Glimpses of Healing and Hope

As we mentioned in a previous blog, one of our hopes for our facility in the years to come is as a home for organizations that provide regular meetings, events, conferences, or retreats that need a big physical space with all the amenities at an affordable price for their members. With that in mind, we have partnered with LOGMichiana, a local organization dedicated to bringing the love of God to high school students in the area, and are working on a renovation of our basement to that end. The shower project has met some obstacles and delays but we have overcome them all and are on pace to complete this project before the first LOG weekend in this facility which is scheduled for November 8-10, 2019.

Our Administration team, and especially our Ministry Team Lead Van, has really taken this project and made it work within our time & budget constraints. LOGMichiana's Executive Director, Terry, as well as the rest of the LOG organization and its alumni have provided us with the finances and some hands-on help. KRMC's people, especially Harold, have put in many many hours of planning, demolition, and construction to turn an old storage room into a fully-functioning four-stall shower room with all new plumbing, venting, electricity, and dividing walls. 

With just a few weeks to go, things are really shaping up. We are currently waiting on more electricity & drywall.

It's hard to tell in the dark, we know, but this is the fourth shower, separated by a door to the hallway, and then three more showers.

Here are the other three showers:

Here's what the plumbing for the showers looks like so far:

We're excited to see this project come to a close so LOG (and other organizations like it) can really feel at home here at Kern Road Mennonite Church. We'll be sure to post pictures when the work is completely done.

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by Vicki Smucker

This past Tuesday was a bit disorienting for me. There wasn't anything on the calendar, but I seemed to be missing something.  There was just a shadow following me that day.

Of course, I knew the reason for this.  Tuesday is the day that, for the past 30 years, has been the day I spent volunteering at the front desk of the Center for the Homeless.  This was the first Tuesday of my "retirement" from my volunteer job that I wasn't traveling.

 

The Center for the Homeless has been part of my life since I first moved to South Bend in 1988.  At that point it was still in the planning stages.  The old Gilbert's Men's Store on South Michigan had been purchased, but no steps had been made to repurpose the building. However, The United Religious Community of St. Joseph County was putting out the word that the day was coming when volunteers would be needed to help as the Center opened.  I heard about it from the service committee announcement at church and it piqued my interest.  The work and population would fit with the work and training I'd had in social work and vocational rehabilitation.  It would also give me a way to engage with my new community.

 

The Center opened much sooner than anyone expected.  A fire in a transient hotel made a large number of people homeless overnight.  The Center opened without furniture or a kitchen.  The community scrambled to pull together beds and meals for a group of people suffering loss and trauma with nowhere else to turn.  This was a show of compassion and generosity that drew me in.  This was something of which I wanted to be a part!

 

I became one of a small group of volunteers who chose to work on a regular basis manning the front desk.  There were only a couple of paid people at the time, so the place was staffed by volunteers.  That's probably where I came to my understanding of  volunteering.  If I didn't show up to answer phones and do intakes on new guests, there was no one answering phones and doing intakes.  If I couldn't cover my shift, I would find a replacement by switching with another volunteer.  The seriousness with which we volunteers took our commitment to the Center is the kind of commitment most people make to their daily jobs: you showed up; you stayed with it.

 

I enjoyed showing up.  I gained so much in staying with it. 

 

You only get one life.  My life is good—a loving Christian upbringing, a wonderful husband and family, a good education, good health, a nurturing church community, and financial stability.  If I live in a community of people just like me, then I have a certain picture of the world.  I have a certain understanding of life and of people.  It's a little skewed.  Maybe a lot skewed. 

 

I learned about a different kind of life from the people at the Center.  Every day there I met people who have challenges I'll never face.  Not just the challenge of homelessness, but the causes of it.  How would it be to need to survive in a world where you had to face it all alone, or with a mental or physical illness that you couldn't afford to treat, or with no education or skills, or with insurmountable debt, or addiction, or a prison record, or crippling grief, or just plain poverty and hopelessness?

 

There are personal stories of tragedy that touched me deeply.  I won't forget the woman who came to the Center years ago, weighed down with grief and the responsibility of caring for her children after the drive-by shooting in which her husband was killed.  She got well and started a day-care center in her home when she moved out.  She came back for a time because a rent increase forced her out of her house.  I also won't forget the family who left their home in Gary,  IN because it was getting too dangerous to live in their neighborhood.  Their 18 year old son chose to stay behind.  He was killed in a gang shooting two weeks later.  And I won't forget the man whose parents abused him and told him he'd never amount to anything.  That legacy follows him.  He finds nothing worth living for.  He has debilitating depression and has tried suicide on several occasions.  I won't forget these moving stories which expand my understanding of life and of people. 

