Glimpses of Healing and Hope

by Danile Martens

Spring has been a long time coming.  I have had seedlings waiting since mid March to harden off and plant.  The woods wildflowers have been in a holding pattern for weeks now and are finally in full flower.  I have never seen so many trout lilies in our woods as we have this year.  The grass has been slow but some warmth and a mild rain have waked it up.  We have had a full complement of new calves for sometime already, including a surprise very small calf that the blind heifer, that keeps a good distance from the rest of the stock, surprised us with a week ago. How did she ever get bred?

The waiting matches my spirit, who am in waiting to see where my recently lost hearing will end up. Waiting is a reminder that life is mostly not under our control, that we live by faith in natural systems and laws, in the good will and care of other people, and by trust in a Mystery we call by many names: Nature, Love, God, Life, a trust that there is meaning somehow in our lives.

Do we make meaning out of what happens to us?  Is that our work as conscious beings?  Perhaps there is a template, much like natural law, that life is organized around, but that plays out in personal ways for us, offering the chance of transformation from individuals into members of the beloved community.

Nature seems to verify such patterning.  This spring, for instance, looks a lot like springs I remember growing up, cooler, later, more temperamental.  Yet the pattern is familiar each year whether it plays out like this late cool spring, or like the spring of 2014,  when unseasonal warmth in mid- March brought everything into bloom early and then crushed all with freezing temperatures in April.  The outlines are well known and give guidance.  It will not be wise to plant out tomatoes  when it is 75 degrees for a week in March.  The variation in specific details means that we will have to use a certain amount of creativity to respond even as we trust the outworking of the pattern overall.  We can probably trust the last frost date for the area even if it is cold until the end of April.  The season will look overall like the pattern.

Enter the uncertainties of climate change and the further uncertainties of when those climatic changes will have effect.  Other patterns will then come into play: natural law will work itself out on a larger scale and overwhelm the seasonal patterns.  What then?  Ultimately the broadest earthly patterns will work themselves out for the benefit of the whole, not for the felt need of any particular member.  Willingly or not, when the chips are down for the planet, we will play whatever role is good for the whole, in return for having assumed the planet would do that for our agenda these hundreds of years.

This might feel like doom, but in the long run, the real long run, which is our eternal home in God, this is change, which goes on in every time and place.

This originally appeared on the Restoration Farm blog at restorationfarm15.wordpress.com. Reprinted with permission.
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If you've been following along in our journey as we continue to partner with our sister congregation in DR Congo, Bondeko Mennonite Church, you'll likely remember that our church raised enough money for their church to buy a lot for their new school. Nancy Myers, our church representative as well as a member of Africa Inter Mennonite Mission, shared this update with us during our last congregational meeting: 

When she last visited Kinshasa, in late March 2018, they hosted a formal reception with speeches, songs, and a feast with her as the guest of honor to celebrate receiving the funds for the new school lot. During the reception, Bondeko's pastor, Pastor Francois Tshidimu, announced the name of the new school: Menno Simons Academy.

The church faced many challenges even after receiving the funds. When they approached the owner of the lot next to the church to purchase it from him, he said he was no longer interested in selling. The church instead bought a lot down the street for their new school. The original lot they had planned on purchasing had existing buildings for them to renovate while the new lot does not -- requiring more money and more manual labor than they had planned on. Their second challenge was with the government. They had always planned on their school being a public one but the government stopped issuing permits for new public schools several months ago. Menno Simons Academy will have to (temporarily) become a private school, which will mean charging tuition and paying the teachers, until the public school permit process opens back up. 

Through it all, the congregation of Bondeko Mennonite Church has had faith in God and in His plans. They are determined to succeed, and so we know they will! They plan on opening the first floor of the new school with the first few grades in 2019.

Pastor Francois shared a few pictures of the groundbreaking with us that we will share here with our readers, too. 

 

 

As always, Bondeko Mennonite and KRMC would ask for your continued thoughts and prayers as we journey together.

