The death and deferment of migrant dreamsMigrant advocacyhttps://www.pjsn.org/news/The-death-and-deferment-of-migrant-dreamsThe death and deferment of migrant dreamsBy Laurie Oswald Robinson

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8.1 reasons why a second year of MVS benefits your careerCareer Cornerhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/8-1-reasons-why-a-second-year-of-MVS-benefits-your-career8.1 reasons why a second year of MVS benefits your careerBy Carmen Hoober
Mennonite Church USA ‘Hope’ gathering stresses peace with justicefuture hope https://www.pjsn.org/news/Mennonite-Church-USA-‘Hope’-gathering-stresses-peace-with-justiceMennonite Church USA ‘Hope’ gathering stresses peace with justiceBy Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Mission Network staff
The wound in the wallBorder Wall https://www.pjsn.org/blog/The-wound-in-the-wallThe wound in the wallBy Laurie Oswald Robinson
Witnessing the church in “real life:” what we learned from Martin Luther King, Jr. and MVSAlumni Reflectionhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Witnessing-the-church-in-real-life-what-we-learned-from-Martin-Luther-King-Jr-and-MVSWitnessing the church in “real life:” what we learned from Martin Luther King, Jr. and MVSBy Edith and Neill von Gunten
Mennonite Mission Network exceeds fundraising goalGratitude https://www.pjsn.org/news/Mennonite-Mission-Network-exceeds-fundraising-goalMennonite Mission Network exceeds fundraising goalProvided by Mennonite Mission Network Staff
Border prayers, vigil voice solidarity with persevering migrantsImmigration https://www.pjsn.org/news/Border-prayers,-vigil-voice-solidarity-with-persevering-migrantsBorder prayers, vigil voice solidarity with persevering migrantsBy Laurie Oswald Robinson
Returning volunteers celebrate repurposing of former Hopi schoolHopi school repurposed https://www.pjsn.org/news/Returning-volunteers-celebrate-repurposing-of-former-Hopi-schoolReturning volunteers celebrate repurposing of former Hopi schoolBy Laurie Oswald Robinson
The Mennonite, Mennonite Mission Network launch Spanish-language podcastSpanish-language podcasthttps://www.pjsn.org/news/The-Mennonite,-Mennonite-Mission-Network-launch-Spanish-language-podcastThe Mennonite, Mennonite Mission Network launch Spanish-language podcastLaurie Oswald Robinson

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8.1 reasons why a second year of MVS benefits your careerhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/8-1-reasons-why-a-second-year-of-MVS-benefits-your-career8.1 reasons why a second year of MVS benefits your careerBy Carmen Hoober<p><strong>1)     You just now learned what you're doing</strong></p><p>For most professional jobs, the first year is kind of like drinking from a fire hose. If you have supervisors and coworkers who are understanding, most of the time you'll get a pass when things come up that you haven't learned or internalized yet … which is great, but not exactly fulfilling. <strong>Do not underestimate the personal and professional satisfaction you can experience when you are operating on all cylinders.</strong> Leaving after just one year of MVS deprives you of exercising the mastery you've just developed. </p><p><strong>2)     Increased responsibility</strong></p><p>People in the second year of their placement often say they are entrusted with much more responsibility and opportunity for growth. Whether it's taking on new assignments or leadership, a second year <em>deepens </em>your experience because you have a more complete understanding of your organization's methods and goals. We hope your service experience isn't JUST about building your resume, but more responsibility means more experience, and more experience makes you a much more interesting candidate for future opportunities. </p><p><strong>3)     More value to the organization</strong></p><p>As an MVSer, you expand the capacity of a nonprofit organization who cares about creating a more just and equitable society. That's great! But just because you're a volunteer doesn't mean they aren't also investing in <em>you</em>. The organization provides your training, supervision, and the mental/emotional labor of incorporating you into their office community. </p><p>Think about it from the organization's point of view. When you depend on a revolving door of volunteers, you are probably <strong>most </strong>thankful for the ones who make your investment worthwhile. Staying for a second year means becoming less of a tourist and more of a contributor. </p><p><strong>4)     Establishing yourself in the larger community has benefits on-the-job</strong></p><p>Your placement isn't the only new thing to you in your first year of MVS. <em>Everything </em>is new, including your house, your roommates, your faith community, and the ins and outs of getting around a new city. Even in the best-case scenario, there is still A LOT of transition. And, frankly, that can be exhausting.