Mennonite Church USA launches “Defund the Police? An abolition curriculum” Church USA launches “Defund the Police? An abolition curriculum”


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From Missionary Baptist to missional Anabaptist Missionary Baptist to missional AnabaptistBy Lynda Hollinger-Janzen<p><em>John Powell, who was introduced to the way of peace by Martin Luther King Jr., didn't give up on the Mennonite church, despite enduring its racism. This story has been adapted from a version that first appeared in </em>The Mennonite, <em>now </em><a href="">Anabaptist World<em>, on Nov. 1, 2011</em></a>. <strong><em>This article includes an example of the racist language Powell encountered. </em></strong><strong> </strong></p><p>GOSHEN, Indiana (Mennonite Mission Network) — John Powell, who has a long history with Mennonite Mission Network and its predecessor agencies, has been "sequestered" for the past 12 months in Ypsilanti, Michigan, with Shirley, his wife of 56 years. </p><p>Although the Powells observe the restrictions that have been imposed to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, they remain active participants at a Mennonite and Church of the Brethren congregation, <a href="">Shalom Community Church in Ann Arbor</a>, Michigan. John Powell, a Mennonite Church USA ordained pastor, is also helping to write MennoMedia's adult Bible study curriculum. </p><p>Powell brings courage, passion, love for Jesus, and 70-times-seven forgiveness to every aspect of his ministry. He inherited some of these qualities; the rest, he said, are a gift of God's grace.<br></p><p><br></p><p><strong>KKK violence</strong></p><p>John Powell walks in ways of peace, though his road has not always been peaceful. Powell remembers his father taking on the Ku Klux Klan — and winning. He also remembers intense anger against the racist structures in the Mennonite church, which he left in 1974, vowing never to return.</p><p>Powell spoke of his father's dignity and daring, as he recounted events that took place in 1948. The senior Powell, John Sidney, sold some lumber, cut on his farm near Hissop, Alabama, to a Klan member who paid with a check calculated to bounce. John Sidney Powell refused to keep quiet about this injustice. When he learned that a pickup of armed Klansmen was headed toward his home to silence him, John Sidney Powell sent his seven-year-old son, John, to the safety of a neighbor's house and laid his plans to welcome the KKK delegation.</p><p>Although young John Powell didn't witness the events, they have become part of his family's history. As the pickup pulled up in front of the Powell home, the fraudulent check-writer yelled an obscenity-studded command for John Sidney Powell to present himself. John Sidney Powell did. He stepped out of the door with composure — and two firearms.</p><p>One of the Klansmen barked a command to drop the guns, to which John Sidney Powell replied, "You better look around before you go any farther."</p><p>The noisy bravado of the men in the pickup died into silence as they became aware of their precarious situation. Willie Mae Powell, John Sidney's wife, stood at a window with her rifle trained on one of the Klansmen. Sons and relatives with guns were poised at each window, on the roof and behind trees.</p><p>The hush was broken as the pickup sputtered to life and backed off the Powell property. Soon, there was only a cloud of exhaust left to indicate that the Klan had been there. A few days later, John Sidney Powell received full payment for the lumber, in cash.<br></p><p><br></p><p><strong>Martin Luther King Jr. introduces Powell to nonviolent conflict resolution</strong></p><p>"I didn't grow up with a pacifist heritage," John Powell said. "It was a slow conversion from violence to nonviolence as I was around people who were practicing peace. I saw a change in people and the mood of the nation when protests were nonviolent."</p><p>Powell was in high school when he first spoke with Martin Luther King Jr. Over the next four years with King's mentoring, he became a conscientious objector.</p><p>"That was one of the things Martin taught, that you could be affirming of those who are your enemies," Powell said. "He also said if we were COs [conscientious objectors], we needed to connect ourselves to a historic peace church."</p><p>Of the peace church options, Powell chose the Mennonite church because of the voluntary service workers he'd worked alongside in three Michigan locations. One of these workers, Shirley Hochstedler of Kokomo, Indiana, later became Powell's wife and partner in ministry.</p><p>"I was attracted to her because of her mind," Powell said. "She and I got into this heated debate about politics!"</p><p>Powell expressed appreciation for Shirley's constant support throughout his various ministries, especially when she was obliged to assume financial support of the family. One of these times was when Powell was fired from an administrative position at the University of Michigan. His offense? Spearheading a prayer vigil in front of the university president's home the night before the regents were to vote on ending their investments in corporations doing business in South Africa.