What the Cross Means to Me

30 11 2013

By Mark Scherer, World Church historian

In 2009 I had the honor of visiting members in Papeete, Tahiti. This was my second visit as church historian. As people left my class in the Tarona Congregation sanctuary, a young boy ran up to me and enthusiastically pointed to the ceiling.

A panel that fell from this part of the ceiling played a role in the history of the Tarona Congregation in Tahiti.

A panel that fell from part of the ceiling played a role in the history of the Tarona Congregation in Tahiti.

He spoke French, and I could not understand him. At first I thought he had seen a small lizard in the rafters and wanted me to see it, too. My translator said the boy was telling how a heavy ceiling panel had fallen during a similar class. His well-known story was about Elder Taiura Piehi.

In January 1969, Taiura fell asleep on his couch. He dreamed that a personage told him “his work is finished.” After he awoke he told his wife, Adele, and her brother, “A spirit has come to tell me that my work is finished. I know that I am going to die. Here is how it will happen: Your eyes will not see it, but someone else will come and tell you. That’s how you will learn of it.”

Family members and friends tried to dissuade Taiura from such notions, suggesting he just had a bad dream. But Taiura knew what he saw, clearly understood the message, and rejected their rationalizing. No one slept well that night.

Over the next several days Taiura did chores that needed completion before his passing. He did painting and carpenter work, and he reminisced with neighbors about good times. In his farewells he expressed the joys of witnessing and missionary service in the outer islands. He shared stories about those he baptized, those he ordained, and of the churches he helped to build.

On Saturday, January 18, Taiura attended a district conference at Tarona. Adele was unable to join him. Everyone knew where Taiura would sit—always in his pew at the rear of the sanctuary. However, on this day he unexpectedly moved toward the front and sat in a pew just behind the Graffeo family.

While he quietly listened, a sudden movement from the ceiling caught his eye. Two heavy wooden panels dislodged from the tall ceiling. One landed in the center aisle. As the other fell, Taiura lunged forward to protect the Graffeo family.

Judy Graffeo received lacerations, was rushed to a nearby clinic, and then was released. Taiura was hospitalized with a crushed skull. To his visitors, Taiura testified that his accident was the result of God’s love and not revenge. Then, on Wednesday morning, January 22, 1969, Taiura died, thus fulfilling his dream.

This event creates an existential crisis for me because the details do not fit neatly into the many years of my secular education in the historical discipline. Normally I would approach this account with healthy skepticism. But everyone in the sanctuary that day and all those who visited Taiura’s hospital room and heard his testimony authenticated exactly what happened.

Veracity is beyond question. So I strongly hold to my computer-generated e-mail signature: “Willing to search for truth beyond reason but not against it.”

Both the meaning of the cross and Taiura Piehi’s story affirm that there most certainly is “truth beyond reason.”

We Give; God Gives More

28 11 2013

By Byron Robison, Springfield, Missouri, USA

In today’s world it is tempting to think we cannot afford to contribute to the church’s Mission Initiatives. I remember when I got married, the first trip to the grocery store was a harsh experience. My wife and I kept reminding each other that we needed to stick to our grocery list because we didn’t have money for extras. We left with only the bare necessities.

 Still, we managed to live on our small income and still save a little. By the end of 1984 we had a small nest egg. Then came an opportunity to buy my own business. It meant leaving my secure job and the paycheck that went with it. In addition, I would need to use a good portion of our savings for the business.

I worked out a business plan and bought half-ownership in an insurance agency. With that decision made, I found myself struggling about whether to use more of our savings to pay our tithing. Feeling the business opportunity was a blessing, I decided to pay our tithing.

Business was incredible! God blessed our efforts more than we would have hoped. My partner and I paid off our loan in three years—much sooner than we had expected. I never could have done it without God’s help.

No matter how much we give, God gives much more in return.