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by Pastor Dave Sutter

 

Almost all of the local schools are out. The weather is warmer. The pools are open. When I was growing up, like most kids, I looked forward to the summer. I could ride my bike to play basketball with my friends, participate in the summer reading program at the library, go to church camp for a week, and play summer baseball. Once a week I got to mow. And sometimes, on one special day in the summer, we’d get to go Wrigley Field to see the Cubs. With each of these came new adventure: new sights, relationships, and experiences. Summer is a great time for adventure.    

 

This year, ten KRMC youth and four sponsors are heading to Harlan, KY to be a part of SWAP (Sharing With Appalachian People).  Notice that it isn’t “Service” With Appalachian People.  Mennonite Central Committee, the sponsors of the program, emphasizes this.  Groups like ours aren’t to swoop in to “do service” but rather “share” with people in their homes, in their territory.  For us, it will be an adventure in being vulnerable, hearing people’s stories on their turf, listening and learning and sharing.  Of course, part of the adventure, too, will be in being together as a group, traveling to and from KY together, getting to know each other for a week in a way we haven’t before.       

 

But there are lots of other opportunities for adventure this summer, too, happening in and around  Kern Road: opportunities for new sights, relationships and experiences.  Be sure to read all of Kernels, including the ministry updates, to find out what’s been and will be happening at Kern Road.  And don’t forget to check out the weekly KRMC Reminders and announcement sheets, too, so you keep up with people and happenings. 

 

Our summer worship will invite us to reflect on the fruit of the Spirit that is born in our lives when we are empowered by and live attentively to the Spirit of Christ.  Come to worship God and to seek to listen for and live in the Spirit of Christ. During the second hour each Sunday, there will be opportunities for creativity, service, food, music, play, fellowship, and celebration. The Formation Team is planning intergenerational adventure times each week with the theme “Connecting to God through…”   

 

Also in Kernels, note the new attenders connecting with our congregation, and introduce yourself.  These are new relationships ripe for adventure and worthwhile experiences. New people bring diverse gifts and personalities, traditions, and backgrounds that enliven the body of Christ. If we missed including you, and you’ve been with us awhile, please let us know.  We’d like to highlight you and your household in the next issue.

 

Sometime during the summer a new church yard sign and exterior dove will be installed.  A new sign has been talked about as a need for over ten years, maybe fifteen. This one will have a digital component.  It will take some getting used to and some experimentation. Our hope is to use it in a way that fits who we are as a faith community. Beyond these events, there will be opportunities for fellowship and learning whenever we meet in each other’s homes, in parks, on the trails, and in the fellowship hall and parking lot sharing summer adventures together. 

 

May God be with us this summer as we play, learn, worship, fellowship, and serve.

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From time to time, we like to share how our church or members of our church are being spotlighted in the local or national news.

Today we'd like to share a story news channel WSBT did on the solar panels of our church with our Energy Task Force chairperson Vic Myers.

You can view the story here: http://wsbt.com/news/local/south-bend-churches-us-solar-panels-to-make-an-impact-on-the-community.

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by LeeAndra Fouts

During this week’s staff meeting, Pastor Janice led us through a devotional time highlighting the Sermon on the Plain featured in Luke 6:27-36. This is the famous “turn the other cheek” passage but the words just before that part captured my attention this time – “bless those who curse you.”

The passage in the NKJV reads, “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either… But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them… But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”

As we read the passage several times, I thought over and over again about the word “bless.” What does that mean exactly? To me, it is a positive action, a purposeful acting out of a plan, that requires more from me than simply being good or loving everyone. It is one thing to stay still and silent while someone’s curses, literal or figurative, are raining down upon you but it is quite another to speak into the situation with a blessing and good word for that person.

I began to visualize something in my mind and jotted it down in my notes before I forgot. I’ve shared the picture with you (despite its elementary-school level of artistry!) in hopes that it may help you, too, the next time you hear this passage or find yourself knee-deep in someone else’s negative words and bad attitude. I always find it so much easier to remember something when I can see it in my mind.