 

I've known some people at the Center for nearly 30 years.  They're friends.  I know their children and, in some cases, grandchildren.  I've been treated to meals in the homes of former guests.  I've received gifts from meager resources.  I've been amazed by their generosity and resilience. Their acceptance of me is a true blessing.

 

I've also been dismissed by some people.  Maybe they see me as too different, too privileged.  I understand this.  It's always a good reminder—I am privileged.  That reminder makes me work harder to understand the chasm that can exist between us…and work harder to overcome it.  I'm reminded to be intentional in my interactions with people, because a careless remark or action can be taken as a purposeful insult or prejudice.  I'm reminded to be humble, to take criticism, and try to make something good of it.

 

I'll miss the people who I've met at the Center.  I'll miss the occasional phone call from a former guest who calls on a Tuesday because he knows I'll be at the Center and he just wants to hear a friendly voice and catch up.  I'll miss the "old timer" who stops by the Center to know if I  remember him and to let me know that he's doing well.  I'll miss the new guest who asks if I know who she is and is delighted when I recall she lived there with her mother many years ago. 

 

I've learned a lot through my volunteering, but two things stand out.  First of all, by the most important measures, volunteering has given me far more than I've given it.  Secondly, the effects of showing kindness may not be immediately knowable, but should never be underestimated. Sometimes it works miracles.

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by Pastor Dave Sutter

Hidden Valley is the destination of a one-mile loop trail in Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. Back in the 1800’s of white American expansion in the West, the valley was said to have been a popular spot for rustlers to hide their cattle -- thus the name “hidden valley.” The valley is nearly totally enclosed from the outside world with walls of rock. The rock surrounds a pristine watering hole where herds could find shelter and drink. 

As one hikes the trail back to Hidden Valley today, the National Park Service has placed markers describing the many ways in which the varied plants and animals have adapted and changed over the years enabling them to survive the extremes of the environment: sun, cold, drought, and wind, finding ways to borrow and contribute one to the other as need arose. At the conclusion of the trail is a sign with a poem written by Robinson Jeffers. The sign highlights the co-existence of varied species of plants, animals, and humans in the valley and the delicate balance they have achieved over time as they have adapted to the needs of the environment. 

The poem highlights something even bigger:

 

Integrity is wholeness…

The wholeness of life and things,

The divine beauty of the universe,

Love that, not man apart from that.

 

If it is true that, in Christ, God is bringing together all things and that God is uniting all things in Christ, perhaps the Hidden Valley is a foretaste of the new heavens and earth God is creating. In the midst of God’s love for the earth and God’s love for humans, we are linked one to the other. 

May we continue to seek our call and our connection to God and to all of God’s creation. May we learn and grow and adapt that we might coexist together in love and affirm all that Christ has invited us to experience in God and in the Spirit.  

 

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Over the last several years, our congregation has wanted to focus on reaching out to other local organizations to offer the use of our facility for their meetings and events. We want to be a good neighbor within the greater South Bend-Mishawaka neighborhood, and what better way than by providing physical space to those groups and clubs without a permanent home in this neighborhood?

One of these long-term partnerships is with LOGMichiana, a non-denominational senior high youth program that has been serving Michiana for over 20 years, and we couldn't be more excited about this opportunity! The LOG (Love of God) program was planted here in the mid-1990s by Reverend Terry McBride and since then has served more than 1792 youth and held 102 weekend-long events. The program focuses heavily on relationship-building and building a community of like-minded teenage believers (or wonderers). After someone participates in a weekend, they can choose to come back and work on the leadership team that will run the next season's weekends. Leadership teams meet weekly during the fall and spring, with guidance and supervision from adult advisers (who are often alumni of the program), to pray, fellowship, and work on their assigned weekend and its assorted talks and tasks. 

Many former and current KRMCers have attended or worked with the LOG program over the years so it seemed like a natural fit when LOG was looking for a permanent space to host their weekends. We are currently working on creating a shower room in the basement to make the LOG experience better and in hopes that other organizations who will use this facility in the future will also find it helpful. This shower renovation will be done just in time for the November 2019 weekends which will be the first time LOG will be hosting a regular weekend retreat in our facility. 

