“We See You, Jake”

14 09 2010

by Richard Jenkins
Milton, Florida USA

     The boy we’ll call Jake showed up yesterday at church with Jeannie’s family. I saw him coming, so I yelled and waved. He kept his head down, hands in pockets. Unresponsive.
     I went to the back door because our congregation, Holley-Navarre in Florida, was having a spaghetti lunch fund-raiser for Wilderness Camp. Sunday school was starting, and at age 16, Jake was in the junior and senior high group. I waved again from the kitchen window. Again, no response. But he saw me.
     His Sunday school class discussed senior high camp, which started Sunday afternoon. None of our seniors were going. Some had summer jobs, and a couple of them were starting junior college classes. But all the kids talked about fun times at camp and personal encounters with the Holy Spirit (the day’s class topic).
     Class ended a bit early so the kids could help with the spaghetti. They had to move the food to our new youth building. It’s large enough to hold the entire congregation for meals.
     Jake and I carried the salad bowls and bread. I asked if he ever had been to a camp. Nope.
     I told him we were glad to see him and thanked him for his help. He asked how he could get a camp experience. We talked about the camp, and other kids quickly joined in. Some men and women in the congregation also listened as we set up the serving line.
     Jake said he sure would like to go to something like that. At lunch Jake sat across from me. We talked about trying our wings, the purpose of being born, and how to make good decisions. He quietly told me that his life-situation had gotten worse in recent months. He and his mom were evicted. They moved in with Jeannie’s family. Jeannie told him that to stay he must attend church and its events. Jake’s older brother remains in prison, and his 18-year-old sister moved in with her boyfriend.
     Jake has no home support from mom. She works two jobs, and dad contributes no child support. Jake needs some shoes, clothes, etc.
     After he downed four plates of spaghetti and salad, I suggested he go to senior high camp, which started that afternoon. He said he wanted to go, but he had few clothes, no “camp stuff,” and no money.
     I called the camp director, Della Goodson, and she said to bring him. Instantly, a check for the $295 camp fee was pressed into his hands, with $20 for spending money.
     He almost fainted.campers around a campfire
     The other kids surrounded him and began to tell him about the Bluff Springs Campgrounds. Jim Speer, a deacon with the Holley-Navarre Congregation, said he would drive Jake to the campgrounds.
    Later, Jake approached me outside, when I was away from the crowd. Tears filled his eyes.
     “Why would you people do something like this for me?” he asked.
     I asked if he had seen the movie, Avatar, and he said yes.
     “Do you remember the part where the heroine and hero were about to be married and both said, ‘I see you’”? Jake did remember that scene.
     I advised him that “I see you,” and others here “see you.”
     He said he believed that. 
     I told him I was impressed that he would go to a place where he knows nobody, knows nothing about the camp or why it even exists.
     I told him that I saw a young man showing courage, trust, faith, and even leadership skills.
     “I see you, Jake.”
He pulled an old, rusty pocketknife from his pocket and asked: “Would you like to have this? It is all I have. I use it to sharpen sticks and stuff and to protect myself.”
     I took the knife, examined it, and said: “Do you think you will need to protect yourself at senior high camp?”
     He asked, “Are they all like you guys?”
     I said, “No, but most of them are.”
     He said, “Well that is close enough.”
     So I told him, “Tell you what, I will keep it for you, clean off the rust, oil the mechanism—and sharpen it since it is about as sharp as a tablespoon.
     “You will need it for Wilderness Camp in a few weeks, anyway.”
     Jake said, “I don’t have the money for Wilderness Camp.”
     I told him that because he had helped with the spaghetti fund-raiser, his fees for Wilderness Camp were covered.
     He turned away, then turned back, tears falling. And he hugged me.
     He was disarmed, ready to open the door of his heart to the One who stands outside and knocks.
     We drove home, where I had two new sleeping bags—a new duffel bag, too. We put in two towels, soap, toothpaste, two flashlights, a small blanket, and other items he would need. I dropped a note in the bag that simply said, “I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.”
     We see you, Jake.
     Jim came by, and they were off to camp.
     I called this morning, and Della has Jake in the right cabin with the right counselor. He bonded with new buddies and his counselor, and he’s having the time of his life! 
     Now, Jake will begin to see with new eyes, hear with new ears. He will have an encounter with the Creator this week, who sees all of us.
     “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.”