</p><p>The only fix for all this newness is, well, time. Time spent talking to people after church. Time hanging out at the local coffee shop. Time figuring out the best way to get from Point A to Point B. Time spent seeing familiar faces and becoming a familiar face. A second year in your MVS placement will likely feel more relaxed and settled, leaving more mental and emotional bandwidth available for you to dive into your service placement. </p><p><strong>5)     Trying out a new placement, a new city</strong></p><p>MYTH: To do a second year of MVS you must stay in the same city and placement. FACT: Doing a second year of MVS can give you the opportunity to try out <em>another </em>city and placement (or even another placement in the same location). Depending on your situation, there may be lots of benefits to doing so. Take a look at the <a href="/serve/placements/mennonite%20voluntary%20service">website</a> to see what else is out there! </p><p><strong>6)     Your opportunities to do service narrow the older you get</strong></p><p>I have the privilege of interviewing many retired folks who are interested in doing short-term service work through <a href="/Serve/SOOP">SOOP</a>. A common refrain is, "I/We always wanted to do service, but then you get older and life (work/school/kids/caring for aging parents/illness/you name it) gets in the way." Before jumping straight into the next thing, whether it be grad school, a job, or marriage, consider that these kinds of opportunities offered by MVS are not always guaranteed. </p><p><strong>7)     Two is the magic number</strong></p><p>When you google <a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=ideal+number+of+years+to+stay+at+a+job&rlz=1C1GCEA_enUS828US831&oq=ideal+number+of+years+to+stay+at+a+job&aqs=chrome..69i57j33.10402j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8">"ideal number of years to stay in a job before leaving,"</a> the general consensus (on the first page of results, anyway) is TWO. Maybe it shows that you're not a job hopper. Maybe it shows that you were at some place long enough to actually contribute and grow. Of course, doing service isn't entirely the same as having a traditional jobby-job, but in terms of skill development and building your resume, it's really no different. All that to say: GOOGLE KNOWS BEST. Stay for two years of MVS.</p><p><strong>8)     More time for discernment while staying professionally engaged</strong></p><p>For some volunteers, MVS opens up a whole new world of questions. Who are you? Why are you here? What does meaningful work look like? A second year allows you more time to process, to explore, to self-reflect. If you're unsure of what your next step will be after MVS, then taking a second year can bring much-needed clarity. Young people often rush into jobs and careers and grad schools out of fear and pressure to start paying back student loans or to keep up a façade that they've got it all figured out.  </p><blockquote><p><strong><em>8.1) And speaking of grad school ...</em></strong></p><p>I try really hard <a href="/blog/How-to-decide-about-graduate-school">not to give advice</a>*about this because it's different for each person, BUT if you are in discernment mode with your next steps, it would be far better to do one more year in MVS than to make a financial/geographical/life-altering decision to attend a grad school you're not 100 percent sure about. A second year of MVS allows you to continue building on the progress you've made in the first year, and gives you more time to consider your options going forward. </p></blockquote><blockquote><p>*Apparently not hard enough. Sorry!</p></blockquote>
The wound in the wallhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/The-wound-in-the-wallThe wound in the wallBy Laurie Oswald Robinson <p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">As I peered at the 15-foot-high U.S.-Mexico border wall on the outskirts of Douglas, Arizona, I felt sick to my stomach. Was this really happening </span><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;">here</em><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">, in the United States, in the </span><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;">21</em><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;"><sup>st</sup></em><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;"> </em><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">century? My breath caught as the sight of this immovable barrier hit me.</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">  </span></p><p>The closer I walked toward the monstrosity, the more I saw that despite its perceived impenetrability, slivers of light were escaping through tiny openings in the steel. It made me think of line penned by Rumi, an ancient poet: "The wound is the place where light enters you." </p><p>I was wounded by the presentations we were hearing about past and current U.S. immigration policies. The tightening of our borders is growing the bitter fruit of trauma for migrants and asylum seekers from Mexico and Central America: family separations, deaths in the desert, deportations, and increasingly long and more convoluted paths toward legal U.S. status.