Why I’m Home in Community of Christ

31 08 2012

BY LUIS DIAS, president of seventy

It was October 1999 when I came to Community of Christ. I was recuperating from a hospital stay in the small town of Taulabé in central Honduras.

A hospital stay set Luis Dias on the road of discipleship.

One day a pastor from Puerto Rico arrived and shared the gospel of Jesus Christ. I listened carefully, and I decided to follow Christ. After this, my family—seven brothers and sisters already serving the Lord in different denominations—began to ask what church I was going to join. I told them my decision was to be in Community of Christ.

My wife was active in another church, but she told me she was willing to go with me to Community of Christ so we could serve Christ together.

Two days later my older brother, who lived in another town, arrived and asked me what church I had decided to join. I responded, Community of Christ. He told me to get in his car so he could take me to the church. He introduced me to the pastor and told him of my decision. “Here is one of your sheep,” my brother told the pastor. “Take care of him.”

That was 13 years ago, and until a year ago I had never reflected on that welcome given to me in Community of Christ. It was given the night of a worship service after I understood the restoring gospel of Jesus Christ.

And, how was I able to reflect on this? Last year, one of my older sisters left her church and began looking for another. My mother asked her, “Why don’t you decide to go to Community of Christ?” My sister answered, “Why do you recommend I go to Community of Christ?”

My mother responded, “Because in that church they gave your brother, Luis, a wonderful welcome. They gave him much support, not taking into account what condition he arrived in. We have to be grateful to God and with the church.”

When I heard these words from my mother, who is 88, they touched my heart. I immediately reflected on her words and realized they formed a great truth.

The grace of God has been working in me so through my ministry many people also have received that wonderful Christian hospitality when they’ve decided to become part of this community of faith.

Now I understand why I continue being a part of Community of Christ…because here I feel at home, a house so big with a diversity of cultures that enriches our ministry.





A MEGA Adventure in Canada

30 08 2012

BY MATTHEW SWAIN and MICHAEL WHONE, Barrie, Ontario, Canada

Several Canadian congregations in the greater Toronto area saw a need to provide young adults with greater ministry and congregational relevance. They came up with a solution of MEGA proportions.

They decided to hold a young-adult weekend to foster relationships between young adults and pastors. Matthew Swain, pastor of the Barrie Congregation in Ontario, said he sensed an overwhelming desire of Canadian churches to see more young adults active in congregational life.

A video game of tennis helped spice up a weekend for young adults.

“The present reality is that it has become more difficult for traditional congregations to appeal to young adults,” he said. “In some cases, both groups have given up on interacting with the other out of frustration.”
So last November young adults and pastors from all over the Canada East Mission Centre gathered to discuss ministry and mission while sharing in fellowship with the Toronto congregations.

This wasn’t the first MEGA (Make Everyday a Great Adventure) weekend for young adults. But it was the first time organizers purposely invited pastors.

Planners set the weekend to allow young adults to come from all across Ontario without the burdens of expensive lodging or buying food.

The planning team reduced costs by holding all activities in church buildings. Natalie, a newcomer, admitted she “didn’t leave the church all weekend and still had fun!” Families in the Toronto area brought in food, and a historic church building in downtown Toronto provided sleeping quarters.

Giving time to do community service has become a life-changing ingredient in MEGA weekends. In preparation for this year’s service project, the organizers received a large bunch of new, factory-rejected winter coats. The group repaired the coats and then gave them to shelters.

On Saturday night, participants formed small groups and discussed issues of faith, mission, and community. Guest minister Kris Judd passionately guided the conversation to include what it means to be a community of faith in Canada today.

As pastors listened and offered prayers, the young adults shared the final question: “What are some of the spiritual or religious difficulties you are going through right now?”

Concerns included everything from people worrying about being a Christian while questioning faith to being frustrated about not having a consistent church home.

Bryce Huffman shared a bold, powerful statement as the Call to Worship in the final service Sunday morning:

We come from many different walks of life at various stages in our spiritual journey. We come together as one community with different struggles and different points of view. As children of the Living God, we come together…to praise the One who gives us life and breath.

Perhaps Scarborough Pastor David Donoghue best summarized the comments of other pastors. “It was spiritual! It was dynamic! It was fun! It was great to see younger and older adults working, worshiping, and celebrating in church for three days straight!”





