Why I Follow Jesus

30 09 2013

By Ron Harmon, Council of Twelve Apostles

Ron Harmon

Ron Harmon

I follow Jesus because I was invited. It is really that simple.

As a young boy I heard the good news of the kingdom proclaimed in my small congregation on the west side of Cleveland, Ohio. I experienced the Holy Spirit’s invitation in many ways beginning with the intentional and effective guidance of my parents. They did much more than convey the good news; they lived the good news!

It was made real in their marriage, how they treated me as a child, how they spent their time, and how they spent their money.

I also heard the invitation in meaningful relationships with all ages that developed in my congregation. For me it was much more than attending church; it was a family where the interactions I had on a weekly basis affirmed my worth as a person. During difficult times I always knew there was a place, a home, where I could go and feel accepted and loved.

Something significant was occurring that went deeper than the services and Christian-education classes. I was experiencing the love of God in tangible ways that brought to life the gospel I heard preached and taught.

As my opportunities to experience more of the world expanded I began to hear the invitation in a different way. I heard the invitation as the deep yearnings of God to alleviate the unnecessary suffering occurring all around me.

New relationships brought me into direct contact with poverty, hunger, loneliness, addiction, and exclusion. In the stories of those I encountered I sensed the call to extend the invitation as it had been extended to me and to partner with Christ in bringing new life and healing.

Today I follow Jesus because I continue to hear the invitation, “Come and follow me.” The disruptive promptings of the Holy Spirit have helped me see situations and relationships as they really are and as they could be.

While much of Christianity is preoccupied with proper indoctrination as the tool of invitation I believe the concept is much simpler and more powerful. I believe the invitation occurs every time we are willing to risk a new relationship with a store clerk, waiter, neighbor, and co-worker. I believe the invitation occurs as we surprise people with our desire to be fully present with them and are open to receiving and giving Christ’s peace as our relationships develop over time.

Every time I risk a new relationship I am reminded that I first experienced the Living Christ through caring people who were willing to risk a relationship with me. It is now so much a part of who I am that I can’t imagine a life void of the hope I have in Christ. I can do no other than share the good news of what God is doing in Christ to bring hope and healing to our world.

This is why I follow Jesus.

Drop a Stone in the Water…

28 09 2013

By Vern Foster, Loveland, Ohio, USA

Call it the ripple effect.

I recently found myself alone in the “victims room” of a municipal courthouse in a small town. While not a victim, I was asked to wait there during a court proceeding in case a question came up that pertained to me.

The room held periodicals only a few years from being labeled as collectibles. There also was one book. I noticed it was a Daily Bread from 1997. I thumbed through it, noting articles by people I knew, and came to a blank page. There, someone had written:

Dear God, please forgive me for wanting something to happen to the guy for hitting me at a red light and then lying about it. Forgive him, too. Help us all. It is hard to forgive. —October 15, 2005

Several scenarios came to mind. I probably will never know the actual account, so I speculated. Perhaps an embittered woman, falsely accused and confined to the same room, had found a Daily Bread left years before by a well-meaning person. Perhaps while reading it she came to understand the need for forgiveness in her own life.
I like the idea of small acts of kindness living on and—as ripple effects—blessing others.

Such acts also occur in the Loveland Congregation. It became aware of the Alan Shawn Feinstein $1 million proportional grant challenge to feed the hungry not long after its inception in 1998. Feinstein’s annual gift has generated more than $1.3 billion in aid to pantries and others.

At the time, Loveland members were volunteering at two agencies that helped low-income individuals: Inter Parish Ministries (IPM) and the Loveland InterFaith Effort (LIFE).

Working with Joyce Carter, who headed the Community of Christ Feinstein Challenge, Loveland members helped both groups become established in the Feinstein program. Now both receive their largest annual support from Feinstein efforts.

The visual impact of Loveland Middle School students forming a four-block human conveyor line from their school to LIFE’s headquarters, passing all the Feinstein food they had collected one can at a time, has solidified the program in the minds of the community.

LIFE provides food to more than 160 families per month and annually receives $15,000 or more in Feinstein funding. IPM serves 500 or more families per month with Feinstein providing $70,000 per year.

