A Prayer for Ash Wednesday

Picture from Jan. 2016 site visit to Barmasia, Bihar. Pictured: The first time the women of Barmasia ever travelled outside of their village, they went to their Districtâs head office to demand several rights they had previously been denied. Shocked by their outspokenness, the District head made their Block officials visit their village to assess the situation and needs. In attempting to go to the village, the officials realized there was no road- so they pretty immediately built one connecting the village to the main road. These women literally put their village on the map! Barmasia has 150 households and 5 SHGs. Since forming the SHGs and participating in LWRâs trainings, the women have become more outspoken, both in the home and civically. The organization of the SHGs has helped them be free from money lenders as the women can now contribute to a general savings account from which SHG members are allowed to borrow at low interest rates. Thanks to the construction of wells and a new pump irrigation system, they can grow crops outside of the monsoon season, so they have year-round food security. Because of the improved farming practices and technologies introduced to Barmasia, their annual yields have increased so significantly that fewer men have to migrate for work and can stay to help farm. The women have been trained on how to create organic fertilizer and pesticides, skills which they now fully employ because they see the positive effects on their health.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Precious Lord,

Our world is a wilderness of dust and ash. The flames of poverty consume. Deserts engulf forests and grasslands. Drought, famine and food shortages blow through an ever more hopeless world.

Yet amid the ashes and dust, we know that you are there. Your rod and staff comfort us in death’s valley. For forty days you fasted in the wilderness. As you faced death, you, too, felt the pain of thirst.

It is out of death that you conquered death. Out of hopelessness, you bring eternal hope. Out of dust, you breathe new life.

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On this day, Lord, drown us in the waters of your compassion. Fill us with the daily bread of your promise. Give us eyes to see our dusty neighbors and remind us of the dust from where we came, and the grace-filled dust where we will one day return. You are one who was, who is and who is to come, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.