God “Touchest” and Shapes Me

28 08 2012

BY TAMMY LINDLE,
Priesthood and Missionary Ministries

Ministries of Love” was the theme of a girls’ camp I attended at Camp Doniphan in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, in the 1970s. This was in the “rustic days,” when campers couldn’t “isolate” themselves inside. Except at night and during meals, no one stayed indoors. Without air-conditioning, it was just too hot. It was enough to suffer through the mandatory rest period each day after lunch. We couldn’t wait to get outside.

Camps at Lake Doniphan touch and minister to people of all ages.

I loved walking around the lake. Most of the lakeshore is open. A gravel drive services the lakefront, pool, and cabins. There is also a secluded, wooded area. This part of the walk was the best. It was a bit scary to encounter large bugs, spiderwebs, poison ivy, and other assorted “hazards” that are part of wooded areas. At the same time, it had “treasures”—flowers, leaves, rocks, and creatures. I feel most alive and connected to God when I’m in these places.

During one walk I discovered Camp Doniphan also had an upper lake. I recall gasping in astonishment when I climbed the hill of the dam separating the two lakes and discovered this large lake and undeveloped shoreline. I thought it was the most beautiful part of the grounds. I wondered when it got there, and how I didn’t know about it, and why the camp didn’t use it. I was astonished! There was more to the campgrounds than I knew.

After this discovery, I decided to continue to explore. I found service roads that led to unused parts of the grounds. It became a tradition for me to look for new discoveries as I attended camps and reunions. I felt like I was honoring these unused, but not vacant, places. I often entered them with reverence.

“Ministries of Love”—the theme for the week at that camp—came from a line in Mary S. Edgar’s hymn, “God, Who Touchest Earth with Beauty” (Hymns of the Saints, 172). I remember that theme from so long ago primarily because I stumbled over “touchest” in the title. (Really? Who speaks like that?)

The hymn was our theme song that week. It became part of me. I still softly sing it when I encounter God through the Sacredness of Creation. It speaks to me in images that I love: springs and running waters, towering rocks, dancing waves, sunlight, trees, and arching heavens. It is full of qualities I want to describe me: pure and strong and true, sure, glad and free, upright. It is a prayer for what I want God to do: Make my heart anew, re-create me, lift my thoughts, turn my dreams to noble action, and make my actions “ministries of love.”

The experience of discovering that upper lake reminds me I don’t have the full picture, especially when it comes to discipleship and understanding God’s work in me and in the world. I’m reminded to watch for surprises among the familiar and well-known landscapes of my life.

I am grateful for this insight. I am grateful for the many faces and places and words and images that develop me as a disciple and shape me to serve God’s creation.





Hiking Boots Walk in Pursuit of Peace

26 08 2012

by BRAD A. MARTELL, Peace and Justice Ministries

These boots are made for walking…and walking…and walking.

I have a pair of 16-year-old hiking boots in my closet. The toes are scuffed, and the leather is gouged in many places. The soles are degrading from the miles of trails I have walked, the streams I have waded, and the rocks and roots I have stumbled over.

I have worn them while backpacking along beaches in the Gulf of Mexico and across glaciers in Alaska. They have been on my feet while hiking in the Green Mountains along the Appalachia Trail in New Hampshire and in the Rich Mountain Wilderness in north Georgia. I bought these boots because of an answer to prayer.

Almost 16 years ago my spouse, Lori, and I were newlyweds in Seattle, Washington. We moved there so I could get residence within a year to pay in-state tuition for graduate school at the University of Washington. During that year I worked as a bank teller. I didn’t like it much, but it paid the bills. Lori did freelance graphic work for several companies in downtown Seattle.

We had great friends and a lovely congregation. Living in Seattle was a wonderful experience, but we were restless.

I thought I was restless because I could not wait to go to grad school. But that was still almost a year away. We began praying together before going to sleep at night, asking God’s Spirit to guide us and bring us peace.

After weeks of prayer we received a phone call from my college roommate. He lived in Chicago and disliked his job. I told him he needed to quit and enroll in an experiential-education, environmental-studies graduate program. You travel, live on a school bus, and sleep outside every night.

Lori had learned about the Audubon Expedition Institute (AEI) years before we married. While on the phone I asked Lori where she kept the Audubon catalog. With a puzzled look she told me. I found the catalog and gave my friend the 800 number.

