A PWRDF Sunday

I case you were wondering what I preached this morning… (I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of that placemat story!)

Given at St John the Divine, Victoria. Third Sunday of Advent: March 11, 2012. Gospel: John 2:13-22.

I remember my first encounter with The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF). I was young, perhaps 11 or 12 years old, and what stands out are those placemats. We’ve all seen them… from coast to coast, many Anglican church potlucks have had those placemats covering the tables where we sit and eat together. But those placemats are not what gave me a passion for the Primate’s fund, nor are they what has kept me involved in it, nearly 20 years later… Rather it was the stories told by a passionate person in my parish who knew about and believed in the stories of what the Primate’s fund is doing around the world.

But more on those stories in a minute…

First, who am I and what do I do with PWRDF? In my day-to-day life, I am a counsellor with the Cool Aid Society. In my weekend life, I worship down the street at Christ Church Cathedral where I, amongst other things, serve on Parish Council. With the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, I am the youth council representative for the ecclesiastical province of BC and the Yukon. That is a fancy way of saying that my role is to bring the voices of youth in BC and the Yukon to the national board of the Primate’s Fund and then turn around and bring the stories of PWRDF partners to people, particularly youth, in the same region. I am not on the board, rather I am part of youth council: a separate and autonomous entity composed of a dozen youth from across this country who are passionate about international relief and development, and social justice. Youth who both create programs and resources for Canadian Anglican youth and who tell the stories of PWRDF to youth.

Why PWRDF? For one thing, it is homegrown, beginning as an Anglican response to disasters within Canada and over the last fifty years spreading to have a national and international relief and development focus.

But what I love about PWRDF is the model we use to operate. We don’t import “western experts” into countries and tell locals how best to fix the problems in their regions and communities. We don’t spend precious resource monies on a large staff or on bringing products overseas. Rather, we partner with organizations who are already working on the ground in their own communities and support and resource them in continuing the work they are already doing.

And people like myself volunteer to tell their stories…

In relief efforts, our partnership might look like providing the funds for an organization to buy precious food to be distributed in drought-stricken or famine-ridden areas.

In development, it looks like translating documents into indigenous languages to help a people group re-learn the skills to grow and harvest their own crops rather than rely on corrupt corporations who will under-pay and overwork them.

Or it may look like providing the start-up money for a women’s microcredit organization, like the one we heard about this morning in Mozambique. In fact, with that organization in Mozambique, one woman who first entered with just a cow and an idea to produce and sell milk to other villagers to support her family now owns not only a herd of cattle but also the land they graze on and she is able to employ many of her neighbours.

In relief, it looks like the villages in Kenya that I visited in 2009. There the Canadian Foodgrains bank, of which PWRDF is a member, was involved in distributing food to thousands of individuals who were affected by the devastating East African drought. We travelled around regions of the country, bringing giant bags of beans and maize and jugs of oil: enough supplies of food to feed a family of eight for a month. In each village we went to, we sat down with a group of people from the village to hear their stories. In each village, the stories were heart-breakingly similar: the rains had not come. Yes, there had been sprinkles here and there, but the big rains, the rains that nourished the ground and gave life to growing crops, had not come for five, six years. Crops would not and could not grow. The livestock that had not been sold, given away, or eaten, simply sat in the shade of scraggly trees all day, as there was no grass to feed on.

We met a woman, 34 years old, the 4th wife of her husband, with eight children of her own – who could finally feed her children, including the young one still breastfeeding. In another village, a man tearfully told us of how grateful he was for the food relief for his village because, as he said it, if we had not come, some of the people in the village had found “chemicals” to use to end their problems as they could not bear the shame of being unable to feed their families.

Yet it was not all tales of woe. One village in the Mt Kenya region refused to roll over and let the drought win. They did not want to receive food relief… While we sat and talked, they spoke of the projects they wanted to do to develop their village so that they could better withstand another drought. So we talked about how to set up a “food for work” program in which we provided food and resources for irrigation and they, in return, would create an irrigation project in their village so that when the rains did come, they would be able to capture and save as much rain as possible for as long as possible.

In relief and development it looks like our partnership with the Organization of Eelam Refugee Rehabilitation or OfERR, an Indian/Sri Lankan organization that PWRDF has partnered with for 30 years. OfERR works with refugees of the Sri Lankan civil war who have taken up residence in refugee camps in South India. They not only help with getting identification documents for the refugees and skills retraining, but they provide community support to the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in India. When the 2004 Asian Tsunami hit India and Sri Lanka, OfERR was able to assist in the relief and rebuilding of the communities in which they lived, giving back to a place that had accepted them as refugees. This past week, a priest of our diocese and a friend of mine left for two weeks in India and Sri Lanka. He goes with a number of other Canadians associated with PWRDF to spend time with OfERR, supporting their work and, if everything going according to plan, to bear witness to one of the first groups of the 100,000 Tamil refugees as they return to their home in Sri Lanka.

