The world as we knew it ended at 7.32 AM December 10th 2018. That was when we got the phone call every parent dreads. Our wonderful and deeply loved son Chris had died suddenly from what we later found out was a pulmonary embolism, the result of a work place injury he had sustained just over a week before.
We had been called by his wife Karla about 45 minutes before and had jumped in the car scrambling as fast as we could to drive the hour and fifteen minutes to their home. Instead, the call came as we were stuck in a traffic jam, trying to get to him in time. I will never forget the howl of despair that escaped me as Helen wept beside me, or the desperate sadness of calling his sister Sarah to tell her. Or lying next to him on the floor an hour later, trying to summon the words to say goodbye. Knowing he had already gone. That everything was broken.
In the aftermath, trying to breathe, trying to stand, trying to comprehend, I found myself asking questions of God, asking him how this could happen, what could we have done differently, how could we carry on without Chris’s laughter and infectious joy in our lives? I wanted to find solace, to feel God wrap me in his arms like a father would for any deeply hurt child.
But all I heard was silence. Continue reading
Silence? We don’t really know what to do with silence. If anything, we are intimidated by it and find it awkward. Silence could mean, that we have to listen.
Listening? Most of us have a hard time listening to other people’s stories. Listening is challenging. We might be confronted with emotions, struggles and problems. Listening requires time, involvment and actions. However, often it involves a need for change in our own lives and hearts. Mostly we find it hard to listen because we want to be seen and heard. We want to share our stories, our opinions and views.
At JustUs and in social justice circles, a lot of emphasis is often put on speaking up. But sometimes the most important thing you can do is listen. In our loud world, the value of listening can sometimes be lost. Above all, the simple act of listening in such a context is revolutionary.
Danielle Strickland, co-founder of the Women Speakers Collective and Amplify Peace invites us to practice listening as a first step toward change. Jump over to her blog and find out “How listening could change everything…”
Wrestling with Hospitality
Last Sunday, I was invited to preach in a Mennonite Church about hospitality. When I first heard that I was to be a guest speaker in their series on hospitality, I was super excited. I love showing hospitality and everything involved in it. Growing up, hospitality was a high value in my family. In fact, it had such a big influence on me. Now, my personality flourishes when I get the chance to care for my guests – my friends and the new people I meet. I truly enjoy being caught up in the business of cleaning up, preparing a meal, and making sure the guests are enjoying themselves. But I don’t think that is the kind of hospitality we find in the Bible.
As I wrestled with different scriptures referencing to hospitality, the more my view of hospitality was challenged. The more research I did on biblical hospitality the more it became clear to me that the true call to hospitality exceeds our understanding and practice of hospitality. Christine Pohl writes in her book Making Room: Rediscovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition: “[We see] hospitality as a nice extra if we have the time or the resources, but we rarely view it as a spiritual obligation or as a dynamic expression of vibrant Christianity.” Continue reading
You know those embarrassing moments that you keep on file in your mind? They’re the moments you half wish you could reverse and re-do. And yet, they are moments that also make you smile and chuckle a little as you slowly shake your head and groan. I had one of those moments this Christmas.
A group of friends gathered to celebrate the season by giving gifts. One of the friends had packaged her gift to each of us in a similar style gift bag with tissue paper billowing out the top. Someone suggested we take out the tissue paper of our respective gifts on the count of three. What we didn’t realize was that: 1 – the gift was actually wrapped inside the tissue. And 2 – it was fragile. On 3, we lifted the tissue out. However, I lifted mine out with infinitely more gusto and excitement than the rest.
The tissue launched and left my fingers, flew through the air and landed on the rim of my tea mug. What followed was the ear-piercing sound of shattering glass. I looked up in horror and disbelief at the gift-giver’s face, and then we all burst into fits of laughter. I apologized profusely as I unfolded the fragment-filled tissue paper. Inside were the sad remains of a shattered Christmas ball ornament.
It can be so easy to sit at home and lament all of the horrible stuff that happens around the world: “Black Friday really is the worst!” “It’s so sad what’s happening in Syria” or “Did you hear what Trump said about immigrants, democrats, the Supreme Court, Russia, the media, whateverelsehesrantingaboutnow?” But every once in a while, you get a chance to actually do something about it. Not just talk, or blog, or read, but DO.
A couple of weeks ago I received an email from MP Peter Julian about a Private Member’s Bill that he brought to Parliament in 2016. The Bill is called The International Protection and Promotion of Human Rights Act (Bill C-331) and it is going to go before Parliament for its second reading soon.