Once I hung up, Lori asked why I wanted the catalog. As I explained, her eyes grew with excitement.

“Brad, last week I was working downtown, and I asked myself: ‘If I could do anything, what would it be?’ Guess what it was? It was the AEI program.”

Feeling the Spirit’s presence and knowing God was answering our prayers, it all clicked in that moment for us. That night we ordered a new catalog. And soon we were accepted into the master’s program in environmental education for that fall. We laced up our hiking boots and prepared for the adventure.

Our two years on “The Bus” transformed our lives. It brought us closer in our relationships to God and each other and cultivated our ministry for the healing of God’s creation. I bought these boots because of an answer to prayer.

Sixteen years ago we felt God’s Spirit moving in our lives. It was guiding and preparing us to more fully live out and share the Enduring Principle of Pursuit of Peace (Shalom) and the Mission Initiative of Pursue Peace on Earth. A pair of hiking boots might seem a strange answer to prayer, but the paths I’ve walked in those boots have brought me to an overflowing passion for peace and justice ministries.

I challenge you to pray to God for direction in your own life. And then be open for God to surprise you.





A Child’s Lesson in Giving

25 08 2012

BY JENNIFER HOLM, Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

Children help Abolish Poverty, End Suffering by using their talents to raise money for food.

Children from the Colbern Road Congregation in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, are helping to Abolish Poverty, End Suffering.

When my 4-year-old daughter, Hannah, learned some children in the world and her own community never have enough to eat, she insisted that “we need to help them.”

First, she thought we should give them all of our food. When she understood that might not be enough, she decided we should give all of our money, too.

I found myself torn. As a parent and teacher, I want to nurture her generosity. I want to teach her she can share Christ’s compassion with others.

But I am overwhelmed because I know there are so many hungry children. How can we help them all? And, if I follow my daughter’s approach, how broke will I soon be? While I was pondering this, she exclaimed, “We can have a talent show! People can pay money to come watch, and we can use the money to buy enough food.”

Then it hit me: I’m not the teacher here; she is.

Within minutes she had loaded a few purses and backpacks with food, trinkets, and toys from around our house. Inside one purse was an envelope overflowing with her own money.

We spent the next hour or so practicing for the talent show and tossing around ideas. We called the other youth in the congregation. They were just as eager as Hannah to help.

In April we held our talent show, collecting food and money for Coldwater, an organization that provides sack lunches for more than 500 children who live in low-income housing.

If we are to carry out our mission to Abolish Poverty, End Suffering, in many ways, we need to act like a child. Children give generously, joyfully, and immediately.

Sometime along our journey from childhood to adulthood many of us become entangled in cultural webs and become reluctant givers. We sometimes struggle to let go of our hard-earned money, worrying whether we will have enough to meet our needs and wants.

But like Hannah, most children are eager to give what they have to help others. Have you ever seen small children as they place money in an offertory plate? I love when our congregation encourages them to bring their offerings to the front of the sanctuary because it allows our adults to see what giving should look and feel like. Our toddlers, smiling, often run to the offertory plate. Some even make multiple trips.

Our preschoolers and older children look forward to A Disciple’s Generous Response because they have filled their purses and pockets with coins and dollars from their own piggy banks. Children give with so much joy.
They have faith their needs will be met, just as we should have faith God will meet ours.





Baptisms + Beach = Beauty

24 08 2012

BY ART SMITH, apostolic assistant

A beach provides a special baptismal setting.

Baptisms at the beach are beautiful.

I seem to remember my baptism as a solemn—if not somewhat staid—ceremony in the font of the old Ottawa church in Ontario, Canada, when I was 8 years old. People in the service, as well as congregants, certainly would have been well-dressed, the men in various suits and ties and the women in nice dresses. Things were conducted in formal order.

At the beach in Cartagena, Colombia, baptisms have a nice family feel. It turns out I’m the only one wearing long pants. The official attire seems to be a combination of shorts, t-shirts, and bathing suits. Should we have suggested in some class that people wear plain white? Did we, and was that advice wisely wiped from the congregational memory? The lack of white doesn’t seem to ruin the good spirit of things on this Sunday morning.

