Women’s literacy grows churches, communitiesDemocratic Republic of Congohttps://www.pjsn.org/news/Women’s-literacy-grows-churches,-communitiesWomen’s literacy grows churches, communitiesBy Lynda Hollinger-Janzen

News

 The latest

 

 

Reconciling the cloudsEcuadorhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Reconciling-the-cloudsReconciling the cloudsBy Jane Ross Richer
Survival Day covenant signed in AustraliaAboriginal peoples and Anabaptistshttps://www.pjsn.org/news/Survival-Day-covenant-signed-in-AustraliaSurvival Day covenant signed in AustraliaBy Travis Duerksen
Coalition calls for faith communities to hold prayer vigils in support of the Indian Child Welfare ActElkhart, Indianahttps://www.pjsn.org/news/Coalition-calls-for-faith-communities-to-hold-prayer-vigils-in-support-of-the-Indian-Child-Welfare-ActCoalition calls for faith communities to hold prayer vigils in support of the Indian Child Welfare ActBy Danielle Klotz
Transforming missionunity through diversityhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Transforming-missionTransforming missionLinda Oyer
Integrity on the mindYouth Venturehttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Integrity-on-the-mindIntegrity on the mindBy Emily Bergey
Life’s mission questioned, transformedListening to African partnershttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Life’s-mission-questioned,-transformedLife’s mission questioned, transformedBy Steve Wiebe-Johnson
The advice you didn’t ask for, but I’m giving anywayCareer Corner https://www.pjsn.org/blog/The-advice-you-didn't-ask-forThe advice you didn’t ask for, but I’m giving anywayBy Carmen Hoober
Mission worker in the Congo shared suffering, broadcast gospelIn Remembrance https://www.pjsn.org/news/Mission-worker-in-the-Congo-shared-suffering,-broadcast-gospelMission worker in the Congo shared suffering, broadcast gospelLynda Hollinger-Janzen
Breath-taking sweetness in the eye of God’s stormBarcelonahttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Breath-taking-sweetness-in-the-eye-of-God’s-stormBreath-taking sweetness in the eye of God’s stormJoshua Garber

 Voices

 

 

Reconciling the cloudshttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Reconciling-the-cloudsReconciling the cloudsBy Jane Ross Richer<p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Many ask us, "How are you adjusting as you move back and forth each year?" We often answer, "Fine." But my more thoughtful response is reflected below:</span></p><p>Imagine that you're seated in a fiberglass canoe, floating on a coffee-colored river that parts the thick forest on either side of you, only days after engaging in the mad rush of the North American holidays and the planning and packing for a six-month trip. You wonder, "How can I allow myself to indulge in such a mindless, peaceful activity, knowing that friends and family up north are back to the grind?" That nagging question hangs over you like a black cloud. </p><p>We have recently returned "home" to eastern Ecuador from Goshen, Indiana, where our church, our community of friends, our oldest daughter, and my elderly parents live in freezing temperatures, protected by well-built homes and offices with heat. While in Goshen, I often awoke early each morning to record my dreams, while teenagers, startled awake by alarm clocks, dragged themselves from bed to face another day of school and other pressures that threaten their very lives. Today, I am having difficulty reconciling myself to my peaceful, slow-paced surroundings.</p><p>As our canoe left the muddy shore for the slow river current, I thought of those courageous, well-dressed youth who would never lay eyes on this jungle. My conscience roared louder than the outboard motor. Like me, you may reside in a prosperous and comfortable community that exposes you to disturbing psychological conditions and over-privileged people who live to work. Then what? What are you supposed to do when you travel from the land of plenty to the land of simplicity? How are you supposed to feel?</p><p>International travelers report suffering from reverse culture shock when they return to their home country. What if you return "home" every six months? After adjusting to a culture of excess, enslaved to clocks and cell phones, I'm suddenly back in a culture of feast or famine that depends on the whims of nature and that wastes little except time. </p><p>I sometimes struggle to find meaning in either the fast or slow pace of daily life. After conversations that seem weighty with eternal significance, it's hard to come back and get excited about sitting in silence, surrounded by people who do not understand me very well, and never seem to ask my opinion. Yet, after learning to be still, it's hard to go back to the analytical thinking and lightweight entertainment I grew up with. It's easy to feel confused as I try to reconcile what appears to be opposing worlds. </p><p>I take comfort in the words of the prophet Isaiah who centuries ago foresaw the peace that would come with the reconciliation of opposites. He wrote of Jesus, the coming Messiah:</p><p>"The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them … for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)"<br></p><p>I have slowly come to realize that I will never reconcile all these differences on my own. God will have to do this within me, helping me to see that a black cloud that looms over me is not always a threat, but can bring comfort and relief in the heat of the relentless jungle sun.</p><p>May the reconciling love of Jesus allow each of us to embrace the clouds that threaten to ruin our days. May the Holy Spirit change our perspectives to one that is closer to God's, one that incorporates many parts into a unified and life-giving whole.<br></p><p><br></p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2019/IMG_0562.jpg?RenditionID=7" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><h4>Photo by Jerrell Ross Richer.<br></h4>
Transforming missionhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Transforming-missionTransforming missionLinda Oyer<p>​<span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">As I enter “retirement,” </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">instead of focusing on</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> the transformation I have seen </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">in others</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">’</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> lives, I</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">’ve been</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">reflect</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">ing</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> on </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">how </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">47 </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">years of ministry</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">in France</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> has transformed me.</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Two words </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">emerge from my re</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">flections</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">:</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> mystery and diversity. </span></p><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"><br></span></p><div><h3><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">E</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">mbracing t</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">he </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">mystery in God’s work</span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></h3></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">When I first went to France in my mid-</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">20s</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">, I encountered a story of an old priest who was asked to summarize all he had learned in a single phrase. The priest replied, “I have learned that I am not God and that God exists.”