Philippines

So I am here in the Philippines for 2.75 weeks doing Mennonite work.  It is technically part of my MVS assignment because I am doing MWC AMIGOS work, which is part of what I do back in Elkhart.  It is also technically vacation.   I was asked to preach on Sunday at one of the local Mennonite churches.  What an honor! What a scare! What will I say? 

I can’t say that I’m not prepared, because I did just take Foundations of Worship and Preaching at AMBS last semester.  I learned a whole lot about sermons, worship spaces, songs, liturgy, and rituals.  So I am excited about the opportunity, and hopeful for Sunday.  The topic is faithfulness in witnessing. 

I was struggling with what to talk about, since I don’t necessarily use the sam type of theological terminology as folks here let alone the fact that we don’t speak the same first language.  So I know I don’t want to wade too far into the theological and risk massive misunderstandings which can create stumbling blocks for others…

This is the place of course where the Holy Spirit intercedes.  In this case, it was through gchat with Jason.  He told me that MVS has got 4 apps from people wanting to come in to the Elkhart unit.  That is sweet, and it is also an answer to prayer.  It is also the fruit of the Christian labor, our faithfulness in witnessing throughout the generations at PSMC as well as very intensely in the last number of years.   I think I will tell the story of the development of the MVS house.

It’s Friday afternoon (which means Thurs-Fri midnight in Elkhart) and I have a day and a half…but who knows what will happen tomorrow.  Why not figure out the main points of the sermon now?  Here, on the blog.  Below is going to be my first draft.  Don’t hold me to structural verbatim…it will probably change, as I weave in some of the Philippine story and organizational stuff: MCC.

Introduction: Thanks to many, comments about Lacao Grace Christian School nutrition month parade, 5am prayer sessions, and a story about the ants (faithful, unified, and every minute, every day…they are more, greater in number!). God bless the ants.

Bible verses- a bit of an exegesis of whatever is the primary text

In the United States we struggle to be faithful.  The temptations of the church there are similar to those here…(list) and somewhat different (list)

Mennonite Voluntary Service in Elkhart- Faithfulness in Witnessing
-John Funk coming to Elkhart and planting a church in the city.
-Mennonite Voluntary Service begins in Elkhart in 1944
-Peak numbers for a while (faithfulness in witnessing to peace and service in the midst of the war)
-Declines after the Vietnam War (but people do not believe all is lost, they keep praying, looking for opportunities to witness)
-Prairie Street continues to pray for more ways to be involved in the neighborhood (It does some of this through healing arts, the child development center, community parties…but longs to do more, to be more of a direct witness)
-2004 City council decision to tear down Roosevelt school that is near the church
-Neighborhood effort (many churches and community organizations involved). Youth live at Jubilee House
-The church hears the call to continue to draw more young people back to the neighborhood…they pray for two years, and raise funds are raised to do the renovation.
-The house next to the church is renovated and young people moved in starting in 2007.  There is a strong group, but the future is uncertain as August 2008 rolls around.
-Signs of faithful witness: One youth commits to another year in the neighborhood
-And just this week, on Friday, I learned that four more applications are in to the MVS office for consideration for Elkhart!!!!  Hallelujah!  Young people’s lives are changed through this program and the chance to live in this community, and in intentional community.  We will remain faithful in witnessing, inviting people to come and join the movement.

Transition:  The work of Mennonite Voluntary Service is one sub-organization in the network of many Mennonite organizations and outreach efforts.

MCC- This is an organization that is having a meeting because it wants to be faithful in its witness.  We see that the old structures have carried us as far as they can.  In this day and age, in order to remain faithful, you must have structures that are responsive to the needs of the people and can minister to them.  Jesus model had 12 disciples in the inner circle.  Yet there were many more who supported those 12, amen?  MCC has had 12 or so boards, and there are many who support them, amen?  But now the time has come when the structure must change, just as the structure of the disciples changed after Jesus ascended to heaven and the Good News began to spread in all directions.  2000 years later, the workers, volunteers and board members of MCC are disciples who are coming together to hear from other disciples and workers.  We know the harvest is plentiful, amen?  The workers are few!  Therefore, we must get organized, so we can go go go! (As Papa Ocio says).