The 10-minute walk from Pastor Yaneth’s home in the Canapote neighborhood to the shore of the Caribbean Sea is a time for visiting and occasionally breaking into song. Choruses of “Caminando en la luz de Dios” (“Walking in the Light of God”) begin in Spanish but flow into Bemba, French, and English.

Singing in English leads to reviewing English lessons with the children. “Repeat after me: Hello! How are you? I’m fine, and you? What is your name? My name is…”

Kids hold hands, sometimes with a parent but just as often with another adult or child from the congregation. Lines of legal kinship blur, and bonds of brothers and sisters in Christ become dominant.

Prayer is offered and choruses sung as we form a circle on the shore. We become the center of attention because the beach already is filled with Sunday sun seekers. Vendors try to figure out if we might be potential clients.

Unfortunately the mango vendor loses patience and wanders off before our service ends. A mango would have been great at that time.

It’s Wilfredo’s first visit to Cartagena as mission center president. These are his first baptisms in Colombia. He baptizes Snyder and Valentina. Snyder has several family members in Community of Christ. Valentina lives across the street from a house church. Valentina’s mom says it’s OK if she wants to be baptized. She says her daughter loves the church and the church family.

After the baptisms, on the way back to shore, Snyder and Valentina can’t resist taking their first swim as newly baptized disciples.

Baptisms at the beach are beautiful.





Stay Calm—God Has Not Abandoned You

22 08 2012

BY ART SMITH, apostolic assistant

Recently, while traveling in Cartagena, Colombia, I spent some time with one of our Community of Christ members. I’ve known Ervelyne Bernard more than 10 years. We met when she’d just been hired as a French-language translator for the church and was interpreting at the 2001 International Youth Forum.

Erv now stays connected to her translations job via the Internet. She’s taken up scuba diving and had been inviting me to try it. Over time she dismissed all my excuses, including what I thought was my showstopper, that I’m not a strong swimmer. Turns out scuba is more like floating in outer space than swimming competitively.

Art Smith (let), Ervelyne Bernard (center), and Darwyn Copa enjoyed their time together above and under water.

So on this trip to Cartagena with my good friend and fellow minister, Darwyn Copa of Bolivia (you know, Bolivia, that landlocked country in South America!) I decided to accept Erv’s invitation.

I could go on and on about learning to use the gear, eliminating the risks, seeing sea creatures, and exploring a sunken ship. On that day in Cartagena, a whole other portion of God’s creation opened before my eyes.
But for me, a big part of scuba was about overcoming fear. If you’re going to succeed, you have to stay calm, keep your wits about you, manage the pressure in your ears and your lungs, watch your gages, and breathe slowly and steadily through your mouth.

On my first dive, we got familiar with our gear and the sensations. Then Erv led us deeper. I was following closely, not so much watching sea life as the ends of Erv’s fins. I started to feel more comfortable.

There came a moment when I watched Erv double back behind me, apparently to check another diver. I’d become comfortable enough that I let her out of my sight.

A moment later I glanced back to look for Erv. She wasn’t there. Nobody was there! I looked over my other shoulder.

Where’s Erv? Where’s anyone!

I felt my heart start to race and my breathing increase. The bit of water that had trickled into my mask suddenly bothered my nose more than it had been. I spun in a 360-degree turn. Still no Erv! I started to panic.
I’d recently preached a sermon, picking up a text that I’d heard President Steve Veazey preach in El Salvador. It was a story that starts in 2 Kings 6:8 about Elisha, Israel, and the Syrian army. In the story Elisha’s servant gets up one morning and discovers the place surrounded by the mighty Syrian army.

He rushes to the prophet, waking him and asking urgently: “What are we going to do?” And Elisha tells his servant not to be afraid. He prays a beautiful, simple prayer, asking God that the eyes of his servant might be opened. His servant comes to realize God had not abandoned them, and they had no reason to fear.

Even after all the amazing experiences Elisha and his servant had been through with God, how easy it was in a moment to think God had abandoned them.

Breathe in…breathe out.

The thing about the world I normally walk around in is that if companions duck away for a moment, a check over the left shoulder, the right shoulder, or turning completely around is sure to bring them back into sight. But the scuba world is different.

It finally dawned on me to look up. I discovered Erv, hovering what seemed a fraction of an inch above my head, near Darwyn.