</span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">“Well, that’s rather evident,” I thought. “I’m only 24 and I already know that! Why did it take him so long to figure that out</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">?</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">”  </span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">But now, I find the priest’s words profound. They summarize well what I have learned.  </span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">How often do we act as if </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">we </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">are</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">all knowing like God when</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">we become </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">adamant</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> that we are right and the other is wrong</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">?</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> What are we implying </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">when we attempt</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> to control o</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">thers</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> and </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">act </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">as if</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> everything depends on </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">us?</span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">I</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">t t</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ook me a while to learn </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">that my </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">mission</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> wa</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">s </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">to </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">be attentive to and </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">discern what God is</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> doin</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">g in a</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">nother</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">’s life and to assist </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">that work</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">,</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">rather</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> than trying to bring about what I th</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ought</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> “should be</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">.</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">”</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> As a young missionary, I had a lot of precise ideas about what </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">“</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">should be</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">.</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">”</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">In time,</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> I discovered that it is when we </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">are faced with</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">situations that we </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">cannot</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> contro</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">l </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">or even understand</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">, that we are forced </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">to </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">sto</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">p acting as if we were Go</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">d. I</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">t is then </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">that the vir</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">tues of faith, love and hope can</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> truly</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> develop</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> in us</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">.</span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">God’s work cannot be boiled down to a process</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> or an assembly-line product</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">. </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">The mystery</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">prevents us from </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">put</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ting God’s work</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> in a box and market</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ing</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> it with our name in bold letters</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">!</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"></span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p></div><div><h3><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">God</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">,</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> the principle </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">actor</span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></h3></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">I</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">n Mark 4</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">’s parable</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">, the farmer is clueless about how the</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> growth</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> process took place. </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">Seeds are scattered on the </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ground</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">;</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> k</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ingdom values are</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> sown</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> in </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">d</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ifferent contexts. The seeds</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> gro</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">w as we go about our daily life. </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">There is </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">no coaxing of growt</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">h, </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">no pushing or pulling. </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">We trust that </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">God is at work</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> deep beneath the surface of our lives</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">to bring about new creation</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">.</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">W</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">hen we become aware of the growth, </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">it</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">remains</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> a mystery as to how it all happened!