Today the Loveland Congregation has minimal participation with LIFE and none with IPM. Yet the seed planted more than 10 years ago is helping feed thousands.

Faithful service sometimes brings blessings we can see. Other times, what we do is a small part of a bigger picture.
Our call is not to greatness; it’s to service through the Mission Initiatives. Let God take the service we’re able to provide and turn it into greatness in God’s own time.

How Much More Can I Receive?

25 09 2013

By Tammy Lindle, Priesthood and Formation Ministries

Tammy Lindle

Tammy Lindle

Lately I’ve been pondering what “true capacity” means. I hear about true capacity from the aspect of giving—giving financially, and giving of resources, time, and talents. Thankfully, I can add my testimony to the understanding that increased financial generosity brings additional and unexpected blessing back to me.

These are not only financial blessings. They also connect me with friendships and opportunities to serve in new ways. These blessings bring purpose and meaning. The sad truth is if I didn’t expand my capacity to give, then I wouldn’t have received these blessings.

I’m only beginning to see where these blessings lead. However, “giving” is not the aspect of “true capacity” I am pondering.

My questions have to do with trying to understand how much I already have received, and wondering how much more I can receive. What is my true capacity to receive God’s blessing in my life? How much abundance am I capable of taking in? How will having more change me?

I ask these questions because I observed something interesting with a friend. She said she felt trapped in a bad marriage for many years. She described how she rarely received positive attention or any “giving” from her spouse. She said the relationship consistently drained her. It seemed her spouse had an unending capacity to “take.”

After her marriage ended, she became part of a new relationship…a much different relationship. She described how overwhelming it is at times to receive love, attention, caring, and concern from her new friend. One time early in the relationship, she found herself depressed for several days following a “perfect, wonderful weekend.” This seemed odd. How could she be depressed when things were going so right?

She said, “It’s so overwhelming to finally understand that this is how life could be, how life should be.” She grieved the loss of so many years of not knowing she could receive so much. She is growing in her understanding that she is worthy to deserve this.

As her relationship progresses and other blessings come her way, my friend’s capacity to give is growing. One might think that after living so long with a deficit in her life, she would be like a sponge, selfishly absorbing all of her new blessings. This is not the case. Her attention and ability to be present and productive at work and with her family and friends has increased greatly.

She is growing in her relationship with God. She is expressing her discipleship in new and expanding ways. As she receives more, she gives more. Her blessings are spilling over. It seems her giving is an obligation…not that anyone demands it of her, but because she is compelled. It is as if she can’t not give to those around her. Her giving blesses me. It inspires me.

As I consider my own blessings, and express my gratitude, I wonder about my true capacity to receive and to give. I wonder how my receiving eventually will become a blessing to God’s creation around me.

How can the Spirit fill vessels that are unwilling to expand their capacity to receive and give according to a full measure of God’s grace and truth? —Doctrine and Covenants 163:6c

Praying the Worshiper’s Path

23 09 2013
Worshipers path

Worshipers path

By Kathy Shockley, Independence, Missouri, USA

The first hint of the cross along the Worshiper’s Path is the shadow it casts across the wide corridor. It is a dramatic reminder that Christians live in the shadow of the cross. Continuing up the path, a rough-hewn wooden cross in a miniature landscape of rocks and boulders comes into view.

Here stands the primary symbol of the Christian faith, found in churches and homes throughout the world. Here is where Jesus of Nazareth—teacher, prophet, miracle-worker, and Messiah—was put to death. But he overcame death. The cross is empty, as is the tomb where he was laid, because he is risen.

It is the resurrection and the many testimonies of encounters with the Living Lord that have transformed an instrument of suffering and death into a symbol of hope and eternal life.

To meditate on the cross is to open ourselves to ever-wider meanings and questions regarding the life, sacrifice, resurrection, and continuing presence of Jesus Christ. Today as I stand before the cross my mind is drawn to the sacrifice, to the time when the cross was not empty. The realization strikes me that it had been less than 24 hours since Jesus had eaten the Passover meal with his disciples, less than 24 hours since he had shared with them a simple ritual.

Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” —Luke 22:19–20 NRSV

Little did they know that in a few hours these symbols would become graphic reality. I come away with a renewed sense that when I come to the Communion table I come to the foot of the cross. There, set on the table before me, are the vivid symbols of the sacrifice of my Lord, who gave his life for me. The Communion is not just the Lord’s Supper; it is the Lord’s sacrifice.

