Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fleeces for Bolivian Church Women

In pink with the blue stole, Justina inspects fleeces and barters with vendors.
(Photo by Deborah Rissing)
I couldn’t help thinking of the nursery rhyme, Baa, baa, black sheep, as we shopped last week for sheep, alpaca, and llama fleeces. Instead of three bags full, we bought nine whole alpaca fleeces and two complete sheep skins for a total of about $40 US dollars.

It’s shearing time here. Once a year, farmers shear their wooly animals, and take the bales of fleece to a huge market at Kasani, a small border town that straddles Peru and Bolivia. We could have walked the eight kilometers (about four miles) from our home, but because of the massive crowds and the bulky wool, we took a minibus both ways – for about 60 cents round trip!

Textile lovers that we are, we were thrilled to learn of this market and to be able to shop there with an expert in natural fibers. Justina, Pastor Juan Paz’s wife, who taught us a lot about shopping for alpaca and sheep’s wool.

There were literally acres of alpaca, llama, and sheep fleeces and hides. They were sold raw, fresh off the animal, burs, grass bits, and dirt intact. The price per pound hinged on quality – length of fibers, and absence of knots and tangles -- and ranged from $3 to $5. By the way, the kinkier wool from the two sheep fleeces we bought, one black and one white, will be blended with the alpaca fibers during spinning to add strength.

We bought all this alpaca and wool for the women of the five Bolivian churches we serve. They’ll clean the fleeces by hand, spin it into yarn, then crochet or knit scarves, hats, stoles, slippers, leg warmers, baby clothes, hacky sack balls … for you!

When we return to the States, from November 20th to December 27th, we’ll be selling all sorts of natural-fiber, hand-made, wearable art. (To learn more, read Debbie's Blog published at her home church, the First United Methodist Church in Downers Grove in Illinois. Watch for more details in her posts there.)

Money raised in this effort will go toward the church goal of raising 20 percent, or $5,000, to help build a residential center for abandanados, extremely poor people abandoned by their families; usually these are seniors too old to work, but often children are abandoned.

This post was written by Deborah Rissing (photo courtesy of D. Rissing) and Jeffrey Wasilevich, long term Individual Volunteers, who began their two years of volunteer servie earlier in 2011. They work with Mision Fronteras in the Lake Titicaca region of Peru and Bolivia. 

To view a short video of their work, link through YouTube at Mision Fronteras.

Find out how you can serve as an Individual Volunteer through the General Board of Global Ministries.

Give to Individual Volunteers Making A Difference.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Constantly Learning and Sharing

At ARI (Asian Rural Institute) the struggle continues. We learned this past week the pork and chicken that we recently butchered shows traces of radiation. While the level of contamination is far, far, far below the government standards, it is still contaminated. As a school, we have decided to eat the meat.

This incident is another reminder that our decision to continue ministry in this area is not something to be taken lightly, but in fact is a difficult one that we must constantly ponder. It also reminds us that much of our ministry right now is simply about being here and continuing life here in this place at this time.

This reflection is from Satomi McClurey, who with her husband, missionary Jonathan McClurey, ministers with the people at the Asian Rural Institute (ARI) in  Northern Japan. (Photo courtesy of the McClureys)
Although troubles are coming and we have plenty of reasons to run, we continue to be here. I think I’m slowly beginning to understand incarnational ministry through this experience.

As we have joined with local people to work on ways to clean up the radiation and take back our community from the fear of the unknown, we must believe that people not only here but around Japan are being blessed; that a physical manifestation of God’s presence, of the good news, is being witnessed. These are the channels through which the gospel of Jesus Christ can then flow, giving the full good news of salvation through God’s grace in God's time.

At the same time, we are being encouraged to go forward...