</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">  </span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">We are</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">all </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">called to partner with God in scattering </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">k</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ingdom seeds</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> –</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">words and actions that bear witness to God’s reign and the new creation. Sometimes the seeds seem so insignificant: a listening ear, words of grace, concern for justice</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">,</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> or an act of compassion. The seeds seem so small compared to the resulting growth. </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">Though</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> w</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">hat we do and what we give </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">are</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> importan</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">t</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">, </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">we recognize that we are not the princip</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">le</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> actor. God is.</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">  </span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">In </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">Vincent </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">van</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> Gogh</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">’s,</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">The </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">Sower</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">, </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">a lonely figure </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">is portrayed as</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> faithfully scatter</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ing</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> seeds in the soil. But </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">it is the </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">huge </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">s</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">un in the center</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">of</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">the </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">painting </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">that illuminates the sky and radiates light and energy. As we go about scattering seeds, we must not forget the life</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">-</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">giving S</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">o</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">n</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">, </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">a source of hope and joy in our lives and ministry.</span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"></span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p></div><div><h3><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">Embracing diversity in God’s church</span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></h3></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">O</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ur </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">congregation of about 40 people </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">in </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">Lamorlaye</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">, a suburb of Paris,</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">is a real mosaic. </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">We have people</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> from</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">about a dozen countries.</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">We are also diverse in our s</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">pirituality</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">,</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> the way we understand and live our relationship with God.</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">S</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ome of us </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">place </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">considerable </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">accent</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> on</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> the Holy Spirit</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">’</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">s power and gifts in the church</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">, as</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> does the book of Acts.</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">Others underline the necessity of working for social justice and caring for the</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> most vulnerable</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">, as</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> does the Gospel of Luke.</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> There are those who </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">put accent on a contemplative spirituality with </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">God who dwells </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">within </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">us, individually and as a community</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">, as </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">does the Gospel of John.</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">Yet others stress a radical obedience to Christ’s teaching and the importance of living holy lives</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">, as</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> does the Gospel of Matthew.</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> Correct doctrine and fighting the good fight to defend the faith</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> are the focus </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">for</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> some </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">of </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">us, </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">following</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> the apostle Paul</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">’s example.</span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p><p><span data-ccp-props="{}"><br></span></p></div><div><h3><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">Relationship of unity and diversity</span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></h3></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">During my church experience in France, I matured in the way I understood unity and diversity. </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">At </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">first, </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">I </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">had</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> a secret desire</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> that everyone should think like </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">I did and relate to God like I did. </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">I wanted </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">u</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">nity </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">without </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">d</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">iversity.