Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Story Behind A Picture – Why I support the Mission and Service Fund

gifts with visionYou may see these flyers in and around your church this time of year. It is a catalogue called “Gifts With Vision” describing the work of the United Church’s local and global partners. Your donations to the Mission and Service Fund support the work of groups like Defence for Children International (DCI). DCI Palestine is a partner of the Church whose work is important as they support children and their families who are negatively impacted by the occupation. For instance they support children who have been arrested and detained and need advocacy, legal and psychological support.

The photo of this child is from a visit I will never forget. We made the visit to Arab ar Ramadin al Janubi on my birthday in 2012. This community lives in the “seam zone” –caught in between the Israel Palestine border and the separation barrier which does not follow the proposed border (the 1967 “green line”). The people DSC04165we visited are Bedouins and were not allowed to build a school for their children who were obliged instead to cross through military check points from the seam zone into the occupied Palestinian territories. Some of the children, as young as four years old, were terrified to make this journey to school every week. So they erected a series of tents and brought in teachers and started their own school. It was an inspiring visit. We spoke with the teachers and the students.  They are an example of people’s resilience and courage in their efforts to provide protection and the best education possible for the children. It was an encounter I will never forget.

At this time of year, Jesus’ birth, reminds us of families and children who are vulnerable—displaced, homeless, impoverished. In spite of all the consumerism of the season, we are reminded of the miraculous birth and that God will ‘show up’ in the most surprising and humble of places. This season reminds us to give and do whatever we can for peace to come on earth.

For more information please see:

DCI Palestine

United Church Mission and Service Fund

Watch this video about the Mission and Service Fund of The United Church of Canada supports partners overseas who are working for peace and justice.

The views contained herein are personal to me and do not necessarily reflect those of the United Church, my employer, EAPPI or the WCC. If you would like to publish the information contained here (including posting on a website), or distribute it further, please first contact me for permission. Thank you.

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The Resilience of Life—Spiritual Teachings from the Garden

DSC07324Of all the sunflowers that I planted last year, the one that flourished most was a surprise to me. I transplanted a handful of seedlings to the yard. They grew and grew. They also became tasty treats for grasshoppers as evidenced by the holes left behind in the leaves. One day, I noticed one plant’s stem was sawed in half. It was hanging on by a thread.

“What did this?” I wondered and felt sad for the little plant.

My neighbour suggested it might have been a cutworm. I didn’t have the heart to pluck it out of the ground. So I left it.

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Gradually, the plant formed a scar at the cut and the stem became thicker there. The stem formed a right angle and continued to grow up. The stem became thicker than the other sunflowers that grew tall but were thin and flimsy.

The plant eventually recovered and produced more flowers than any of the others. The cut, the scar, the regrowth and regeneration of the plant actually seemed to make it hardier and more resilient than the others. What a lesson!

This year, it was the same routine. I transplanted seedlings to the yard outside my window. There was another plant already starting to grow out there. At first I thought it was a weed but suspected it could be a sunflower so I left it. And indeed, to my delight,  it was a sunflower! Now this sunflower that planted itself from last year’s seeds is doing brilliantly. It exceeds the others in height and number of blossoms. Nature has produced something more amazing than I could have planned or prepared myself.

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I don’t consider myself a serious gardener. I put seeds or roots in pots and see what I can nurture into life. This is what the garden teaches me: to be humble, to be open to surprise, to respect the land. It is always an experiment full of surprises and lessons.

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Filed under Life, Love & Literature, Uncategorized

We refuse to be enemies

Outside Bethlehem lays the Nassar family’s farm. 400554_209302675820204_243115234_nAt their gate is a stone with the words painted on it “We refuse to be enemies.” They call this place The Tent of Nations. The first time I had the chance to visit this farm in 2011, one of the family members explained that their land is under threat of confiscation. They are continually asserting their right to live and farm peacefully on the land of their ancestors. Next to their farm is an illegal Israeli settlement, one of many in the occupied Palestinian territories. When settlers showed up with guns at their gate one day,the Nassar family welcomed them to visit but without guns. Thus the rock painted at their gate, which is their message of peace and hope. They want to stay on their land and live peacefully with their neighbours.

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“This land is under threat of confiscation by the Israeli military, therefore we set projects which aim to demonstrate solidarity with the local people and to keep the land productive, keeping the Tent of Nations projects alive. Our mission is building bridges between people, and between people to the land.  At Tent of Nations, we bring people of various cultures together to build bridges of understanding, reconciliation, and peace.”web4-300x199

When the news reached us last week that soldiers arrived at their land early in the morning and bulldozed 1,500 to 2,000 apricot and apple trees and grape vines, I felt a deep pain for this family. Their presence and persistence on the land is a testimony of faith and hope. In addition, their farm is an example of ecologically sustainable use of resources with solar power, rainwater collection, dug out cave residences and meeting room.  Because of the occupation they have to be creative with their use of resources. We have so much to learn from them! Hundreds of local and international volunteers visit the Tent of Nations and help out with the work of planting and harvesting. They also have summer camp programs for children.394036_209302895820182_2023342888_n

As I looked back through my photos of the Tent of Nations, the rock “We refuse to be enemies” really spoke to me in our current situation here at the Centre at Naramata with the labour dispute. There may be times in our lives when we are tempted to dehumanize people and turn them into ‘Other.’ It is so easy to get sucked into righteous battles of who is right and who is wrong, who is the victim and who the oppressor.1925183_630299017053899_165970870993434951_n

Today I saw one of my colleagues on the picket line wearing a sign that said, “What would Jesus do?”

“Good question,” I thought to myself and one I have been considering a lot lately. Jesus taught us that love is the greatest commandment of all. We are taught to love our neighbour as ourselves and love our enemy (Matthew 22:36-40; Matthew 5:44). The Nassar’s message at their gate interrupts the temptation to turn people—colleagues, family, neighbours, and strangers—into enemies at all. If we continue to see the humanity, both the beauty and suffering in each person, we may be able to fulfill what Christ called us to do and be.

DSC08141 - Version 2So here is a statement of hope and courage from the Centre in the midst of a very trying situation. I choose not to see other people as the ‘enemy.’ This photo is outside of our Chapel, a quiet place for prayer and community coming together. These stones are a sign of solidarity with the Tent of Nations and people everywhere working for healing, justice and peace.DSC08142

If you would like to support the Tent of Nations, please visit their website: www.tentofnations.org. Talk to people about what is happening there, write to your government officials, ask your church or community group to speak out about it. Make your own “We Refuse To Be Enemies” rock and place it outside of your home, school, work or place of worship. Post it on your Facebook and share the Tent of Nations Story.

To support the Centre at this time, please pray for all staff, the local community and all people who cherish this place.

 

The views contained herein are personal to me and do not necessarily reflect those of the United Church, my employer, EAPPI or the WCC. If you would like to publish the information contained here (including posting on a website), or distribute it further, please first contact me for permission. Thank you.

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May 31, 2014 · 12:00 am