I learned a little about scuba in that moment. But I couldn’t help but think about how this experience is like my walk with God. How easy it is to become frightened and feel abandoned. Yet, all the while God is so close that if one is not careful, one could bump one’s head.





Keynote Speakers Prepare for Peace Colloquy

20 08 2012

by BRAD MARTELL, Peace and Justice Ministries

The 2012 Peace Colloquy will explore nuclear questions, complexities involved in disarmament, energy, and our role as a peacemaking church. The event will inspect the theme from perspectives for ages kindergarten and up.

In 1982 the World Conference passed the Nuclear Arms Reduction resolution (www.CofChrist.org/peaceteam/wc-leg1982.asp#1178) that called for members to pray for peace and disarmament and to join with groups constructively promoting reduction of nuclear weapons throughout the world. Twenty years later, how are we working to better understand the questions and challenges of nuclear issues? How are we pursuing justice and peace around questions of nuclear weapons and power?

Come October 26–28 to the Temple in Independence, Missouri, to explore how All Are Called to make the world a more peaceful place.

Dr. Tadatoshi Akiba

Dr. Tadatoshi Akiba, Community of Christ International Peace Award recipient, will receive his honor at the Colloquy’s opening, Friday, October 26, at 7:30 p.m. He will be honored for his life’s work of promoting peace with the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.

The ceremony and Akiba’s keynote address, “The Role of Cities and Citizens to Create a Peaceful World without Nuclear Weapons,” will be free to the public. The event will be webcast live at www.CofChrist.org.

Akiba is a former mayor of Hiroshima, Japan, and former president of Mayors for Peace. As an educator and politician, he has supported global nuclear disarmament and spent a lifetime working toward peace. Early in his life he started the Hibakusha Travel Grant Program so the world would not forget the survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945.

He is currently a professor by special appointment of Hiroshima University, and serves as the national chair for American Field Service Intercultural Programs in Japan.

To learn more about Dr. Akiba go to www.CofChrist.org/peaceaward.

Dr. Thomas Nichols

Dr. Thomas Nichols is professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. He is also a senior associate of the Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs in New York City. Nichols has served as an adviser to late US Senator John Heinz. He has been a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where he teaches on nuclear weapons and international security.

Jim Cason

Nichols’ keynote address Saturday will be “The Strategic and Ethical Implications of Deep Nuclear Cuts.” To learn more about him, visit www.usnwc.edu/Academics/Faculty/Thomas-M–Nichols,-Ph-D-.aspx.

Jim Cason is associate executive secretary for campaigns for Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington, DC. He has a background in directing advocacy campaigns, journalism, and non-profit leadership.

Cason currently coordinates the grassroots campaign of the oldest registered religious lobby in Washington. He was a leader in the organization’s effort to secure Senate ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that is cutting the number of deployed nuclear weapons in the USA and Russia.

Cason’s keynote address Saturday will be “The Emerging Consensus for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons—The Role of Communities of Faith.” To learn more about the work of FCNL, visit www.fcnl.org.





Theological Foundations: God

18 08 2012

God

Scripture testifies of one eternal God who is the Creator and Sustainer of life (Genesis 1:1 ff, Doctrine and Covenants 22:21–24). Scripture affirms God’s primary nature as everlasting love (Isaiah 54:10, 1 John 4:7–21). God alone is worthy of our worship and devotion (Exodus 20:1–3). We believe in monotheism (one God).

God revealed that God’s name is “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14 NRSV). Other translations of the original text are “I AM WHAT I AM” or “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.” This revelation of God reminds us that there are facets of God’s being and will beyond what we perceive at a given time. God’s nature, activity, and self-revealing (revelation) is never limited to our current understanding of God. God is free to be who God is.

The church’s Enduring Principles describe God with phrases such as: full of grace; generous; Creator and still creating; revealed and still revealing; desiring people to experience wholeness of body, mind, and spirit; calling people according to their gifts; grants freedom to choose; urges responsible choices; works for peace, experienced in diversity and unity; and provides blessings through community.

God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are one God (Matthew 28:18–19, John 1, Colossians 1:15–19, Mosiah 8:28–32). We affirm the Trinity—God who is a community of three persons. The “three persons” of the Trinity are God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. To speak of God as Trinity is to speak of God as Creator-Redeemer-Sanctifier who lives in eternal love, community, devotion, mutuality, and unified purpose. God’s nature is relational and social (2 Corinthians 13:13). Our living in healthy relationships and community is a reflection of God’s eternal nature.