We recently have been challenged to:

Explore all the ways the Lord’s Supper can spiritually form the church community into a true and living expression of the life, sacrifice, resurrection, and continuing presence of Christ. —Doctrine and Covenants 164:4c

Perhaps one of those ways is meditation on the Communion prayers in conjunction with the cross as part of our sacrament service. Consider how our experience of this sacrament would change if we were affirming our willingness to take on the name of Jesus Christ and to keep his commandments, if we are doing so at the foot of the cross.

In reality the invitation to the Lord’s table has always included the cross. Not just Jesus’, but our own. As he told his disciples:

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
—Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23 NRSV

May we be blessed as we live, learn, and grow together in the shadow of the cross.

God Uses Those Who Respond

20 09 2013

By Ed Towers, Independence, Missouri, USA

Ed Towers

Ed Towers

Over the years, the Lord has worked with and through me many times to meet the needs of individuals. But I learned in one instance that if a priesthood member doesn’t respond, the Lord would find someone who would!

This wake-up call happened during a time I felt overwhelmed. At that point, my church responsibilities included being the San Diego District president. My work responsibilities entailed working with a Pentagon-assigned US representative to three North Atlantic Treaty Organization forums with meetings throughout Europe.

During this time, I flew from San Diego to Washington, DC, one or two times a month (in addition to European travel). It became extremely easy to “put aside” my priesthood responsibilities and just deal with the professional and non-personal relationships of work and church.

That changed one Friday, when I was boarding in Washington for my flight home. I had an aisle seat, and a boy and girl in their early teens were next to me. I didn’t want to listen to children chattering for the next four hours.

One of the last passengers to board was a very loud woman, who was joking to just about everyone who looked her way. She sat four or five rows behind me on the other side of the aisle. I sighed in gratitude that she wasn’t next to me!

About then, I noticed that directly ahead of me was a vacant row. I moved. Then, just as the aircraft door closed, the loud woman hurried to the seat I had just left!

She immediately started talking with the children. They seemed hesitant, but it didn’t slow her down, and she continued to chat in her loud voice.

As we got closer to San Diego, I noticed her tone becoming quieter, softer. I found myself straining to hear what they were saying. It appeared the children were leaving a broken home in Washington. Their mother and father were divorcing, and neither wanted the children. The kids were being sent to live in San Diego with a relative they didn’t even know.

They felt frightened and feared the relative wouldn’t want them, either. The loud woman calmed their crying and gave them encouragement. Then, just before the airplane landed, she had the kids lean toward her. She hugged them and petitioned God with the most compassionate and loving prayer any priesthood member could have offered!

As we landed, my eyes filled with tears while the children’s eyes were being dried. Smiles of hope and encouragement graced their faces.

At that moment, God made it clear to me that if I did not accept the responsibility put before me, then God would use whoever would respond.

It was clear that my ministry was not dependent on authority, experience, training, qualifications, or privilege. It was simply my response to Christ’s request to “feed my sheep.”

I had learned a personal lesson while being privileged to witness the Lord’s compassion at work in meeting the needs of children!

Your Giving Provides Canada Flood Relief

18 09 2013

By Kendra Friend, Integrated Communications

our contributions to Abolish Poverty, End Suffering are providing flood relief in Calgary and other small communities in southern Alberta, Canada. More than 100,000 people were displaced from their homes following severe rains that began June 20. Three church families lost their homes.
An Abolish Poverty, End Suffering grant of US$6,000 was distributed through three agencies where church volunteers are helping those in the most need. Canada West Mission Centre also is providing direct aid.
Said Jim Poirier, bishop of Canada and member of the Presiding Bishopric: “Canadians have always responded generously when called upon to support Christ’s mission around the globe. When faced with an emergency of our own, it is so gratifying to receive this support through the Abolish Poverty, End Suffering initiative of Community of Christ. Thank you.”

Thank you for giving to Abolish Poverty, End Suffering and all of the Mission Initiatives through offering envelopes and at www.CofChrist.org/give. Because of your ongoing generosity, Community of Christ is able to respond as a worldwide church to this crisis.