</p><p>In addition to partnering with her husband, Shirley Powell advocated against hunger-related injustice. She was the national chairperson of the Nestlé boycott that unveiled the suffering and death resulting from the company's promotion of breast milk substitutes. She participated in the 1981 Geneva summit, where the United Nations and the World Health Organization began to issue and enforce more responsible guidelines in the sale of infant formula. Before her retirement, she was also the executive director for the Hunger Action Coalition of Michigan. </p><p><br></p><p><strong>Church: Haven and hell</strong></p><p>John Powell was born into a church that has been both a haven and a place of wounding for him. As a child in Alabama, he loved "third Sunday worship," which lasted from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. (His congregation met only once each month because it shared a pastor with three other congregations.) The members of his Missionary Baptist congregation may have been feeling tired from 12-hour days of sharecropping and working in the kitchens of White families. And yet, they were always singing God's praises, Powell said.</p><p>"When I attended the churches of my White friends, they would be singing some of the same good songs my church sang," Powell said. "But when we left, it was a totally different story —we were separated. The same people that were proclaiming God were also cracking heads of Black folks. I'm saying, 'Is this a God of justice?'"</p><p>In 1968, Powell moved into leadership in the Mennonite church when he left a good-paying job as a union organizer in the Detroit area to accept a pastorate in Kansas. Powell's salary as a pastor was less than half of what he had been earning. The conference to which the congregation belonged showed how little they valued Powell's leadership when they suggested that Shirley Powell, who had recently given birth to their first child, get a job so the conference could be spared the expense of the pastor's meager salary.</p><p>"Granted, I was a little radical. I did not wear a suit and tie. I wore my <em>dashikis</em> [West African traditional garb]. I had the pulpit on the level of the congregation and rearranged the rows of pews so they were facing each other. I also organized a reconciliation center on the site where the Wichita riots had just happened," Powell says.</p><p>Powell converted a vacated laundromat into The Brothers' House, a community center where religious leaders could dialogue about race issues.</p><p>Powell's ministry in Wichita lasted one year before he was invited to become executive secretary of the Minority Ministries Council in Elkhart, Indiana. In this capacity, he worked on a document that suggested concrete ways of empowering Mennonite congregations in African American, Hispanic and Native American communities. In 1969, Powell presented his proposals at a meeting in Turner, Oregon.</p><p>"If I thought I had hell before, I had more," Powell said. "A brother got up in the meeting and said, 'If we do what John Powell says to do, the next thing they'll have me out of my pulpit and a nigger in there.'"</p><p>After five years of trying to work within the racist structures of the Mennonite church, Powell was angry and discouraged.</p><p>"I left the Mennonite church, declaring clearly that I would never ever return," Powell said.<br></p><p><br></p><p><strong>Evangelized back into the Mennonite church</strong></p><p>However, over the next two decades, as Powell ministered in several denominations throughout the United States and internationally, he made his way, step-by-step, back to the Mennonite church. </p><p>"I was evangelized back into the Mennonite church," Powell said. "It was brothers and sisters who loved me to death. They invited me to meetings. They listened to me. They became increasingly involved in the struggle for civil rights."</p><p>In 1997, Powell accepted a half-time position as the director of evangelism and church development with Mennonite Board of Missions, while he continued to teach and provide administration for a ministry training program at Houghton College, a Wesleyan Church institution in western New York. For 16 years, Powell served in various directorships and in other capacities with the mission agency that became Mennonite Mission Network in 2002. </p><p>Beginning in 2013, John Powell served Mennonite congregations as regional pastor for the northern region of Mennonite Church USA's Indiana-Michigan Conference until his retirement four years later. </p><p>Throughout his life, Powell has practiced the ministry of reconciliation that he preaches — even to the extent of accepting his Oregon-conference adversary as a brother. In Kenya, during a conference that Powell organized to encourage dialogue between African and African American theologians, he was christened <em>Sebsebe Samantar </em>— the Gatherer and Peacemaker, a name that describes his God-given vocation.<br></p>
