has helped over 550 people in Hamilton County get a free mattress to sleep on, in addition to sitting with many more, providing that listening presence. In her free time, Jeanette has been busy touring Cincinnati for free, thanks to her good luck winning radio contests.