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.”

My Allegiance

29 08 2011

by WIM VAN KLINKEN, International Headquarters director

Recently, a pastor asked me two questions that in hindsight are greatly interrelated. Knowing I moved recently from the Netherlands to the USA, he asked if I missed home. I said, “I do not. Although I am Dutch and love my country, I consider myself more a world citizen and feel at home wherever I am.” This answer amazed him and made him ponder his feelings for his homeland and whether he ever could make such a statement.

During our conversation we also shared about our beliefs and journeys with the church. He asked about my continued motivation for belonging to and serving Community of Christ. My reply made him look anew at the church.

I explained that I strongly feel a unique and important characteristic of our church is that it’s international. It would be far easier for someone in the Netherlands to belong to a national church that has far more members and is accepted than to face the ridicule of belonging to a perceived “American church.”

But Community of Christ has become an international church. The most-spoken language on a given Sunday in our congregations is no longer English, but French. Our membership is growing in developing countries. Probably in the next decade or so, actual membership will be larger outside the USA than inside; active membership already is.

But more important than membership numbers is the church’s conviction that we are a global movement with a vision to establish the peaceable reign of God on Earth, thus transforming all of creation, all nations, all peoples.

We believe Christ is above all nations and does not favor one country or people above the other. As I sang as a child, “In Christ there is no East or West.” And as President Steve Veazey reminded us in the introductory statement to Doctrine and Covenants 164, “There is no longer Jew or Greek … for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

That is why my allegiance is primarily to Christ and not to a particular nation. Like Christ, I need to be spiritually free to challenge practices and beliefs in my home country, in my country of residence, or anywhere in the world that are contrary to the saving purposes of the gospel.

Being part of this church and living in a new country have made it clear to me that my beliefs and actions are tainted by the culture I grew up in. Being part of an international movement confronts me with sisters and brothers from different cultures who challenge what I believe. They challenge how I live out my gospel, which is not necessarily Christ’s gospel. We need the intercultural critique. Otherwise we become complacent and self-righteous.

I am proud of a church that professes and tries to be faithful to Christ’s mission, a universal mission for all and by all.

The richness of cultures, the poetry of language, and the breadth of human experience permit the gospel to be seen with new eyes and grasped with freshness of spirit.—Doctrine and Covenants 162:4a

Blind Faith

27 08 2011

by SHERRI KIRKPATRICK, Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

Peter, in many ways, is a typical little boy who loves school and studies hard. He enrolled in the Community of Christ school when it opened two years ago in Zambia. Nine years old and a second-grader at the Young Peacemakers Community School, Peter recently invited me to meet his grandmother, Erala.

As we approached the house, I noticed it was built with homemade adobe bricks and had a tin roof. When I stepped inside, the warm Bemba greeting of “Mwapoleni” welcomed me. I was invited to sit down.

I strained to see her features in the dimly lit humble home. The darkness made no difference to her, however, because she was blind and could enjoy sunlight only through its warmth.

And then the story began. Erala said her husband died eight years ago. About the same time her daughter and son-in-law died suddenly from causes unknown to her. She couldn’t travel to the funeral, so within a few days family members brought 1-year-old Peter and his older brother and sister to Erala.

When I commented that she was a brave and loving grandmother to take on such a big responsibility, she said, “I had no choice. They would have been street children if I had not taken them in.” Adding to the challenges, Erala became blind three years ago. The children now serve as her eyes, doing the things she cannot do.

I could have made a long list of challenges in that family’s everyday struggle to exist. Important things like food, shelter, and clothing.

But I watched Peter snuggle up to his grandmother on the well-worn little sofa. I saw his older brother, Michael, perch on the side of the sofa and put his arm protectively around his grandmother’s shoulders. And I knew love lived in that little home. Somehow the struggles of life seem much more endurable when loved ones surround you.

I doubt Erala suspected when she took the children that she someday would need them as much as they needed her. Many people calculate the return on investment, whether monetary or intangible, before they invest. Few invest with the blind faith that Erala did.

Though her dividends haven’t brought riches or even secured basic needs, she has earned something many long for but never get: a loving family.

A Steadfast Faith

27 07 2011

by Joey Williams, Translations

At the risk of sounding cheesy…my mother is an amazing woman! But I must admit, my perception of her has changed greatly over the years.

While there are many things since childhood I always admired about my mother, I now realize there are just as many things I learned to admire. And with summer camps here, I am reminded of the thing I admire most: her steadfast commitment, especially to our youth.

Not only has she served at many youth camps, she has maintained a relationship with those youth and mentored many into adulthood. The same can be said of the many youth groups she has led. And through it all, she has maintained an unwavering conviction in the faith and presence of Jesus Christ.

And she’s funny. Of course we don’t let her know this. We give her the usual “you don’t have jokes mom, so don’t try” line, but every once in a while she gets in a really good one. Like at the 1998 National Youth Workers Convention in Denver, Colorado.

My mother had been honored among 3,500 youth workers as having devoted the most years to youth leadership. (Whoa! And that was a long time ago.)

Anyway, the convention director asked how many years she had served as a youth leader. My mother (in her usual, shy, reserved manner) proudly shouted the astonishing number from her place on the bleachers.

Murmured approval swept through the crowd, and the director, with an astonished look, said, “Wow! Was Jesus in your youth group?” This brought a roar of clapping and laughter from the crowd. It became even livelier when my mother, without hesitation, shouted back, “He still is!”

That’s what it takes—a steadfast faith. No matter what our roles may be, we must keep God’s commandments, keep our commitments, keep holding onto that steadfast faith, knowing God will have our backs in everything we do.