“In the beginning” God created (Genesis 1–3, Ephesians 3:9, Mosiah 2:13–14). God pronounced different phases and results of creation as “good” and “very good” (Genesis 1 NRSV).

Variety in creation reveals God’s fondness for diversity. Creation is dynamic as it moves toward realizing God’s ultimate purposes (Romans 8:18 f). Central to God’s purposes in creation is divine desire for loving relationships that reflect God’s nature (Genesis 3:8–10, Isaiah 54:10).

All human beings are created in God’s image for divine purpose (Genesis 1:27). Being created in God’s image involves knowledge, thinking, creativity, self-awareness, and ability to make choices. It includes being created for relationships with God and others. Spiritual capacity, responsiveness, and giftedness are also expressions of being created in God’s image.

Humans find their truest selves and deepest joy and peace by relating in love to God, others, and the whole creation (Doctrine and Covenants 163:2). God is always seeking to restore us to our true created natures through reconciled or right relationships with God and others (2 Corinthians 5:18–20, Doctrine and Covenants 163:10).

God relates to humans, individually and together, to call forth and refine expressions of God’s nature in them and in creation. God as the triune community of Creator-Redeemer-Sanctifier models how humans should relate in love, devotion, commitment, mutuality, shared purpose, and community.

Of course, God’s eternal loving nature is far beyond any love or devotion humans can express. Nevertheless, humans are called to relate to God, others, and the Earth in loving ways that reflect God’s nature to the greatest degree possible, given their life circumstances (1 John 4:7–12).





Signal Communities…Honor the Sacredness of Creation

16 08 2012

by RICK MAUPIN, Council of Twelve Apostles

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” At times, the passage which Jesus read as recorded in Luke 4:18 (NRSV), has a far-off sound, even a distant echo.

The promise of a better life stands on our understanding of Sacredness of Creation.

This was one such time. We were sitting in a house of roughly hewn posts covered with a patchwork of tin sheets. Small beams of sunlight poured through holes in the tin. The haphazard shapes and sizes of the patchwork told a story of this tin serving many purposes before becoming walls and roof.

We were in a room that served as the kitchen, dining room, living room, and bedroom for a child. Furniture, other than the bed, was limited to a few white plastic chairs, a small table, and some well-worn shelves.

The kitchen occupied one corner. Three wooden planks mounted to the wall formed the counter. A plastic bucket, a few pans, some plates, and a few plastic cups sat on the counter. On a drooping wooden shelf above the counter were a box of crackers, two potatoes, an onion, and—in a well-worn plastic water bottle—a small amount of cooking oil.

The father and husband of this home recently had died after a long illness, leaving his wife and four children with almost no resources. Unemployment here, even among the healthy, was as high as 60 percent. To sustain the family minimally, the mother had little choice but to borrow money during the father’s illness at interest rates of 25–40 percent. As we talked, she told us how the lenders were demanding payment. With no money to pay back the loans, she expressed fear because the collectors were becoming aggressive.

As I heard this sister share her story, I became quite uncomfortable. I was distressed and anxious because I was looking at a person who was destitute, socially marginalized, fearful, and who lived on the edge of her society.

I heard echoing in the distance, “Jesus came to bring good news to the poor.” Where was this mother’s “good news”? And what about the good news for millions of others around the world who desperately cling to any quality of life?

When Jesus read those words from the scroll of Isaiah he was declaring his mission. This was a way of life for Jesus, to be an advocate for people living in poverty, to be a voice for people marginalized and ignored by society, and to stand in the breach and protect the most vulnerable. Jesus was focused on bringing restoration into peoples’ lives.

Throughout the history of our movement we have claimed the word “restoration,” many times referring to particular ways of structuring and organizing the church. However, restoration has always had a much broader meaning and a call beyond mere structure and organization.

When your willingness to live in sacred community as Christ’s new creation exceeds your natural fear of spiritual and relational transformation, you will become who you are called to be. The rise of Zion the beautiful, the peaceful reign of Christ, awaits your whole-hearted response to the call to make and steadfastly hold to God’s covenant of peace in Jesus Christ.