Colloquy Keynotes Emphasize “Children Cry, We Respond!”

11 09 2010

Greg Mortenson and Pakistand school childrenby Brad Martell
Peace and Justice Ministries

The 2010 Peace Colloquy will focus on how each of us is called to engage in peace and justice for children.

In places throughout the world, children suffer the atrocities of war, poverty, malnutrition, and slavery. They lack access to clean water and air, shelter, education, and medical care. They suffer from bullies, abuse, and neglect. They experience depression, low-self esteem, and feeling unloved. Jesus said to his disciples:

Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.—Luke 18:16 NRSV

Come October 29–31 to the Temple in Independence, Missouri, to explore how all are called to make the world a safer, healing, and loving place for children. Register online at www.CofChrist.org/peacecolloquy/ by October 1 and save, or call 1-800-825-2806, ext. 1442. E-mail confreg@CofChrist.org.

Peace Award Keynote Greg Mortenson, Community of Christ International Peace Award recipient, will receive his honor at the colloquy’s opening, Friday, October 29, at 7:30 p.m. The ceremony and his address, “Three Cups of Tea,” will be free to the public. The event will be webcast live at www.CofChrist.org.

Mortenson will share his experience of building schools, promoting education, and working toward peace. He is the cofounder and executive director of the Central Asia Institute. It seeks to promote and support community-based education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

As of 2010, Mortenson has established 131 schools in rural and often-volatile areas. More than 58,000 children, including 48,000 girls, received education where few opportunities existed before. In 2009, Mortenson received Pakistan’s highest civil award, Sitara-e-Pakistan (Star of Pakistan) for his dedicated and humanitarian efforts.

He also is founder of Pennies for Peace, a program to inspire USA children to help children in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He co-wrote the New York Times bestseller and TIME magazine’s Asia Book of the Year, Three Cups of Tea. He also wrote the bestseller, Stones into Schools.

Learn more about the 2010 Peace Colloquy

God Un-Answers & Invites

9 09 2010

by Andrew Shields
World Church Secretary

Being a divinely led prophetic people involves—as a necessity—reevaluating at times some existing understandings and customs to allow added insight and interpretation under the Spirit’s guidance. —Doctrine and Covenants 164,  first introductory statement

God does big things in the world.

God created everything. God formed a covenant people from those in Egypt’s  underclass willing to let a story shape them. God transformed everything by joining the world, fully human and fully Divine, in Jesus Christ. God formed our faith community by powerfully impressing a call into the heart of a young man searching for answers and into the hearts of those who followed him.

God does big things in the world—but not predictably. God touches the untouchable, breathes divinity into the world in a dank stable, and chooses surprising (and surprised) people to be servants.

A prophetic people must listen carefully for God’s movement in our world. We must be attentive to scripture and tradition. We must be alert for God to do the unexpected in unpredictable places.

1. Have you ever had a question in your own life un-answered by God?

Read complete article . . .

The Fabric of Generosity

7 09 2010

by David R. Brock, presiding evangelist

We stand in pulpits to proclaim all life is sacred, that any moment of living can be sacramental, marked by encounter with the holy. But how do such words sound in the “real” world?I’m riding a straight ribbon of highway across a high-desert valley in the middle of Nevada, USA. It is early summer. The usual gray, ochre, and brown landscape is a hundred shades of green: from the silvery hue of sage-brush, to occasional juniper trees that dot the hillsides, to lush grasses along the damp valley floor. It won’t last long, but there’s life in this place that much of the year is baked barrenness or a snow-covered wasteland.