When we face any type of storm in Life, it’s our natural instinct to protect ourselves from it, to grab a poncho or umbrella or hunker down in a safe space, and wait for it to pass. What if we didn’t step out of the rain, though, but into it? What if we allowed ourselves to feel the harsh cold rain on our skin knowing that all storms pass soon enough? What if we decided to embrace the storm because we saw the positive effects it could have in the middle of the terrible cause that it is? What if we decided to open ourselves up to the possibility that a temporary shake-up might cause a permanent steadfastness to grow within us?

I looked up the Hebrew word for “bless” after our meeting and discovered the Hebrew word is “barah” which means “to kneel.” Yes, exactly – to bless someone who curses you is to kneel down, to give up your power and become vulnerable to theirs, in the midst of their storm of lies and say, “I still believe you are a good person.  I still believe something good will come from this. I still believe in love and truth and hope.”

From the outside, blessing someone who curses you may seem weak or stupid. People may wonder if you have lost your mind. In a way you have --- leading with your heart, instead of your head, is exactly what Jesus did, and He was the strongest Man who ever lived. Blessing those who curse you is understanding the wisdom in pausing, reflecting, and praying as you seek to understand others and how God may use this situation for good. We could all use a few moments in our chaotic lives to pause and reflect and pray… especially in the midst of a storm.

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March 29, Kinshasa, DR Congo

(On the occasion of a reception held at the home of Pastor François Tshidimu in honor of Nancy Myers’s visit and the receipt from KRMC of funds to purchase land for a school)

 

 

First and foremost, permit us to thank the Lord our God, the master of time and circumstance, for having permitted the encounter of this day. We welcome everyone.

 

We the youth of Bondeko Mennonite Church met on March 27, 2018 to reflect on the future of young Mennonites in general and of Bondeko in particular.

 

In addition to the fact that youth represent the future, we believe that youth are the key to the present, a measure of the survival and continuation of the Mennonite community in Congo and at Bondeko. Therefore it is necessary for us to be trained and organized.

 

Our discussions centered around the promotion, projects, and formation of youth in our congregation. We concluded the following:

 

·         We, the youth of Bondeko, express our profound gratitude to Pastor François Tshidimu Mukendi, head of the congregation, for his determination to see the youth flourish, and also for having facilitated today’s encounter.

 

·         We thank Madame Nancy Myers for her love and generosity toward our church and her involvement in the success of our projects.

 

·         We thank her also for the establishment of the partnership with Kern Road Mennonite Church through which we received scholarships, permitting the youth of Bondeko to make their way through high school and university.

 

·         We are profoundly grateful also to Kern Road Mennonite Church for financing the purchase of land that will permit the construction of the first private Mennonite school in Congo, which will contribute to the formation of the youth not only of Bondeko but also of the whole country.

 

·         We solicit a church-to-church partnership with the youth of Kern Road Mennonite Church with the aim of sharing experiences.

 

We address our warmest greetings to the whole congregation of Kern Road Mennonite Church. May the peace of the Savior be with you. Thank you.

 

Ignace Tshitoka, President of Bondeko Youth, and Francis Kabanza

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by Nancy Myers

In the adult literacy teacher–training workshop the week after Easter in Mbuji Mayi, DR Congo, was an eccentric woman. Marie-Claire didn’t seem to care much about her appearance. Her hair went every which way. Her clothes were a bit grubby. She peered over wire-rimmed glasses. She crossed her legs. One day she showed up in a baseball cap.

 

 

 

Marie-Claire also had a terrible, honking cough that punctuated even the rafter-raising hymn-singing that charged up the energy at the beginning of each day.

 

Perhaps I was the only one to be bothered by Marie-Claire’s cough. On the first day, the woman who was provincial head of one of the two Mennonite groups represented in this training nominated Marie-Claire for the position of Village Chief, a sort of ombudsman for the training. Marie-Claire was a member of the other, and often rival, group. When she was elected by a large majority she kissed her nominator almost on the lips. I cringed but the other woman did not.