Becoming disciples means truly caring about the welfare of our brothers and sisters around the world, caring enough to give even when we have to trust God that we also will be provided for. God continues to bless me, and I have found I can give without fearing for my own welfare. After all, if God cares about the sparrows, God surely cares for me.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

25 11 2013

By Paula Rummel,
Health Ministries Association

I find myself reflecting on times and places that have molded who I am. Last week my husband, Gary, and I spent a week traveling to historic sites and to our own genealogic sites.

Paula Rummel

Paula Rummel

Some locations had markers and memorials so we could remember the events and those who had given their lives for a cause that they believed. Other places helped shape the core of who we are as individuals and what we value.

Locations maintaining the appearance of history-making days helped us understand why and how events unfolded, changing countless lives. Discovering details about our ancestors and how they lived helped enlighten us about the foundation for our personal values and beliefs.

Memorials, tangible and intangible, enrich our lives. Finding John Blumenschein’s grave in Honduras last year made his health-care dream for Central America become more alive to me. I go to Honduras because of the love of these people that he and his wife, Marion, inspired in me when I was 8 years old.

We will never know the impact or how far-reaching the actions of our lives will be. While my ancestors lived in a time of limited contact with the world, I want my life to impact places I will never see and people I will never meet.

I want my life to reflect God’s guiding hand, a recognition that all persons have worth with activities that address the basic needs of hunger and health and a genuine appreciation for those who have blazed the trails I follow!

“I Have Food”

22 11 2013

By Jim Holloway, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, USA

My wife, Sue, and I were visiting Bonnie, a friend in Mississippi who with the help of several churches was providing leadership for a pantry in Ocean Springs.

One day, I spent the entire morning at the pantry doing whatever Bonnie asked. The next day, about 10 minutes before closing, a young man came in to see about getting food for his family—himself, his wife, and two preschool children.

Bonnie had him fill out required paperwork while volunteers filled bags with food.

Then a volunteer offered to help him carry the food to his car. He told us he had walked about four blocks to the pantry. A volunteer offered to give him a ride, and I decided to go along.

When we got to the efficiency motel where he and his family were staying, I got out of the car to help unload the food. I cried when I heard the young man tell his wife, “I have food.”

The scripture from Matthew about feeding the multitudes came to life for me that day, and all I had done is ride with a volunteer. Thank you, Bonnie and all the volunteers at the Samaritan Ministry Food Pantry.

Mama Katarina

20 11 2013

By Margaret Mwamba Chilolo,
Chingola, Zambia

Mama Katarina

Mama Katarina

I met Mama Katarina in the late 1980s. She was tall, slim, in her late 60s. Katarina had no children and depended greatly on the church for support. She had poor vision, caused by cataracts on both eyes. While walking, she usually used a stick to find her way.

She stayed with an elderly friend in a small shelter with little food. It was hard for Katarina. Being old and barren was a big issue among the people in the community. Some called her a witch and left her alone to suffer.

The church saw the need to help Mama Katarina and her friend by taking them to the hospital to remove the cataracts. I was assigned to escort them to Kitwe Central Hospital, about 50 kilometers from Chingola.

The day before we left, I went to Kasompe, where Katarina lived, to make travel arrangements.

I sat on a small stool outside her hut. My heart filled with sorrow. Mama Katarina was lonely and had no proper clothes. I was touched and asked the congregation’s pastor to come to a shop I was running to pick up dresses for Mama Katarina and her friend.

When we arrived at the hospital, both women were booked for surgery. They were in the hospital for one week, and then I brought them back to Kasompe.

Mama Katarina and her friend felt the love of God through the church and the members. Their sight improved tremendously, and they were grateful for what God did in their lives.

Christ’s mission was made real in Mama Katarina’s life. She felt loved and was accepted into the community. Discrimination and hostility became things of the past. Peace was restored in her life.

You Can’t Put God in a Box

18 11 2013

By Riva Teihotaata and Chrystal Vanel, Paris, France

The tomb is empty as we can’t put God in a box. This is what Community of Christ members and friends learned during the Paris Congregation’s Easter service in France as they celebrated Christ’s resurrection and took part in several Mission Initiatives.