</p><p>We visited the border wall in November to engage in collective and individual prayer and to lament. As participants of Mennonite Mission Network's alumni and friends service-learning tour to Arizona, we lifted to God the burden of all we were absorbing about these immigration heartaches. </p><p>According to latest statistics, the border wall has been built along 700 of the 1,900-plus miles that constitute the U.S.-Mexico border. Though it is not the number of miles constructed that gives power to this wall to divide and destroy trust among people groups. It is the psychological message sent to all of us that fear, rather than faith, will rule our lives.  </p><p>Despite fear's shadow, it was the faith of migrants and those advocating for them that cast slivers of hope into my soul and lifted some of the wall's weight. Three examples were particularly poignant for me. </p><p>One is the work of Tucson, Arizona, artist Alvaro Enciso, born in Colombia. He has created more than 900 crosses to honor migrants who have died in the Sonoran Desert. He calls his project "Where Dreams Die."</p><p>"I wanted to honor the deceased … and decided upon the symbol of the cross," Enciso said during a tour group presentation. "It is a Christian symbol of faith and a Christian symbol of death. It is also the instrument of torture used by the Roman Empire to kill people through the heat of the sun and the lack of water. These elements contribute to the death of migrants in the desert." </p><p>"The cross is also a geometrical equation that includes a vertical and a horizontal line — just like the coordinates on our maps where a red dot is placed to signify where a body was found." </p><p>Another example is the migrant advocacy work of Jack and Linda Knox in Douglas/Agua Prieta. For many years, as members of Shalom Mennonite Fellowship in Tucson, they have connected with migrants and U.S. border patrol agents charged with deporting the migrants back to their dangerous homelands.</p><p>At the Migrant Resource Center situated on the border in Agua Prieta, the Knoxes minister directly to migrants and asylum seekers. They befriend officials from their home community of Douglas. They talk with them on the streets and invite them into their home for coffee. </p><p>"Though those of us working for justice may perceive border patrol agents to be our enemies, they are human just like us," Jack Knox said. "In order to survive doing their work, day after day, they often have to harden their hearts so as not to feel all the pain. We hope that by befriending them, we can help humanize the situation for them, and all of us, who live and work in this community that is so beset by tension."  </p><p>A third example, and perhaps the most crucial, is the perseverance of the migrants and asylum seekers. Katherine Smith, border and migration outreach coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee, encouraged trip participants to humanize the border situation by perceiving hope amidst hopelessness.</p><p>"Yes, there are a lot of sad things [that happen here], but my goal is to give you a different perspective," Smith said. "I meet a lot of really resilient people who have come into the United States with a strength that empowers them to flourish despite all the obstacles they confront in our current immigration system."</p><p>I pray that the light of these kinds of stories embolden us to lament, rather than deny, how we as U.S. citizens contribute to this wall of woundedness. May honest reckoning help us to peer beyond the barren steel into the faces of our migrant brothers and sisters who are persevering beyond the pain. May lament help move us to enact new policies that transcend immovable concrete with concrete advocacy and solidarity. </p><p>One tangible way of engaging such peace and justice issues is to participate in an upcoming Mission Network alumni and friends service-learning tour. The next tour, that will focus on racism, is planned for this March in Mississippi. To learn more about how you may join a tour, visit the <a href="/events/Alumni-Service-Learning-Tours">service-learning tour page</a> at MennoniteMission.net. <br></p>