To read more of the McCurleys' reflections, visit their blog at: http://proverbs169.wordpress.com

To support the missionary work of Jonathan McCurley, link to: http://new.gbgm-umc.org/work/missionaries/biographies/index.cfm?action=results&key=2&criteria=mccurley&Submit=Go

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Palestinian Christian Remembers 9-11

Rev. Alex Awad, Global Ministries mission worker, reflects on hearing the news from New York ten years ago on the streets of Jerusalem. (Photo by Mike DuBose)
On September 11, 2001, my son and I were walking along one of the narrow streets of East Jerusalem when suddenly we began to hear voices coming from here and there. One voice said, "America is attacked!" Another said, “Take a look at the TV; New York is under attack!”  

Thanks to modern technology, people in shops in Jerusalem and in Bethlehem were watching the drama unfold in New York. Shopkeepers, customers, and tourists became glued to TV screens watching the savage attacks on the World Trade Center. When I entered one of the shops to see what the fuss was all about, my heart sunk and I felt sick at my stomach. I hurried home to watch the rest of the tragedy with my family. 

I was one of the many Palestinians who totally deplored the attacks. I knew from the outset that the majority of Palestinians who felt like me would be ignored by the media and the few Palestinians who celebrated the attacks would have prime-time coverage. In spite of the fact that not one of the attackers were Palestinians, Palestinians suffered much after the attacks.

Now, ten years after 9/11 and after America has carried out a decade of retribution on Afghanistan, Iraq, and radical Islamists around the world, it is good for Americans, and especially American evangelicals, to ask some hard questions and seek real answers—questions like, "Why did the attacks take place?"

Have evangelicals in the US followed the teachings of Christ in seeking and endorsing revenge on their enemies? What could evangelicals do today to bridge the gap between them and their Muslim neighbors? And how should we act in the next 10 years to shine with the light and love of Christ to the Muslim world? As evangelicals remember 9/11, I pray, God bless America and may America learn how to live at peace with the rest of the world!

Rev. Alex Awad is a Palestinian Christian who was born in Jerusalem and serves on behalf of Global Ministries as Dean and professor at Bethlehem Bible College and as pastor of the Jerusalem Baptist Church. To learn more about Rev. Awad, link to: http://new.gbgm-umc.org/work/missionaries/biographies/index.cfm?action=details&id=26  

To read Rev. Awad's reflections on the Arab uprisings and the Christian response, link to an earlier Global Ministries story at: http://gbgm-umc.org/global_news/full_article.cfm?articleid=6008

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

God Is Able

This reflection is from Deborah Archie, a community developer, (center, back row) who stands with other advocates for children. 
Front Row: L to R: Rev. William Robinson, Better Community Development Inc. in Little Rock, AR;
Angela Byrdsong, Wesley Community Center Inc. in Dayton, Ohio; Erie B. Stuckett, I Challenge You, Inc. Youth Program of Revels United Methodist Church, Greenville, MS; Rev. Herbert Brisbon, Pastor of the Ebenezer Charge in Washington, DC;
Back Row: L to R: Rev. Drew Giddings, ACT for Children, Brooklyn, NY; Lisa Nichols, CCW, Henry Fork Service Center, Rocky Mount, VA; Deborah Archie, CCW, Community Development for All People, Columbus, OH; Earnestine Varnado, CCW, St. Andrew's Mission, McComb, MS; Kim Lehmann, Global Ministries' Office of Women and Children, New York, NY. (Photo by Scott Jacobsen.)

The emancipation of slaves in 1865 did not bring an end to economic exploitation. In 1896, the Supreme Court made racial segregation the law of the land until 1954, when the same court determined that separate but equal was inherently unequal and unconstitutional.

But legally dismantling segregation in public schools did not end racial segregation. It took marches and protest, sit-ins, boycotts, freedom riders, arrests, beatings, shed blood, the murder freedom workers, and all the social action  and civil disobedience of the 1950s and 60s to bring about the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and 1968 Fair Housing Act.

The passage of civil rights laws has not ended racial hatred and bigotry. You cannot legislate morality; you cannot pass laws that make people love one another. That takes a casting out of the spirit of fear and hatred; that requires an exorcism of all the demons that are loose. That type of spiritual exorcism is left for God. Over time the vestiges of overt racism are largely gone in the Deep South.

