Why I Follow Jesus. . .

30 06 2013

By Dan Woynarski, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

Dan Woynarski

Dan Woynarski

I follow Jesus because his Facebook status updates are hilarious! OK, seriously, I could share that my formative years in Sunday school were so brilliant that I was won over by the power of the greatest story ever told.

Nope, that’s not it.

It could be that the colorful church history shaped me into a disciple…not that either. I could say that it was a hymn, a program, a powerful message given with precise pauses and perfect punctuation that prompted praise within me…poetic perhaps, but no.

It’s the memory of a quarter placed into my hand at 16 by a woman in my congregation who saw me struggling and said, “If you need to talk, call me.”

It’s because two people decided to adopt an unwanted child, and he grew up knowing he was loved. It is because of a wonderful grandma who always reminds me to whom I belong. It is because I have a wife who loves me, though I’m not the best husband. She reminds me that we are two imperfect people in a covenant relationship with God. (She says I might be just slightly more imperfect, but she sticks around anyway, so I can accept that.)

It’s more than just good feelings, though. It is really about the way people choose to live when they become followers of Jesus.

How I have followed Jesus is a different story, but it has a bearing on the why. Some moments in my life cause me to ask whether I do follow Jesus. Do my actions represent a life dedicated to the teachings and life of Jesus? When I consider the truth, I despair, and then I feel Jesus lifting me out of my pity party. I cry out, “I’m no good for you! Leave me here. I am a weight around your ankles.”

And still I feel Jesus pulling me. I submit evidence: “I am a poor father, a mediocre husband, a lackluster friend, an ineffective leader, a horrible example of what you should have as a disciple.” And still I hear Jesus whisper back, “You are exactly what I look for in a disciple.”

He provides evidence: “You are a child of God, and you have been given grace, whether you feel you deserve it or not. So put on your big-boy pants and let’s get to work.” (In my mind Jesus doesn’t take excuses. But thanks to years of Jesus movies, he does have a British accent.)

The point is, accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry tell me God accepts me, warts and all.

I follow Jesus because of the vision of the beloved community I believe he was seeking to establish here on Earth. I follow Jesus because of how he was with people, even in the tight spots. Jesus stepped in where most of us—me included—would have stepped out.

I want to be the guy who steps in and encourages others to do so. I have a selfish reason for following Jesus, too. When I find myself living a life more representative of Jesus, I feel good.

I’m OK with that.





Your Giving Makes Christ’s Mission Real in the World

28 06 2013

As you consider your true capacity to give to local and world mission tithes to help make Christ’s mission real in the world, reflect on the words of counsel Prophet-President Steve Veazey shared April 14:

Remember, a basic discipleship principle is growing Christ’s mission through both local and world mission tithes according to true capacity. Giving to other worthwhile organizations, while an important part of A Disciple’s Generous Response, follows world and local mission tithing and should not diminish or replace it. If a law is needed to focus and balance response, then let these tithing principles serve that purpose.

Tithing is a spiritual practice that demonstrates willingness to regularly offer every dimension of one’s life to God. When defined by faith, love, and hopeful planning, including resolving indebtedness, capacity to respond becomes much greater than initially assumed.

In March, contributors around the world gave an estimated $1,170,000 in world mission tithes, bringing us to a $9,769,644 total for the fiscal year. This is a shortfall of $1,480,000.

Please help us make up this shortfall before the fiscal year ends June 30, so we can continue to make Christ’s mission real in the world by inviting people to Christ, working to abolish poverty and end suffering, pursuing peace on Earth, and equipping individuals and congregations to pursue these initiatives.

Your giving helps:

  • Invite People to Christ: A pantry program offered by Pleasant Valley Congregation in Ohio led to a Sharing in the Round ministry to provide more than food by sharing a meal and information about social-service programs and ministries of healing and blessing.
  • Abolish Poverty, End Suffering: The Tunnel Hill Congregation in Illinois partners with Blessings in a Backpack to provide food for the weekend to children on free- and reduced-meal programs in all the elementary schools in its county.
  • Pursue Peace on Earth: World Service Corps volunteers travel to offer ministry and learn in other cultures, making connections with people of all ages.
  • Develop Disciples to Serve: Prairie Bluffs USA Mission Center has 28 people in its Young Adult Pastor Training Program, preparing for leadership through study and relationship-building.
  • Experience Congregations in Mission: Members of Soubré Congregation, where the church is growing in Ivory Coast, are working to construct a building that will accommodate 200 with funding help from world mission tithes.

Thank you for your generous giving!