Witnessing the church in “real life:” what we learned from Martin Luther King, Jr. and MVShttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Witnessing-the-church-in-real-life-what-we-learned-from-Martin-Luther-King-Jr-and-MVSWitnessing the church in “real life:” what we learned from Martin Luther King, Jr. and MVSBy Edith and Neill von Gunten <p>Even before our wedding in 1965, we had decided to spend the first years of our marriage in Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS). Several units were suggested to us; we chose to go to the inner-city unit at the Woodlawn Mennonite Church in southside Chicago. It was a decision that completely changed the course of our lives. </p><p>The Woodlawn congregation felt strongly that it was their role to speak out on justice issues and to get involved. Opportunities for involvement were often shared before the Sunday morning service ended. </p><p>As we began to really listen to the people we lived and worked with, we started to understand how pervasive racism was. As we heard the stories and experiences of people in the community, we came to know more about their reality and ongoing issues. </p><p>These were the years of the civil rights movement in the United States. Soon after we joined MVS, Martin Luther King, Jr. was invited to come to Chicago to bring the racism and prejudice of the north to light. Both of us, along with other VSers, Woodlawn church members, and thousands of others joined together in marches through downtown Chicago (often from Buckingham Fountain to City Hall) and in rallies. </p><p>Most of the marches were peaceful, but once the marches spread beyond downtown and the Black neighborhoods, it was a different story. Here is one example that Neill experienced while protesting the housing discrimination in some neighborhoods in the city. </p><p>Dr. King's entourage sent two couples into the Chicago Lawn - Gage Park area, a lower middle-class neighborhood in the city's southwest side, on the pretext of renting an apartment. The area's population was largely made up of working-class eastern Europeans who lived in bungalows and for generations were predominately Irish Catholic. One couple sent there was Caucasian with little education, and the other was a well-educated African-American couple. The Caucasian couple was given several choices to rent; the African-American couple was given no options. </p><p>As a result, Dr. King and his delegation organized a march through Gage Park on Aug. 5, 1966, to highlight this disparity. Dr. King had orders for the assembled crowd before the march began. We were to look forward at all times. We were never to look into someone's eyes during the march because we could set them off on a tirade. We could not chew gum. Women were to be put in the middle, with men on the outside. If we could not refrain from violence when confronted by people watching, we were to leave and not participate. He did not want us there if we could not follow these orders. <br></p><p>Dr. King was struck by a rock thrown by a taunting mob as he was leaving his car — a sign of the violence that would happen that afternoon. Thankfully, he was not hurt too badly and, after being cared for, came to the front of the line to finish leading the march, with police right by his side. He was understandably shaken and told newsmen that he had never been met with "such hostility, such hate, anywhere in my life." </p><p> The night-stick wielding police estimated that there were approximately 7,000 of us there to march that day. We were ridiculed, sworn at, called all kinds of names, and spat on. Children spewed the same hate as the parent next to them as we walked past their house. Some carried Confederate flags. Signs were common: "N***** Go Home," "Wallace for President," "KKK Forever," "White Power," "Wallace in '68," "Washington D.C. is a Jungle — Save What is Left of Chicago." </p><p>We were told that when the march ended at Marquette Park, there were about 3,000 police officers to watch us. As the Caucasian crowd of men, women and children grew and tried to confront us physically, the police surrounded us marchers to protect us from what had become a mob throwing cherry bombs (exploding firecrackers), stones and bricks — in addition to their slurs and insults. I was ashamed to be Caucasian! </p><p> As this chaos swirled around us, we waited for the rented buses to pick us up and take us all back home. When the buses finally arrived, the bus drivers needed full police protection to get through to us. For a moment, I felt safe on the bus, but I was wrong! We had to stop at a red light before leaving that neighborhood and a group of about 50 youth and men rocked our bus and tried to get at us inside. Someone threw a brick through the bus window and hit a man in the seat in front of me in the head, giving him a large gash. The rest of us yelled at the bus driver to go through the red light to get us out of there. It was not until we got into the African-American area that we felt safe.</p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">After the march, we regrouped, and Dr. King spoke to the gathered crowd. He had been hit with a brick on the back of his head during the march. I remember him saying then — as well as many other times — that we must forgive our Caucasian brothers and sisters because they do not know what they are doing. They were taught that hatred, and now we needed to show them forgiveness and not fight back, he said. That is the only thing that can make them stop and think.