A Sacramental Community

16 09 2013

By John G. VanderWalker II, Hayden, Idaho, USA

Community of Christ is a sacramental community. This means more than being a church with sacraments. We have been challenged to be the incarnation of Christ’s peace in our communities (Doctrine and Covenants 163:3a), making pathways for others to experience and enter peace through ministries that enflesh the gospel.
The sacraments we practice inform us as we try to understand our relationship with the world and God.

Baptism is an important step in the life of discipleship. It may not be the first sacramental step, but it is the most significant personal decision in the life of a disciple. When a seeker says yes to God’s act of redemption in Jesus and decides to step into God’s saving covenant, the next step is baptism of water.

At baptism we enter into community, the community of Trinity. Our act of submission is a door to communion with the Divine. It is a physical way of saying we want to be close to God, we want to know and do the will of God, we want to engage in the work of God’s redemption in the world. We enter the work of salvation not only as recipients, but as participants.

Because of baptism we not only claim God’s salvation, but God’s work in our lives.

Confirmation of membership is another step in the life of a disciple. In this sacrament we enter into another community. This community is made of people who have opened the door to God in their lives and are bound together through the blessings of the Holy Spirit in the mystery that is God. It says we are aware of God’s redeeming activity with us individually (baptism) and communally (confirmation). It also says we are willing participants, working to understand God’s will and make it known in the world.

By making God’s will known through action, the church becomes a sacrament in the everyday lives of members and people the church impacts.

When reaching out to the broken and suffering, the church becomes the healing hands of Christ (Abolish Poverty, End Suffering). When the body spends time in worship, prayer, and discernment it becomes a prophetic voice (Experience Congregations in Mission and Develop Disciples to Serve). When that prophetic voice takes root, and action takes place, peace comes to our communities (Pursue Peace on Earth). When the incarnate peace of Christ is expressed in mission, others will want to join in the redeeming work of Christ (Invite People to Christ).

Community of Christ is a sacramental church, but that means more than having eight sacraments. We are the evidence of God’s graciousness expressed in Christ. We are Community of Christ.

Come and See the Risen Christ

14 09 2013
Joseph Kabaso, Lusaka, Zambia

Joseph Kabaso, Lusaka, Zambia

By Joseph Kabaso, Lusaka, Zambia

It is important to note the mission of Christ was based on inviting people to come and see, to show them what he was doing, and to invite them to stay with him in mission.

Luke 4:18–19 (NRSV) is precise about the agenda of Christ’s mission on Earth:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Jesus quoted from the book of Isaiah about liberating oppressed communities. Jesus underscored good news by inviting a hopeless community to join him in his mission of compassion, justice, and peacemaking. For Jesus to be relevant to his audience he set the agenda and then invited and showed followers how to carry it out.

Our Mission Initiatives today in Community of Christ have become a pillar for us to understand our mission and live our vision. They are impacting the church in communities around the world.

In the South Central Africa Mission Centre, where I live and work for the church, several programs have been born from these Mission Initiatives. Some have empowered people with skills, financial support, improved health, and better education.

What a sense of joy, hope, love, and peace!

One program is the Chembe farm project, which produces maize in the Luapula Province of Zambia. The project provides seasonal, short-term jobs during the rainy season and harvest. It reduces poverty, provides food, and empowers people with farming skills.

In Lusaka Province, a tailoring project has enriched more than 30 women with skills. Though the program lacks funding, it has impacted many women who were trained. Some use these skills to support themselves and their families.

Another project is the sinking of boreholes (wells) in Luapula and Copperbelt provinces. They have given people clean and safe drinking water, enhancing good heath in the surrounding communities.

Most of these projects get financial support from Tangible Love grants funded through the Abolish Poverty, End Suffering Mission Initiative. The partnership between the South Central Africa Mission Centre and HealthEd Connect also helps. HealthEd Connect has improved education in the towns of Chingola and Ndola by constructing classrooms, supporting teaching staffs, and providing health knowledge.

Also, to Invite People to Christ, a grant has helped us expand our church into the North-Western Province for the first time. More than 20 people have become members. We have continued to invite others to come and see the risen Christ through various ministries.

Indeed, Mission Initiatives are inviting, helping, and empowering families. Through them you can come and see the risen Christ!