I’ve long been marginally aware of the violations and injustices perpetrated by industries operating in majority world countries. After receiving Mr. Julian’s email about Bill C-331 I did some research and found out even more about the impact of Canadian mining companies internationally, particularly in Latin America. Continue reading
A few weeks ago, we lost someone who was very dear to many of us here at JustUs.
In times of grief, it’s difficult to know what to do with all of the pain, all of the sadness, all of the questions. Usually there are many more questions than answers.
Alicia visited Rwanda with The Elevation Project in 2010, and she was a devoted supporter ever after. We always talked about travelling there together, dreaming of spending our evenings drinking African tea on the Rwandan hillside. She and I were elated to finally make the trip together last summer with the Elevation Experience team of 2017. I still haven’t stopped talking about what a miracle she was on that trip. The warm, loving presence that she emanated was a magnet for stressed out and hurting kids that just needed some comfort. She saw kids exactly where they were at, saw through all the surface anxiety and frustration, and met them exactly where there were. She soothed all of their complicated problems with such simple solutions.
“Take a deep breath in….and now take a deep breath out. Breathe in…breathe out. When was the last time you ate? When was the last time you drank water? Drink some water.” Easy. Continue reading
A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting on the runway at the Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Montreal ready to embark on an adventure to Peru – a journey I had waited to take my entire life – and I was so excited.
What would I see? Would it be as great as I’d built it up to be? Where. . . wait . . . where were the TVs on this plane?! [Insert Face Screaming emoji]. Was this the Stone Age? What did they expect me to do for eight hours? I’m a Millennial after all – I need to be entertained!
An overhead announcement informed me to download the airline’s app to access the inflight entertainment system.
I fumbled through my over-packed carry-on at lighting speed, grabbed my dying phone and plugged it into the seat-charger. I looked at my phone eager for the charging symbol to appear – nothing. I plugged and unplugged it an embarrassing amount of times trying to remedy the problem before slumping back into my seat in defeat.
“Please turn all personal electronic devices to airplane mode,” instructed the overhead voice. What was I supposed to do now? Talk to the woman beside me in my broken Spanish? No thanks. I gazed out the window and with a deep sigh accepted my fate.
Where would I be, if there weren’t some adults who invested their heart into my personal development? They cared for me, saw my potential and encouraged me to grow as I was trying to figure out what this life is about. Life is a gift and we are all meant to explore the beauty of it. Each one of us is alive for a reason. As I am still on my journey of exploring and designing life following the footsteps of Jesus, I realized how important it is to have people in my life who supported and challenged me on this road.
So here I am in Vancouver starting my job as the Elevation Program Manager at Greater Vancouver Youth Unlimited. I am excited to be part of this organization, working with youth in a cross-cultural context. In my personal development cross-cultural experiences have been very influential. Growing up in a big family in Germany who always had an open house for people from all over the world, I became curious about different cultures. It was my dream to live in a different country making my own experiences one day. It was after Highschool when I packed my bags and volunteered with the Mennonite Central Committee in Vancouver for a year in 2011.
It was the beginning of a story that now is continuing. It was in Vancouver that I discovered my interest in pursuing ministry.
The International Day of Peace gives us here at JustUs the opportunity to reflect on why we exist. JustUs was born out of the desire to equip people to respond to God’s invitation to join Him in His reconciling work – His shalom-making and peace-building work.
Peace-building is hard work. It requires knowledge, humility, perseverance, wisdom, grace, diligence, and energy. There are always going to be distractions and disruptions along the way and sometimes it takes great discernment to know how to proceed. The past few weeks have been a time where great discernment is necessary.
On September 4, 2018, a Statement on the Gospel and Social Justice was released by a group of thirteen initial signers. The signatories claim that the “social justice” movement presents “dangerous and false teachings that threaten the gospel, misrepresent Scripture, and lead people away from the grace of God in Jesus Christ.”
The social justice world is full of people who react. We react to people who are hungry. We react to people who are marginalized. We react to pipelines, and privilege, and racism, and leaders who say things we disagree with. We react to situations where we see that something is broken and we know things could be different, more whole and healthy.
But, what if we aren’t called to react?
Stick with me here. I’m not saying that we should cast the powerful call of Jesus aside, but what if reacting to the need is not what Jesus is calling us to do? What if he instead is calling us to respond to him.
The difference between reacting to a need and responding to the person of Jesus may be slight in appearance, but I think it is a powerful and important difference, especially if we are committed to transformation – both in ourselves and in the world.