The audacity of a radical love evokes change and reconciliation audacity of a radical love evokes change and reconciliationBy Melody Pannell <p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">This year's theme for Black History Month, chosen by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, is "Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity." As I reflect on this theme, the words of Audre Lorde, Harlem-born poet and civil rights activist, ring true in my soul: "If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive."</span></p><p>How I represent myself, identify as a member of the Black Family, and authentically celebrate diversity has been deeply shaped by a three-pronged formation: my understanding of Black history, the history of my home church, and the spiritual calling of my parents to be a "catalyst for change." Within my own identity, I hold the tension of the historical trauma of the racist divide between Blacks and Whites and the audacious, radical love that embodies a catalyst for change and reconciliation. </p><p>I was born on December 29, 1969, to a White mother and Black father, and raised in the heart of Harlem, New York City, between the heat of the Civil Rights Movement and the rise of the Black Power Movement. Culturally, I self-identify as a Black woman. </p><p>I was three years old when the first Black woman, Shirley Chisholm, ran for president of the United States, in 1972. Representing New York, Chisholm became the first Black congresswoman, in 1969. She was also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. In her memoirs, <em>Unbought and Unbossed</em>, published in 1970, Chisholm wrote, "Racism is so universal in this country, so widespread, and deep-seated, that it is invisible because it is so normal." </p><p>Indeed, racism was normalized and so was the belief that races should not mix, especially Black people and White people. That was the worldview that my parents were taught to believe yet had the audacity to change.</p><p>James Farmer founded the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), in 1946. That same year, the U.S. Supreme Court banned segregation in interstate bus travel. In 1947, CORE led a movement called a "Journey of Reconciliation," in which Black people and White people rode together on a bus through the South. CORE sought to end discrimination and improve race relations through direct action.  </p><p>In May 1961, CORE led a "Freedom Ride" on two buses from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans , Louisiana, with Black and White activists. The freedom riders were attacked twice by angry segregationists in Alabama — once outside of Anniston, and again in Montgomery. </p><p>Meanwhile, the Mennonite church in New York City was also responding to race relations. The church created a new space of radical love and beloved community in Harlem. Harlem Mennonite Church, now Seventh Avenue Mennonite Church, was established January 17, 1954, under the leadership of John Kraybill. The congregation was part of a missionary outreach of Lancaster Mennonite Conference, in partnership with Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities. Soon, Black and White Mennonites from Pennsylvania and Black Harlemites fellowshipped and worshipped together, in love and unity, counter to the social and cultural norms of the day.</p><p>My parents felt called by God to serve the community and the Mennonite church in Harlem. My father, Dr. Richard W. Pannell, came to Harlem from Coatesville, Pennsylvania, in 1961. My mother, the late Ethel M. Zeager Pannell, of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, arrived in Harlem a year later. Amid the resistance to racial integration and reconciliation, they married in 1964. In their own way, they were part of the movement that brought about change and reconciliation to the local community and broader Mennonite church.</p><p>This is my family history and the fabric that forged my identity. These are the seeds of change that have been planted in my heart. This is, as the late Rev. Dr. Katie Cannon stated, "the work my soul must have." Admittedly, the work of social justice, racial reconciliation and radical love for all humanity is a difficult journey and a daunting mission. Like many of those before me, I have experienced false hopes, unrealistic endeavors, ultimate failures and a sense of hopelessness. It takes tremendous faith, courage and resiliency to attempt to dismantle the more than 400 years of systemic racism and structured discrimination within our nation, and even within our own Mennonite churches and institutions. It takes the audacity of a radical love ethic that refuses to quit.<br></p><p><img src="" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><h4>This collage represents part of Melody Pannell's family tree. Top left is her maternal grandmother, the late Anna E. Landis Zeager, of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. Bottom left is her mother, the late Ethel. M. Zeager Pannell. Top right is her paternal grandmother, the late Ruth F. Carter Pannell Watkins of Coatesville, Pennsylvania. Bottom left is her father, Dr. Richard W. Pannell. <br><br></h4><p>Two events have encouraged my soul to persevere. In summer 2020, after the horrendous public displays of racial terror and violence throughout the United States, I was invited to co-lead a year-long (September 2020-May 2021) Sunday-school class at Immanuel Mennonite Church (IMC) in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The title is, "A Journey: Jesus, White supremacy, the church, and the work of transformation."