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What am I hearing over here?https://www.pjsn.org/blog/What-am-I-hearing-over-hereWhat 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>
On elections: Three insights from missionhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/On-Elections-Three-Insights-from-MissionOn elections: Three insights from missionBy Joe Sawatzky<p>​<strong style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Voting is a matter of urgency.</strong><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> Apartheid was scarcely a decade past when my family began our eight-year sojourn in South Africa. I remember the sacred satisfaction, with thanksgiving to God, of people I knew who voted in that nation's first democratic elections in 1994. For the first time, millions of South Africa's citizens of color secured a say over basic qualities of life previously denied by White-minority rule. In </span><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;">Long Walk to Freedom</em><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">, Nelson Mandela recalled the significance of that day in images of "old women who had waited half a century to cast their first vote saying that they felt like human beings for the first time in their lives" (New York: Little, Brown and Co., 1994, p. 618). </span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> </span></p><p><em>Not</em> to vote, therefore, strikes me as either the privilege of those blind to the freedoms they take for granted, or the resignation of those whom society has long failed. Though societal transformation moves slowly and takes more than the ballot, voting is a first, necessary, and peaceful means to promote dignity and justice for all of God's children.</p><p><strong>The capacity for dialogue should be a minimum requirement in voters' consideration of candidates for office.</strong> Dialogue, or the art of conversation, is basic to healthy relationships. In Athens, the apostle Paul engaged in dialogue with fellow Jews and Gentiles alike, reasoning with them on each of their terms. He must have listened well, for he was able to speak the Gospel through the words of their wisdom (Acts 17:16-34). Ever since, the faith of Jesus Christ has spread by translation, as people from every nation hear and accept the Word of God in their own languages. </p><p>Translation is essentially dialogue, a communicative process that requires common ground to make meaning. As in mission, so in politics, the respect to speak <em>with</em> others — not <em>over</em> them — says a lot about one's fitness to lead.</p><p><strong>Disciples of Jesus "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33).</strong> The kingdom is bigger than any one party, people, or nation, and God's justice is for all. "A Christian Pledge of Allegiance," written by June Alliman Yoder and J. Nelson Kraybill, says it well:</p><p><em>I pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ,</em></p><p><em>And to God's kingdom for which he died,</em></p><p><em>One Spirit-led people the world over,</em></p><p><em>Indivisible, with love and justice for all.</em></p><p>As this "one Spirit-led people the world over" is central to our understanding of salvation in Christ, we might ask ourselves why racism — that which divides the body of Christ — does not rank higher on our list of moral concerns. Similarly, we might ask why a track record of hostility toward people of color does not immediately discredit a candidate in the eyes of Christian voters. </p><p>As we pray with Jesus for God's kingdom to come "on earth as it is in heaven," may we so vote and speak "with love and justice for all."  <br></p>
Healing Mother Earth’s Pandemichttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Healing-Mother-Earths-PandemicHealing Mother Earth’s PandemicBy Cynthia Friesen Coyle and Lynda Hollinger-Janzen<p> <em>In acknowledgement of Indigenous People's Day on Oct. 12, we offer the final blog of a three-part series. Mennonite Mission Network participants outline some action steps based on what they learned during </em> <a href="https://indigenousvalues.org/mother-earths-pandemic/">Mother Earth's Pandemic: The Doctrine of Discovery</a>, <em>an online conference. </em> <a href="/blog/COVID-19-pandemic-grew-from-centuries-old-roots"> <em>Read the first blog</em></a><em> here</em><em> and the </em> <a href="/blog/Despite-Manifest-Destiny-Indigenous-cultures-have-survived"> <em>second blog here</em></a><em>.</em></p><p>As women who have committed our lives to following Jesus Christ, we desire to refute the <a href="/blog/Despite-Manifest-Destiny-Indigenous-cultures-have-survived">Doctrine of Christian Discovery</a> as a twisted biblical interpretation that is motivated by greed and lust for power. Some of our ancestors moved onto Indigenous lands after forced removals by the U.S. government. How do we start walking upstream against the current of the long history of our Mennonite denomination's blind cooperation with the U.S. government?</p><p> <strong>Learn. </strong>By listening to narratives from cultures whose voices have been suppressed, we can gain a broader and truer perspective. </p><ul><li>Listen to presentations from <a href="https://indigenousvalues.org/mother-earths-pandemic/">Mother Earth's Pandemic: The Doctrine of Discovery</a> available <a href="https://www.youtube.com/c/IndigenousValuesInitiative?utm_source=%27newsletter%27&utm_medium=%27email%27&utm_campaign=%27Follow-up+to+Mother+Earth%27s+Pandemic:+The+Doctrine+of+Discovery+conference%27">here</a>.