It Started with an Adoption

11 09 2013

Apostle Linda Booth, director of Communications, recently visited with Mareva M. Arnaud Tchong, who at World Conference was ordained as an apostle. Here are excerpts from their conversation:

Mareva Arnaud Tchong, Council of Twelve Apostles

Mareva Arnaud Tchong, Council of Twelve Apostles

Linda: Mareva, your voice has already brought great blessings to the Council of Twelve, as well as the World Church Leadership Council. We want to learn more about you. You were raised in Tahiti. Was your family a member of Community of Christ? Tell us about growing up.

Mareva: I was adopted by a couple that didn’t have any children. It’s through this adoption that I came into the church. From my earliest years of childhood my adoptive father was a pastor missionary, and my mother was a housewife and a convert to the church. So I’ve always been immersed in church activities surrounded by my family. I participated in many activities. I practically grew up in my home congregation.

Linda: In congregational life, family is very important. And in French Polynesia family is highly valued. Tell us about your immediate family—your husband and your three daughters—as well as your extended family.

Mareva: I’d like to start by talking about my adoption. I can’t talk about my family without talking about my parents. My mother is still alive. She lives with us, and she’s a discreet woman—a great woman and extremely helpful.

She and my father didn’t have any children, so they adopted me the moment I came into the world. Even though teachings of the day put in place by former missionaries from long ago discouraged adoption, my parents didn’t obey this. That’s how I came into this church, and that’s how I was able to help do something new.

My father was an only child, and through adoption I am, too. That’s why I kept my name, Tchong, with my married name, Arnaud. I am the last to have that name, and I thought it was important to keep this part of my heritage up to the very end.

My husband is named Munanui. He is wonderful, kind, helpful, and very patient. He supports me tremendously in my mission and in our family life. We have three daughters and… a wonderful grandbaby who has blessed us with a new way of understanding love and our family. It has completely transformed our lives.

And in Polynesia…when we talk about family, it’s a family that includes uncles, nephews, cousins, so it’s a larger family. It’s more like a whole people, bigger than the traditional family we’re used to talking about.

Linda: And it’s what we would call sacred community. In the Western culture, it’s very, very sacred. And that culture I experienced was very generous and very hospitable—welcoming. Tell us how being raised in that culture created within you that sense of generosity and hospitality.

Mareva: Polynesians are of a hospitable and very welcoming nature. In the church, our ancestors, our teachers, our parents—they taught us well. They didn’t teach us with words, but they taught us by way of example how we should be filled with respect, filled with love, always full of energy.

When we talk about the Polynesian people it’s about welcome and hospitality, which is only natural. And with this enthusiasm there’s always music. There’s always laughing and an abundance of food so everyone can be filled.

There’s also this feeling in the church that our leaders, our pastors, the people in charge, are representatives, and we want to help with the mission. We can’t take their place, and we can’t always do what they do. But through this love, this hospitality, this generosity—it’s our way to show just how much we want to take away their burden or contribute in our own way to lighten their load and make sure their mission is successful.

All of this, well, it’s just natural. It’s in the Polynesian blood, and it’s particularly ingrained in the culture of this church.

Linda: Mareva, you talked about being in the heart of those people. You have also served in several ministry roles, most recently the mission center president for French Polynesia. How have those roles helped you prepare to serve as an apostle?

Mareva: I would never have thought to one day receive a call to be an apostle. But it’s more than just the jobs that were given to me in the past; it’s the fact that I sat with the children in the choir when I was little. It’s the fact that I played and participated in the sports league in the church because we had a sports league that organized handball for the youth. It’s the fact that I was able to sing and knew territories to accompany the missionaries with the young-adult choir.

All of this is what shaped me. It’s what enriched me. I’ve been active in the church since I was a child, but my greatest strength has been the choir. I wasn’t really diligent during the classes; they really didn’t interest me. But, one day, I came here to the World Conference with the young adults from my congregation. It was during one of the caucuses with the Africans and other French-speakers that I was transformed or touched by the Spirit, telling me my work—a really stable job that I liked—telling me I couldn’t limit myself to this because it wasn’t real life.