<br></p><p>IMC is located in the historically Black northeast community of Harrisonburg and articulates this vision: "to bring together our diverse cultures and expressions in a way that reveals Christ's Kingdom of hope and wholeness in our lives and in our worship." IMC's motto is "Real people following Jesus' radical call to love and service." I have enjoyed engaging with this group of Christians committed to learning together and being transformed by God's love and grace, concerning racial reconciliation. </p><p>Wednesday, January 20, I witnessed the inauguration of the first bi-racial, Black and Indian-American woman, Senator Kamala Harris, being sworn in as the vice-president of the United States. I felt deep joy in that sacred moment, knowing how far we have come as a nation and experiencing renewed hope for the healing journey ahead.</p><p>All this is a result of many risks taken, and changes made: the Freedom Riders' actions; the courage of Shirley Chisholm to serve as a catalyst for change; the racial barriers that my parents crossed in ministry and marriage; the manifestation of the seeds of hope for racial reconciliation that were planted at Seventh Avenue Mennonite Church; and my belief, as a biracial woman, in the power of radical love to change the world. </p><p>This is my destiny. <br></p>
My neighbor and our flourishing life neighbor and our flourishing lifeBy Faith Bell <p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">"Peace is not merely the absence of some negative force — war, tensions, confusion, but it is the presence of some positive force — justice, goodwill, the power of the kingdom of God."</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">  </span><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;">— </em><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"><strong>Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,</strong></span><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;"><strong> "</strong></em><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"><strong>When Peace Becomes Obnoxious"</strong></span></p><p>                                                                                                    </p><p>I am reflecting on these words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this month. January commemorates his birthday, as well as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Recently, anti-Semitism has been on display within the United States, on a grand scale. And much has already been said of the attack on the U.S. Capitol earlier this month. Mennonite Church USA Executive Director Glen Guyton wrote this <a href="">response</a> to the attack. As I think on these events, I reflect on the question asked of Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29). Secondly, I wonder what I can do to see the goodwill of the kingdom of God present here, on earth. </p><p>Snow falling peacefully on both Christmas lights and the Hanukkah menorah is the image that returns me to the question, "Who is my neighbor?"</p><p>I grew up in Northeast Ohio. I went to high school in a diverse area, where a large Jewish community resides. The shopping centers are decorated with Hanukkah decorations. My high school calendar had vacation days in commemoration of Christian holidays, as well as Jewish and Muslim holidays. My neighbors were people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds. Though I have moved away and no longer live in that neighborhood, my neighbor remains all people, as all are made in the image of God.</p><p>To imagine the flourishing life of my neighbor, I think of the example of peace represented in the friendship between Dr. King and Rabbi Abraham Heschel. Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel were both speakers at the National Conference on Religion and Race in 1963, where Heschel said, "The prophet is a person who is not tolerant of wrongs done to others, who resents other people's injuries." Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel marched together on the journey from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. They advocated for changes that would bring about a world in which people could live the abundant life God granted them.</p><p>Jesus spoke of bringing life and life more abundantly in the Gospel of John (see John 10:10). When I hear calls for destruction, I focus more and more on a world I would like to see come to fruition. I dream of a world of less dehumanization, where we walk more hand-in-hand. I dream that we remember we are tied together as one community. In the times when we think of the deaths of those gone past, may we, next, think of how to make way for life — abundant life — for all of those around us. I pray that I will be in step with God and my neighbors, to act toward the kind of wellness that heals division, through seeing my neighbor as an image-bearer of God and walking with them toward a peace where we may live.<br></p>