This covenant entails sacramental living that respects and reveals God’s presence and reconciling activity in creation. It requires whole-life stewardship dedicated to expanding the church’s restoring ministries, especially those devoted to asserting the worth of persons, protecting the sacredness of creation, and relieving physical and spiritual suffering.—Doctrine and Covenants 164:9b–c

One of our Enduring Principles is the Sacredness of Creation. Because God’s creation is not always treated in sacred ways, it has become broken. Much of that brokenness includes people who live daily with oppression, pain, and suffering. Doctrine and Covenants 164:9c challenges us to live sacramentally in a covenant that will help restore this broken creation, especially restore the poor and suffering.

It is clear a huge chasm remains between the daily lives many people experience and their sense of being valued, protected, and treated as sacred. Poverty continues to have a death grip on many in our world, where 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day (www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats).

More than 75 children around the world have died in the last five minutes because of poverty-related issues, such as hunger and easily preventable diseases and illnesses. During that time, the brokenness of creation has manifested itself in a traumatic way. Each day nearly 22,000 children die, and each year about 8 million die because of poverty-related issues. That death rate is comparable to the death toll of the 2010 Haiti earthquake or the 2004 Asian tsunami occurring nearly every 10 days (http://injustices.in/blog/children-dying-of-poverty/ and http://www.globalissues.org/article/715/today-over-22000-children-died-around-the-world).

The message of being valued, protected, and treated as sacred did not reach those 75 children who died in the last five minutes. In a world with such abundance and wealth, this loss is unacceptable and must be named for what it is—a gross injustice.

In Community of Christ, we do not simply track body counts and name injustices. We act on our Enduring Principle that all of creation is sacred, through our Mission Initiative to Abolish Poverty, End Suffering. Writers and prophets throughout the centuries clearly have understood that concern for the impoverished, oppressed, mistreated, or weak is at the heart of who God is and who God calls us to be.

Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
—Isaiah 1:17 NRSV

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them… if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. —Isaiah 58:6–7, 10 NRSV

And, behold, I tell you these things that you may learn wisdom, that you may learn that when you are in the service of your fellow beings you are only in the service of your God. —Mosiah 1:49

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? —Micah 6:8 NRSV

Signal communities of Christ’s justice and peace that live out the covenant spoken of in Doctrine and Covenants 164:9 will be engaged in acts of justice. Such acts—those that break down barriers and bring about change in structures that perpetuate oppression and impoverishment—require courage.

Courageously challenge cultural, political, and religious trends that are contrary to the reconciling and restoring purposes of God. —Doctrine and Covenants 163:3b

A signal community must have the courage to engage in acts of justice, dismantling forces that create oppression and poverty. Can your congregation claim to be a signal community? Are you willing to “stand in the breach” to live out Christ’s mission?

Signal communities of justice and peace are also communities of generosity. Because of generosity, “Good news to the poor” was not a distant echo in the story of the mother and four children. The generosity of people who give through world mission tithes helped lift some of the oppression and suffering her family experienced. We took a step to Abolish Poverty, End Suffering.

Within our faith community the clarity of the call to Abolish Poverty, End Suffering has never been greater. How will you respond to this call?

Signal communities also must hear other cries of suffering in the world.

The earth, lovingly created as an environment for life to flourish, shudders in distress because creation’s natural and living systems are becoming exhausted from carrying the burden of human greed and conflict. —Doctrine and Covenants 163:4b

Ample evidence shows the Sacredness of Creation is suffering damage because of human consumption, greed, and conflict. The list of ways people are neglecting and sacrificing creation is long and seems overwhelming. So, how do we respond? Part of the answer is in Doctrine and Covenants 163:4c:

Let the educational and community development endeavors of the church equip people of all ages to carry the ethics of Christ’s peace into all arenas of life. Prepare new generations of disciples to bring fresh vision to bear on the perplexing problems of poverty, disease, war, and environmental deterioration. Their contributions will be multiplied if their hearts are focused on God’s will for creation.

This passage continues to remind us that God’s will is for sacramental living to restore creation.

There are thousands of stories like the one about the mother suffering in poverty. What will be the next chapter? As a people who claim to believe in the sacredness of all creation we must be involved in “writing” those next chapters. Let us have the courage and the generosity to “write” words of justice, peace, and restoration.