It was nice, but there were other things to see. There were other things to accomplish. So I came back home and decided to quit my job, volunteer for the church, and, most importantly, to stay close to my children.

And that’s why President Etienne Faana asked me to start spending more time in the Bishop’s Office and at the Ministerial Education Center. And then I took over the Ministerial Education Center, and it was Art Smith who trained me.

And then President Emile Teihotaata asked me if I could be his adviser. I became his adviser and vice president, and after that I set up the conflict-resolution ministry there.

During the same time period I was called—everything happened at the same time—to be a pastor of the congregation and then finally president of the mission center. I also agreed to be the financial officer. So it’s been quite a journey, and a whole path has trained me for the call I have now. But I could never have predicted the Lord had sent me on this path to come here and to be able to be his disciple as an apostle.

Linda: Mareva, it’s obvious from your ministry the Holy Spirit has been blessing you on this journey and preparing you to serve as an apostle in Community of Christ. I praise God for that. And I ask for your prayers for Mareva as she continues to follow God and loves the people in God’s stead.

Falling in Love with an International Church

9 09 2013

Apostle Linda Booth, director of Communications, recently visited with Apostle Art Smith, a native of Canada who at 43 became the youngest member on the Council of Twelve Apostles when ordained in April at World Conference. See video at www.CofChrist.org/broadcast/2013archiveasp#WCinterviews. Excerpts from that discussion:

Art Smith, Council of Twelve Apostles

Art Smith, Council of Twelve Apostles

Linda: Welcome. I’m here with Art Smith, who has two young children. So Art, what was your family’s experience when you shared that you had been presented by the president of the church with a call to serve in the Council of Twelve?

Art: They were excited, although Eric is a 15-year-old boy, so the way he shows excitement is a little more low-key maybe than Tiona. Tiona was trying to understand what this all meant. She was a little concerned at first because she figured this probably meant we wouldn’t be hosting as many visitors from Central and South America, and her best friends are from Honduras, Bolivia, and Peru. She was worried they wouldn’t come and stay with us anymore.

And I guess there is a little sense of loss, of leaving behind some things we’ve been doing. But we’re all very excited about the future, the new relationships, and new friendships we’ll be forming. Laura, my wife, is just this very steady pillar of support. As we both have been dealing with this news, she’s helped to keep us all calm. It’s been very good and very positive.

Linda: You were raised in Canada, I’m assuming, most of your growing-up years. How did that experience in that place help develop you as a disciple of Jesus Christ?

Art: I grew up in Gatineau, Quebec, which is just across the Ottawa River from Ottawa, Ontario, where they speak English. Where I grew up is where people speak mostly French. But I attended the Ottawa Congregation as a child, and it was a wonderful congregation. Not a very large congregation, but people were very encouraging.

I remember as a young kid, and certainly as a teenager, being involved in different commissions in the congregation, worship planning, eventually sharing testimonies, and speaking. So it was a very nurturing and supportive congregation.

We also had some missionary outreach things. Because I spoke French, it was always fun to be involved. We also lived about an hour from the Montreal Haitian Congregation. Though I grew up in this little congregation, I think I really…fell in love with this diverse, international church from a very young age because of experiencing the Haitian church there and the outreach to French speakers in Quebec. It was an interesting place to grow up in the Community of Christ.

Linda: You also speak Spanish. I don’t know if there are other languages you are also fluent in.

Art: Well I speak French and served the church for a few years in Tahiti and French Polynesia, where they speak French. Then almost nine years ago I was invited to serve in the Latin America Field. I think they wanted someone who spoke French because we had Haitians in that field who spoke French and a Haitian Congregation in Aruba.

But after just a year in the Caribbean, I was moved over to South America as a mission center president, and I didn’t speak any more Spanish than what I had learned watching “Sesame Street” as a little kid. I could count a few numbers, but that was about it.

But I had the chance to do some intensive language study in Spanish. Then, of course, in South America we have Brazil, and in Brazil they speak Portuguese. So I pretend to be somewhat fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and a little bit of English.

Linda: As I’ve watched you in the midst of the people from those countries, you can see the joy in their faces when you are able to communicate with them in the language they’re most comfortable with. You also have at your very core a sense of Spirit. I sense that when I’m serving with you, Art, and I want to thank you for that. Can you remember the first time you really felt that Spirit or recognized it was the Holy Spirit?