 

Marie-Claire took her position seriously and often came forward to whisper something to my friend Hélène José sitting next to me who was hosting the training. I tried to keep my distance but was not always successful. I was horrified when she coughed into her hand and then picked up a crying baby. By the end of the week my throat was tightening up a bit and I started chewing Airborne tablets to ward off any viruses that Marie-Claire might have spread around.

 

Marie-Claire was also among the most enthusiastic of the 60 would-be teachers. That is saying a lot because the energy in the class was high. She was not the most gifted but she was unafraid of making mistakes and kept trying to get the method right.

 

In fact, Marie-Claire had already started a literacy class six weeks earlier. Hélène José, who was trained a year ago, had introduced her to the method and given her some books and Mare-Claire had rounded up students. She brought half a dozen of them to class one day. But she knew she needed more training and she was thrilled to be getting it.

 

I heard of other teachers who had been trained in previous workshops and were training assistants on their own. One teacher who was trained last year in Kinshasa, a young man named Justice, not only teaches three separate literacy classes in the Bondeko church building, KRMC’s sister congregation, but also hopes to train other teachers in all five Mennonite congregations in the Massina district. When he can find the time.

 

 

Teaching people to read in Congo is an idea whose time has more than come. The harvest is ripe and the reapers are few. In modern parlance, the idea is going viral— as viral as Marie-Claire’s cough.

 

In his morning homilies, the Mbuji Mayi workshop chaplain compared Congo’s illiteracy problem to the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision. He said the people learning to read would be like the blind man in John 9: they wouldn’t care why they had been helped, or who their teachers were; they would only rejoice in their newfound wholeness.

 

 

 

The joy of new readers is contagious, as those working in Kinshasa and Kikwit who have started teaching in the last year testify. They say the students bring their friends to class. Their enthusiasm and success, in turn, reward the teachers; the energy flows on.

 

Another day the chaplain referred directly to the viral nature of the good news in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, chapter 2: “The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” He encouraged the new teachers not only to find learners but also to develop other teachers. And indeed, this is happening.

 

I did come home with a cough. I don’t know if I caught it from Marie-Claire but if so, it was worth it. I feel privileged to participate in the good news of this project.

 

What ignites your joy? What good news is spreading among us?

 

Nancy Myers, a KRMC member, is overseeing the Congo Literacy Project as a volunteer on behalf of Africa Inter Mennonite Mission, a partnership with the women of Congo’s three Anabaptist denominations. For more about this project see Nancy’s blog at www.thepracticalmystic.org.

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by Danile Martens

John 20: 1-18

I have been thinking about this resurrection story lately in terms of the flow of life.  I read it now thinking that Jesus was not so much saying "Don't touch me," as "Don't prevent me, don't hold on to what I was to you before. Something new is happening."

If change is the essence of life, something which I am learning to accept as true, then we must welcome, we must allow change, not only in ourselves but in those others who are put into our lives. Jesus as the chosen one had something new to be and do and the grief of Mary Magdalene could not alter that work.  Nonetheless, Jesus lovingly meets her in her need and then points her to her new role. She will not be provider and support  in the same ways. Her past that changed from so-called harlot and demon-possessed woman to disciple was now going to change again to witness of resurrection to Peter and John who would lead the church that came after. Holding on to her identity as the follower of and one who loved an itinerant preacher was not her future, no more than it was Jesus' destiny to remain that preacher.

And yet it is a beautiful story of love and grief and despair turned to joy that we all may resonate with at some point.  When our daughter was diagnosed with a melanoma we knew that grief.  I didn't know how to accept the possibility of her death even though I had already walked that path of death with others and knew that despair was not its ultimate ending.  I could not imagine the flame of her lovely and loving life snuffed so prematurely.  My faith in Love hung on only by a thread of humility and by the support and love of family and friends.  We were reprieved that time, differently than Mary, but I fully identified with that rending, uncomprehending sorrow.

We remain human creatures bound to time and an impermanence we regret even as life spills us continuously forward into the new. This is our gift and our sorrow, to remember the loved, familiar past while being drawn (pushed?) into an unknown future, given by our loving creator that, in time, itself becomes precious.  This is our faith. This is Life.

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