In development, it looks like the Keiskamma Trust, a PWRDF partner organization in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa, an area of South Africa hardest hit by HIV/AIDS. Founded by an artist, who also happens to be a medical doctor, the Trust provides medical support to individuals and families struggling with HIV/AIDS. I had the opportunity to meet the founder and director of the Trust at PWRDF’s board meeting last fall. Her vision is extraordinary: knowing that health is more than just physical health, she has expanded the original medial clinic to include both a women’s arts collective and a children’s music academy. The medical centre works at providing health care and medications to a group of people so frequently shunned and stigmatized in their society. The arts collective brings women together to create masterpieces of fabric arts that have been exhibited around the world. The music academy gives the children something bigger than themselves to be a part of and has given them the opportunity to tour and play for large audiences in cathedrals and on game reserves throughout South Africa. Not only do I know the stories of these individuals through meeting the founder and director, but also my sister has been in South Africa since August teaching music at the academy.

Reflecting back to words we heard read this morning, the Gospel reading gave us quite a different picture of Jesus than we typically see on Sunday School flannel boards or pictures mounted on the wall. In this story, Jesus goes into the Temple in Jerusalem and uses a whip to drive out all of the vendors and money-changers. Wow. To put into perspective what these guys were doing… it would be like you coming to church this morning and having to pay exorbitant fees because you needed to change your Canadian dollars into American dollars in order to buy the things you need for worship: your leaflet, your hymn book, or your prayer book. Ridiculous. Completely Unjust. But that is what was going on.

If we look around us, there are injustices everywhere. We have before us a model of Jesus taking action and, to use the words of one of the Marks of Mission: “seek[ing] to transform the unjust structures of society”. In our gospel reading, Jesus is actively challenging, in a very visible and somewhat violent way, the structures of his society that were creating injustice.

Another one of the Marks of Mission is “To respond to human need by loving service.”

Human need is all around us and through PWRDF we have an amazing vehicle for acting on that need. We are called to respond and we are constantly challenged in scripture to follow the example of Jesus.

For me, a big part of that is the work that I do with PWRDF and what I would challenge you with today. I’m not saying that everyone has to go out there and start overturning tables, though sometimes that might work, but what can you do, what can I do, to follow the example of Jesus, to work against injustice and to respond to real human need with what resources we have at hand.

Because I have seen that together we do make a difference. We can make Another World Possible.

Amen.

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PWRDF From the Pulpit

Actually, I think it will be from the lectern, but pulpit has alliteration going for it.

I’m preaching at the church of St John the Divine, Quadra this Sunday. I’m there as a part of their month of talking about the work of PWRDF so I will be sharing some of the stories of the Primate’s Fund and generally telling people why it is a good idea that they support it.

If you’re in town and have nothing to do Sunday morning, come on down for either the 8am or 10am service. I will likely be sticking around after each service as well, drinking coffee and answering questions.

Our Loving Creator

Adaption of the Lord’s Prayer written at the 50 Leaders weekend last weekend. It was a collaborative effort done over a space of a couple hours during our spiritual practices downtime.

Our loving creator, rock of our salvation,
Holy be Your beautiful name,
Your dwelling place come,
Your love be known
By everyone on earth.
Give us today the things we need,
and forgive us our faults,
more than we forgive those who offend us,
and journey with us away from temptation,
and protect us from harm.
For blessed is the space,
and the capacity and the delight,
beyond earthly time.
Amen.

justgeneration.ca

Do What is Good

Unashamedly re-posting this from The Weary Pilgrim because I love it. Thank you for the impacting words.

They said, who to love,

Jesus said, do what is good.


They said, obey the Sabbath,

Jesus said, do what is good.


They said, forgive this many times,

Jesus said, do what is good.


They said, you can’t hang out with those people,

Jesus said, do what is good.


They said, you can’t touch those people.

Jesus said, do what is good.


They said, you have to worship here, like this,

Jesus said, do what is good.


They said, which law,

Jesus said, do what is good.


They said, faith is this,

Jesus said, do what is good.


They said, you get eternal life this way,

Jesus, said, do what is good.

Waiting

Some late night, only slightly coherent ramblings as they cross my mind. Written here mainly because my computer is on my lap and my journal is out of reach.

I am reading the Old Testament lesson next Sunday (Genesis 29:15-28 for those of you who do not have the lectionary at your fingertips). After being sent the reading this evening, I was looking it over to see what I’ll be reading next week. Wow. Jacob worked for 7 years before getting what (who) he wanted. And I am whining about 1 or 2 years of school or work before “getting there” (unsure where “there” is at the moment).

So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Puts things into perspective. I don’t know whether to hope that this time of not knowing what I am doing or where I am going passes quickly or mourn the lost time as time spent doing something other than what I would like to be doing.

Grace

About 18 months ago, I had a Grace in Small Things project underway. I got to 56 days of my planned 365 and then things fell by the wayside. The goal was to acknowledge and recognize five things that were good in my day, and to practice that for a year. It was a big commitment. Since I struggle to get a photo up every week on Friday, I am not sure how I thought I could complete daily postings for a year.

The practice, however, was a good one. It reminds me of a part of the practice of Ignatian Examen: to review the events of the day with gratitude, focusing on the people interacted with, the the gifts of the day, and the blessings of small things: conversations, good food eaten, and things seen. It is a good practice.