Mennonite World Conference will meet here later this week.  An organization that gathers us together so that we may help strengthen one another in faithful witnessing.  We are stronger when we know the stories of our brothers and sisters in faith:  the MWC executive committee will come and share their stories with you this upcoming week.  I don’t know if Danisa is coming, but we must remember the situation in Zimbabwe.  For the conditions are very bad.  Here rice is expensive, there, this is no rice.  Here, voting is disappointing.  There, people are being beat up for voting for the opposition, or beat up for not voting.  There is fear everywhere.  We must remain faithful in witness right now.  We must tell truth of how God will satisfy all our needs, and our primary allegiance is to Jesus.  We pray for the Zimbabweans ability to remain faithful.  Our Brethern in Christ church there is leading the relief effort, with donations coming in from other Christians around the world.  This is a time when many people may want to turn away from God.  When everything seems hopeless.  We think, I am in the USA, or I am in the Philippines.  What can I do?  Will my prayers help?  There are times when we all want to turn away.  But this is the exact moment for us to turn to God, not away.

Jesus’ example is a reminder.  We can always turn to the Bible to find stories of faithfulness, and verses to help us along the way. (Name verses, and have people stand up and read them).  But there are stories that are closer to home.  There are many stories in this congregation.  And the hard economic times that are coming will produce more stories of faithfulness from thsi congregation and from the global family of faith!!  My great grandfather was tarred and feathered for refusing to buy war bonds in the United States during the era of WW1.  He was killed!  If I ever feel the temptation to be unfaithful, I just remember this story, and my strength is renewed.  For we know that those who wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength.  They shall mount up on wings as eagles.

MCC and MWC and the Integrated Mennonite Churches here all agree…we need a church that is willing to mount up on those eagles wings.  We have waited on the Lord and the Lord God has been faithful.  May it be so, in generations to come.  We pray it will be so.

Will you pray with me?  Let us stand for prayer.
Loving, Heavenly, Beautiful God…we praise your name above all… (the Holy Spirit will guide me from here :) )

Thanks for reading my sermon musings.  I hope it inspires people to remain faithful.

Church Community Services News

One of my placements is at Church Community Services and Soup of Success – and something that I’ve been working on there and that we’re really excited about is our new blog! Please stop by the Church Community Services News to find out what’s going on at Church Community Services and Soup of Success, to read about the latest event, to see how we’ve been in the news lately, to see pictures, to learn more about our agency and programs, and even to download Soup of Success product order forms!

(Above), Volunteers at Church Community Services are unloading food that was donated during the recent Post Office Food Drive – 12,000 pounds of food was raised!

Intergenerational Activist Conversation

An older woman activist that I admire came up to me. She was obviously weary, and looked a bit as if she had just been crying. I had just received an email from her earlier, calling all the activists, who stand and witness for peace on Wednesdays at the Civic Plaza, to an emergency meeting. She asked me and my friend to come, saying in all sincerity, “we need a word of wisdom from the younger generation. We really aren’t sure what we should do.”

Only 2 or 3 people have been showing up in the last two months to the public witness here in town. Should we go on with our Wednesday 4:30pm vigils? Recently, the entire leadership of these vigils fell to this older woman–because others wouldn’t or couldn’t do it–and she was feeling exhausted. In addition to hoping to share the load with others, the sadness of the whole situation (16 more people were killed today in Iraq, for example) and the state of the world overwhelmed her.

At the meeting, which happened today, I felt like I was back in college (I’m only 2 years removed) at a Peace Club discussion. People expressed the same emotions, the same ambivalence, the same passion for peace as anyone I’ve ever worked with in the antiwar movement. We talked about a lot of stuff there, including alternative ways to do a vigil, planting with young children in a community garden on Wednesdays instead of holding up signs in the center of town, community meals…many ideas were raised.

What was so striking to me though was the fact that I thought that if I lived to be as old as the people I was sharing the circle with this evening, I kind of thought I’d have the overwhelmed vs. balance vs. despair vs. hope “thing” all worked out. Here was my 70 year old friend struggling with it still. Whoa! That was a wake up call for me in the sense that I finally realized that a sustainable way of doing activism won’t just happen as I get older, but that I have to focus on forging that harmony and balance, and pick activities that are lifegiving…that I can still be spread thin even when I’m 70 if I don’t choose wise tactics and approaches…and even if I do, that I will probably still feel overwhelmed at times. Seeing an older person show visible emotion and pain from all that the war is doing to people and the Earth ministered deeply to me as a young person.