</li><li>In <em> <a href="https://www.ivpress.com/unsettling-truths"> Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery</a></em>, Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah shed light on how a dysfunctional theology led to an unholy blending of church and state. The result is lying, greed, theft of land, and genocide that results in trauma to Indigenous Peoples, the descendants of enslaved Africans, and White people. Charles and Rah also point the way toward healing. </li><li> <a href="https://dofdmenno.org/">Anabaptist Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition's website</a> offers educational resources.</li><li>Read books by Indigenous authors, like <a href="https://bookshop.org/books/braiding-sweetgrass/9781571313560">Braiding Sweetgrass</a> and <a href="https://fulcrum.bookstore.ipgbook.com/pagans-in-the-promised-land-products-9781555916428.php?page_id=21">Pagans in the Promised Land</a>. </li><li>Participate in a pilgrimage such as, the <a href="/blog/Shodah-Walking-the-Trail-of-Death">Trail of Death</a> to gain a perspective of the encounters between Indigenous Peoples and White settler colonialism that aren't covered in most history books.</li></ul><p> <strong>Acknowledge the truth.</strong> Many Mennonite congregations are writing <a href="https://dofdmenno.org/land-acknowledgement/">land acknowledgments</a>, recognizing the people who lived where they now worship, as a starting point for moving toward justice and right relationships with Indigenous brothers and sisters.</p><p> <strong>Lament.</strong><strong> </strong>"Our only path to healing is through lament and learning how to accept some very unsettling truths," write the authors of <a href="https://www.ivpress.com/unsettling-truths"> <em>Unsettling Truths</em></a><em>.</em> </p><ul><li>Charles and Rah introduce the concept of White trauma. "White America could not perpetrate five hundred years of dehumanizing injustice without traumatizing itself…we are called to an equality in our mutual brokenness and trauma…Institutions established by [White people] are so ashamed of their own past that they are unable to even publish accurate history."</li><li> <a href="https://www.mennoniteusa.org/menno-snapshots/lament-violence-of-racism/">Lament resources</a> compiled by Mennonite Church USA.</li></ul><p> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> <strong>Co</strong></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"><strong>nnect with the earth and the global community.</strong> </span> <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">In her presentation at the Mother Earth Pandemic conference, Tina Nagata from Te Ika a Maui (New Zealand) said that her ancestors were ocean people, living in harmony with water. "Before there was land, there was water," Nagata said. "Our bodies are made of 60 percent water." She explained that water is intended to be a connector that gives life. People travel from one community to another via water. However, the Doctrine of Christian Discovery has made rivers and oceans into boundary lines that divide people. "Water loves us," Nagata said. "She is waiting for enough of us to recognize her, so we can connect around the world."</span></p><p> <strong>Do justice. </strong>In James 1:22-24, the Bible tells us to not just hear the truth, but to act on what we hear. "…whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God… and sticks with it, … that person will find delight and affirmation in the action."</p><ul><li>Join a <a href="https://www.facebook.com/dismantlediscovery/">coalition of Anabaptist people of faith working to dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery</a>.</li><li>Consider <a href="https://dofdmenno.org/2019/09/10/reparations-an-atonement-connection/">the theology of land reparation</a> and its <a href="https://dofdmenno.org/2018/11/27/one-small-step-toward-reparations/">implementation</a>.</li><li>Speak out against <a href="/news/Coalition-calls-for-faith-communities-to-hold-prayer-vigils-in-support-of-the-Indian-Child-Welfare-Act">unjust laws and practices</a>.</li><li>Practice <a href="https://mennocreationcare.org/">creation care</a>. <em>Haudenosaunee</em> tradition factors the cost to our planet for the next seven generations into decision-making. </li><li>Play <a href="https://doctrineofdiscoverymenno.files.wordpress.com/2019/09/ddofd-catan-handout-frontback.pdf">new games</a>.</li><li>Watch a movie about <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Spirit-Game-Nation-Oren-Lyons/dp/B071758P96/ref=sr_1_1?crid=MFWNM7AUTDS6&dchild=1&keywords=spirit+game+pride+of+a+nation&qid=1600873925&s=instant-video&sprefix=spirit+game+pr%2cprime-instant-video%2c171&sr=1-1-catcorr">Iroquois Nations Lacrosse Team</a> and listen to a podcast about the <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/10/01/917033527/ireland-lacrosse-bows-out-of-2022-world-games-so-iroquois-nationals-can-play">2022 World Games</a>. </li></ul>