Witnessing the church in “real life:” what we learned from Martin Luther King, Jr. and MVS the church in “real life:” what we learned from Martin Luther King, Jr. and MVSBy Edith and Neill von Gunten <p><em></em><em></em><em>Originally published on January 22, 2020, this blog by Edith and Neill von Gunten reflects a reality in 1966 that is still prevalent today and has become more apparent during the ensuing months of 2020. As Martin Luther King, Jr. day approaches, read this blog and reflect on Dr. King's legacy as he said, "<em>Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'"</em></em><br></p><p>Even before our wedding in 1965, we had decided to spend the first years of our marriage in Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS). Several units were suggested to us; we chose to go to the inner-city unit at the Woodlawn Mennonite Church in southside Chicago. It was a decision that completely changed the course of our lives. </p><p>The Woodlawn congregation felt strongly that it was their role to speak out on justice issues and to get involved. Opportunities for involvement were often shared before the Sunday morning service ended. </p><p><img src="" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><h4> </h4><h4>Woodlawn Mennonite Church pastor Delton and Marian Franz can be seen in the center of this picture of the Chicago march. Photo by Neill von Gunten.<br></h4><h4><br></h4><p>As we began to really listen to the people we lived and worked with, we started to understand how pervasive racism was. As we heard the stories and experiences of people in the community, we came to know more about their reality and ongoing issues. </p><p>These were the years of the civil rights movement in the United States. Soon after we joined MVS, Martin Luther King, Jr. was invited to come to Chicago to bring the racism and prejudice of the north to light. Both of us, along with other VSers, Woodlawn church members, and thousands of others joined together in marches through downtown Chicago (often from Buckingham Fountain to City Hall) and in rallies. </p><p>Most of the marches were peaceful, but once the marches spread beyond downtown and the Black neighborhoods, it was a different story. Here is one example that Neill experienced while protesting the housing discrimination in some neighborhoods in the city. </p><p>Dr. King's entourage sent two couples into the Chicago Lawn - Gage Park area, a lower middle-class neighborhood in the city's southwest side, on the pretext of renting an apartment. The area's population was largely made up of working-class eastern Europeans who lived in bungalows and for generations were predominately Irish Catholic. One couple sent there was Caucasian with little education, and the other was a well-educated African-American couple. The Caucasian couple was given several choices to rent; the African-American couple was given no options. </p><p>As a result, Dr. King and his delegation organized a march through Gage Park on Aug. 5, 1966, to highlight this disparity. Dr. King had orders for the assembled crowd before the march began. We were to look forward at all times. We were never to look into someone's eyes during the march because we could set them off on a tirade. We could not chew gum. Women were to be put in the middle, with men on the outside. If we could not refrain from violence when confronted by people watching, we were to leave and not participate. He did not want us there if we could not follow these orders. <br></p><p>Dr. King was struck by a rock thrown by a taunting mob as he was leaving his car — a sign of the violence that would happen that afternoon. Thankfully, he was not hurt too badly and, after being cared for, came to the front of the line to finish leading the march, with police right by his side. He was understandably shaken and told newsmen that he had never been met with "such hostility, such hate, anywhere in my life." </p><p>The night-stick wielding police estimated that there were approximately 7,000 of us there to march that day. We were ridiculed, sworn at, called all kinds of names, and spat on. Children spewed the same hate as the parent next to them as we walked past their house. Some carried Confederate flags. Signs were common: "N***** Go Home," "Wallace for President," "KKK Forever," "White Power," "Wallace in '68," "Washington D.C. is a Jungle — Save What is Left of Chicago." </p><p>We were told that when the march ended at Marquette Park, there were about 3,000 police officers to watch us. As the Caucasian crowd of men, women and children grew and tried to confront us physically, the police surrounded us marchers to protect us from what had become a mob throwing cherry bombs (exploding firecrackers), stones and bricks — in addition to their slurs and insults. I was ashamed to be Caucasian! </p><p> As this chaos swirled around us, we waited for the rented buses to pick us up and take us all back home. When the buses finally arrived, the bus drivers needed full police protection to get through to us. For a moment, I felt safe on the bus, but I was wrong! We had to stop at a red light before leaving that neighborhood and a group of about 50 youth and men rocked our bus and tried to get at us inside. Someone threw a brick through the bus window and hit a man in the seat in front of me in the head, giving him a large gash. The rest of us yelled at the bus driver to go through the red light to get us out of there. It was not until we got into the African-American area that we felt safe.