The warmth of an Easter celebration attracted many people to the Paris Congregation.

The warmth of an Easter celebration attracted many people to the Paris Congregation.

Among the participants, many were nonmembers, friends encouraged to come by members in an effort to Invite People to Christ.

During Sunday school, participants sought to Develop Disciples to Serve by continuing their discovery and discussion on Community of Christ Basic Beliefs, from the We Share document. The focus was on creation.

After our little brother, Kimi, read from the Basic Beliefs, participants turned to the Genesis stories of creation and learned how God made female and male equal partners for Earth stewardship. Members sought to Pursue Peace on Earth by discussing how poor human choices can have terrible repercussions on nature and humankind. As an example, they cited French nuclear testing on the seashores of French Polynesia, which caused numerous cancers.

Then they shared in an Easter worship. As most participants were from Tahiti, music and songs were important parts of the worship, which centered on scriptures and Communion. Participants learned about the magnificent living God, too big to enclose in a box (“tomb”). They were reminded that Easter is not about chocolate only, but about deliverance from slavery and death, about the hope of a new “first day,” a new “early dawn” (Luke 24:1 NRSV).

Following the service they Experienced Congregations in Mission by welcoming the visit of Thierry and Amélie. They celebrated Amélie’s cancer remission and shared a snack.

Simple Bridge to God’s Unconditional Love

15 11 2013

By Brian Ober, Lake in the Hills, Illinois, USA

Have you ever experienced something extraordinarily simple that profoundly impacted your life? A simple gesture? A simple encounter? A simple story? A simple song? This testimony is about the simple phrase: “We are proud of you.”

Several kids from a school club are finding acceptance and welcome  in the On Edge Congregation in Chicago, Illinois.

Several kids from a school club are finding acceptance and welcome in the On Edge Congregation in Chicago, Illinois.

About a year ago, my daughter, Ashlyn, attended her high school freshman orientation. It included a place where teenagers could learn about the school’s social clubs. There were booths for art, music, athletics, and other interests. One club in particular caught our eye. In front of the booth were the letters “GSA.”

Ashlyn approached and learned that GSA stood for Gay Straight Alliance. Their leaders passionately and respectfully spoke about their club and a deep desire to create a place at school where all teenagers could feel loved, accepted, and invested in. A club where bullying had no place.

The vision of the club and the deep conviction of the leaders moved us.

I introduced myself as a minister. They quickly reacted as if preparing to receive a vicious attack. I smiled and told them that as a minister and as a church “we are proud of you.” I gave them my e-mail address and told them they and their club would be in my prayers and that they could consider me and our church in their service.

God used that moment to richly bless us.

A little less than a year later, 10 teenagers from that club attend our congregation and are deeply investing in our church. We hold weekly scripture studies, learning about God’s grace and Jesus’ calling in our lives. We have had the opportunity to speak in two high school GSA clubs, teaching of a God whose grace is without condition or apology and talking about a church that upholds the Worth of All Persons.

As I look forward, I am confident God’s blessings have only started. Teenagers will respond to the Spirit’s lead and be baptized. Young adults will grow into disciples of Christ and ordained ministers of our church. Lives previously consumed in anger and hurt will begin to heal and learn about a God who calls them into relationship and a Christ who calls them into mission.

“Island Boy” Learns of Joy

13 11 2013

Apostle Linda Booth, director of Communications, sat down with Steve Graffeo to discuss his recent selection as a counselor to the presiding bishop. Here are excerpts from their conversation.

Linda: You were raised in an appointee family, and you had the opportunity to live in a nation outside of the USA. I’m sure in that culture you were influenced and molded as a disciple. Can you share with us that experience and the impact it had on you as a disciple of Jesus Christ and a minister in Community of Christ?

Steve: Sure. I do have an upbringing that’s a little different than most. I was 5 years old when our family was called to move to Tahiti, French Polynesia. So as a young ministerial family (my dad had just been called to be an appointee), we moved to a country that had a different language. At age 5, I did start in a French school system. I can remember the first day, being surrounded by all the Tahitian kids, and I realized I was different.