Reflections on a life of ministry in Venezuelahttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Reflections-on-a-life-of-ministry-in-VenezuelaReflections on a life of ministry in VenezuelaBy Linda Shelly <p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">I looked at my phone early on the morning of Aug. 5 and saw that Pastor Erwin Mirabal, president of the church conference </span><a href="/partners/Asociación%20Civil%20Red%20de%20Misiones%20Menonita%20de%20Venezuela" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;font-style:inherit;"><em>Red de Misiones Menonita de Venezuela</em></a><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">, had died of COVID-19. We had been praying for him for two weeks. His condition was stable the day before. His death was a shock for many.</span></p><p>The global pandemic is peaking later in Latin America than most other regions. Reports coming to Mennonite Mission Network told of economic hardship; pandemic restrictions stopped people from working as day laborers or selling in the streets. Mission Network supported partner churches have been reaching out to help the most vulnerable people with food. </p><p>Now, as the virus spreads more rapidly in Latin America, prayer chains are active for people who are sick, and we mourn deaths together with partners. Mission Network relates with Venezuela through a partnership including <em>Iglesia Cristiana Menonita de Colombia (IMCOL)</em> and Central Plains Mennonite Conference (CPMC).<br></p><p>We have made partnership visits together in Venezuela since 2013. Colombian leaders have known Erwin much longer. On Aug. 13, we were among those who gathered on Zoom to record tributes for Erwin for the Spanish podcast <em><a href="https://themennonite.org/the-latest/merienda-menonita-podcast/">Merienda Menonita</a>.</em></p><p><span style="background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;"><strong>Sharing our reflections helped our healing process. I have translated some excerpts of the testimonies, beginning with an introduction given by Peter Stucky of Colombia.</strong></span></p><p>As a young man in the 1980s, Erwin traveled to a workshop taught by John Driver in Colombia. (Driver served with Mennonite Board of Missions, a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network.) Erwin didn't understand much at first. But he kept reading Driver's writings, which led him to passionately embrace and practice the Sermon on the Mount. He sought more opportunities to study, and the <em>Seminario Bíblico Menonita de Colombia</em> under Alix Lozano's leadership developed seminary education in Venezuela. Erwin guided students in developing churches, and soon the <a href="/Impact/locations/Latin%20America/Venezuela">Venezuela Partnership </a>was formed.</p><p><strong>Erwin inspired many people in Venezuela and beyond, as these testimonies demonstrate:</strong> </p><ul><li>Lozano and Ricardo Esquivia had long-term relationships with Erwin. Ricardo Esquivia said, "I met Erwin about 25 years ago. …  It really impacted me to visit Venezuela again last year and experience above all the commitment that he had for his people, his place, his country. He expressed the hope that something would change, that it was going to change." <br>Lozano said, "My memory of Erwin is the fascination he felt for Anabaptism. He found in following Jesus his reason for being and his practice of life. Another aspect that was very challenging was his practical living with the most marginalized people in society through forming humble faith communities, such as Isla Margarita and then in Caracas .... I would like to bring to memory the words of Hans Denck, 'No one can truly know Christ unless they follow him in life.' I think this is a description of Erwin Mirabal."<br></li><li><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Holly Blosser Yoder, who coordinates CPMC's involvement, </span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">shared, "I saw Erwin as a type of Paul the apostle … </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;">traveling </span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">among groups of believers, teaching them and encouraging them, building up their fellowships, empowering them for compassionate ministry and service in their communities."</span><br></li><li>Now with Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, David Boshart traveled three times to Venezuela in his former CPMC role. He said, "I was impressed with Erwin's humility combined with his entrepreneurial vision. This unusual combination of gifts has been a key factor in the amazing growth of the food grinding enterprise, the cooperative games for peace ministry, and, most importantly, the seminary program. I was always impressed by the way Erwin modeled humble, servant leadership and the obvious respect everyone in the church held for him and the way they listened intently when he did speak."</li><li>Carlos Moreno coordinates the IMCOL missions committee. He said, "Something that I always liked about my brother Erwin was his respectful way of saying things. I also liked his loving and tender way with his community, his family, and all the people who were close to him. … At some point we were talking about whether he had the intention, or if he wanted to leave Venezuela due to the difficult situation and have the possibility of coming to Colombia. He told me, 'Well, my place, the place where God has called me, is here, and this is my community. These are my brothers and sisters whom I want to accompany and serve.'"</li><li>Oscar Herrera, who also visited Venezuela representing the IMCOL missions committee, said, "Erwin was convinced that Anabaptist Mennonite theology is relevant in this historical moment in Venezuela amid the violence that began in this time of crisis in this country … He considered that sitting at the table as Jesus did with his disciples was a blessing, like a privilege and a miracle before the Lord, a joy, a celebration."<br><br>Since Erwin's death, Mission Network has continued to accompany the people of the churches in Venezuela. His wife, Haydee Vegas, talks about their deep desire to continue despite the pain of loss. Their daughter, Helena Mirabal, shared, "Seeking Jesus is the best way. Outside of him there is nothing, not even in moments of pain and affliction. During the most terrible thing we can be going through, Jesus is there; he is always there. With human hands and feet."<br><br></li></ul>
