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Finding Hope


Editor’s note: Missioner Anna Klonowski shares a poem about hope and reflects on how it relates to her mission work in Cochabamba, Bolivia. 

A while ago, Nora, Cochabamba’s in-country site advisor, led us in a reflection centered around a poem she found meaningful for her life on mission. I was inspired as well, and thought that I would share the poem here:

Either we have hope within us or we don’t;
It is a dimension of the soul,
and it’s not essentially dependent on some particular
observation of the world or estimate of the situation.
Hope is not prognostication.
It is an orientation of the spirit,
an orientation of the heart…

Hope, in this deep and powerful sense,
is not the same as joy that things are going well,
or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously
headed for success, but rather,
an ability to work for something because it is good,
not just because it stands a chance to succeed.

Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism.
It is not the conviction that something will turn out well,
but the certainty that something makes sense,
regardless of how it turns out…
It is also this hope, above all,
which gives us the strength to live
and continually try new things,
even in conditions that seem as hopeless as ours do,
here and now.

—Vaclav Havel, 1986

What struck me most about this poem was the challenge it presents to its readers to persevere in hope, not because it is a guarantee that something will “succeed” in the eyes of the world, but rather because hope is worth believing in and fighting for, regardless of the outcome.

I think sometimes that can be really challenging for me. On mission and in life, I have had to come face-to-face with the fact that I can only be myself, and that I need to acknowledge and accept not only my gifts, but also my own struggles and limitations in order to love and be loved by those around me. In a traditional sense, I am not “succeeding” here in Bolivia. I’m not working towards any goal; there are no measurable effects of building relationships. Looking beyond success, I am coming to understand the importance of working for something because of its innate goodness.

This poem reminds me to have hope. It reminds me that even without a specific outcome in mind, it is worth it to build relationships here, to learn from those around me, and to provide support through life’s challenges in return.

Reflection question: Where do you find hope in your day to day life?

Long-term overseas mission is a natural extension of the ideals and interests that direct Anna’s life. At the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota, she connected her deep faith with her enthusiasm for social justice and women’s leadership while studying theology, Hispanic studies, and global business leadership. Anna fell even more in love with the Spanish language and Latin American culture during a semester in Xela, Guatemala. Her call to care for creation revolves around a desire to preserve the world for those who are marginalized, as well as for future generations.