We spent eight years there as an appointee family and then moved to Hawaii for four or five years before I went on to Graceland.

So being in different cultures, mainly an island boy most of my life, has affected who I am and my makeup. First of all, being fluent in French and Tahitian has helped me—not only at that time, but now—as I minister throughout the church. And I have an appreciation for different foods, such as raw fish and other things that are eaten by different cultures.

I learned generosity from a people—the Polynesians, the Hawaiians. Basically, I’ve learned that those cultures open their homes to people as they visit. That’s what we have done, too, and I think that’s just part of the makeup of what our family does, and who we are.

I learned that all are different, and yet, what a wonderfulness we all have! So I believe those kinds of things have maybe made me who I am today as I’m able to minister to a worldwide church.

Linda: Steve, you have a young son, and two older sons, and a wonderful wife, Madora. Could you tell us about your family?

Steve: I do have three boys. Tyler’s 27, Nick is 25, and little McLane is 6. They’re wonderful boys, along with my wife, Madora, who supports me in my ministry. It’s just a wonderful support system I have.

Madora teaches in the Independence School District. She’s a music teacher (kindergarten through fifth grade). She puts on wonderful programs for her kids and her school. She includes all kids from [each] grade and really finds a place for each one. To me she lives out All Are Called and the Worth of All Persons in her ministry in the school system.

They are a blessing because they allow me to give 100, 110 percent in my work, and what a wonderful thing that is!

Linda: It is. You have told me your sons have been to Tahiti and experienced the generosity and spirit that’s found among those island people.

Steve: They have. Little McLane has been there three times now already as part of venturing as a family and ministry. Tyler and Nick have been there as well, so they have also witnessed…that people may be different, but what a wonderful thing that difference is.

Linda: The Spirit does unite us in very powerful ways. Can you remember one of the first times you experienced the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life?

Steve: Well, there have been many times, but I guess I point to the one time in 2004, when I was still working for a law firm. The call came to me, from David Brock, who was the Council of Twelve member to Polynesia. The call was out of the blue, and it took me by surprise. He said “Steve, would you think about working for the church?”

I had not planned for that call at all. I was ready to just keep going and retiring in the arena that I was working in. But I asked Dave for some time for reflection. World Conference in 2004 was coming up about six weeks later. I knew I’d have Polynesians in my home, as that hospitality was extended, and I needed time to reflect and pray on it.

So he did give me that time, and during Conference one of the Polynesians came home from one of the business sessions. It happened to be the bishops’ session, where the finances are shared with the church.

She came to me in my home and said, “You know, Steve, I’m just so worried about what I’m hearing as far as some of the reductions or some of the tithing that’s kind of going down. How am I sure that my money that I give to the World Church in Polynesia is getting to the right place?”

I will tell you that at that moment I knew my response needed to be yes to come to work for the church. It was a call. It was a feeling of being needed, of filling a role to bring back that trust or that feeling the membership needed to allow these people to be able to freely give and to know where their funds were going.

So I believe in that moment, when I said good-bye to the outside world and came into the arms of the church, was a pivotal point for me. I believe it was Spirit led.

Linda: You’ve experienced that Spirit many times. You’ve also, I’m sure, experienced it as you’ve served in different roles in the church, one being the director of Human Resource Ministries. You also have served as the bishop and financial officer in the French Polynesia Mission Centre. You’ve also served as an executive assistant to the Council of Twelve Apostles, which has given you a wealth of understanding of finances as well as Christ’s mission being lived in the different fields of the church.

So how have these roles prepared you to serve in the Presiding Bishopric?

Steve: Well, that journey is unique in its own way. I do believe my previous job in the law firm as an administrator did prepare me for some of these roles. I do believe that my language skills and my connection with Polynesia prepared me to return there in my later life to serve those people. I believe one of the main things I’ve learned is that it takes good team effort.