World Conference Voices – 4

26 06 2013

The list of things people enjoy during World Conference is as diverse as the delegates themselves. Lauren Logan of Integrated Communications asked many people, “What do you like most about World Conference?” Some of their responses:

Christian Skoorsmith, Greater Pacific Northwest USA Mission Center
“There are so many things—of course there’s always the friends and seeing the church leaders. But I think it was all of the legislation that came. We had some really good discussions, and it was really powerful.”

Max Stuck, Lamoni-Heartland USA Mission Center
“The most enjoyable aspect for me was kind of recognizing how spread out the church was. I was kind of overwhelmed by how well represented we were in the world, and I just couldn’t wrap my head around that.”

Shirley Truelove, Cedar Valley-Nauvoo USA Mission Center
“I guess I enjoyed the evening services the most.”

Leah Wheeler, Greater Pacific USA Mission Center
“I enjoyed the fellowship that we’re able to participate in at World Conference, and to be able to hear the different opinions on the different things that we’re talking about. A lot of the stuff…I haven’t heard the opposing side, so it’s really important…to be able to see all the different perspectives.”

Wen-Chen Wu, East Asia Mission Center
“I like discussions, and I feel like we are family. We talk about important things that’ll be better for our future. I appreciate that.”

 





World Conference Voices – 3

23 06 2013

The list of things people enjoy during World Conference is as diverse as the delegates themselves. Lauren Logan of Integrated Communications asked many people, “What do you like most about World Conference?” Some of their responses:

Sharon Gernaat, Michigan USA/Canada Mission Center
“The opportunity to come together and move the church forward; to make policy for the church.”

David Harder, Gateway USA Mission Center
“I just enjoyed Conference, particularly quorum meetings.”

Rigobert Hauata, French Polynesia Mission Centre
“This is the first time I have participated in World Conference. I’m very happy to be here. It’s a very good experience to see the good news with our president-prophet. We had resolutions in my field. I’m really happy because they responded to our issues, our views…It’s a very special time to proclaim our mission to Jesus Christ, and…it’s good news to build peace in the world.”

Alexis LaFarlette, South Central States USA Mission Center
“I guess just seeing different views, how different people stand. It’s just really nice for everybody to get together and get around and just hear different things. It really puts perspective on all the different topics.”

Adelyn Naidu, Pacific Islands Mission Centre
“I think the best thing about World Conference is meeting everyone after so many years, and it’s also a time of good fellowship.”





World Conference Voices – 2

21 06 2013

The list of things people enjoy during World Conference is as diverse as the delegates themselves. Lauren Logan of Integrated Communications asked many people, “What do you like most about World Conference?” Some of their responses:

Naomi Barlow, Rocky Mountain USA Mission Center
“Fellowship and being together. My Community of Christ people are my favorite people, so we get to come together for a whole week.”

Julius Sackor Dixon, Ivory Coast Liberia Mission Center
“I think I see truly our Enduring Principles put into practice and come across because I see a lot of people from different cultures sit down together with our brothers and sisters in Christ. The resolutions, many are not African, but it’s good we all sat down, discussed them, came to consensus, and can move forward.”

Linda Donahoe, Bountiful USA Mission Center
“I love the celebrations, the music, and the festivals. I think that’s wonderful. I like all the interaction of the foreign- and the English-speaking people, and I really have had a ball with that. I like the deliberation on the Conference floor, ’cause that’s important, but it’s also frustrating.”

Iniobong Edet, Nigeria Mission Centre
“It’s very inviting. You learn much about the church and the worth of all people.”

Ralph Gault, Southwest International (Mexico/USA) Mission Center
“President (Steve) Veazey’s patience.”





World Conference Voices – 1

19 06 2013

The list of things people enjoy during World Conference is as diverse as the delegates themselves. Lauren Logan of Integrated Communications asked many people, “What do you like most about World Conference?” Some of their responses:

Jae Ok An, East Asia Mission Center
“Our church felt and seemed small in Korea. But after coming to Conference I realized how big our church is and saw how freely we are in God. I felt closer to God.”

Marketer Ash, Chicago USA Mission Center
“The parliamentary piece where everyone has an opportunity to express their thoughts, their ideas, and their concerns, and to put their recommendations on the table.”

Megan Ashburn, Rocky Mountain USA Mission Center
“The diversity of the people. Even though we’re from the same church, we all have completely different views, so it’s really interesting to see how we got to one view.”

Tanoh Assoi, Ivory Coast Liberia Mission Center
“Let’s see, there were many activities to partake in. I think that personally I enjoyed ILM (International Leaders Meetings) in which we discussed many issues and looked at the church life, church activities, and perspectives of the people.”

