Why I Follow Jesus…

30 01 2013

BY ALISHA BAUMAN, Zionsville, Indiana, USA

My favorite mentors are people I have known my entire life from church. They have watched me grow, attempted to direct me in life choices, and picked me up when I have fallen.

Photo by Alisha Bauman

Photo by Alisha Bauman

I never understood why they loved me, and at times I wondered why they ever would want to love me. Their love is a love that is filling. It has the power to overcome failure. It has absorbed every tear I have allowed to fall and has destroyed every wall I tried building.

It has taken me some time to realize all that. Having been raised in the church, I feel like I took Jesus for granted. Church family has always surrounded me. It took some life choices that cut off my church family to realize how blessed I had been.

I placed my trust in others and allowed them, instead of God, control over me.

Overwhelmed by weariness and loss, I decided living life by myself without God was too much of a burden. As soon as I opened myself back to Christ, love poured in, filling me up.
I now know that love is worth living and fighting for. Not living a mundane life or fighting a hurtful war, instead a life of meaning and a war to protect the value and Worth of All Persons. There are so many types of love out there with promises to feel good and gain stuff. In Romans 8:38–39 NRSV is a powerful testimony that nothing can separate us from God’s love:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I have learned that t

hough nothing can separate us, everything sure tries hard. And when we let fear of separation and intimidation win, we willingly walk away from God’s love. It is not God’s love that fails. I

t is us choosing to not trust it.

I now try my hardest never to allow fear to win. I place my trust in the words, “Follow me,” knowing they will lead me on some awesome adventures. I have come to understand the love my mentors live by.

In the ministry I am called to bring now, I hope I can live in a way that others may learn of the love Jesus Christ has for all of us, and that it may lift up the value and Worth of All Persons.

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Whether Near or Far, You Can Join in Conference

28 01 2013

BY SUSAN NAYLOR, World Conference director

January 2013, a year of new beginnings and starting fresh. What better way to begin than by registering for World Conference?

By registering, you are supporting the event not just in Independence, Missouri, USA, but worldwide, touching every congregation, every person connected as part of Community of Christ.

Registrants will receive Conference materials with reports of the church’s leading quorums, standing teams, and affiliates from the inter-Conference period. Materials also will include legislation, program schedules, information for the week, and daily bulletins that provide minutes, quorum reports, and updated event information.

Registering for World Conference comes in all shapes and forms.

  • Delegates register to participate in the Conference.
  • Participants register to keep up to date with information throughout the week.
  • Off-site supporters register to show support and receive materials as part of an ongoing local site resource.

One goal is that as resources (standing team reports, affiliate reports, and other Conference materials) are produced, we’ll include other Conference-related information. It will include resource ideas, suggested websites, and ways to continue education about printed reports and legislative actions and topics. These resources—in materials produced for Conference registrants—will hold good opportunities for future study in congregations, small groups, retreats, and other gatherings.

Registering for World Conference is not just for grown-ups. Be sure to take advantage of Conference Kids and child-care opportunities. Conference Kids engages kids through activities that allow the theme and Conference to come alive. A World Conference tradition can begin at any age.

Registering for World Conference is being a part of something bigger than just one individual. Being part of World Conference is a connection with those who have gone before and a voice for today and the future.

As World Conference has moved into the Internet and webcasting, it no longer can be said it is an isolated event. Thousands around the globe attend worship to listen, pray, and sing as a worldwide congregation.

Another way to become a part of Conference is to contribute to the Delegate Travel Fund or generously share in the World Conference special offering. Both opportunities are available through online registration, offering envelopes in the USA and Canada, or directly mailing contributions to the Presiding Bishopric, 1001 West Walnut St., Independence, MO 64050-3562 USA.

As this new year begins, include World Conference in your 2013 plans. Consider how you can best contribute and become part of this worldwide event in the life of Community of Christ.

Registration is available at www.CofChrist.org/wc2013.





Hospitality and Sanctuary on Tupuài

25 01 2013

BY SUSAN OXLEY, Council of Twelve Apostles

Our church movement in French Polynesia began with an act of hospitality.

Forced to make an unexpected stop in their voyage, missionary Addison Pratt and his companions disembarked on Tupuài (Tubuai in English) in April 1844. A Polynesian woman named Tehinaarii invited them into her home. She gave food, housing, and much-needed assistance.

When the others left for Tahiti, Pratt stayed to share the gospel. His missionary outreach resulted in 50 baptisms within a few months and the establishment of the first congregation in what then was called the “Society Islands.” On land where Polynesians built a home for Pratt, he erected a commemorative stone celebrating his arrival.

Today, three congregations make their home on Tupuài: Manate (Manasseh), Tara (Sara), and Jerusalema Api (New Jerusalem). Descendants of Tehinaarii are among the prominent leaders of the church. Members remember and celebrate that first act of hospitality—even during the harshest of times.

