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This Flowing toward Me

This Flowing Toward Me: A Story of God Arriving in Strangers
by Marilyn Lacey, RSM
Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2009
207 pages
Reviewed by Bobbie Bonk

Marilyn Lacey, RSM, begins with an African proverb, “…a person who sees something good must tell the story” (x). This Flowing Toward Me: A Story of God Arriving in Strangers is a memoir describing how Lacey accidentally tumbled into the ministry of working with refugees, how she fell in love with them, and how God transformed her through these marginalized people. There are laugh-out-loud moments as Lacey deals with facing camel spiders and eating red ant soup, as well as heart breaking recognition of the violence and torture that causes people to become refugees. Why? Because of “…political ideas, religious practices, ethnic or social affiliation, or racial background…” (123-24) that makes them unacceptable to those in power.

Under the chapter heading, “The Dead Do Rise,” Lacey recounts the terrifying suffering and the powerful triumph of Gabriel, one of the “Lost Boys” who left the region of southern Sudan and was lucky enough to find refuge in the United States. In the chapter “God Does Not Kill,” the author struggles with the question, “What does God have to say about the violence that refugees endure?” (135) and finds her answer in a life giving God. Who of us does not ask the same question as we face the issues of violence in our contemporary world? Discovering a solution may not be the same for everyone, but the many personal stories of refugees that Lacey recounts challenge the reader to face the truth.

This Flowing Toward Me is about grace given and grace received. It is about a God who surprises and invites us to meet God in the stranger. Our response is to make space for the unexpected allowing the encounter to transform us. There is no turning back, because new awareness of the incarnated God in the person of those deemed disposable breaks open the heart for love.

Spiritual directors and spiritual directees who read this book will recognize the humility and compassion of one who works with the poor and the outcast. Lacey’s story is an invitation to those called to justice spirituality and a voice of encouragement in the tough times. Her prayer, “That our fear of strangers gives way to the risk of welcoming them” (197) is rooted in the good news of a God who knows no barriers. “Each step in that direction moves our bruised and broken world closer to the day when mercy and justice shall kiss” (197). We can only hope.

Bobbie Bonk is a pastoral associate at a Roman Catholic church in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA. She facilitates retreats, offers spiritual direction, and volunteers with inmates at the Larimer County Detention Center. By participating in workshops for adult survivors of childhood abuse led by Mary’s Hope, she enhanced her spiritual direction training from The Center for Spirituality at Work in Denver, Colorado.

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