</p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">After the march, we regrouped, and Dr. King spoke to the gathered crowd. He had been hit with a brick on the back of his head during the march. I remember him saying then — as well as many other times — that we must forgive our Caucasian brothers and sisters because they do not know what they are doing. They were taught that hatred, and now we needed to show them forgiveness and not fight back, he said. That is the only thing that can make them stop and think.</span><br></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"><img src="" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></span></p><div><table class="ms-formtable" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%" style="margin-top:8px;"><tbody><tr><td valign="top" class="ms-formbody" width="350px"><h4>Another photo of the civil rights march in Chicago, 1966. Photo by Neill von Gunten.<br><br></h4></td></tr></tbody></table></div><p>Those two years with MVS in Chicago made us question the role of the church in “real life:” We witnessed the unfairness of the political process in the United States in regard to its neediest residents. </p><p> The desire to learn more about how we as Christians could affect change and work with people in marginal situations influenced our education after MVS, as well as our decision to live alongside indigenous communities bordering Lake Winnipeg. We served there in a pastoral and community development role for 36 years before becoming the co-directors of the Native Ministry program for Mennonite Church Canada. </p><p> As you can probably imagine, we have many stories of our MVS time in Chicago that made an impact on our life  —<a name="_GoBack"></a> way too many to include in this reflection!<br></p>
Creating a to-be list a to-be listBy Hildi Amstutz<p>​<em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;">Since 1991, Hildi Amstutz has served as a Mennonite Mission Network associate </em> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">—</span><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;"> along with her husband, C. Paul Amstutz </em> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">—</span><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;"> in Paraguay. Here is a personal reflection regarding her senior care ministry.</em></p><p> <em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;"><br></em></p><p>In my senior care ministry, I am discovering this agonizing cry of aging people: "I don't have any say in anything anymore!" </p><p> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">At the same time, however, I am also learning that aging people can move beyond this cry into a peaceful wisdom, by transitioning from the creation of "to-do" lists to "to-be" lists. </span> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> </span></p><p> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">We have the privilege of mentoring young people in the seminary. They are trying to get life </span> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">—</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> and themselves </span> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">—</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> "under control" and learning how to use control for the benefit of themselves and others. On the other end of life's spectrum, aging people are learning how to let go of control. Both of those movements have challenges. From a very young age, we are taught to make to-do lists and feel satisfied with each checkmark made on our list. We have accomplished something! As we move into the senior years, we become painfully aware of how life is more about the to-be list, </span> <em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;">Doing </em> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">comes out of </span> <em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;">being </em> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">the person we become as we walk with Jesus through the day.</span></p><p> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"><img src="" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></span></p><p> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"><span style="font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;color:#7695a3;font-family:cartogothic_std, sans-serif;font-size:0.95rem;font-weight:bold;"></span><span style="font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;color:#7695a3;font-family:cartogothic_std, sans-serif;font-size:0.95rem;font-weight:bold;"></span><span style="font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;color:#7695a3;font-family:cartogothic_std, sans-serif;font-size:0.95rem;font-weight:bold;">Hil</span><span style="font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;color:#7695a3;font-family:cartogothic_std, sans-serif;font-size:0.95rem;font-weight:bold;">di</span><span style="font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;color:#7695a3;font-family:cartogothic_std, sans-serif;font-size:0.95rem;font-weight:bold;"></span><span style="font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;color:#7695a3;font-family:cartogothic_std, sans-serif;font-size:0.95rem;font-weight:bold;"></span><span style="font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;color:#7695a3;font-family:cartogothic_std, sans-serif;font-size:0.95rem;font-weight:bold;"></span><span