Art: I don’t think I really remember a time when I didn’t feel a connection with the Holy Spirit. It seems like the Spirit…reaches out to us in different ways according to our maturity and where we are in life. I remember feeling a sense of the Holy Spirit when I was 8 years old, preparing to be baptized, and in worship in the congregation where I grew up.

I was in Montreal the first time I experienced the Haitian mighty prayers, they call it. If you haven’t experienced mighty prayer, it’s a wonderful thing where they gather together. People tend to kneel on the ground and on the floor beside their chairs, and they pray together. There’s a leader, who’s praying, but then everybody begins to pray out loud. I think there was powerful sense of Spirit the very first time I experienced that.

It’s become a little bit familiar for me since then because it’s been kind of this junction between something strange, new, unusual, foreign, and yet, also a sense of uniting us together. And God was in this, so there was a sense of belonging at the same time as feeling foreign. That, to me, has been the Spirit I have come to know as I’ve traveled to different countries.

And as I’ve come to know people of different cultures, it’s the Spirit—maybe just like the day of Pentecost—that …unites us together across barriers of language and culture. It reminds us God is there with all of us, uniting us all together, and I love that Spirit!

Linda: That same spirit creates that sense of sacred community, which is so powerful and transforming. So in the midst of those communities you became a minister very early in your development. Do you remember when you first began to think about someday serving as a minister full-time in Community of Christ?

Art: I remember seeing the appointee ministers when I was a young kid in Ottawa. We were a missionary district in those days, and an appointee was assigned to Ottawa. I remember kind of looking up with admiration to those folks. It was probably later when I was serving as a guide in Nauvoo, Illinois, at the church historic site, and representing the church in that way.

Then, when I ended up studying at Graceland, the idea was maybe born of some sort of a sense of call that this could be a bigger part of my life. Eventually, when we were living in Manhattan, Kansas, and were at a time of transition in our lives, we got a phone call from a church leader in Canada who was looking for a new children, youth, and young-adult minister. That invitation turned a dream of maybe someday being able to dedicate more of our lives to the church into reality. That was just the first step of what’s been an interesting journey.

Linda: It has been. You’ve already mentioned that you spent a great deal of your ministry and full-time leadership in French Polynesia, the Caribbean, and Central and Latin America. How have those sacred communities of people, those different cultures, and the way in which they live out Christ’s mission prepared you and helped develop you for this role?

Art: So much of who I am now I owe to the people of those places and those cultures. The Tahitians taught—and are teaching me—about generosity, community, and the idea of blessing that comes from sacrificing for others.

When we were first in Tahiti it was overwhelming—the outpouring of love and generosity people share with you. It was just something that came naturally to them, somehow part of their DNA. I remember thinking it was almost as if it was easy for them, and they weren’t really sacrificing. Eventually I came to understand that, no, it was just as hard of work, and it was just as much a real sacrifice for them to offer all that they offer to people. But it was important enough that they did it, and there’s a real spirituality in that generosity.

It was while in Tahiti I think—probably for the first time as young adults—that we started to kind of look differently at our whole attitude toward giving, and tithing. Just the way we try to live our lives in terms of giving to others changed a lot in Tahiti.

And in Latin America I felt like I started to learn a lot more about God’s greatness. It’s the church in Honduras, and the church in Brazil, and so many other places that throw themselves into worship and praise of God in ways that I had never experienced. Growing up I tended to be someone who liked to control the world around me, and have a handle on things.

I think, as a kid, church was kind of a nice optional extra, and as long as you can control it, then that’s nice.

But spending time with my brothers and sisters in Honduras, I started to realize more about God’s majesty and power and how dependent we are. In places where you never know what’s going to happen next, you just start to develop a new perspective on how dependent we are on God.

So I owe a great debt of gratitude to the people of the church and the people of these places where I’ve had the privilege to serve and to wander. I’m looking forward to what I’ll learn from the next people I spend time with.

Linda: Art will be serving with the people of the South Central USA Mission Field. He has seven mission centers he will be serving with, as well as supervising Hispanic ministries in the USA. We thank Art for his dedication and his family’s support, and we look forward to the leadership and ministry he will bring to God’s people.