We can never do it alone. Being surrounded by great people, whether in the HR role or in the field ministry role, you’re able to do your work because you’re surrounded by great people. As HR director that is the one thing that I’ve gotten to know more than anything. We’ve got such great people working here for the church. They do it for the mission of Jesus Christ.

Each role has taken me a little deeper into things, such as the budgetary process and the personnel. It’s our people in the field doing the ministry, I believe, who have helped me in the roles that I’m playing, or getting ready to play, within the church.

Linda: In this new role, you’re going to be connecting people with Christ’s mission lived out internationally, as well as the connection to A Disciple’s Generous Response principles and people actually discovering their true capacity through God’s grace and generosity in their lives. How would you explain that connection to people?

Steve: I have a picture in my office that I look at often. It’s an event that happened a few years ago when I was at a reunion in Polynesia. A young lady came to me. Her name’s Lilly, and she said, “Steve, I have a gift for you.” And I said, “What is it, Lilly?” She said, “Well, my husband and I planted a papaya tree a few years ago in our front yard, and it’s taken several years for it to bear fruit. And out of her basket came this large, green-and-yellow papaya. And she said, “It’s our first fruit.”

That’s why I have the picture in my office. It was a time where I felt honored, and Proverbs 3:9 says to honor the Lord with your first fruits. She was offering up her first fruit to me. What a wonderful feeling to be honored, to be humbled. I looked at Lilly, with her face full of joy. She was honoring me and honoring her culture, which said that to give of the first fruit meant the life of that tree would continue giving fruit.

So, to me, generosity does start with the first fruit. That’s the sharing part, in its beginning stages, which we all need to do. There’s also the spending and the saving parts of it. But then when we look at the whole giving of the full potential of oneself, one looks not only at the first part of one’s giving, but then the “can I do more?”

So that’s where the fullness of one’s ability to give is lived out. I feel that starts with first fruits and never really ends. We look at them constantly, and we say, “I am so blessed that I feel like I can give more.”

Linda: So it’s understanding that God’s grace continues to be given freely and generously to you as a person. And in response to that, you have such joy as you generously share with others likewise. The true capacity that then grows in your understanding as God’s grace is born in your life.

Steve: That’s correct. That whole cycle that continues in our daily life is how to live out the true capacity. It’s always looking continuously—not once a month, not once a year but every day—at what more can I do, because I’m so blessed.

Linda: Steve, as you begin to think about sharing that message, and making that connection between generosity and Christ’s mission being lived out, impacting, and transforming lives, I’m sure you’re beginning to envision what the future might look like if we as disciples really gave to our true capacity. Can you describe what that might be?

Steve: Sure. In one word, simply, it’s joy. But it’s not just joy for oneself. It’s joy for the community that you’re also involved with. True-capacity giving relates to the joy one feels in community, which is what we’re all about.”

Linda: Excellent. My friends, I hope as you prayerfully consider your own true capacity, you will experience the joy our dear brother, Steve, has referred to, and that it might multiply as it reaches out, changes, and impacts others’ lives in Jesus’ name.

Mission of Peace Begins with Children

11 11 2013

by Bryce Anderson, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
First Place Vision Scholarship Winner

Through a partnership between Community of Christ and Graceland University, students who attend Spectacular have the opportunity to apply for the Vision Scholarship.

While my family and I were out of town visiting my grandparents last month, 40 people were shot in my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. Sixteen died. The morning before I came to Spectacular, a teenage girl’s throat was slashed, and a shooting took place in Baltimore. But violence is not limited to Baltimore.

Wars are going on all around the world, some that the USA is involved in and others that it is not. Wars can be caused by acts of violence, contain enormous amounts of violence, and can lead to even more violence. Although there is a lot of violence in wars and the inner city, news reports tell us that violence and the fear of violence also appear in quiet, gated communities.

This is not the vision God wants for us. God’s vision for us is a peaceful one. Because of this, I think the church should teach children throughout the world how to live in peace.