</span><br></p><p> Those two years with MVS in Chicago made us question the role of the church in “real life:” We witnessed the unfairness of the political process in the United States in regard to its neediest residents. </p><p> The desire to learn more about how we as Christians could affect change and work with people in marginal situations influenced our education after MVS, as well as our decision to live alongside indigenous communities bordering Lake Winnipeg. We served there in a pastoral and community development role for 36 years before becoming the co-directors of the Native Ministry program for Mennonite Church Canada. </p><p> As you can probably imagine, we have many stories of our MVS time in Chicago that made an impact on our life  —<a name="_GoBack"></a> way too many to include in this reflection!</p>
Solidarity and hope are the goals of Nanjing, Chinahttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Solidarity-and-hope-are-the-goals-of-Nanjing-ChinaSolidarity and hope are the goals of Nanjing, ChinaBy Mike Sherrill <p>NANJING, China (Mennonite Mission Network) — By 9 a.m., the August sun hanging over Nanjing, China, had long baked away any morning chill. As part of the group of almost 30 participants from the Northeast Asia Regional Peacebuilding Institute (NARPI), a Mennonite Mission Network partner based in South Korea, we were invited to participate in the annual televised ceremony commemorating the Japanese surrender in 1945. </p><p>We joined about 70 other guests in laying white carnations on a memorial stone to express lament and respect for the victims of the Nanjing Massacre. The ceremony included brief addresses from other countries, including a contingent from Japan who expressed their remorse and longing for peace each year. We filed out along a 30-foot length of newsprint on which we could leave signed messages of peace and solidarity.</p><p>This was the beginning of a full-day experience at the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall (in Mandarin: Memorial Hall of the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders). Beijing (north capital) serves as the current capital of China. It is the country’s largest city and a hub of global exchange. Nanjing (south capital), less than four hours south by high-speed rail, was the former center of rule for many dynasties, and holds insights into the heart of China. Indeed, contemporary Chinese-Japanese relations cannot be properly understood without a visit to the historical museums of this city.</p><p>Nanjing fell to Japanese forces on Dec. 13, 1937. Although often referenced as an event of World War II, the massacre actually occurred during the Second Sino-Japanese War. From that date, for a six-week span, Japanese soldiers killed 300,000 Chinese civilians and disarmed soldiers. </p><p>The horror included looting, burning, torture, and the rape of more than 20,000 women. The atrocities committed against women extend much further than the Nanjing Massacre period. In 2015, a museum telling the horrifying story of the “comfort women” opened on the site of the Li Ji Alley Military Brothel. It was one of 40 such brothels in Nanjing. Estimates show that between 1937 and 1945, more than 200,000 women from China and surrounding countries were “enlisted” by the Japanese military. </p><p>As painful as it is to recount these stories, these museums stand as a remembrance to the victims and serve as a lament with details often not shared in textbooks outside of China. </p><p>The Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum, however, intentionally points beyond lament toward a future hope of healing and peace. In the courtyard a memorial symbolizes the longing for peace in the world, and in particular, with Japan. Well-known Japanese leaders, including former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, have visited the museum, and pictures are displayed of these visits. A broader survey of Nanjing reveals that this museum is only one part of an inspired vision to reshape Nanjing into an International City of Peace.</p><p>In 2017, Nanjing University established an Institute for Peace Studies, the first of its kind in China, directed by Dr. Liu Cheng, UNESCO chair for Peace Studies and NARPI partner. In addition to offering courses in peace studies, the institute promotes peace education in primary and secondary schools, holds international seminars, and hosts many training courses. </p><p>Those courses include the 2019 NARPI Summer Peacebuilding Training led by Mission Network husband-wife team, Jae Young Lee and Karen Spicher. More than 100 youth from across East Asia attended the two-week training. I was deeply encouraged to witness the blossoming of mutual understanding and appreciation among these future leaders in pursuit of peace. </p><p>Part of our debriefing after the day at the Memorial Hall was a panel discussion with four survivors of the Nanjing Massacre. Three of them were toddlers at the time, but one was a 10-year-old. Now 92, he recalled his experience in vivid detail. </p><p>The entire room was riveted by his passionate testimony. In closing, he declared that although he hates what happened, he does not hate the Japanese. He urged the assembled youth to leave hate behind and to pursue peace in the world in order to build a shared future for all humanity. </p><p>Out of the ashes of despair, suffering and sorrow, Nanjing is taking strides to be named among the International Cities of Peace® reaching out to the world with a powerful message of solidarity and hope. </p>