style="font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;color:#7695a3;font-family:cartogothic_std, sans-serif;font-size:0.95rem;font-weight:bold;"></span><span style="font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;color:#7695a3;font-family:cartogothic_std, sans-serif;font-size:0.95rem;font-weight:bold;"></span><span style="font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;color:#7695a3;font-family:cartogothic_std, sans-serif;font-size:0.95rem;font-weight:bold;"> </span><span style="font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;color:#7695a3;font-family:cartogothic_std, sans-serif;font-size:0.95rem;font-weight:bold;">Amstutz tends her plants as she ponders what it means to make a transition from a "to-do" list to a "to-be" list. She strives to put into practice what shares with others in spiritual retreats and spiritual caregiving with seniors. Photo by C. Paul Amstutz.</span><br></span></p><p> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"><br></span></p><p> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Traveling through the Smoky Mountains several years ago, in a little souvenir shop, we came upon a saying that still accompanies us: "People will not remember you by your great accomplishments but by how you made them feel while they were with you."</span></p><p> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">My mother, Katharina Penner, was a living example of that concept. Her genuine and caring ways attracted people of all ages to enjoy being with her at her life's end. She lived to be 93. People said of her, "If I have to grow old, I want to grow old the way she did." She was an example of a person who preserved her wit and humor, despite having gone through the rigors of World War II, moving from Russia to Paraguay, and losing five of her seven children. Her famous phrase was, "If life with God is so hard many times, what must life be like without God?" After the many tragedies my parents faced, their summary statement was, "God makes no mistakes."</span></p><p> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">As a young married woman, I worked as a nursing home aide. </span> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> </span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">I cared for two elderly women with multiple sclerosis. For the one woman, it seemed as if I couldn't do anything right, and I often left her room in tears. When leaving the room of the other woman, my spirit would feel refreshed. The smallest deed elicited a sweet: "Thank you! Thank you!" She had learned how to be, despite the fact that her to-do list had ceased to exist years ago. She made good use of the one control she still had —</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">  </span> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">to choose her attitude.</span></p><p> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">It is a fact of life: Either you give up control or it will be taken from you. By giving it up, you still can control whom to give it to, be that material possessions or roles in society. </span> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> </span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Neither process happens without pain. Though seemingly contradictory, by choosing to let go, we choose the less painful way.</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">  </span> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">If our values and identity are attached to possessions and positions that can be taken from us, the pain may end in bitterness.</span></p><p> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">In my journey of aging and walking with aging people, I see the importance of "putting one's house in order" and how that contributes to more peaceful days and healthier relationships in the extended family. Once again, freeing oneself of the control over material possessions, in an orderly and fair way, helps to contribute to more peaceful relationships within the family. </span></p>
What am I hearing over here? am I hearing over here?By Alisha Garber for Anabaptist World <p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Anabaptist World has </span><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;">given Mennonite Mission Network permission to reprint this blog,  written by Alisha Garber. She serves with </em><a href="/workers/Europe/Catalonia-Spain/Josh%20and%20Alisha%20Garber" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;font-style:inherit;"><em>Mennonite Mission Network</em></a><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;"> in Barcelona, Catalonia, a region where allegiance to Spain vies with voices calling for independence. With her husband Joshua and son Asher, she works alongside the leaders of Mennonite Evangelical Community of Barcelona, focusing on youth outreach and congregational mission.</em></p><p>People often ask me, "What are you hearing over there about the elections?" What a tricky question. In 2020, news and political commentary are limitless. Whether you're sitting in your recliner in Sunnyslope, Arizona, or typing this article from a kitchen in Barcelona, Spain (as I am), the media you choose to consume determines what you hear — and frames your worldview.