Holiness in our Midst: Session 101

Holiness in our Midst



Story Circle Prompt: Where have you literally left footprints? A story or two from your travels?

The subject of footprints entered my contemplative consciousness in January 2021, right after a heavy snowstorm. I was in Covid hibernation, with time on my hands. Looking out the window at the park-like front lawn of my apartment complex, a line of children’s footprints etched in the snow caught my attention. A question emerged: Where have I left footprints?

I began to trace my steps by sketching a map of the world, marking my homes, then connecting the places in chronological order with little footprints. I was astonished that the places I had lived and traveled encompassed 34 states and 5 continents. (If you are interested, the exercise is explained below under “For Personal/Journal Reflection.”) 

As I re-lived my adventures, two stories about footprints came back:

  • In January of 2002, I was on a Faith Expedition near Yei in southern Sudan (now South Sudan) in my role as coordinator for mission connections for the Church of the Brethren.  We were welcomed with songs of joy! Our delegation, we were told, was the first one from North America to visit the compound. This fact impressed me. In a free moment, I even walked around the perimeter of the site and tromped around, so I would further be the only North American who stepped foot on that very piece of ground. We were there to deliver kits that U.S. congregations had created, based on what Sudanese leaders said were their greatest needs: Salt, Soap and Towels. The village gathered in solemn ceremony to receive these gifts. I watched in awe as the leaders, in triage fashion, distributed the precious items. The towels went to elderly women to use as blankets and to mothers for wrapping their babies. I might have left my footprints on the place, but it left a more lasting imprint on me. Whenever I wake up cold in the night, I remember that there are those who graciously give to those who have greater need, even if they themselves must suffer the night chill of the grasslands.



  • In February of 2004, I was in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Vietnam, to report about the ministry of Grace Mishler. She was a professor on the Faculty of Social Work at Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities. She was my guide on a week-long tour through the Mekong Delta Region sharing her projects which promoted social awareness of persons with disabilities. On a day when we weren’t traveling, Grace arranged for a student to give me a walking tour of Ho Chi Minh City. This lovely young woman took me to exquisitely beautiful open-air markets, fancy restaurants, luxurious high-end department stores and shops where fine artworks were created by artisans in back rooms. She even took me to places of worship. At one point, she stopped at a Buddhist statue and bowed, saying, “This is where my God lives.” Then she took me to a Catholic cathedral and said, “This is where your God lives.” She also said, “Please, can we be friends even though we have different Gods?” “Yes,” I said. Later that evening, my guide gave me a thoughtful gift to seal the friendship. It was a map of the city, with our itinerary highlighted in yellow marker. I have a record of the day when our footprints were side by side! 


Next Month’s Story Circle Prompt: Where have you figurately left your footprint(s), that is, made your mark on the world?



  1. Read the above reflection. On a map of the United States or world, first mark with an x all the places you have lived. Then draw footprints between those places, connecting them in chronological order. Then draw dotted lines from each of the places you have lived to the places where you visited or vacationed. Reflect about the exercise in your journal: Where were the turning points in your life? Who influenced those changes? What continuities do you see in your life journey? What changes would you like to make?


  1.   Read aloud Session CI.
  2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt. 


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Note: Holiness in Our MidstSharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.

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