From my passenger seat, I use my cell phone to call Apostle Carlos Enrique Mejía, who is traveling another stretch of highway in Honduras, Central America. He has just presided over the funeral of his nephew, an active church member in San Pedro Sula who was murdered in a random act of gang violence two days ago.

We connect to share details of the tragedy, to pass along words that cannot heal but symbolize love and support. The loss is stark. A sacred being of inestimable worth is gone from our midst. Today I know sacredness by the pain of losing another being. Today I know the generosity of God in the greening abundance of high desert that so often appears lifeless. How is abundance affirmed in meager times, in times of loss? How do the contrasting experiences of our days become patterns of meaning?

Carlos Enrique stands in a place of suffering, in the violence of the city and unhealed humanity, while I traverse a landscape of silence, vast expanses of meadow with snow-capped peaks in the distance. Can we claim both realities of beauty and suffering as part of the same fabric?

To honor this paradoxical wholeness and remain bound together in the midst of it is the call to sacramental living. It is the base from which we live generously with each other.

Work Continues in Haiti

4 09 2010

Work—with buckets and heavy machinery—continues in Haiti in response to the January 2010 earthquake.

Severely damaged buildings that housed churches and schools have been demolished and removed at Pétionville and Mon Repos in Port au Prince. Structures in the nearby areas of Carrefour and Léogâne have been studied
for possible repair. Elsewhere in the earthquake zone, buildings are being evaluated.

Because the damage was massive, available resources cannot respond to all the needs involving trauma recovery, adequate housing, reconstruction, and more.

Your contributions to Oblation and World Ministries support efforts in Haiti. Give online at www.CofChrist.org/give.

—Greg Prymak

Trusting in God

1 09 2010

by Linda Booth

Over the last 16 years I’ve learned to trust in God’s faithfulness. This faith journey began in 1994 with the improbable thought that God was asking me to prepare to serve as an apostle. It led to my ordination in 1998 to serve on the Council of Twelve Apostles.

Preparing for and accepting that call was a leap of faith—like stepping from an airplane into the air high above the clouds. It was a free-falling experience that forced me to rely on God and to trust God’s promises: “I am with you always.”I learned to trust in God’s presence when I stood before people to preach and teach, feeling humbly inadequate but trusting in God to help me find the words to share God’s abundant grace.

I learned to trust when I traveled across oceans to serve with brothers and sisters in Africa, French Polynesia, and Australia, not knowing who would meet me at the airport or what they would ask me to do.

I trusted God as I met for two years with about 20 Restoration elders to plan a Restoration hymn festival.

About 3,800 people attended the event in the Auditorium in Independence, recognizing God was weaving us together despite our differences.

My trust in God grew when the Council of Twelve was tasked with recommending who should serve as prophet-president after President Grant McMurray resigned. The council faithfully prayed for the name. We felt God’s unifying direction as we came together and shared different testimonies but the same name: Steve Veazey.

As my trust in God expanded, so did my trust in the faithfulness of church leaders and members relying on God’s direction to navigate challenging cultural and financial issues. I looked forward to the 2010 World Conference. I knew God would be with us. I believed in the wisdom of the body of faithful people who prayerfully had come together, trusting in God’s faithfulness to lead and unite them in their differences.

I was not disappointed. God’s faithfulness and the people’s faithfulness were clear and tangible as we joined in legislative and worship experiences. Sometimes I hear people express concerns about the church’s journey ahead. Some are troubled about issues that could divide us, and others by the financial challenges that could result in fewer ministers and ministries in the fields. I share those concerns.

However, I also am assured that God is a faithful God, and we’re called to be a faithful people who walk together in our differences and generously give our tithes in response to God’s grace. I know God will continue to show up and surprise us as we trust God on this faith adventure and claim the promise:

By the grace of God, you are poised to fulfill God’s ultimate vision for the church.
—Doctrine and Covenants 164:9a