</p><p>And yet, here I am wrestling with this question, while also carrying my own baggage of being both a veteran of the U.S. military and a Mennonite mission worker. </p><p>Now, I know good Christian folks on both sides of the aisle politically and, prior to COVID-19, they could have sat next to each other in church. Within my family there are "blue" folks and "red" folks and others who lean Libertarian, vote for the Green Party, or remain independent. And, like a good dinner-party guest, I often decline to comment on politics (declining to discuss religion is not an option, due to my chosen vocation).</p><p>That said, I feel moved to shift political questions like, "Should I vote?" and, "Who should I vote for?" to thinking more creatively about fundamental issues of faith and allegiance. This comes from a place of not wanting to embolden an egomaniacal society that has assumed the role of self-appointed world police, while living an "in God we trust" nightmare where:</p><ul><li>Babies are separated from their parents and put in cages (#MigrationInjustice).</li><li>Tax-paying citizens are still without clean drinking water (#FlintMichigan).</li><li>Folks are living under tarped makeshift shelters as another hurricane season comes and goes (#PuertoRico).<br></li></ul><ul><li>Children of God are suffocated in the street and shot on their sofas for the "crime" of being born black (#BlackLivesMatter).    <br></li></ul><p>"One nation under God"? Well, my God doesn't stand for that nonsense. These certainly aren't examples set by the Jesus I know.</p><p>What am I hearing over here about the elections? I'm hearing about a nation where the power-hungry pursue profit over people. A nation whose peaceful activists are silenced with brute force and whose cries for justice are suffocated by pepper spray. A nation whose elite rise by kneeling on the necks of the Brown and Black folks whom Jesus sought to protect.</p><p>What am I hearing? I try to listen carefully, broadly and wisely. With resources like PolitiFact and Snopes, anyone can discern facts from fake news. Social media can be a cesspool of false information, especially before an election. I implore you to eschew ignorance and pursue truth, with a heart attuned to justice in the name of Jesus.</p><p>Please pray the words of Luke 6:27-28 (NRSV) and carve them into your heart, before it becomes hardened by the donkey vs. elephant debate: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you."</p><p>To make our every thought, word, deed and social media post reflect the character of Christ, we need to revisit the God we see in our world today (see Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). After Christ's death on the cross, we assumed his "second body" here on Earth. We are what remains and have a responsibility to the whole world, not just one country.</p><p>What am I hearing over here about the elections? Let me tell you, the world isn't so different over here. <br>A few months ago, the youth group of the church we serve — <em>Comunidad Evangélica Menonita</em> (Mennonite Evangelical Community) — took responsibility for the Sunday online church service . In solidarity with the political demonstrations occurring globally for the #BlackLivesMatter movement, they dedicated a section of the service to listing the names of people of color who died at the hands of police officers in Spain, leaving space for contemplation and prayer.</p><p>What a beautiful way to shed light on the very things for which Christ desired justice!</p><p>In a conversation later that week, we realized not everyone received the service the same way. One person asked, "Did an adult approve the things the youth published online?" This person went on to say that topics <em>like that</em> have no place in the Sunday service because they aren't about spirituality or from Scripture and just <em>aren't church</em>.</p><p>My response was that matters of justice are matters of Christ. They can't be separated. Both deserve attention and action.</p><p>Similar conversations happen in places other than Barcelona. When one treats the church like a perfect crystal cathedral — only worthy of four-part <em>a cappella</em> songs and perfectly preached sermons that affirm your own lifestyle, while turning a blind eye to the beggar on the corner and the hate speech outside your neighborhood mosque — then one's bound to be disappointed when we talk about the muck of the world.</p><p>What am I hearing over here about the elections? Honestly, nothing I should share. What I can tell you is that I hear the wind rustling the trees, blowing warmer as the summer heat encroaches well into autumn (#ClimateJustice).</p><p>I can tell you I feel a rock drop to the pit of my stomach every time I read about another person of color murdered by those meant to serve and protect (#SayTheirNames).</p><p>I can tell you I hear the young people in my church crying for change, imploring us to try something different after the reset of a pandemic.</p><p>I can tell you I'm listening but not sitting idly by.</p><p>If you ask, "What are <em>you</em> hearing over <em>there</em> about the elections?" I'll respond: "What are you doing about the cry of the Lamb?"<br></p>