Saturday, September 25, 2010

It takes each one

We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses. (Hebrews 12:1)

September 24-25
North Newton, Kansas

When the board of MCC Central States met in North Newton this week, it began by remembering who was now missing. Ruth Yellowhawk, co-founder of the Indigenous Issues Forum and friend of MCC in so many ways, had passed recently from cancer. Ruth often worked with Harley Eagle on restorative justic workshops. She helped reclaim indigenous understandings and life ways that allow people to walk in balance today and in future generations.

Board and staff successively shared their memories of one whose life had mattered to them and so many more. Paul's image of being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses came to our minds. It is a cloud of witnesses so visible to us and yet so far from our minds so much of the time. Each one makes a difference in the world.

Material Resources staff person Irma Gonzales illustrated another way one person can make a difference. She remembers a couple who came through the material resources center in North Newton wanting to know how they could help. Irma said one need is the shoestrings that are used to tie together the school and health kits. She needs 1600 pairs of shoe laces each month which cost MCC about $800. Beginning shortly thereafter, this couple began their monthly contribution of $800 to cover this cost.

MCC Central States has learned to treat each donor with care, not just those who provide a financial contribution, but also those who also volunteer their time or donate material resources. Each one now receives a postcard of thanks.

Another cloud of witnesses was the board members and staff who gathered together around the board table. Guidelines for discussion from Ruth Yellowhawk's Indigenous Issues Forum framed the board's discussion. These guidelines include weighing our words before speaking, listening to each other attentively and with respect, speaking from the heart, focusing on the question at hand and respecting one another.

The board considered whether to increase its investment in migration issues in the Houston and Borderlands programs. And it engaged in the various design models presented as part of MCC's reorganization by visually mapping its relationships with the other parts of MCC.

In all of its work this past weekend, the MCC Central States board and staff demonstrated that each one is important, each contribution worthy of acknowledgement, a visual testimony of that cloud of witnesses.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

We are a learning community

They shall hunger and thirst no more. (Rev. 7:16)

September 10-14, 2010
Oregon and British Columbia

"We know the economy of our country is not going to change," Susan Ban told us. "So we have to do things differently in smaller strategies that don't feel too huge and that can help our county be caring and compassionate."

Susan, the executive director of Shelter Care, a church-based ministry for responding to situational and chronic homelessness in Eugene, Oregon, told the West Coast MCC board that Shelter Care is finding creative ways for the church to partner with the public sector to respond to problems facing her community.

A day later, the West Coast MCC board and staff headed north of the border to Abbotsford, British Columbia to learn from the MCC programs there. They joined a Sunday celebration for the relief sale the day before that raised over $600,000 to help meet human needs and work for peace and justice all over the world.

Dan Wiens, water and agricultural coordinator for MCC, told the crowd that there are over one billion people in the world who live on less than a dollar a day and who suffer because of lack of food and water. He shared creative solutions like sand dams and conservation agriculture, ideas surfaced by the communities in need themselves that MCC is helping bring to fruition.

The following day, the MCC BC staff introduced us to an array of programs serving the people of Abbotsford, Vancouver and beyond. One innovative program is a for-profit landscaping business that employs 30 homeless people and youth at risk. Another program partners with a local credit union to help people save money (and get it matched) for downpayments on housing, starting small businesses or for education and training.

In an opening devotional, Rachelle Lyndacher Schlabach told the West Coast MCC board that Christians are called to hospitality, peacemaking and generosity rather than suspicion, selfishness and accumulation.

In visiting Eugene and Abbotsford the West Coast MCC board is modeling for us how to be a learning community. They are dreaming about a world in which people hunger and thirst no more.