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A friend of mine left me a voice mail asking for assistance. He is a close friend who has been there for me in the past. Right away I started thinking of ways I could help. I thought of solutions to my friend's problem and actively explored ways to help. I really wanted to help. Days turned into weeks but I couldn't find a solution. I finally gave up looking for solutions and took the courage to call my friend and say, "I am sorry I don't know what to say. I honestly tried to find ways to help but I came up empty. I don't know what to say other than I'm sorry. I want you to realize I care, I feel your pain, but I have nothing useful to offer at the moment."

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever felt so powerless in spite of an overwhelming desire to help someone you love?

From time to time I suffered with the same powerlessness, or sense of uselessness, until that experience with my friend. When I called him back he said, "I thought you didn't care at all. I was waiting to hear from you for months. I am glad to hear from you." I had nothing to offer, or so I thought, but my friend simply needed me to be there as a friend.

I was under the foolish impression that my presence to my friend has to be useful. I foolishly thought I have to have an answer before being there for him. After all, what good am I if I can't help him solve his problem? What good am I if I don't have a solution to offer, or even have anything to say?

Henri Nouwen said it best when he said,

We have lost the gift (of simply offering our) presence because we have been led to believe that presence must be useful. We have forgotten that it is often in "useless," unpretentious, humble presence to each other that we feel consolation and comfort.

Henri went on to say that people who stay with us in moments of need often grow very close to us. Their solidarity with us by willingly entering the dark, uncharted spaces of our lives is what brings us new hope and helps us discover new directions.

Henri was right of course. When I think of my closest and dearest friends, they all fit the same category - they have all been there for me (as I have for them) in good and in bad times. They are my friends simply because of their 'presence' in my life and mine in theirs.

Thank you for being our friend at Catholic World Mission. I want you to know we value your presence regardless of your contributions. Because of this tough economic times others who are unable to give as generously as in the past may have been led to believe their presence is not needed. On the contrary, whatever donation you can afford is greatly appreciated. And yes, your presence is greatly missed by the many children and families whose lives you have transformed.

I have one final and very important message to you my friend:

Even if you cannot contribute financially at this time, please continue to be part of our Catholic World Mission family. We want to hear from you and at the very least pray for your intentions. We honestly want to know how you are doing. Your presence is very important to us. I have you know our Prayer Intentions (updated weekly) on our website has been growing. Check it out. Amber and Patrick are happiest when they have many prayer intentions to send me for the week. And yes, I do pray the rosary for each of your intentions at a separate adoration hour. Call us or email us with your intentions.

Thank you for being part of the Catholic World Mission family. Your presence is the greatest gift you have ever given us. We hope to hear from you soon.

Yours in Christ,

 Rick Medina

P.S. In case you were wondering, I called this correspondence Immanuel because in its simplest sense God gave us the greatest gift of all. God wanted to be present to us, as He wants us to be present to Him, and each other. God didn't promise to solve all our problems or answer all our confusion, but He did promise He would be "with us" always. He wanted us never to forget this most important gift in the birth of Jesus - "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Immanuel, which means 'God is with us.'" (Matthew 1:23). May we never forget the importance of God and other's presence in our lives. What a gift!