Monday, January 24, 2011

Strengthening relationships to serve

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:13)

January 23-26, 2011

Paraguay is a long way to go for a meeting. But it seemed worth it when it meant that representatives from global churches from around the world could meet together to talk about how Anabaptist-related service agencies could form a new network to work more effectively together.

In our congregations, we help our members who are in need and we help others in our communities, too. Through Mennonite World Conference, we can help our brothers and sisters in Anabaptist churches in other parts of the world. We know the needs are great. Think of Zimbabwe, Chile, Indonesia and elsewhere where political unrest and disasters have given us ample opportunities to show our love for one another.

There are Anabaptist-related service agencies around the world, too, that help us reach beyond our own members to communities in need. Large service agencies are in Indonesia, India, Ethiopia, the United States and elsewhere, and many smaller ones in many countries, but there is currently no linking mechanism that helps these agencies on behalf of the church to work more effectively together.

That's what this meeting in Paraguay was all about. The group pictured above spent three days together, and I was able to give some support as a volunteer staff person for Mennonite World Conference, to plan for how a new network of agencies could best operate.

Toward the end of the meeting, Cynthia Peacock, from India, led us in a devotional from Phil. 4. She said we have much to do, but we can accomplish much more together if our relationships are strong in Christ.

If these five representatives are any indication, our churches and agencies will work with diligence to extend their work as Christ's body in the world. May it be so.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Looking to the interests of others

Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. -Phil. 2:4
This is meat canning week at the MCC Great Lakes facility in Goshen, Ind. In nine days, 1,500 volunteers will cut up, cook and can almost 80,000 pounds of turkey for MCC to distribute to hungry families around the world. Last year, for example, 33 tons of turkey and beef were sent to earthquake victims in Haiti.
Yesterday, I met the committee of six that oversees this work in Goshen. They represent a broad spectrum of Mennonites and Amish in the community. I was told that likely 90% of the volunteers are from the Amish and the more conservative groups in the community.
I was overwhelmed as I entered the cutting room. At long tables, maybe 100 people, most of them Amish, were cutting up turkey thighs to prepare them for cooking. Animated conversation was certainly not getting in the way of industriousness as the work quickly progressed.
These volunteers are responding to a need, and doing it gladly. This week, while the canning work was still happening, a truck came to load skids of boxed cans of meat, each labeled, "in the name of Christ," so that they couuld be shipped to Colombia where the cans of meat are desperately needed.
In the past year, similar shipments of canned meat were designated for North Korea, El Salvador and the Ukraine. In the Goshen community, these volunteers will raise over $140,000 to buy the meat and send it on its way.
The Apostle Paul says to the Christians in Philipi, look to the interests of others, not just to your own. For me, in this meat canning project, my conservative brothers and sisters in this community are demonstrating what Paul meant. Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Remaining maladjusted

For we are what God has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. - Ephesians 2:10

Monday, Dr. Quinton Dixie, associate professor of religion at Purdue-Indiana University Fort Wayne was the featured speaker at the Martin Luther King Day prayer breakfast at Goshen (Ind.) College. He quoted King's call for us to remain maladjusted, never adjusting to segregation, the madness of militarism and other sins. King went on to say that it may well be that the world's salvation depends on the maladjusted.

King's quote reminded me of the weekend meeting I had just concluded with Damascus Road trainers, organizers, chaplains, partners and Mennonite Central Committee staff. Within the Anabaptist sphere, the Damascus Road program has provided valuable resources and education in helping agencies, congregations and members address racism head-on.

More recently, some Damascus Road folks have felt the program would be freer to grow and be truer to its mission if it was not so institutionally connected to Mennonite Central Committee. It is hard to let go of something that has played such a valuable role in the life of the church. But listening to Dr. Dixie on MLK Day, I had to admit that it is hard for a movement like the Damascus Road program "to remain maladjusted" within an institution of any sort, even a good one like MCC!

The group gathered to discern the future of the Damascus Road program was unnecessarily harsh about MCC, I thought, the organization that was responsible for birthing it. On the other hand, this same group was passionate about the work God has called us to, a way of life, really, to combat the destructiveness of racism, work that can affect generations to come.

May God bless the future of this ministry, wherever God leads it. I am hoping MCC can continue to be a valued partner, contributing to the world's salvation, maybe even a bit maladjusted!