Emmaus Picnic Reflection

CAFOD Emmaus Picnic 23rd June 2013

The weather was forecast as dire, temperatures of 12C and intermittent heavy showers, it looked like this outdoor activity for CAFOD was due to be cancelled. Let’s face it when the event was booked in April the parish club was pencilled in as an alternative in case of heavy rain, and frosts were still occurring.

The Emmaus Picnic and Le Tour de Fred were CAFOD events that were coalesced to form a single event. There was a good deal of planning to get the permissions from the local Chorlton waterpark’s wardens. Risk Assessments and liability insurances were required and suggestions of 6 weeks notice and a clash with a planned canoe event seemed to loom as obstacles in the way. A little skirmish with the H&S paperwork and an explanation of access required smoothed the way and it was a calendar event.

Due to the time of year and various calamities happening to some of the usual suspects the numbers were low. The forecasts put some of the stalwarts off and the fearsome 5 set off from St Ann’s to meet another 7 at the destination picnic area in Chorlton Waterpark. I have had experience of other events that have had expected weather turned on it’s head and had been confidently declaring throughout the last couple of days that I had asked for at least an hour of break from the showers predicted. In fact I asked for sunshine between 2.30 and 3.30. Last night we had a deluge, this morning we had a spatter and very grey wall to wall cloud. I have heard of people asking non-specifically for prayers to be answered and being given a vague answer to prayer. I asked for preparation time and walk time to be included and left it to God.

This morning I was given an acronym ‘Father, in Thy Hands’ = FAITH, and when Joy called in confirmation of the go-ahead of the day I shared this with her. And despite all appearances to the contrary I declared my confidence in the Father’s answer to prayers. The sky scape continued to be wall to wall grey on the way back from coffee club at 11.45 AND I continued to praise and give thanks for the break in the weather. The St Ann’s gathering met and left late to give stragglers a chance to catch up, an hour later Fr John, Stephen, Tricia, Catherine, and her mother arrived at the destination to find a gazebo erected with table water and literature. We had encountered a steady trickle of cyclists, runners and dog walkers. The weather was breezy [gentle] and bright with sunshine occasionally. Ann and Hugo had joined us for part of the walk.

The fixed bike was in use and we were greeted by Joy, her husband, 2 daughters one with a friend and also a friend of Joy’s who had been drawn in with the loan of the gazebo. Mary was there, unexpectedly. Shelagh turned up after making her way there by tram. We settled down on our picnic surfaces – the ground was wet – and explored Sabita’s story and empathised with her family and community’s plight. After a prayer, discussion, and scripture reading we enjoyed 2 versions of the potato curry recipe that was given by Sabita as part of her staple foods. We appreciated the plight of the farming community in the third world. A recent e-petition against Monsanto had drawn attention to the patenting of seed stocks that had gone on and the adverse effect this was having on subsistence farmers. We have heard about suicides amongst young farmers in India. My sister who lived in Thailand was in support of the poor farmers there, who could not afford the elevated seed prices or the heavy fines for using seeds produced from these crops – as the Global companies demanded their copyrights.

Mary thought that the last years ‘thirst’ campaign was held earlier in the year, and it was held on 22nd April. Again it had been a wet forecast day but we did not get more than a sprinkle in a very long wet summer.

The International students where I work at the University were very receptive to the sponsorship for the walk . And it may have been the fact that CAFOD, a Catholic Christian organisation, was to raise funds for an impoverished Bangladeshi Hindu community. To help them to improve their situation by introducing ‘seed banks’ and education and training in ‘better’ agricultural techniques to help them and their crops to survive the flooding that seems to be more frequently devastating their communities. The women that had been successful with their raised bed crops that survived flooding were given credence by the authorities and were helping to change policies in their countries.

What’s more the group has enabled these rural women to be heard by the government, and contribute to policies which help people prepare for disasters. Joy had garnered some more info about the Bangladeshi community recipients – living on less than $2 a day, poor educational prospects for their children and starvation likely. Some of the students had expressed disbelief that the £ or $ raised here would have a greater effect on the 3rd world recipients than they would on UK charities. After some discussion it was found of the 20 or so students that I was going out to a meal with that there was about 5 that were well-informed, and a German student focussed her charitable donations to a student friend who was working out in South America for this very reason – [1] she knew all the money was going to be used on those in need and [2] the money raised made a lot more difference to the recipients. Something that CAFOD symbolises.

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