That is the kind of faith that keeps the deacon in the church long after the crowd has left, making sure everything is in its place. That’s the kind of faith that helps us hold our head up every day in a society where our children are not always safe.

That’s the kind of faith that keeps the youth worker going year after year, without burnout, knowing beyond all doubt that no matter if everything is running smooth, or feels like it might fall apart…God has been. God is. And God always will be…in that camp, in that congregation, and in that youth group.

Can You Feel the Change?

25 07 2011

by Jerry W. Nieft, Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

Something new and transformative is happening in the world—something that gives hope despite the many local and global problems that confront us each day.

This “something” is subtle, yet widespread evidence shows it is emerging in many cultures. My wife and I find examples daily and point them out to one another.

We notice acts of compassion; gifts of grace; unexpected generosity; steadfast, unconditional love; genuine forgiveness; surprising healings; boundless creativity. They’re all signs of people awakening to the Spirit, awakening to the vast potential God has placed in each one. It is especially encouraging that young children are serving humanity. They’re succeeding, substantively and powerfully, where adults have not.

What is happening?

In recent years consensus has grown among researchers in disciplines ranging from religion to the sciences. It shows we are on the cusp of a spiritual awakening. It’s of a magnitude not experienced since the great change in human consciousness caused by new agriculture and settled city life at the dawn of recorded history.

We are on the brink of exploring our spiritual potential at a depth and breadth that suggest joy, hope, love, and peace are not only possible, but emerging on multiple horizons as we open to the Holy Spirit.

Individuals are responding to serve the needs of the world and its people. This looks and sounds like sacred community, something we seek to incarnate in our Christian discipleship.

Recent scripture declares our journey of transformation travels inward and outward. Jesus’ ministry insisted on the importance of a healthy, integrated inner life to gain positive transformation in daily living. The inward journey takes time and deliberate practice to yield the fruits of spirit that transform. Many people suspect this in their inner knowing when they seek spiritual nurture, rather than institutional religion.

Jesus provides keys to the way of abundant life. He says if we ask, seek, or knock at the threshold of life, he will answer. Let’s explore, discover, experiment, commit, and serve. He is showing us the way to be a transformative communion of disciples, Community of Christ.

As a faith community, we are poised, uniquely called, and positioned to be prophetic and transformative. We can join in the greatest awakening yet—experiencing the palpable presence and companionship of God on our journey together as disciples, servants, and stewards of creation.
Paul perhaps glimpsed our time when he said in 1 Corinthians 2:9 IV:

Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

The day is dawning for us to awaken to God’s kingdom emerging before us and in us! What an adventure!

They Will Be Comforted

6 06 2011

Elaine Watsonby Elaine Watson
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

On October 15, 1980, our oldest daughter died, the result of a traffic accident that occurred two days earlier.

Cheryl, 18, had been unconscious and on life support from the wee hours of Monday morning to Wednesday. The medical staff asked for permission to remove the resuscitator after doctors established conclusively that Cheryl had suffered a brain death. The electro-encephalogram tests showed no brain activity for two consecutive days.

Matthew 5:4 NRSV states, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Yet I wondered if I would survive this intact. How could I ever be happy again? I felt I never would smile again. But we received support from so many sources.

Jean Black, a friend from our congregation, joined us in the hospital waiting room outside intensive care.

Many women—a neighbor, a friend, a co-worker—told me their stories. Each also had lost a child. They supported me. One of my patients (I was a visiting nurse) had seen the shooting of her husband and children. And I thought my loss was unbearable?

My mother had lost a baby daughter and a grown son. These examples made me realize I could and would survive this.

My husband, Jim, awoke one morning after dreaming that Cheryl and his dad were…laughing, and filled with joy.

After that we clung to the belief that Cheryl was with her grandfather and was happy.

I received comfort from unexpected people. A supervisor from one of our nursing offices who had no children of her own sent me a note that touched me greatly. The mother of the children I babysat as a teenager in our hometown was awesome. When we went home for Christmas after Cheryl’s death, she invited me to sit with her, and we cried together. She allowed me to talk. I didn’t have to avoid using Cheryl’s name.

Patients told me about near-death experiences in which they experienced peace and felt Jesus’ presence. One patient told me about the death of his wife, who had been comatose. Just before she died she roused and said, “It’s a bright new world!”

I heard these stories when I needed them most.

It is when I look back that I recognize all the support I received. I believe that “blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.”

Holy Space

4 06 2011

Blake Westby Blake West
Topeka, Kansas, USA

For the first part of my 30-minute organ recital at the Auditorium, we had only five people. But then seven more—tourists from Wyoming—joined us.

They were thrilled to be able to sit up by the organ. I was concerned about one rather-elderly woman who had come alone and wore a special magnification visor over her eyeglasses. But she was happy to climb the steps, too.

I played a program of music for Lent with a little cheating. In honor of Jehan Alain’s 100th birthday, I did two of his works, including “Litanies.”

To be audience friendly for some-
thing that gets a little dissonant, I mentioned how that piece starts with a melody/prayer that implores over and over, becomes plaintive, fervent, and eventually leads you to the end of your rope!

At the end of “Litanies,” there was a moment’s silence. Then that sweet lady said, “I’ve felt like that, myself, sometimes!”

It was great.

After everyone else departed, I helped her down the stairs. She stopped me to say that she vividly remembered her parents saving and saving during the Great Depression. They eventually sent a check to the church for $15—a massive amount in their lives—to help build the Auditorium.

I hugged her, she cried. We talked about how her family helped make that organ, that recital, and that worship space possible for generations. Their sacrifice was incredibly meaningful because they gave all they could.

And it was part of what made that space holy.