The Tupuài members of Community of Christ are welcoming with song, food, and stories of invitation and witness.

In February 2011, Hurricane Oli hit Tupuài full force. In the last three generations, no storm had caused as much damage. When the residents emerged from the storm shelters, homes were gone or damaged, roofs were missing, and household contents ranging from refrigerators to children’s toys were piled haphazardly against buildings and felled trees.

Water and sand were pushed against the foundation of the Manate Community of Christ building, but it was not damaged. It stood as a bulwark against the storm, protecting the home of a non-member who lived directly behind the church. Among members, the protection offered in that natural disaster became a symbol, reminding them Community of Christ provides sanctuary to all people.

Nearby, the home of Hatai and his wife, Mata, was roofless, windowless, waterlogged, and full of sand. Hatai is confined to a wheelchair because of diabetes and leg disease. Rebuilding their home seemed impossible.

Mata, a Community of Christ member, tells with pride of the legacy of faith, invitation, and hospitality she inherited from her recently deceased mother. Mata and Hatai often have provided housing and meals to residents and off-island visitors. They do so with a joy and comfort well-known among all members of the community. But after the storm, it appeared their days of offering hospitality had ended.

The day following the hurricane, however, a group of people showed up and went to work. They soon rebuilt, cleaned, and repaired the home. After finishing, they moved on, tackling another home. But in the evening, they returned—to enjoy a hot meal, showers, and fellowship at the home of Hatai and Mata.

During the next weeks of hard labor and construction, they always found a welcome there at the end of the day. The legacy of hospitality lives on, blessing others.





Pursuing Peace, One Parking Lot at a Time

23 01 2013

BY JANE WATKINS, Lakeland, Florida, USA

Last week I had a humbling experience. It seems the older I get, the more I find myself being humbled. I’m not sure why this would be a function of age, but that’s probably another article to write. So let’s just leave it at this: I lost my cool in the Winn-Dixie parking lot.

Puppets4

Andi Melham made friends at the Ocala Congregation’s Peace Festival.

As I reflect on the moment, I remember I was rushed. I was hurrying to the FedEx drop box to send some much-needed oblation assistance to a member facing eviction. It was critical that I make this drop because the landlord was to take action the next day.

As I was sailing down the aisle in the parking lot, a car turned into the lane against the directional arrow. The aisle was narrow, tricky for cars to pass each other because the plan was for one-way traffic…the way I was going.

I’m much too polite to honk my horn or make hostile gestures. I just chose to fume and fuss inwardly, pushing my blood pressure higher. We managed to squeeze by each other, and the driver gave me a sort of “cat that ate the canary” look. I went on to get my business accomplished.

Three days later, distracted and hurrying again, I found myself going the wrong way down the lane in that same parking lot. Of course I met someone head-on who lacked restraint and beeped long and loud at me while gesturing and screaming obscenities. Besides feeling embarrassed at my vehicular maneuver, I was flooded with shame at my reaction only days before.

I thought to myself, “Well, it is easier to make that mistake than I realized!” As soon as that thought came to me, I thought of the scripture from James 1:19:

You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.

Slow to anger. I mulled that for a bit and couldn’t help thinking, “What would Jesus do?” I suppose Jesus would be much more patient than I tend to be. As all these thoughts resonated within me two days later, I found myself standing on the lawn of the Ocala Congregation’s May 5 Peace Festival. Andi Melham, a founder with her husband, Jim, of the Atlanta-based Peacemobile, was conducting a puppet show for children. They were talking about the very issue of losing one’s temper.

Andi asked for ideas about resolving conflict and inventing peaceful ways to deal with life’s little (and not so little) upsets. I watched these spellbound children. Then I offered a silent prayer to God for people who care enough to host a Peace Festival (25 Ocala members), for those who create and sustain a Peacemobile (Jim and Andi), and for parents who bring their children to something called a “Peace Festival.”

Perhaps in a few short years these children will find themselves much more patient than I when driving in parking lots. May we all practice peacemaking as we build God’s peaceable kingdom on Earth.

If you truly would be Community of Christ, then embody and live the concerns and passion of Christ.—Doctrine and Covenants 164:9d





Looking for an Angel

21 01 2013

BY LAUREN LOGAN, Kansas City, Missouri, USA

When I was a child, someone told me angels come to Earth sometimes. If you’re lucky, you may have the chance to help one.

My chance came on a cold, rainy night back before I could afford glasses. I was working at a tiny French pastry shop on the Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri, making minimum wage and not much in tips. The best thing about the job was I got to take home broken sweets.

That night, as I was driving home, I was looking forward to sinking my teeth into the prettiest macaroons while watching my favorite shows. I was so distracted, that I almost didn’t see somebody running across the street.

Slamming on my brakes, I screamed to a halt. I nearly hit him. Unfazed, the man kept walking, waving his hand in thanks.

I rolled down my window.

“Do you need a lift?”