John Lewis made me feel like an honored guesthttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Honored-guestJohn Lewis made me feel like an honored guestBy Wil LaVeist <p><em>In 2015, Wil LaVeist interviewed John Lewis for his radio show. Listen to the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GF-5E9_zdFA">full interview here</a>. Congressman Lewis wrote  <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/30/opinion/john-lewis-civil-rights-america.html">this essay </a> a few days before his death and planned for it to be published on the day of his funeral.</em></p><p>​</p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">"Get in good trouble."</span></p><p>Count me among those who will personally remember this encouraging phrase spoken by the late Congressman John Lewis, my brother.</p><p>After a battle with pancreatic cancer, Lewis, who at age 23 was getting into good trouble with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders, went home to the Lord on June 17. He was 80.</p><p>Back in 2015, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GF-5E9_zdFA">I was honored to interview Lewis</a> for my talk radio show in Hampton, Virginia, when he came to Hampton University as the commencement speaker. We recorded as we sat together in his guest quarters on the campus.</p><p>The interview was wide-ranging. From Lewis growing up poor in rural Alabama, to being inspired by Rosa Parks and King, to joining the Southern Freedom Movement, to serving in Congress. We talked about the ongoing battle against racial terror and police brutality against Black people. As Lewis recalled the impact <a href="https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-death-of-emmett-till">the murder of Emmet Till</a> had on him as a boy, I thought of the trauma <a href="https://www.randyevansscholarship.org/about-randy">the killing of Randolph Evans</a> near my neighborhood had on me growing up.</p><p>The interview was a month after <a href="https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/federal-officials-decline-prosecution-death-freddie-gray">the killing of Freddie Gray at the hands of Baltimore police.</a> Tensions were high then too across America. Lewis talked honestly about the role, challenges and shortcomings of Black politicians in fighting on behalf of Black people.</p><p>"We all must do more," Lewis said. "Baltimore today, yesterday it's Ferguson, tomorrow it will be some other place. It's a wakeup call for Black leadership."</p><p>How prophetic Lewis was then. America today wrestles yet again with why unarmed Black lives are too often taken at the hands of White police — Breonna Taylor in Louisville, George Floyd in Minneapolis, and others.</p><p>"It is very painful to see that on one hand we have come such a distance," Lewis said. "We've made progress, but on another hand, we slide backward."</p><p>He talked about the need for nonviolent direct-action workshops across the nation to teach young people how to wage a "nonviolent revolution." He expressed great optimism in seeing Black and White young people, particularly high school and college students, out in the streets protesting. Out getting in good trouble like Lewis did when he was young.</p><p>I shared Lewis's optimism then, and again recently, as part of a racially diverse crowd of nonviolent protestors <a href="https://dbknews.com/2020/06/08/pg-county-protest-black-lives-matter-george-floyd-photo/">gathered at National Harbor</a> just outside of Washington, D.C., to march against racism and police brutality. I witnessed sincere White sisters and brothers who had the spirit of <a href="https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/slain-civil-rights-workers-found">Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner</a>; young men who believed so deeply in their shared humanity and equality with Black people that they willingly put their own White lives on the line.</p><p>It was a stark contrast to what can often be observed online, particularly on social media, as people post and click their activism from behind the comfort and anonymity of computer screens. One's position on #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) has become a litmus test for progressive and conservative street-cred, depending on your side of the political spectrum. Does supporting BLM essentially mean proclaiming, "Black lives matter, too," or are you instead affirming allegiance to the activist organization <a href="https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe/">Black Lives Matter Global Network</a> and all its beliefs? Or is BLM just the latest cause <em>célèbre</em> to market, monetize, and/or debate <em>ad nauseam</em>?</p><p>Most people of African descent in the United States and throughout the diaspora, view debating whether to state that "Black Lives Matter" as absurd and inherently racist. We've long known that our lives matter and have always mattered. We live it every day.