A change has come about which I, as a young girl, could never imagine. Even now when I return to Georgia and other parts of the South and I am welcomed to sit and eat at establishments that were once forbidden to me, I know that this is the type of change that only God can bring into being.

We can only do what we can do, but we must do what we can do. In the civil rights era that meant various acts of civil disobedience and in today’s time it means social and political action designed to pressure law makers and policy makers to adopts laws and public policy that does not favor the wealthy over the poor and most vulnerable and does not relegate them to second class citizens.

There is strength in knowing that our faith has power. If we do what we can do, we have the faith to believe that God is able to do the rest. When God instructed Joshua and the children of Israel on the seventh day to march seven times around the city of Jericho with seven priests blowing seven rams’ horns in front of the ark of the covenant, it was not the marching, the blowing of rams’ horns, or the loud battle cry that brought down and destroyed the walls of Jericho. It was the priests and the children of Israel doing their part and God doing God's will that brought about the destruction of Jericho.

God alone is able to do all things, but because God is in relationship with us God expects us to do what we can so that God can do God's will. Similarly, if we do our part and demand a fair just society for everyone, God will do what seems impossible and bring it into being, because God is Able to do all things.

Deborah Archie is a Church and Community Worker with the West Ohio Conference through the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church. She attended the Proctor Institute, organized by the Children's Development Fund (CDF), at Haley Farm outside of Knoxville, Tennessee in July 2011.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Become an Individual Volunteer

The following reflection is written by Marnilyn Grant, a participant in the recent training that occurred at the Mt. Sequoyah Retreat Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Marnilyn attends Murphy First United Methodist Church in Murphy, North Carolina which is part of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference. Marnilyn is the fourth person from the left in the back row of this photo of volunteers and training staff. (Photo by Debbie Vest) 
If you are thinking about volunteering as an individual to serve those in need, the General Board of Global Ministries provides one of the best avenues for putting faith into action. I say this wholeheartedly because it has been my good fortune to pursue this avenue.

Quite a while ago I developed a burning desire to serve others. Through the Individual Volunteer Program I am finally finding fulfillment.

The training for becoming an Individual Volunteer covers an array of topics critical to preparing volunteers for challenges that will be varied and unfamiliar. The training leaders are those who have given their lives to serving others and developing cross-cultural understanding. Based on their cumulative experiences of leading and participating in mission work, the training team’s curriculum included theology, self-care, health and safety issues, community-based paradigms of service, the fundamentals of fund raising, international travel, and the responsibilities of an individual volunteer.

The intercultural understanding I gained and the guidelines for engaging in ministry with the poor were among the highlights for me.

As individuals and as representatives of the General Board of Global Ministries, we are all answering the call to “love your neighbor” and to “love the Lord your God.” The training guided us on how to practically and theologically apply this. We were given opportunities to express our faith through theological discussion of scriptures that pertain to mission, and we did role plays in a series of skits that were aimed to get us thinking about the best way to handle challenging issues of relationships. All of the skits were based on actual occurrences.

The training participants will serve impoverished areas in the global community, including the United States, serving for periods of a few months to two years. We vary in age, background and interests. My intelligence and compassion were validated and encouraged to expand. I feel ready to act now, and more humble than ever. The training was essential. I thank the training staff for their modeling of hospitality to me and all the others. The journey has begun as an individual volunteer!

The Individual Volunteer Program offers individuals and couples the opportunity to serve at placement sites in the global community, including the United States. In preparation for the work, volunteers attend a training event that includes theological grounding, spiritual enrichment, and practical “nuts and bolts” information. The training also serves as an occasion for discernment, as participants prayerfully consider how God’s call on their lives will be expressed. 

To find out more about upcoming dates to train to become an Individual Volunteer, link to http://new.gbgm-umc.org/about/us/mv/programs/individualvolunteer/orientation/