</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> It seemed so</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> much easier and more peaceful</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> that way.</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">Later</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">, I envisioned the c</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">hurch</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> as one body that</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> overc</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ame</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> the barriers of</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">diversity, u</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">nity</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> despite</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">d</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">iversity</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">. </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">However, I was still seeing d</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">iversity as a </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">thorn in the flesh</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">,</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> s</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">omething that hindered </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">u</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">nity.</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">I next moved</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> into </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">a more relaxed position</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> of </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">u</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">nity </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">in</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">d</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">iversity</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> and, finally, arrived at unity </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">through</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">diversity. </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">O</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ur differences are</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> not something to be tolerated</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">. T</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">hey are</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> essential to the gr</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">owth of each person and the</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> community.</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"></span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p></div><div><h3><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">U</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">nity: a result of diversity</span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></h3></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">When </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">I</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">b</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ake </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">a cake, </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">I don’t do it </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">despite</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">the</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">flour</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">, </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">or </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">despite</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> the eggs, but rather </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">through</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">,</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">or</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">as a result of</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">the combination of different ingredients. The final</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">,</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> delicious taste </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">comes from</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> the integration of all </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">the different </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ingredients.</span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">Our human tendency is to create unity by erasing differences. We try to transform the other into our </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">likeness</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> or</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> exclude the presence of the other w</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ho is different</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> in </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">culture</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">/</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">theology</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">/</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">spirituality</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">. We often fear differences </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">because th</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ey call </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">into questio</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">n </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">who we are</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">. </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">This can be destabilizing.  </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> </span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">However, w</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">hen God creates unity, it is </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">through</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> diversity.</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> We see unity </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">through</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> diversity</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> in God’s own nature, the one God in three persons. We see unity </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">through</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> diversity</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> in the human body with the diverse organs and muscles</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> making human life possible. We see unity </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">through</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> diversity</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> in </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">The Bible</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">, o</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ne book</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> made up of </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">66</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> books with differ</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ent literary genres</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> and</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> very