</p><p>BLM is the modern iteration in the ongoing struggle for Black liberation, justice and equality. BLM is civil rights marchers holding signs proclaiming, "I Am A Man" and "Freedom Now." BLM is "Black Power" and "Black is beautiful."</p><p>I know Lewis would agree.</p><p>As we concluded the interview, Lewis said, "We must never ever give up. Our struggle is a struggle of a lifetime, and each generation must play a role and do its part."</p><p>After turning off my recorder, I tried to leave to allow Lewis his privacy and to eat his lunch. He wouldn't let me go so quickly. He invited me to stay and eat. Here I was honored to meet him, and he was treating me like the honored guest.</p><p>We talked for another 30 minutes about life. An ordained minister, Lewis shared that he delivered his first public sermon at age 15. He expressed his love of Jesus who had sustained him over the years.</p><p>My brother, John Lewis, told me to not worry when I get in "good trouble" because God would never leave me, nor forsake me.<br></p><p><br></p>
Losing control to a camping critterhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Losing-control-to-a-camping-critterLosing control to a camping critterBy Laurie Oswald Robinson <p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Rustling and scrunching woke me up at 2 a.m. during a Colorado camping trip. I groggily reached for my flashlight and shone it towards the ruckus. The feeble ray revealed nothing, though I was "fairly certain" it wasn't a bear. Camping near residential Boulder at the foot of the mountains could not possibly yield that wild drama, could it? I wasn't looking for it in any case, as I was taking vacation to escape the adrenaline rushes of my Mennonite Mission Network editor job.</span></p><p>Though I tried to calm myself, I was unnerved. However, the sounds soon ceased. So tired after my long trek from the Kansas prairies, I warily took no noise to be good silence, and I went back to sleep.  </p><p>The next morning, I awoke at 5:30 a.m. to the first hints of sun rousing the geese on the glassy pond at St. Vrain State Park. In contrast to this pastoral image was the ravaged mess of my food supply. I figured a raccoon got a free meal. </p><p>Most notable was the package that held my beloved Ghirardelli dark chocolate squares. Not one dot of the exquisite morsels remained — only the wrappers! A few feet away were gnawed-off chips of a sweet potato. A mouth-sized hole was gnawed into a plastic carrier that held my spices, tableware and fruit. Two banana peels laid limp and forgotten on the grass. </p><p>The scene flooded me with shame. I should have protected my food stuffs in the trunk. I should have forged better boundaries between what was mine to eat and what was mine to share. I should have known that in the wilds, it is the survival of the fittest. </p><p>My first takeaway: If you want your chocolate all to yourself, hide it and horde it. </p><p>My second takeaway emerged when I reflected on a writing team meeting several months earlier. It's when I agreed to write a blog for Give Something Away Day, celebrated in the U.S. on July 15. I did not know then that I would share a pond picnic against my will. I envisioned writing something far loftier. More spiritual. Perhaps how I strive to give something away every day on the job — the healing and hope of Jesus in collaboration with our partners around the world. </p><p>I have chosen to serve where I can give away with prodigal generosity what I have received — God's abundant love, joy and peace. And yet, after the chocolate fiasco, I realize how much my giving is invisibly threaded through with a sense of control. I choose at work or home or church how much I give, and when. That power of choice is so unlike the feeling of vulnerability that flooded me at the critter crime scene. </p><p>As I traveled home eight hours east on I-70, I reflected on how a sense of loss of control has predominated the COVID-19 lockdown for people of all cultures around the world. Protests have arisen over how the pandemic has more deeply affected Black and Brown people. They are demonstrating their inherent dignity of empowerment by protesting systemic racism. Their courage has caused me as a White person to examine the unfettered entitlements in arenas of choice and control that have been mine: where and how I live, give and share. People who aren't born into the dominant culture don't share these automatic privileges.</p><p>Telling a hungry raccoon story seems a bit silly during this very serious summer. And I don't want the metaphor to get muddled, suggesting that the raccoon is a symbol for protestors. For me, that raccoon provided a wakeup call to examine issues of power and control. The incident exposed how much I want control in the sharing of my gifts with others. So, this July 15 — while I know I can't humanly, or even wisely, relinquish all my responsibility for balanced self-care — I want to give away an unhealthy sense of <em>entitlement</em> to control. To unfurl some of my tight-fisted grasp of the White privileges that have been mine without question, even before I took my first breath after birth.</p><p>I confess that I still grieve not having that chocolate bedtime snack by a snapping fire, beneath twinkling stars. I so wish I could say that I gave those sweets away, but I didn't. They were taken. The good news? I lost my sugary treat, but I returned home with something far healthier: a bittersweet sliver of self-understanding. <br></p>