Advent hope and Easter faith: a film review of Emanuel https://www.pjsn.org/blog/Advent-hope-and-Easter-faithAdvent hope and Easter faith: a film review of Emanuel By Joe Sawatzky <p></p><p>Advent hope and Easter faith: a film review of <em>Emanuel </em></p><p>By Joe Sawatzky </p><p>This Advent season many churches will sing, “O Come, O Come Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel.” In doing so, we plead that “God with us” — Emmanuel — may “appear a second time” to complete in history the freedom from evil, sin and death, accomplished in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:28). Grounded in the past, our hope for the future is fueled in the present, whenever we become acutely aware that God is with us. True to its title, <em>Emanuel</em> — a documentary film about the <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Emanuel</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, South Carolina — channels just such hope. </span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"><em>Emanuel</em>, directed by Brian Ivie and co-produced by celebrities Stephen Curry and Viola Davis, was released in theaters last summer and was ready for purchase this fall. The movie tells the story of the nine church members gunned down June 17, 2015, at a Bible study in their historic African-American church by a young White male seeking to start a race war. Through dramatic vignettes, evocative imagery, and compelling interviews, the film places the tragedy in the history of American racism. Charleston was “the premier slave port” through which 40 percent of African Americans trace their lineage. South Carolina was the only original U.S. colony in which Blacks outnumbered Whites, a fact fueling White hysteria about a reversal of society’s racial hierarchy. “Mother Emanuel,” the oldest AME church in the south, was a symbol of Black self-determination in the face of White supremacy. <em>Emanuel</em> also connects the mass shooting to the contemporary context of lethal violence against unarmed Black men, including Charleston’s own Walter Scott. He was shot five times in the back while fleeing a White police officer a few months prior. </span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">These scenes form the backdrop to <em>Emanuel’s</em> main theme — the intensely personal, problematic, and theologically profound process called forgiveness. Viewers are likely to weep with Nadine Collier as she recounts how she heard that her mother, Ethel Lance, had perished in the massacre. In the eyewitness testimony of his mother, Felicia Sanders, we are compelled by the love of Tywanza, who spoke grace to his killer, “You don’t have to do this ... we mean you no harm.” Tywanza delayed death just long enough to reach his beloved “Aunt Susie” [Jackson] where she lay bleeding. </span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Without resolving knotty theological questions, we may find ourselves strangely comforted in the words of the preacher Anthony Thompson. He detected an extraordinary glow alighting his wife, Myra, on the morning of her murder as she eagerly departed for Bible study. “I understood it afterward,” says Thompson, “she was already in her glory.” We may also ponder the testimony of collegiate athlete Chris Singleton. He realized in the wake of his mother’s death that the biblical proverb that had strengthened him on the baseball field that season “wasn’t for baseball.” </span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Each of the above made public and unplanned pronouncements of forgiveness toward Dylann Roof, their loved ones’ killer. This spontaneity of grace seems to be <em>Emanuel’s</em> main point, echoed also in the climactic footage from the funeral of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Emanuel AME’s slain pastor. Indeed, eyewitnesses recount the moment during the oration when “something came over” President Barack Obama and he “began to preach.” Extolling the mysterious merits of forgiveness on display in Emanuel’s members, and following a pregnant pause, a song sprang up, <em>“Amazing Grace ...” </em></span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">For all its compelling power, forgiveness is not presented without its