Young Eun Park, East Asia Mission Center
“In Korea, there’s a cultural difference. We don’t really state what we believe; rather we go with majority. But here, during Conference, it was good to hear a lot of people’s different perspectives and opinions. It was good the church actually listened to people’s opinions neutrally as much as they could. I liked worshiping with other church members, and how active people got involved with things, like the Tahitians when they sang.”





Prepare!

17 06 2013

Hymnal Launch and Peace Colloquy
By Jane Gardner, Integrated Formation Ministries and Brad Martell, Peace and Justice Ministries

The 2013 Peace Colloquy October 18-20 will launch the new Community of Christ Sings hymnal.

The 2013 Peace Colloquy October 18-20 will launch the new Community of Christ Sings hymnal.

We will welcome the Rev. John L. Bell as this year’s Community of Christ International Peace Award recipient at the launch of Community of Christ Sings during the Peace Colloquy, October 18–20.

Rev. Bell is passionate about congregational song and makes a strong case that any size group can “Sing Praises to the Lord!” His book, The Singing Thing: A Case for Congregational Song, is a short book about why we sing, laced with anecdotes from congregations—rural and urban, big and small.

You may order it from Herald House by calling 1-800-767-8181 to begin preparing yourself and your congregation for meaningful and memorable experiences of worship and song.

Rev. Bell is a member of the Iona Community in Scotland, which produces a rich array of materials for worship under the Wild Goose Resource Group. Among these are ideas and readings for worship services published in seasonal groupings written by Rev. Bell:

Cloth for the Cradle: Worship Resources and Readings for Advent, Christmas & Epiphany;
Stages on the Way: Worship Resources for Lent, Holy Week & Easter; and
Present on Earth: Worship Resources on the Life of Jesus.

These books, available by calling Herald House, come highly recommended for those who plan worship services. Take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to learn from and experience the ministry of Rev. Bell and the Iona Community in preparation for the Peace Colloquy and Community of Christ Sings launch!

 





Learning Forgiveness

14 06 2013

BY BARBARA WALDEN, Community of Christ Historic Sites Foundation
and LACHLAN MACKAY, Historic sites coordinator

The life experience of Joseph Smith III offers lessons related to how we and our congregations can become true and living expressions of Jesus Christ. For young Joseph, the path toward peace, reconciliation, and healing of the spirit was slow and painful when it came to forgiving a man who had threatened his mother’s life.

While growing up in Nauvoo, Illinois, Joseph’s home also served as a hotel managed by his mother, Emma. Emma took exception to the relationship between a male and female boarder and asked them to move out. The man responded by pulling a gun on Emma. Both Joseph and his stepfather were away from the home and unable to come to Emma’s aid.

When Joseph learned of the incident, he became furious and developed a deep hatred for the man. As the years passed, his loathing grew deeper and deeper.

Years later, Joseph Smith III’s bitter feelings and disgust were an uncomfortable sentiment as he became an ordained minister. In his memoirs he shared that when he began to preach and share the Lord’s Prayer, the words “and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” would haunt him because of his deep hatred.

Over time and through humility, Joseph eventually was able to forgive the man. He took this experience as a life lesson and reminder of Christ’s teachings, which our congregations emphasize today.

Joseph believed his personal struggle with reconciliation and healing of the spirit eventually led him to become a better minister:

I had a clearer understanding of what men were prone to feel of any unworthy nature…than I could have obtained had I not had this experience and learned to know what it was to hate a fellow-being. The knowledge helped to make me humble, and to exercise sympathy and charity for others struggling under like feelings…Hatred is a cruel, destructive, and unlovely thing, and wholly unbecoming a Christian.

From gathering to experience Christ’s love and peace at reunions to struggling as individuals and congregations to achieve reconciliation and healing of the spirit like Joseph Smith III, we have always sought to create Spirit-filled congregations that passionately pursue Christ’s mission.

  • Invite People to Christ.
  • Abolish Poverty, End Suffering.
  • Pursue Peace on Earth.
  • Develop Disciples to Serve.
  • Experience Congregations in Mission.

Mission Initiative language is new. Our mission…Christ’s mission…is not.





The Reunion Experience

12 06 2013

Experience Congregations in Mission

BY BARBARA WALDEN, Community of Christ Historic Sites Foundation
and LACHLAN MACKAY, Historic sites coordinator

Community of Christ.

Our name exemplifies our calling to be a community engaged in pursuing the mission of Jesus Christ. From our earliest days of sacrifice while building the “House of the Lord” in Kirtland, Ohio, to the youth of the 20th century saving coins to contribute toward building the Temple in Independence, Missouri, Community of Christ has been a faith community that seeks to Experience Congregations in Mission.

Whether constructing places of worship or helping the hurting rebuild pride and dignity, Community of Christ has a long history of reflecting Christ’s mission through congregational life.

The Reunion Experience

Each year as we gather at reunions, we are reminded of the love and peace of Christ as experienced through the gifts of community. In the early 1880s, members met in the countryside near Council Bluffs, Iowa, for a weeklong summer gathering. This first “reunion” initiated a beloved and enduring tradition.

Families slept in tents and cooked for themselves. A reunion committee provided firewood for people and hay for horses. Reunions in the 19th century and beyond helped fulfill desires to live in zionic community. It is no coincidence reunion grounds are named Tiona Park (Tahitian for Zion) in Australia, Ziontario in Ontario, Canada, and Sionito in Texas.

Across generations, members have testified that “a week at reunion feels like a week in Zion.” For many in Community of Christ, reunion grounds have become sacred spaces, embedded in our personal spiritual geography. They’re destinations where we have witnessed Christ’s love and peace.

Each year, members from around the world gather to their reunion grounds for a week. They testify of feeling God’s presence through worship; experiencing peace, reconciliation, and healing of the spirit; and gaining a greater understanding of our faith community’s calling to nurture congregations of Christ’s love and peace.





Ready to Serve? Yes!

10 06 2013

By Tammy Lindle, Priesthood Formation Ministries

World Conference 2013 service projects

World Conference 2013 service projects

Ready to Serve!” proclaimed Jenn Killpack’s Herald article in March 2013. With these words, her invitation challenged Community of Christ to two sizeable service projects during World Conference.

Not only did delegates, members, staff, and friends from around the world gather, meet, and worship, we united with two organizations to Abolish Poverty, End Suffering in the Independence, Missouri, area. Through our generosity we expanded the Blessings of Community to our neighbors and friends.

Our two goals were to collect 2,500 pounds of non-perishable food to support Harvesters Community Food Network and to pack as many Necessity Bags as possible to meet basic needs of homeless students and their families in the Independence School District.

Harvesters

The network collaborates with the food industry and community to respond to hunger concerns in the Kansas City area, including Independence. Its efforts provide food for the sick, elderly, very young, and poor. These are the weakest and most vulnerable members of our community. Harvesters serves up to 66,000 people each week. It is the community’s link between an abundant food supply and people in need.

Harvesters parked a large, cargo trailer on River Boulevard between the Temple and Auditorium. We placed 12 collection barrels near the entrances of both buildings. Many times each day, workers gathered and emptied the overflowing barrels into the trailer. We watched as six, huge, pallet-sized crates began to fill.

Karen Hutchinson and Richard Miller, members of the Rocky Mountain USA Mission Center, challenged their 25-member Greeley Congregation to donate 200 pounds of food for this project. The Colorado congregation instead gathered nearly 300 pounds! Karen and Richard arrived in time to make the first donation Friday evening.

“Personally, I thought the 2,500-pound goal was too low,” Richard said. “I believe there will be far more than that donated. Hopefully, this will start out your week on a high note.”

He was right! Givers generously donated 3,146 pounds, equal to 2,420 meals for hungry people.

“Your gifts of food, time, money, and voice provided hope to someone in need, and we are grateful for your generosity,” wrote Karen Haren, Harvesters’ president and CEO. “You provided so much more than a meal. Thank you for helping us feed hungry people today as we work to end hunger tomorrow.”

Necessity Bags

During the 2012–2013 school year, nearly 900 homeless children and their families received help through the Independence School District’s Family Services. Our goal was to fill as many Necessity Bags as possible to serve basic needs.

Your generosity provided 262 bags: 100 for infants, 77 for children, and 85 with cleaning supplies. Beyond personal-care items in each bag, our collection included 3,467 diapers, 466 rolls of toilet paper, 78 rolls of paper towels, and 275 boxes of baby wipes. Extra items included 64 bars of soap, 54 sponges, four bottles of dish soap, 17 dishtowels, four toothbrushes, 14 tubes of diaper cream, 47 boxes of crayons, various books and coloring books, and four baskets of other items.

We extend special thanks to Jessica Ralston for her skillful organization and passion for the project. “I was a teacher in the Independence School District for the last 12 years, so this is something near and dear to my heart,” said Jessica.

Conference attendees assembled the bags Monday evening. The group completed the assembly in record time. Many more volunteers arrived to help, only to find the project completed.

“The evening when we put the bags together was such a huge success,” Ralston said. “I had no idea we would go so fast, but so many volunteers showed up. It was wonderful!”

Thanks to your generous donations, Community of Christ brought healing and hope through Christ’s mission of compassion for the most vulnerable in Independence.
Indeed, we were ready to serve!