I am not exactly sure whether or not we’ll keep doing the vigils, and goodness knows I’m too busy to attend every week (even if it is one of my priorities) the group was divided when I left the meeting to go finish my homework. Let’s be clear. War is ugly, and even here, “far, far, away from the action” we are feeling pain too. So please, whatever everyone can do to take a stand for peace–whatever you do everyday, and wherever you are–please do so. Let us live as people set free from the sin of greed and selfishness, learn to share, and please send a prayer for us on Wednesdays (4:30pm EST) :).

Jubilee House, Immigration, and Carpooling

Here at Jubilee House, we’ve discussed how we want to respond to some recent challenges in our community related to driver’s licenses and immigration. We were encouraged to share our response with the congregation and invite them into the work we’re doing — here’s an excerpt from what we wrote. 

 

Dear Friends at Prairie Street,

 

Many of you have heard about the challenges in our community that have arisen with driver’s licenses being invalidated, including anxiety about transportation. As members of Jubilee House, we talked about it and said that since we like to give rides to our friends or other people in need (as well as getting to know new people!) we’d like to help out when we can.

 

As Jubilee House we’ve passed word of our interest to the Immigration Task Force – a grass roots effort in Goshen and Elkhart with task groups working on transportation, translation, publicity, voter registration, legal issues, regional outreach, and financial aid.

We’ve said that we’ll most likely be available between 8pm and midnight throughout the week, and it would need to be one or two of us from the MVS unit driving the van. We imagine that we’ll be most able to respond to one-time situtations (access to medical services, visiting sick friends or family, etc.) but are interested in thinking creatively if people would need a more regular ride.

We have been in contact with the Jubilee House Support Committee about this plan, and were encouraged to both share about our decision and invite members of the congregation to join us. So while ride-sharing is one way we’ve chosen to respond, there are a number of ways to welcome and support our immigrant neighbors.

 

 

- Have interest in improving public transportation in Michiana? Through April 2008, public comments are being sought about the proposed 2009-2013 Transportation Improvement Plan for the Michiana Area Council of Government, and the transportation task group is seeking support for increased transportation options. (carl (at) dirtcircle.com, 574-642-3603)

 

- Do you have money to give, but not time? The Goshen Ministerial Association and the Immigration Task Force have a created an Immigrant Support Fund to assist immigrants who have settled in Elkhart County. This fund provides financial support for the Immigration Task Force, churches, community
agencies, and professionals who are helping local immigrants.*  

 

- Want to get out in the spring weather for service in the community? The Immigration Task Force is working with organizations in Goshen, Elkhart, South Bend and Fort Wayne to coordinate a multicultural day of service on April 19. Come join in to demonstrate the value of diverse communities! (shenkja (at) gmail.com, 294-4967)

- Consider including our immigrant neighbors in your prayers. We often pray for families caught up in our broken immigration system, give thanks for the cultural richness of this community, pray wisdom for elected officials, and pray for right relationships among recent immigrants and those of us whose families immigrated longer ago.

 

- Arrange for speakers to come to your congregation, service club, neighborhood group, etc. to answer any questions about the undocumented immigrants in our midst and how efforts to make them leave negatively affect legal immigrants as well. (ambyler (at) verizon.net, 533-1996).

 

 

We invite you to join with those close to you in prayerful consideration of how the Divine may be at work in this situation – calling us into closer relationship with our immigrant neighbors.

On behalf of Jubilee House,

Jason

If you have any questions, contact us at 294-4967 or Jason at shenkja (at) gmail.com.

*Contributions can be given to the Immigrant Support Fund by sending a check to the Goshen Ministerial Association (PO Box 165, Goshen, IN 46527) with a note designating it for Immigrant Support Fund.  Since GMA is not currently a tax-exempt organization, donations made directly to it for the ISF are /not/ tax deductible.  Churches are also encouraged to support the ISF with financial contributions.

For additional information concerning the Immigrant Support Fund, please contact ImmigrantSupportFund (at) gmail.com or at PO Box 165, Goshen, IN 46527.

Our house meetings are a hoot!

Do you know what it is like when 5 amazing brains get in the same place and think about how we can best live with one another?

It is awesome.  We have house meetings once a week, and it is formal time in which we work on perplexing issues together.  I love everyone in this house for their enthusiasm, intellectual rigor,  commitment to social justice, and to creating a peaceful, environmentally sustainable home.