We'll keep this space updated with our renovation progress as well as more news about LOG and other future partnerships. Keep us and LOGMichiana in your prayers as we strive to live out God's dream for our community!

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by Pastor Jen Shenk

 

It was a random picture I snapped with my phone
the last day of summer vacation,
the day before a new school year.

 

 

The August air hung heavy and hot
with white puffy clouds set against a
brilliant blue sky.


All three boys climbed up on a spider web
going higher
higher
higher
until they were each stretched to their limit.


I watched them
suspended on cables woven together, connected,
their silhouettes standing out from the sky beyond.


Now, today,
I watched them leave for school.
Releasing them into this vast, open world.


I cannot go with them.
It will be their own journey to climb
to struggle
to stretch to their limits.


But they will not be alone.
They will be undergirded and supported by a vast network
of a spider web of their own:

   Teachers who know school isn't just about test scores
   Classmates who share a smile and end up becoming a friend
   Grandparents who celebrate new beginnings and growing up
   Friends, cousins, pastors, family, babysitters, neighbors,
   The list extends in a beautiful and complex network of connection.


They will climb while I watch.
I will see them get to the top and
I will feel joy right alongside them
when they conquer fears and get stronger,
holding onto their web for support when they need it.

A web of support that
stretches when necessary
yet is
stronger than steel.
So delicate it's barely visible
unless the light catches it just right.

Calm and believing,
I will give thanks for the infinite number of threads
that connect them to me,
to each other,
and to others all around.

I will give thanks
that I am not the only lifeline they know.
I will feel grateful for the sturdy and tender web

set against a vast open sky
that will give them strength to climb
higher,
higher,
and higher still.

 

*                           *                           *                           *                           *

I wrote the above poem six years ago, but I’m struck by how timely it still is even today. And while it’s obviously written from the perspective of kids going to school, I think it can apply to all sorts of transitions, new beginnings, and growth.

 

As I reflect on our summer series of scattering seeds, and how each one of us has Divine DNA (aka. God’s Spirit) planted within us from the moment we are created, I think the Divine Intention is that-- ultimately--  we bear fruit. However, it’s almost impossible to bear fruit unless we are connected. We need to stay connected to God through spiritual disciplines like prayer, reading the Bible, and regular worship. And we need to foster connections to one another-- being in real relationships where honesty, grace, love and forgiveness are abundant.

 

Who is in your web of support? My prayer is that our congregation can be a strong part of this web that supports, undergirds, encourages and equips you for what God is calling you to do.

 

May you know strength, peace, and joy as you grow in faith-- climbing, stretching, and leaning on God and others in the journey!

 

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  (John 15:4,5)

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10 of our high school students as well as 5 adult sponsors and 3 delegates recently attended MennoCon'19 -- the biannual national convention of the Mennonite Church USA. Their actual words and reflections and experiences will be available soon as a podcast but in the meantime, you can look through the archives of MC USA's articles & photos from the last week to get a taste (yes, I had to do it -- this will make more sense once you see what the name of the archive is!) of what happened and how it impacted Mennonite people around the nation (and world).

We believe this is such a powerful experience that we spend the year prior to the convention hosting fundraisers and selling/auctioning items to raise enough money for every youth in the church who wants to attend to have the opportunity to do so. This year we partnered with another local Mennonite church to charter a bus to Kansas City, and that turned out to be a great experience for our youth as well. 

Our church's Congregational Principles and Practices, in part, read as follows: "Welcome and celebrate the gathering of God's diverse people in our church and community (intercultural, intergenerational, and interchurch)." and "Nurture authentic relationships with God and one another in Christian community so that we might stretch and grow in Christ individually and collectively." We believe that attendance at MC USA's convention is a great way for us to live out both of these practices and principles in a meaningful tangible way.

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by Danile Martens

That connection between enlightenment and house holding…forces us onto rougher ground than that of the smooth purists— but it gives us traction.

Wendell Berry to Gary Snyder in A Distant Neighbor

 

These days the work becomes more rigorous: lifting and tossing damaged hay, moving soil, bending and stooping to prepare ground for planting.   It is true that spring’s coming can be enjoyed from behind glass windows, or at one’s ease on patio or deck: the barely perceptible softening and greening of fine branches, the emerging bulbs and flowers.  It is pleasant to take a walk through woods wildflowers, hearing songbirds, feeling the warm air currents; but the immersion experience of house-holding in spring is rougher terrain. The body feels the increase of activity and complains in joints and old injuries. Mud and animal shit are tenacious and abundant. One’s hands dry and are darkly lined in creases.