problems. Viewers may find themselves persuaded by Muhiyidin D’Baha and Waltrina Middleton, activists who hold forgiveness accountable for the deferment of justice. We hear Melvin Graham Jr., brother of the slain Cynthia Graham Hurd, resolve not to forgive until Roof can say which of the seven shots fired into Hurd’s body was the one that killed her. We also hear him say of those family members who pronounced forgiveness, “God truly worked a work in them. I am a work in progress.” </span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Graham’s words may best articulate that hope for a meeting of salvation’s past and future, where “the finished work” — “God truly worked a work in them” — holds the promise for God’s “work <em>in progress</em>.” In beseeching “Immanuel” for the “ransom” to come, we may remember the “amazing grace ... that <em>saved</em> a wretch like me.” In expressing our Advent hope, we may experience our Easter faith, that the “one who endured such hostility against himself from sinners” is even now Emmanuel, “God is with us” (Hebrews 12:3; Matthew 1:23). </span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">At once educational and affective, <em>Emanuel</em> ultimately portrays forgiveness as the real presence of God in Christ with his people, rising up, and renewing us in faith, hope and love (1 Corinthians 13:13).</span></p>
Muslims help build church in Burkina Fasohttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Muslims-help-build-church-in-Burkina-FasoMuslims help build church in Burkina FasoBy Siaka Traoré<p>BOBO-DIOULASSO, Burkina Faso (Mennonite Mission Network) — Thirteen years ago, we began planting Mennonite churches around Bobo-Dioulasso, the second city of Burkina Faso. Today, we worship in three locations, with the newest being in Kodeni.</p><p>It began with Ousmane Hié, a teenager from Kodeni, who was forced to end his education due to lack of family resources. He worked for two years as an apprentice to an auto mechanic. My wife, Claire, and I saw much potential in Ousmane, and Claire helped him get back into school.</p><p>Each Sunday, Ousmane and three of his siblings walked about three miles from Kodeni to attend our church in Bobo. Claire helped them get their paperwork in order so they, too, could attend school. These four children were the beginning of the Mennonite Church in their village.</p><p>To celebrate World Day of Evangelism in 2016, we held three evening meetings in Kodeni. Because of this outreach, more than 50 children gathered for worship and Sunday school in a classroom of a nearby public school. This church plant is led by Samuel Traoré, a Bible school student from the Bobo congregation. </p><p>Believing that this new congregation would soon outgrow a classroom, we searched for a plot of land on which to build. As soon as we bought the land, we visited the people who lived in the neighborhood. They are all Muslims, but they welcomed us warmly. They began giving us valuable building tips.</p><p>Each time we visited our new plot of land, we first visited our neighbors, especially the family of the <em>imam</em> whose property adjoined our church plot. God seemed to precede each encounter and soften their hearts so that they were friendly toward us, even though there is much distrust and persecution between Christians and Muslims in our country. Because of our good relationship with the imam's family, we asked if they would guard our construction materials — cement, boards, shovels and wheelbarrows — against theft.</p><p>What is even more remarkable is that when our church members have workdays, Muslim youth come and help us build our church!</p><p>Our prayer is that we will be a church of peace that builds relationships with everyone — without laying aside our distinctive identity. One of the verses that guides us comes from 1 Peter 2:9: "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of the one who called you from the shadows into marvelous light."<br></p><p><em style="color:#808070;font-size:16pt;">Siaka Traoré has retired from formal leadership positions with </em><span style="color:#808070;font-size:16pt;">Eglise Evangélique Mennonite du Burkina Faso</span><em style="color:#808070;font-size:16pt;"> (Evangelical Mennonite Church of Burkina Faso), but continues to serve with Mennonite World Conference. He owns franchises of Christian bookstores and hardware stores in Burkina Faso, and lives in Bobo-Dioulasso with his wife, Claire. </em><br></p><p><em style="color:#808070;font-size:16pt;"><br></em></p><p><em style="color:#808070;font-size:16pt;"><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2019/Kodeni.jpg?RenditionID=16" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></em></p><h4>Steve Wiebe-Johnson, Mennonite Mission Network’s co-director for Africa and Europe, and Siaka Traore stand on the foundation of the new Kodeni Mennonite Church building. Photographer: Rod Hollinger-Janzen<br></h4><p><br></p>