I believe a key way to teach children about peace is to do it in a fun environment. A couple of such environments are peace pavilions and peace mobiles. I remember when the peace mobile came to my church. Students from schools near the church came to experience it. My class came to participate, as well. I remember that after that day arguments were shorter, we worked in teams better, and there was a better sense of community throughout the school.

Once my church had the peace mobile visit and saw the great success, it made plans to have its own peace pavilion. After much effort, the church was able to open its peace pavilion in 2011. This peace pavilion has been a big success in the neighborhood around the church. By creating more of these around the world, the church can teach even more children about peace.

By reaching more children and teaching them about peace, the church can decrease violence around the world. If we build a foundation of peace in a child’s life, then the child will be less likely to make the same violent mistakes of parents, grandparents, or friends.

My neighborhood did not become a violent neighborhood overnight, and it will not become a peaceful one overnight, either. But through the church’s peace efforts and the peace pavilion, the children of the neighborhood are a little more peaceful.

In the 40 shootings mentioned earlier, none happened within my neighborhood. This amazed many people who knew how violent the neighborhood has been. Though it may not have been a direct effect of the church’s efforts, it is the type of thing we would hope to have happen as a result of the peace pavilion and the church’s efforts.

I want to see this kind of peace break out in other neighborhoods and around the globe. I hope the church could help fulfill this dream as its mission.

My Backyard, Everyone’s Backyard

8 11 2013

By Lu Mountenay,
Integrated Formation Ministries

Above all else, strive to be faithful to Christ’s vision of the peaceable Kingdom of God on earth. Courageously challenge cultural, political, and religious trends that are contrary to the reconciling and restoring purposes of God. Pursue peace.—Doctrine and Covenants 163:3b

I felt gratified by the adoption of World Church Resolution 1303, Action toward Nuclear-weapons Abolition, by the 2013 World Conference. Why did it mean so much to me?

2012 ANA Breactor

Dangers with handling nuclear waste (top two photos) have led numerous citizens to want to learn more about honoring the Sacredness of Creation.

In my passion for a healthy planet, I had become engrossed in learning about the nuclear-weapons parts plant in Kansas City, Missouri (my backyard). I realized if it were not in my backyard, it would be in someone else’s. I needed a broader perspective. I went to Seattle, Washington, to learn what other communities facing nuclear issues are doing.

First I took the ferry from Seattle to Bremerton, Washington, where I found myself attracted by a beautiful park. Trees, benches, sculptures, and a serene garden surrounded me. A large saltwater pond stood in the center.

I asked myself if I were in the right place. Then I saw three mock submarine towers rising from the pond, shedding sparkling and musical water, eliciting delight from other witnesses. I cringed. Yes, I was in the right place—next to the shipyard that off-loads nuclear missiles for the weapons-carrying Trident submarines. A local group, Ground Zero for Nonviolent Action (GZNA), told me this park was a public-relations tool to encourage community acceptance. Looking at the impressed onlookers, I could see it was working. I wanted to ask them, “Don’t you know what’s going on here?”

GZNA is acting to halt construction of a second explosives-handling wharf nearby. Two lawsuits are being heard in Tacoma in US District Court. Both sites are 20 miles from Seattle, with a metro population of 3.5 million people. According to Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), eight subs were at the Bangor Naval base while I was there. PSR reported that each sub can carry 24 warheads, soon to be upgraded to 475-kiloton weapons. The Nagasaki bomb was “only” 15 kilotons. That’s 8 times 24 times 475 kilotons. You do the math.

The next day I stayed overnight at Hanford, Washington, east of the Cascade Mountains. I went to the Columbia River, watched the sunrise, saw fish jumping, and river otters playing. I couldn’t imagine what I would learn about this place later in the day.

With a group from the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, I took an all-day tour of the 586-square-mile Hanford nuclear waste site. That’s larger than metropolitan Los Angeles. Hanford is the site of nine deactivated weapons-grade plutonium production reactors, only one of which was used to produce energy. Note: deactivated does not mean decontaminated.