Mucking in spring, as opposed to viewing it, is participating in the rush of growth and disposition of fecundity.  Having one’s hands and nose in the soil, makes emerging from it into warmth and light that much brighter.

The tended garden provides traction of many kinds:  Laying leaf mold mulch between the rows of seeds recalls shuffling in fall under the trees of the woodlot. Strategizing inducements to attract the beneficial tiny helpers of the topsoil— fungi, bacteria, insects, worms– reminds me that I am not alone in my endeavor.  I appreciate the view from the earthen row of the sprinkling of tiny birds against the blue heaven.  Planting, I am one with the soil.

The outsourced life, on the other hand, misses these anchoring activities. Life is derived from commodities provided by others’ ingenuity and strategy.  Goods and services are disconnected from biological cycles, as well as from familial sympathy and generational forethought. Entering physically into the larger themes of life and death, infolding and unfolding, allows one to hitch to the Great Life through which one is connected to all that is.  Seasonal changes and the weather become the backdrop of success or failure of a crop, and a measure of reasonable labor or daily exhaustion. The inevitable dry period, short or long, enters one’s bones, and its end comes as mercy.  Farming, we join ourselves to the earth, acknowledging its discipline.

Traction also comes from limitation: I can do this much, but further affect is beyond my power. Superstitions and petitions are equally unavailing: one simply waits and watches for the rains. We can supply moisture in the meantime by contrivance, but we are always aware that irrigation and rain are separated by orders of magnitude.

There is the daily pull against the earth’s fecundity: life constantly rising.   We must have it or die, and yet, some interference on the crop’s behalf to the ever-growing weeds, the constant pressure of marauders, is necessary. Traction becomes, literally, planting feet to dig or chop or pull against the earth.

Enlightenment is tethered, referenced: by what effort today will I receive the gift of daily bread?. What grace will be creased with soil and drenched with sweat? By what exertion will my soul rise up in gratitude for what is given?

 

Note: This article originally appeared on https://restorationfarm15.wordpress.com/blog/.

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by Pastor Janice Sutter

In March, Dave and I traveled southwest to explore national parks, drinking in the beauty and gaining perspective as we marveled at God’s creation in those places. Without knowing what to expect, we entered Joshua Tree National Park in southern California, a park known for its boulder fields and Joshua trees, a distinctive type of yucca. Long ago, when travelling Mormons saw these trees in the distance, they thought the trees looked like Joshua welcoming them to the Promised Land.
 
Much of the land in this park lies in the overlap of two deserts: the Mojave and the Colorado. It’s a transition zone and home to diverse species of plants and animals found in both deserts. This spring they have had more water than usual.
 
As we drove deeper into the park, we noticed more and more wildflowers. Just a few gorgeous blooms at first, and then whole carpets of color! An unexpected gift! The desert was in bloom! A super bloom! An explosion of wildflowers that exceeds typical spring blooms.
 

As we talked to locals and the park rangers, we learned that the last time this desert had bloomed like this was in the 1940s. That is, some of these wildflower seeds hadn’t bloomed for 80 years. They lie dormant in the drought for years, being preserved, able to bloom when the time was right.
                      
When these dormant seeds have the right combination of rain and warmth, they come to life again. They bloom! And this is what we took in: the desert in full glory blooming with color. Beauty everywhere! The conditions were right. Seeds that had been dormant for 80 years blossomed! A miracle!
 
The walk through the desert in Joshua Tree this March became a way for me to think about Easter. I don’t know how to explain what happened on that first Easter morning but I can see how conditions were right for the miracle of new life to burst forth! For the impossible possibilities of God to blossom!
 
Jesus gave his all for God’s mission. He remained true to himself and true to God’s way of nonviolent, active, self-giving love. Jesus gave his all, and that self-sacrificing love (his choice -- not forced on him) released something into the universe.
 
Conditions were right, enabling us to see evidence of the mighty power of God. God burst forth with the miracle of life, raising Christ from the dead. From Christ’s death came new life! God took what Jesus offered and released a super bloom!
 
By Jesus Christ’s self-giving love, God released, empowered, and raised up a whole community of people to carry on Jesus’ Way of self-giving love. The good news of Easter includes this: we can be part of God’s super bloom. 
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