I don’t have time to go into all the details…I’m just writing this blog post on a study break here from my homework for the classes at AMBS (Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary)  so I’ll just write done key phrases for our household, all of which have come up at housemeeting at some point.  If you have any questions, you can ask!

Worms in tupperware in the parlor
The heat barrier
Whiteboard scribbles and notes
Eating the whole apple
Stretching our food budget
Vacuum cleaner
White Jesus is in the cupboard taking a time-out
Tofutti and other vegan treats
Bully Free Zone
Starter gardens in J’s room and on the front porch
Lavaré mis platos
Cheerios vs. Toasted Oats

These should occupy your mind for a while.  If you are a potential recruit reading this, please DO come and spend some time in Elkhart serving and learning together.  It is super awesome.

SOS!!!

SOS = Soup of Success :).  One of my (Sarah AT) placements is at Soup of Success, where you can find me Monday, Tuesday, & Friday mornings, and Thursday afternoons…. and now, some shameless advertising…

3 weeks and a few days until Christmas…. which is the perfect time for SOS (although really, any time of the year is a perfect time for SOS cookies or brownies or soups.  and probably the dips too, although I haven’t yet tried those and can’t vouch for them yet.  All of the cookies so far though are, well, amazing.  It’s a struggle to make it to the actually cookie-making step.  Usually I just start devouring the cookie dough. :).  A lot of people are aware of the Soup of Success program and the products (if not, go to: www.soupofsuccess.com .  Or ask me or somebody else that’s involved in SOS to tell you about this rocking program) but don’t know where to find the mixes or how to order them or buy them… and many people aren’t aware at all that we do gift baskets!  Not sure what to get friends & family for Christmas?  SOS gift baskets!!  (I hear that food never goes out of style… and seriously, it’s pretty sweet to be supporting a wonderful program like SOS while at the same time giving a gift to someone else…).  And, guess what else?  We do fundraisers too!  If you know of a school group or a group at PSMC looking to raise money… or any other group looking to raise money… how about raising money while at the same time supporting a local social enterprise that empowers women??? 

So! 

I am attempting to upload three things to this post: a gift basket order form; a regular-soup-cookie-dip-mix-candle order form; and a fundraiser order form.  Please download and use if you’re interested!  Use the order forms yourself.  Print out a bunch and give them to friends or family or coworkers.  Print a bunch and set them out at work.  Then do one of several things: call, e-mail, fax, or send the order to Soup of Success (phone: 574-523-1551; fax: 574-295-5593; e-mail: Soupofsuccess@aol.com; address: 629 S. 3rd St., Elkhart, IN, 46516). 

 Also, all of the pictures on the order forms?  Taken by me over at Jubilee House :) (those of you who have visited in the past few months likely noticed that our front living room has been taken over by a homemade light box… basically, a very white cloth surrounded by nearly every lamp in the house…).

 **Edit: So, I couldn’t upload the fundraiser form because it’s an excel file.  So I took a screenshot of it and uploaded it as a jpg… it might be a bit fuzzy and not as nice.  So, if you’re truly interested in using SOS stuff for a fundraiser, e-mail or talk to me :).**

Gift Baskets!!!

Regular Order Form

Fundraiser Order Form

So then, it’s Thanksgiving.

It’s that nice time of year when we all eat too much and prepare to shop. What could be more American, I tells ya.

All cynicism aside, there’s something to be said for having out with family and having a big dinner. My uncle and his second wife were there, as well as my cousin, my brother and mom and I of course, and we all hung out at my Grandmother’s place. (That’s Isabelle Wenger, btw). She was actually feeling well enough to putter around the house like she used to, so it was a relaxing return to normality from the holidays.

Sarah Thompson is back from Argentina, with matte (I hope that’s spelled right. It’s pronounced ‘maa-tay’) , which is a taste I acquired from Andrea, which, incidentally is the first time I met Jason, at that baseball game a few months back.

Has it really only been a few months? Crazy, huh?

Anyway, we’re looking forward to having our little pseudo-family expanded further, and further yet again after the first of the year.

Gettin’ a van, from Topeka. Weird how these connections get made, hmm?

Life goes well, and without serious injury to any of us, so we’re all very thankful for that. So spend your Friday inside to avoid getting trampled and enjoy your families.