The Department of Energy (DOE) considered only one reactor “clean” enough for the tour. I hesitated, but found the courage to walk into a page from the Manhattan Project. I found myself inside deactivated reactor 31B, built in 1941. It had processed the plutonium for the Nagasaki bomb!

In the control room, visitors asked, “Where are the computers?” The guide reminded us that in 1941, Enrico Fermi had no computers or even transistors. Physicists had slide rules, chalkboards, mechanical and manually operated equipment—meager tools, I felt, to control such potential power!

Water from the Columbia River, where I had felt so at home that morning, had been pumped in to cool the reactors. It was infused with chromium to prevent corrosion. This poisoned water then was returned to the river—the spawning ground for salmon and the source of irrigation for nearby apple, pear, and cherry orchards. According to Columbia River Watch, this was the largest number of production reactors to be placed on one river anywhere in the world. Radioactive discharges resulted in Oregon’s Public Health Division declaring Columbia the most radioactive river in the free world in the 1960s. Hanford is the site of four ongoing Superfund cleanup projects.

According to the DOE Visitor Orientation book, “All radiological hazards at the Hanford Site are identifiable by use of the international sign for radiation—a black trefoil on a yellow background with the words Caution or Danger.

Later, we drove past a “canyon” full of the deactivated parts from the Trident submarines. Whole center sections of the subs sat there, waiting to be buried. Two Superfund projects are at Bangor.

We spent the rest of the tour being amazed and dismayed by the miles of nuclear waste dump areas next to the Columbia River. Because of the Freedom of Information Act, we know almost all nuclear-waste containers leak, even double-shell tanks. Tom Carpenter, director of Hanford Watch, writes:

AY-102 is one of Hanford’s 28 tanks with two walls, which were installed years ago when single-shell tanks began leaking. Some of the worst liquid in those tanks was pumped into the sturdier double-shell tanks… The tanks are now beyond their intended life span. The DOE announced last year that AY-102 was leaking between its two walls, but it said then that no waste had escaped.

I went into one of the double-shell tanks. Construction had been halted while investigators checked about leakage issues.

Soon, our group stood on the edge of a giant trench and watched bulldozers move tons of earth to bury radioactive waste. We saw trucks spraying the site with water, which the guide told us was to keep contaminated dust “contained” on the windy plain. We all stopped breathing! The guide told us not to worry because the dust was sprayed with liquid plastic each night to keep it still.

According to the Visitor Orientation book, the DOE operates clean-up projects with ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable) guidelines. Is “reasonably achievable” a concrete standard?

With production of weapons comes the legacy of leaving toxic waste. Annette Cary, of the Tri-City Herald, citing a 2012 DOE report, wrote:  “The estimated price tag is $114.8 billion for remaining environmental cleanup at Hanford, plus some post-cleanup oversight.” The environmental cost will not be known until far into the future.

From my trip I learned that no nuclear issue is a backyard issue. It’s not even a state, country, or continental issue. It concerns the whole Earth and every creature on it—now and far into our children’s future. It’s not just a moral, strategic, or political issue; it’s potentially a matter of planetary survival. This is a tale of all cities—mine and yours.

The legislation passed at the 2013 World Conference affirms a stance against nuclear weapons. It reads in part:

Resolved, That Community of Christ affirms nuclear weapons pose a grave threat to the Earth and existence of life; and be it further

Resolved, That Community of Christ join the global voices seeking to halt nuclear weapons production, support prudent action to minimize the threat or use of nuclear weapons, and urge renewed efforts toward eradication; and be it further

Resolved, That wherever practical, Community of Christ convey its support for the responsible reduction and eventual eradication of nuclear weapons, urging policy to that end by all nations…

I am gratified the community took this step toward the Pursuit of Peace. It won’t change damage done to the environment or the lives lost at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But perhaps we will pay attention to future programs, investigate the likely consequences, and speak up for making Responsible Choices.