different authors in </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">different historical </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">contexts. The unity of the </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">b</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">iblical story</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> is composed </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">through </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">the dive</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">rsity of each story</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">. </span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">It is </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">in </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">w</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">elcoming the streng</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ths of each form of diversity that</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> keeps the church balanced and </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">provides </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">checks </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">for </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">potential pitfalls inherent in each expressi</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">on</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">. We ne</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ed each other with our differences</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> in order to grow into fuller Christ-likeness, into the “measure of the full stature of Christ” (Eph</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">esians</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> 4.13).</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">  </span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p></div><div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">I began my mi</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">ssion assignment</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> in France preferring understanding, accomplishing, and </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">a certain</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> degree of uniformity</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> in the church</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">.</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> After nearly half of century of</span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"> ministry, I </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">rejoice in </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">God’s </span><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US">mystery and diversity.</span><span data-ccp-props="{}"> </span></p><p><span data-ccp-props="{}"><br></span></p><p><span data-ccp-props="{}"><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2019/Linda-Louis.jpg?RenditionID=7" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></span></p><h4><span data-ccp-props="{}">Mission Network worker Linda Oyer and Louis Schweitzer lead a class on spiritual direction with Compagnons de Route (Companions on the Way).  Photo by Anne Schweitzer.<br></span></h4></div><div><span data-ccp-props="{}"><br></span></div><div><span data-ccp-props="{}"><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2019/Oyer.jpg?RenditionID=7" alt="" style="margin:5px;width:555px;" /><br></span></div><h4><span data-ccp-props="{}">Linda Oyer, with Mennonite Mission Network in Paris, speaks at a women's leadership conference. Photo provided.<br></span></h4>
Integrity on the mindhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Integrity-on-the-mindIntegrity on the mindBy Emily Bergey<p></p><p>Last year, I took an English composition class. Toward the beginning of the class, I was assigned an essay with the writing prompt, "What trait do you want to cultivate this semester?" I chose integrity – and I have been thinking about cultivating integrity ever since that class. One of the dictionary definitions of integrity is “the quality of being honest; sincere.” I believe that integrity is very important to our faith. To keep our faith growing, we must be honest with ourselves and with God; in order to spread our faith, we must be honest with others. We must be sincere and able to admit that we don’t know everything – and able to move forward with that understanding.</p><p>I was continuing to think about all of these things while I was in Japan, and I observed integrity in many forms at Menno Village. I saw it in the sincerity of communication – the willingness and eagerness in our conversations, despite the language barrier and cultural differences. I saw it in the relationships between our hosts – they all treated each other with respect and extreme kindness and patience. I saw it in the purity of their farming, in the effort that all of our hosts put toward keeping everything as local and organic as possible. It was obvious, even after just the first day that we stayed there, that all of our hosts were extremely passionate about their work, and they seemed to have relationships with their customers that went beyond just selling their produce.</p><p>Another definition of integrity is “the state of being whole and undivided.” I saw this at Menno Village, especially in the community and willingness of the work being done. All of our hosts were so enthusiastic – even with the small things like potatoes. I especially saw this with Aki and her organic rice fields. I saw how passionate she was about keeping the fields weeded, and the wonderful attitude she had about it – even though weeding rice fields is a very long and difficult task. In prioritizing staying local and organic, I see Menno Village living out the "whole and undivided" definition of integrity. They seek to keep their crops growing as nature intended them to, and they are very purposeful about knowing who their customers are and where they come from. Menno Village creates community by being sure to stay connected with their customers and neighbors, and they keep the land whole by staying conscious about their effect on the environment. I want to thank Ray and Aki and the rest of Menno Village for giving me the opportunity to stay with them and learn a bit about Japan and the work that they do there.<br></p><p><br></p><p>**This post has been edited and was originally published on Emily's Youth Venture team <a href="https://yvjapan2018.wordpress.com/">blog</a>. To learn about this year's Youth Venture teams, <a href="/Serve/Youth%20Venture">click here</a>.<br></p><p></p><p><br></p>
Life’s mission questioned, transformedhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Life’s-mission-questioned,-transformedLife’s mission questioned, transformedBy Steve Wiebe-Johnson<p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">After I took an African Literature course, I had a 19-year-old's arrogance to think I could be of use in Africa. I went to Paris, France, for language study in preparation for a Mennonite Central Committee assignment in Chad. But then war broke out. </span></p><p>I became acquainted with students at Foyer Grebel. This hostel for Africans studying in France was a ministry of Mennonite Board of Missions (MBM), a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network. So instead of going to Chad, I worked at the hostel where I was humbled by these brilliant young men who spoke multiple languages. They succeeded under difficult conditions. I had the advantages of privilege as a White American. At the end of my assignment, my student friends encouraged me to go back to the United States and finish university, to get some skills before I presumed I had anything to offer in the African context.  <br></p><p>The Foyer Grebel experience taught me the importance of being relevant in mission, the value of invitation from local partners, to recognize that God is already at work preparing people in whatever context a mission worker may enter, and that effective ministry is grounded in understanding the context in which one lives. These students came from many different situations. There were many commonalities in their stories, but there was not a "single narrative."