Holiness in our midst – Session 2


Let it be said that some of our greatest teachers are the children along our paths. One of mine is Anina (pronounced uh KNEE nuh), a 9-year old girl from the African country of Namibia. I met her two years ago when her family sat next to me at First Christian Church in Ames, IA. Her opening words to me were, “My name is Anina. I’m in first grade and I like to read and I like to hug.” I said, “My name is Janis, and I like to read and hug, too.” She was bouncy, bright-eyed and full of questions. We were instant friends. We sang from the same hymnbook, and she leaned on my shoulder during the sermon. Her mother, a grassroots organizer for human rights in their country and a Fulbright scholar at Iowa State University, asked if Anina and I might exchange e-mails to help her with her English. I agreed and we have become e-mail pals, the digital-age equivalent of pen pals.

Our exchanges are infrequent and brief, but Anina shares what’s interesting and important to her: pictures of her home country, photos of a white hummingbird, what’s happening in school, her travels during vacations. Last winter, she was very sad when her grandmother passed away and she wasn’t able to return home for the funeral. She was not only missing her grandmother, but also the hugs from her aunties, cousins and other family in her country half-way around the world, she said. She explained her grief this way: “It’s like a dark cloud hanging over my heart.” At the end of that e-mail, she asked me:

Janis, have you ever missed anyone or any place?

I answered: “Yes, I have, Anina. I still miss my Iowa grandmother who passed away many years ago. And I miss the family farm and the way of life that was centered in small-town community.  Everyone helped each other, rather than competed with each other to win.”

I am grateful to her for helping me to put my loss in words, the first step in consciously working through it. I am moving away from my stance of lament toward the end goal of integrating the best of my grandmother’s and her community’s values into my present life.

STORY CIRCLE QUESTION: Have you ever missed anyone, anything, or any place…with an aching heart? Who or what? Why?

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION: Read about Anina’s loss. Ask: What loss comes to mind comparable to Anina’s loss? Who or what do I miss…with an aching heart? Who or what helped me to begin healing?


  1. Read aloud the session about Anina and her loss.
  2. Ask: Have you ever missed anyone, anything, or any place…to the extent that Anina missed her grandmother and her home country? Who or what? Why?
  3. Share lessons learned from loss.