Words and music by Sarah Pirtle,
© 2005 Discovery Center Music, BMI
1) I wake each morning in a House of Hope and give thanks the sun has risen.
In those moments I forget that I am here in prison.
I am back in Camaroon greeting people on the street
as the food baskets arrive. I give thanks I am alive.
and I build my House of Hope, I build my House of Hope.
Refrain: No matter what, they do. I live here, here in my House of Hope.
No matter what they do, I live here, here in my House of Hope.
2) In my town in Cameroon our daily food was prayer.
I learned to build a House of Hope. I was taught love lives forever.
I stood out. I studied law.
That’s why mothers came to me with the talking bones of their sons,
I set out to right the wrong in the sunshine of the house of hope,
the sunshine of the house of hope.
Chorus: Oh, I build a house of hope.
Oh, I build a house of hope.
Oh, I build a house of hope.
Where you, my friend, may enter.
3) As the guards march the halls, I recall how bones spoke thunder.
I don’t regret that I told the truth that the government did the murders.
They soon arrested me and while the dead watched with knowing eyes,
I was taken up and tortured.
I kept my own soul in my hands and stayed in my house of hope,
stayed in my house of hope.
Refrain: No matter what they do. I live here, here in my House of Hope. (2x)
4) I fled my country. I believed that here I’d gain asylum.
But instead I was thrown in jail as if cast upon an island.
I cried to God in my despair.
When I was held in solitary, kind strangers heard my plea,
every week they visit me, they visit my house of hope,
they visit my house of hope.
Chorus: Oh, I build a house of hope...where you my friend may enter.
5) I spend my day in a House of Hope. That shelter is the strongest.
I write letters from my House of Hope and declare love lives the longest.
God knows I have done no wrong
and so I hang on to my faith there are places none can break.
I thank the Son for healing grace.
I live in a House of Hope.
Refrain: No matter what they do, I live here, here in my House of Hope. (2x)
Chorus: Oh, we build a house of hope.
Oh, we build a House of Hope.
Oh, we build a house of hope.
We build it together.
Richard Sitcha is a human rights activist from Camaroon. He was forced to flee his country in 2001 and came here to seek asylum. To contact the Sitcha Support Committee, call Suzanne Carlson at (413) 774-2112. As Suzanne expressed it, “Richard carries his message of love and hope to others on both sides of the wall.” He has reached out to prisoners in the Plymouth and Greenfield prisons, starting prayer groups, translating letters, giving supportive advice, and the force of his integrity and his conscience has inspired the people who’ve gotten to know him personally.
Here is how the Valley Advocate Newspaper in Amherst describes his story:
Sitcha fled Camaroon and became a political refugee, “fearing reprisals for his role investigating the disappearance of a group of young men who had committed a petty crime. The boys, it was revealed in the end, had been murdered by soldiers from Cameroon’s brutal paramilitary forces. Sitcha, who says he helped organize protests, was arrested, beaten and eventually released, then fled to the U. S., settling in the Hartford area.
“While Sitcha was intially granted political asylum, that asylum was revoked in September 2003, and, under a toughened post-September 11th Department of Homeland Security policy, he was promptly tossed in jail—despite never having been accused, much less convicted, of any crime.
“The government, which initially granted him asylum, now says it doubts his story and is attempting to send him back to Cameroon—where, he says, he fears he would be killed for his activism.”
Richard has spent time in three prisons. I met him when he was in a federal facility in a county jail in Greenfield, MA and was able to sing this song to him face to face. I was deeply impressed by the strength of his character. Now he is at MCI-Plymouth, MA prison, but he is visited twice weekly by his adopted mother Loreena from the Hartford area, by Suzanne Carlson, Becca King, and others.
Here are portions of one of the letters that Richard wrote. He’s given permission to quote:
Thank you, Sarah, for inventing the phrase--house of hope--to describe how I keep up my courage. You asked me, What does a house of hope mean to you? How do you build a house of hope?
Patience and love are like the bricks which help build the house of hope after the laying of faith as the foundation. If we are not patient, we will always give up and start all over....Any great success occurs after many years of patience. It took 27 years in Nelson Mandela’s life to see his dream become true, liberate South Africa from apartheid....God alone is permanent and will be forever. Nothing else in this world has permanent condition. John Dear said that hope leads us to attend to every word from the mouth of God while despair pushes us to inhuman empty solutions.
I believe that Love--that is what we need most, that is what we lack most.
Feel into a time of hopelessness, and an inner space of discouragement and isolation. From this spot, imagine encapsulating yourself in a sanctuary, a broader context of possibility, a House of Hope. Does it have a color? Does it have a shape? Does it have a guardian?
If you thought of yourself as living inside a House of Hope, how would this change your life and your choices?