<br></p><p>Following my time in Paris, I dedicated myself to studying and received degrees in philosophy, international development, a master's in divinity, and did research on new religious movements. While these studies helped to broaden my perspective, I remained focused on what I had to offer.<br></p><p>In July 1989, two months before heading to Liberia to begin an assignment with MBM, I participated in a conference on "Ministry in Partnership with African Independent Churches" held in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo). I presented a relatively modest paper about Mennonite objectives in Liberia. <br></p><p>After he listened to my paper, Charles Kudzerema, a pastor from Zimbabwe and a national leader in Zion Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ, said he was already doing much of what we wanted to do in Liberia. Kudzerema acknowledged the benefit that I had received from my extensive education. He said that his passion for teaching and leadership training would be more fruitful if he were given similar opportunities.  <br></p><p>Kudzerema took issue with mission agencies pouring all kinds of resources into the training of people from outside of Africa to work in Africa. He said, "Why not give the same opportunities to Africans?"<br></p><p>After a decade of awareness-raising that began with the Foyer Grebel students, I was "ripe" for Kudzerema's challenge. This epiphany helped to ground the work I've done for the past 30 years in listening to African partners and their desires for training. <br></p><p>His words constantly remind me that I needed to take a back seat so that African leaders can fulfill their God-given calling. As Mission Network's Africa director, I hear Kudzerema's question each time I make a decision. "Are you willing to put the same kind of investment into African leaders as your organization has put into your education?"<br></p>
The advice you didn’t ask for, but I’m giving anywayhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/The-advice-you-didn't-ask-forThe advice you didn’t ask for, but I’m giving anywayBy Carmen Hoober<p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">It's February and it seems to me this is the month when (like it or not) the world turns its focus to romantic relationships. Whether you're in a relationship, want to be in a relationship, getting over a relationship, or avoiding them completely, everyone seems to have something to say about them.</span></p><p>It occurred to me, though, that most of the literature you find on career and professional development tends to cover stuff like how to network, how to write a resume, how to handle conflict with a coworker, how to ask for a promotion, etc. Unless it's debating the pros and cons of dating a coworker, rarely do you get relationship advice from a career perspective, which is unfortunate because YOUR CAREER WILL NOT HAPPEN IN A VACUUM. It just won't. </p><p>I want to make sure to emphasize that marriage and family are not/should not be the ultimate goal for everyone. I love Elisabeth Eliot's quote: "Singleness ought not to be viewed as a problem, nor marriage as a right. God in his wisdom and love grants either as a gift." In the context of career conversations, however, we ought not to be remiss in intentionally addressing how linking yourself in a lifetime partnership with another human being will impact your career. In fact, one of the most career-impacting decisions you will ever make is who you marry. And, as they say, the best time to work on your marriage is before you have one.</p><p>According to Dr. Meg Jay, author of <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Defining-Decade-Your-Twenties-Matter-ebook/dp/B005SCSCAU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1548706687&sr=1-1&keywords=the+defining+decade+by+meg+jay"><em>The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them</em></a>: </p><p>Young Americans do marry later than their parents did—on average about five years later—and this statistic especially holds true in urban areas. But the United States is still the most marrying nation in the Western world. About 50 percent of Americans marry by age 30, 75 percent by the age of 35, and 85 percent by the age of 40. Even though marriage may seem almost irrelevant, most 20-somethings—male or female, gay or straight—will be married or partnered within about 10 years' time.</p><p>So here are four things to consider if you find yourself at the intersection of Career and Marriage, or maybe just visiting the neighborhood. If you are currently in a relationship, you probably already have some data, which is great. If not, then these are things to pay attention to as you consider what is important to you in a future partner.</p><p><strong style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"><br></strong></p><h3>How supportive is this person of my career right now? How have they shown me their support?</h3><p>The spark or connection might be there, but is this someone with whom you want to talk about your job? Do they have good insights into your work or your day-to-day challenges? Is this person <em>interested</em> in what you do when you're apart? Are they <em>excited</em> for you to reach goals and willing to support you? Financially? Emotionally? What are the limits of that support?<br></p><p>Fast forward seven years: You're married and have a baby. You both are working full-time in jobs you enjoy, although one of you makes a decent amount more than the other. The baby gets sick and thus can't go to child care. How do you decide who uses sick time to stay home and take care of Junior? How do you keep this dilemma from becoming a case of "whose job is most important?" </p><p><strong style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"><br></strong></p><h3>How much am I willing to bend my own goals or sacrifice to support my partner's career goals? How open am I to changes in direction?</h3><p>This is tough stuff – especially for women, who have traditionally been the ones to do most of the sacrificing . . . for a myriad of reasons. When you are in the first flush of love, the strong emotions you have for a person allow you to stretch beyond what you might have previously desired. Such is the beauty and life-altering power of love (and <a href="https://www.today.com/health/truly-madly-deeply-how-love-makes-you-sick-1C9413697">dopamine</a>). <br></p><p>But just like a rubber band stretches and then contracts, so can our expectations once that first flush recedes (and it will). Science generally agrees that the "Passionate" or "Infatuation" stage of love can last up to two years. As those chemicals in your brain diminish and are gradually replaced by what scientists think of as a more realistic or "Companionate" love, you may not feel as open to sacrificing as you were before. There will be times when life throws you a curveball. Are you willing to move to another city for your partner to pursue an education or take a new job? How do you define "partnership?" </p><h3><br></h3><h3>How does this person's feelings/philosophy around having and rearing children blend with mine?</h3><p>You guys, marriage is hard. And parenting is HARDER. Even beyond the years of nighttime feedings and potty training, the road will never be completely smooth. As the saying goes, "Little people, little problems; big people, bigger problems." Once a relationship becomes serious, this is probably the first conversation that should happen. What are this person's hopes and dreams for having children? How many, if any? How long do you wait? Does someone long to be a stay-at-home-parent? Does someone long for the <em>other</em> person to be a stay-at-home-parent? What about discipline styles? How much importance do you place on passing on your faith and spiritual values? How do you each <em>imagine</em> yourselves parenting? Are you open to adoption? Fostering? </p><p>When communication breaks down (or never happens) regarding expectations about children, heartbreak is likely to follow. Our hurting world bears witness to this tragedy, and many of us are still healing from these childhood wounds as we step into the next season of life.  </p><p>Speaking from experience, I knew that I wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom while my children were young, and I knew that finding a partner that understood this value and supported it was important to me. I also knew that there might be reasons that I would either want or need to continue working after having children and I was OK being flexible. Sometimes <a href="/blog/Coming-to-terms-with-the-road-not-taken-">I question my choice to stay at home</a>, but I am ALWAYS glad that these were things we talked about before we said "I do." </p><p>Finally, I can't leave this subject without saying that no matter how egalitarian and modern you hope your marriage to be, it is FASCINATING how, quicker than you can say "flux capacitor," the arrival of children can send your relationship dynamic back to the 1950s. I wish this was just anecdotal, but, unfortunately, the <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01330/full">research</a> also bears it out. </p><h3><br></h3><h3>What are each of our values around money? Are they compatible?</h3><p>It's worth it to figure out what "success" looks like to each person in a relationship. Or maybe forget about "success" – figure out how each of you defines "normal." It's probably no surprise to anyone that <a href="https://couplestherapyinc.com/5-money-problems-in-a-marriage-top-predictors-of-divorce/">money</a> is one of the greatest contributors to conflict and divorce.</p><p>How do you envision handling finances as a couple? Is there a spender and a saver? How will you decide who pays what bills? There are many resources for couples to get a grip on their finances. <a href="https://www.daveramsey.com/fpu#in-progress=0">Financial Peace University</a> was something we did early on in our marriage that was helpful in starting conversations. <br></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">For what it's worth, the best relationship advice I ever received was something along the lines of: "Don't lose sight of who </span><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;">you</em><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> are." This advice speaks into every corner of my life – as a mother, daughter, friend, employee, and life partner. In his beautiful poem, </span><a href="https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/148576/on-marriage-5bff1692a81b0" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;font-style:inherit;">On Marriage</a><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">, Khalil Gibran counsels, "Let there be spaces in your togetherness/and let the winds of heaven dance between you." It is my hope for whomever might read this that, in addition to a paycheck, your career would also be a blessing to your relationship, and that your partner might see the fullness of who you are through the work you are called to do. </span><br></p>
Breath-taking sweetness in the eye of God’s stormhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Breath-taking-sweetness-in-the-eye-of-God’s-stormBreath-taking sweetness in the eye of God’s stormJoshua Garber<p></p><p>We love to hear about new initiatives. Stories of God's people responding to a need inspire in a world that often feels lacking in hope. But, it's not popular to share the end of a ministry. That could be interpreted as the failure of God's collaborative, kingdom-building project. </p><p>However, reality teaches that finalization does not necessarily equal failure. </p><p>When we arrived in Barcelona, our faith community, <em>Comunidad Evangélica Menonita</em>, was operating a residential program for people who had nowhere else to go. We moved in. Unfortunately, the home my family has shared with about two dozen others for the past year and a half will be vacant soon. That closure will be followed by a year of construction and renovations to make the property safe and livable again. </p><p><strong>100-year-old house </strong></p><p>More than a century ago, the house our community shares was built for agricultural workers who tended the many gardens that once covered much of our neighborhood. But those days are gone. Only a few family gardens remain. So, our young, ambitious congregation purchased and re-purposed the house into a residential care program for elderly persons. This ministry continued until 2007, when the church, then operating as the non-profit <em>Fundación Menonita</em> (Mennonite Foundation), was notified that the ancient building, with its narrow hallways, no longer met modern accessibility standards and needed to close.</p><p> What to do with the house? Neighboring faith communities began inquiring if needy, homeless families from their congregations could stay in it, and the Mennonites readily agreed that their house was a resource to be shared. </p><p>People began moving into the 10 bedrooms and, soon, the house was alive again with marginalized folks taking care of one another. There was no structure. There was no vision. And, there definitely was no idea that the house would continue to function in this way for the next decade. </p><p><strong>Without vision, community fragments </strong></p><p>By the time our family moved into the house in the summer of 2017, things had changed considerably. With the coming and going of residents, needy folks still lived in the building, but the atmosphere of mutual care was no longer prominent. We also realized quickly that, without a vision, the volunteers had grown tired as they tried to continue providing a safe place for families. The community had disintegrated to a place where folks just shared a roof. </p><p>Alisha and I did our best to be a positive influence within the house. However, between fighting inertia and dealing with our own adaptation to a new culture, we began to feel helpless and frustrated. The harder we pushed for building community, the harder some of the residents pushed back in fear of the winds of change we were supposedly bringing. </p><p><strong>Destabilization of culture and walls </strong></p><p>As our family's presence destabilized the status quo of the house's culture, physical forces were destabilizing the house itself. Starting near the end of 2017, a large crack began to spread across a major retaining wall between part of the house's foundation and a public walkway. Architects confirmed that, without serious intervention, the wall would eventually collapse and possibly take part of the foundation with it. There is an undeniable need to vacate. </p><p>The atmosphere in the house is currently one of chaos and uncertainty. The residents were told about the impending closure in mid-December to give them time to plan for alternative lodging and the <em>Fundación Menonita</em> volunteers have also been working with residents to help them connect with other resources. </p><p>Our family isn't exempt from the change. We need to find a new place to live during the year of renovation. </p><p><strong>The next chapter </strong></p><p>Even before the crack appeared in the wall, the <em>Fundación </em>had started a process of discerning what God most desires to do with the house. As we dream, discuss and pray, something beautiful has started to emerge. As an organization, there is a shared sense that we aren't hiding in defeat, but rather we are running towards a dynamic future. The new vision resonates with how God is transforming what it means to be a church body in a part of the world where the church as an institution is struggling. </p><p>Our family is sitting in a place of profound bitter-sweetness. Bitter in that our housemates, as dysfunctional as things may have been, have become like family. Asher will no longer have his surrogate grandma just down the hall, or his playmates. The future for some of the residents is so uncertain and we feel helpless. But there is a sweetness: being in the eye of God's world-transforming storm is breathtaking. It's one of the best parts of our lives. </p><p><strong>If you would like to partner with us and our work in Barcelona, </strong><a href="https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/Garber"><strong>CLICK HERE</strong></a><strong>.</strong></p>