For years my mother had warned me against picking up hitchhikers. I usually followed her advice, keeping my spontaneous acts of generosity to a few dollars in a cup when we would pass a panhandler. But on this night, something told me to help this man.

“No, I’m OK, thank you.”

“Where are you headed? I don’t feel right leaving you here on the highway. It’s dangerous!”

“I’m OK. I’m just walking to 89th Street.”

“Where are you coming from?”

“Twenty-third.”

I raised my eyebrows. Eventually, hesitantly, he slipped into the backseat, drenched in the downpour and huffing from the walk. He glanced at me and asked, “You aren’t a serial killer, are you?”

I laughed. He was a middle-aged Native American.

We headed off with a good 30 minutes left to drive.

He told me about where he was from and about his tribe. He told me about the reservation and its history. Both fascinated me, particularly because I am part Native American with little knowledge of that part of my culture. He told me where he was coming from and other interesting stories.

Finally, he pointed to a hamburger restaurant to let me know it was his stop. I gave him my macaroons and wished him the best.

He got out and was about to slam the door when he said something I will never forget, “For this, you will forever be blessed.”

It’s been a little more than a year since that night, and I now make enough money to do more than just a dollar in a cup once in a while. And for every blessing that has come to me (and there have been many!) I always think of the angel I almost hit on that rainy night when I was still too broke to afford glasses.





Making a Difference by Changing Lives

18 01 2013

BY BRENDA STRICKLAND, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA

The first Make a Difference Camp did just that.

Last summer’s gathering drew 55 young people in grades one through eight—many with inner-city backgrounds—to Shawnee State Park in West Portsmouth, Ohio. While there, they developed relationships with each other, nature, and God.

Be still and know that I am God! -Psalms 46:10As a result five were baptized and confirmed. Many others started on the journey that could lead them to the sacraments. It was a wonderful way to Invite People to Christ.

The experience touched not only the campers, but the staff members. Among the comments written by one of them, Mary Williams:

From the beginning to the end, God’s Spirit was so alive in every aspect. And I witnessed this through my friend, Kenna. On our drive to camp she was sharing with me that this was her first church camp, and she wondered what they would be doing. I told her there would be a lot of activities, and we would be busy the entire weekend.

Kenna is very reserved and quiet. This camp helped her to “come out” and to let her light shine. She had a wonderful time.

On the way home I asked Kenna what she liked best, she said, “Everything.” I said, “Was there anything you didn’t like?” She said, “Having to leave.”

I had to hold back my tears.

Through the baptismal service at camp, Kenna has started asking questions about getting baptized.

The camp also taught about respect, tolerance, and understanding. In short, it taught about the Worth of All Persons.





A Sermon in a Handshake

16 01 2013

by ANDREW FOX, Clay Cross, Derbyshire, England

When I was in my early teens, a man called Sammy lived near our church in Clay Cross, England. Sammy had severe learning difficulties and spent most of each day walking the streets.

  I was told he lived with his sister and her husband. But they would not allow him in the home, and he had to sleep in the garage next to the house. Whenever I saw Sammy he appeared to be wearing the same clothes. His hands and face were always dirty.

Most Sundays he would come to the evening worship at church. He usually arrived late, and it was a rare occasion when he stayed until the end. Each time a hymn was announced he would walk to the back of the church to collect another hymn book, even though he was unable to read. Whenever the minister prayed, Sammy also would vocalize his own unintelligible prayer.

I never really knew why Sammy came to church, but I assumed he found it a place of warmth and safety.

As a deacon, part of my role was to stand at the back of the sanctuary before worship to welcome people and hand them a hymn book. From there I was able to see how people reacted whenever Sammy arrived. The body language of many quite clearly said, “I hope he doesn’t sit next to me.”

On arriving, Sammy liked to walk around the congregation offering his hand to members. I don’t remember people ever rejecting the outstretched hand, but the fingertip-to-fingertip response of many could not be called a friendly handshake.

But then there was Eric Morris, an elder. Physically, Eric was big and powerful. He also was one of the gentlest people you could hope to meet. Whenever Eric heard Sammy arrive, he would get up and purposefully walk toward Sammy with a smile on his face and his hand outstretched. He would then grasp Sammy’s dirty hand and shake it warmly, leaving no doubt that Eric was pleased to see him and that he was welcome.

As a teenager I must have sat through hundreds of sermons—many quite wonderful— from behind a pulpit. But the sermon that has impacted my life most is the one Eric regularly preached, not from behind a pulpit, but from within the congregation; not using words, but using a hand and a smile.

The message was simple. It said to a vulnerable man, “Jesus loves you. I love you. You are welcome in this place.”

An important aspect of the Mission Initiative to Invite People to Christ is to make it clear in our words and actions that all are invited, all are welcome. That most certainly includes the poor, the dirty, the vulnerable. Eric preached that message week after week, and I will never forget it.