As I sit here at the kitchen table with good music playing, a mug of Jasmine tea from my last trip to China, and the remnant of my birthday chocolate, I am reminded of these good things. The small things, the simple things that bring joy in life.

I had a killer [bad] day. It was my fourth day in a row of work (three in optometry, one in counselling) and around hour six, I hit the wall of “I. Can. Go. No. Further.”. With two more hours to go, it was a struggle to make it. After dropping off the bank deposit from work I decided to hop into the local Japanese grocery store next door and pick up some miso soup to have with my veggi stirfry for dinner. I have a weakness for good miso soup and they make a good one. (Speaking of miso soup, this is a hilarious job posting!) When I arrived at the store, all their sushi was discounted 50% off. So I had some gyoza and oysters with my stirfry and miso. What a find!

Other joys in my day? I love some of the girls I work with; they are such a blessing and so much fun. I’m going to miss seeing them a few times a week when I finally get my counselling job. My thesis is finished: all I need is a title and I can submit it. I had a brief, but funny conversation with my sister. I love her. I got a wonderful email from a friend. My tea was perfect and hit the spot and soothed my stomach. I spent some time sewing a belt to wear later this week. Dinner has left me more than satisfied. I have leftover sushi for lunch. The smell of grass and rain.

Placemats and Genocide

When I tell people that I am on PWRDF’s Youth Council, the first predictable response is “What is PW… something?”. After explaining it as the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, the relief, development, and social justice arm of the Anglican Church of Canada (pwrdf.org), the next question usually asks about monkeys.

All joking aside, I am delighted to be a part of the Youth Council because I believe strongly in the work that PWRDF does and want every Canadian Anglican (or really just every Canadian) to know about it and understand the importance of their and their church’s support.

My first awareness of PWRDF has a very specific start-date: I can still picture the placemat. I grew up in a parish in the Diocese of Ontario. Our parish had (still has?) a wonderful tradition of Wednesday morning Lenten services followed by breakfast together in the parish hall. In my memory, there were a good number of people who would attend before heading off to work – my parents faithfully went every week, bringing their two young children. At breakfast, each long table was set with PWRDF placemats. I remember sitting at the table, looking at the pictures and being captivated by the images portrayed. However, what stands out to me even more than the images on the placemats is the memory of a church lady standing before everyone with one of the placemats and exhorting us to Stop! and Pay Attention! to the images and messages contained on the placemats and then Do Something! about it.

You see, this was the season of Lent 1994, a time in which the tensions in Rwanda were at the boiling point. We, through PWRDF and other organizations, were being urged to take a stand and write letters to our government to urge them to support actions to help prevent a genocide. I didn’t fully understand the gravity of the situation being described until years later, upon reading accounts of the events and putting 2 + 2 together. However for me, PWRDF placemats will always be a reminder of a call to action, of a call to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God.

Easter Morning

I ended up at church far more than I had intended over the last week: six of the last seven days. I even participated in all/nearly all of the services in the Easter Triduum (I am not going to Evensong tonight).

Last night was the Easter Vigil service and, true to the term “vigil”, it went late. The Easter Vigil service is usually one of my favourites and I did appreciate it last evening. However, the service which impacted me most this year was the 6am sunrise service I attended this morning. One of the churches in this area holds a sunrise service down in Cadboro Bay, one of my “thinking” places. It was actually warm-ish this morning, making it one of the first years I can remember when it was not freezing cold and/or raining for the service.

As I was hurrying (because I thought I was late) along the roads and pathways – up the hill, through the university, and down the other side, I was able to see the pink-orange glow of the sun coming up over the ocean. Here I was, rushing to “see Jesus,” perhaps not unlike the early disciples rushed to the tomb once the women had told them He is Risen. Like the disciples, there will still be doubts about how the story unfolds. Unlike the disciples, I have 2000 years of hindsight to know what I will find when I reach the beach. However that sense of anticipation, expectation, and, eventually, joy is still there. Let’s never lose the wonder.

Good Friday Recollections and Reflections

Good Friday 2008 I found myself walking in the way of the geishas, Buddhist priests and ascetics rather than the Way of the Cross.

Good Friday 2008 was my day off between legs 5 and 6 of the Pacific Odyssey Offshore: three months remained until I laid eyes on home for the first time in over a year. It had been a long and trying, yet rewarding and fulfilling voyage to date and, unbeknownst to me, the most trying was yet to come.

Good Friday 2008 also fell on the first day of spring. Everyone, it seemed, in Kyoto was out and enjoying the sunshine and cherry blossoms. Many people were wearing their kimonos to visit temples, as tradition dictates. I decided to join them.

Down the street and up a few flights of stairs from my hostel in Higashiyama was Kiyomizu Temple. Perched high in the hills for which the area is named, there is a stunning view of the city from its balconies. More importantly are the areas of the shrine where devotees have the opportunity to have wishes for health, wealth, and long life fulfilled or where the promise of finding true love is revealed.

What a contrast with walking in the Way of the Cross. No promises for health, wealth, and long life are given… instead, we are told to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ. Follow Christ? On comfortable Vancouver Island, perhaps not to the point of being killed, but we can still follow the way…

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends…