New Beginnings

Grant, O God,
that what has been said with our lips we may believe in our hearts,
and that what we believe in our hearts we may practice in our lives,
through Jesus the Christ. Amen

Deacon’s message:

Dear Friends,

It’s hard to believe that it is already August – the summer has just flown by (or so it seems to me). I have found it so gratifying to be able to spend time with people in the hospital, both patients and staff, offering comfort and support to those in need. I also feel great joy in my heart as I have been able to return to New Light MCC and participate in worship. My calendar year at Vision of Hope MCC was very rewarding and provided a wonderful learning experience; however, like Dorothy, I think there’s no place like home.

My sermon this week is an appeal for unity for us all – as the body of Christ who have been called to this church, our church, where we might worship together the One God, the One Son, and the One Holy Spirit of us all. Let us share together the Spirit of Jesus that burns brightly within each one of us so that together we can be all that we are called to be.

Love,

Deacon Colleen

New Beginnings:

It’s something you never imagined happening, and you didn’t see it coming. Now you feel like the foundation of your life has crumbled under your feet, and no wonder. It has. Things aren’t what they used to be!

There’s no better time than now to start building something new.

While much good may be gone, no doubt there were things about the past that you didn’t like…things you may have wanted to change, but didn’t or couldn’t. Now is the time to turn over a new leaf…to express a part of yourself long put aside…to reach out and embrace life afresh.

Now is the time to accept a new reality…to redefine “normal”…to reclaim yourself…to look with expectant eyes at what today and the days ahead have to offer.

Now is the time to realistically assess your situation…the good and the bad, the opportunities and the challenges. If you have trouble seeing your way clearly, talk these things over with a loved one, close friend, or counselor.

Remember: Though much has changed, not everything needs to be changed. Today is the day to focus on necessary decisions. Make those and leave all other decisions until tomorrow.

Now is the time to care for your physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Refuse to let avoidable illness or stress drain away your energy, because…

there’s no better time than now to start building something new.

It’s All in How You Look at It by Inspirited by Faith

Our World is Changing

Our world is ch anging. This has been the hottest first-half of a year since records began. We’re told that climate change is in part due to greenhouse gas emissions, and yet we still seem to lack the will to do anything major about it. As the warming effect takes stronger hold we end up with more moisture in the air, leading to greater rain storms in some areas, and drought in others. We end up with much more extreme weather variations as the air patterns change and the temperature of our oceans rise. Of course we’ve always had floods, and draughts, but the ones we are now experiencing are getting worse year on year. It’s not the end of the world, but there’s certainly a great change to it.

The natural world is changing, and perhaps the question we should ask ourselves, if we are to be good stewards of God’s creation, is – what am I doing to help with this problem? Am I making a difference? Do I recycle my waste? Am I conservative with my energy consumption?

In England it was found that there was a huge decline on the bee population. Waste ground was cleared of plant life and manicured. Hedgerows and grass verges were landscaped. Everything looked niceand tidy, but the bees couldn’t find the nectar they needed to feed. When a virus hit the  bee population many hives simply died and the population plummeted.

TV programs brought attention to the bees, and to the other wild life suffering because of the lack of wild growth in our countryside. For the last few years many verges have been left to grow wild, hedgerows left untidy, village greens planted with wild flowers, and the bees are making a comeback. One clever company invented ‘flower bombs’ – a pack of wild flower seeds and nutrients that you can throw onto waste ground. The ‘bomb’ gently ‘explodes’ – sending wild flower seeds and nutrients over a good few square feet. What a great idea, and such fun too!

Of course it’s not just nature that we are stewards of. We are stewards of ourselves. We need to make sure that we get enough rest, good nutrition, take care of ourselves. We need to be good stewards of our bodies too. How do we deal with stress? How do we make sure that we get the downtime that we need? How do we take care of ourselves?

We also need to take care of ourselves spiritually. This summer I’m hoping to start some mid-week bible study groups in a few homes around the area. These groups will meet on Wednesdays from 7 – 9 pm. For half an hour the group will discuss a ‘thought for the day’, usually based on scripture. Then the group will spend a half an hour sharing with each other whatever they’d like help or support with, or even just share their own life’s journey story for that day/week. Then the group will spend a half an hour in prayer, praying for each other. Lastly there will be half an hour set aside for coffee and cookies, a more relaxed way to connect and share. Already Maurice in Hagerstown, and Sue in Winchester have stepped forward as hosts. I’m now looking for leaders to facilitate the groups. Maybe you feel called to lead? Or maybe you feel called to participate? How are you taking care of your own spiritual needs?

We also need to take care of others. Family members, loved ones, our church family. We need to take care of each other if we are truly to be the body of Christ.

Taking care of ourselves physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Taking care of the world around us. Taking care of the church and our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ; These are the things that come under the banner ‘stewardship’. We ignore one of these at our peril! Remember, even Jesus balanced care of himself and care for others, calling us to do the same.

I pray that you are a good steward in all these areas. Mind, body, and spirit all need tender care if we are to thrive. If you need any help or support in the area of Spiritual care then please don’t hesitate to let me know – it’s kind of ‘my thing’!!

Have a wonderful week.

Love

Rev. Michael.

All Change!

It’s all very exciting. A new worship home at the Clarion in Hagerstown, and a new worship home at the Lord’s Chapel in Winchester. It can feel a little overwhelming at times. In fact, if I wasn’t sure that God was at the center of it all I’d be really scared. As it is I was very nervous at the first service in our new Hagerstown worship space, and at the second service in Winchester. Getting to know new people. Very exciting. Very scary! Like being in the eye of a storm; God’s storm.

If you feel the same way then you now know that you’re not alone. Even the pastor feels nervous when God moves him out of his comfort zone into a new area. And who knows what will happen next? Who knows what the outcome will be. Well, God does, and that has to be enough. We work like it depends on us, and pray like it depends on God. And in the middle, the eye of the storm, there is a peaceful place where God’s presence reminds us that we are never alone and there’s a reason for everything that God does in us and through us.

As we go forward I pray that you keep to the eye of your personal storm, that you know God’s peace, and worry a little less!

Love

Rev. Michael

New Light soon in Winchester too!

In just a few weeks we’ll be celebrating our very first New Light service in Winchester. I’m very excited, and I’m  also very nervous! I believe that there’s a real need in the Winchester area. I believe that we’ve been called to meet it. I believe that this is the time for us to do it. I believe I may be crazy!

We have a lot on our collective plate right now. Pride is just around the corner, and then a week later, the same week that Capital Pride is celebrated in Washington D.C., we move our worship to the Clarion Hotel. It might be the best move we ever made, or it might be the worst! Either way, if we’re going to see whether it’s actually our building size that’s inhibiting our growth we need  to worship in a larger space and see whether our growth picks up again.

I’d like to say that I know exactly what’s going to happen, but I don’t. There are certainly those who would love to see us fail. There are those who don’t want to see a large open and affirming church in Hagerstown, or Winchester. But it’s because of them that we must try. It’s because of those clergy that use their pulpits to put down LGBT people that we must step out in faith. It’s because of the bullies, the intolerant, the bigoted, the breathtakingly ignorant self-righteous that we must proclaim the good news.

Jesus preached the good news of the Kingdom wherever he went. ‘Repent’ he said, ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand’. Matthew 4:17.  I don’t believe that Jesus meant we should be sorry for who we are and pretend to be someone else. You can be sorry for something you’ve done, (I’m sorry I ate too much on vacation!), and be willing to change (Salads for a good while!); but how can you be sorry for who you are? How can you be sorry for the color of your eyes, your height, your skin color, your ethnicity, your gender, your sexuality?

The good news of the Kingdom is the good news that God’s love doesn’t just wait for us in some forever place we reach when we die, but is available to us right now. God’s Kingdom is found when we turn from the world and submit to God. We give ourselves to God by giving ourselves to Jesus. We become his responsibility, his siblings in his family. We become a part of the family of God and give up chasing down the vision that the world imposes on us.

Wow! When we do that we find that God’s love is available without reservation to us all! We find that God made us the way we are and that what Jesus changes in us, and for us, is not sexuality, gender, color, ethnicity, or any variable the world might want changed, but simply the core of our character. He makes us like him.

In Jesus we get to live a life! We get to be who we are supposed to be, whether that be straight of Gay, Black or White, Male or female.

And there are those who don’t want that message preached, who do not want equality in God’s family, and who certainly don’t want God’s LGBT children to experience the Love of God without pretending that they’re straight.

Our job is to preach the good news! To all people! We need to make sure we have space for everyone who wants to worship with us. We have to make sure that those who live two hours from Hagerstown have a place to worship. It’s the calling of our hearts and the response to God’s love in action.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m excited and nervous. But together we can reach out and proclaim God’s love, in Hagerstown and in Winchester. We can be faithful. The rest we leave to God.

with Love,

Rev. Michael

Reaching Out!

There’s been some projects that have been simmering on the back burner that are about to flower into reality. The first is Community Triangle where I have been looking for a suitable volunteer to manage a monthly Dinner Out. Deacon Howard Dunn has stepped into the breach and later this summer you will see Dinner Out back on the calendar. We’re also looking at a youth group version of Dinner Out!

New Light is about to pilot a second Sunday service at 7pm in Winchester, serving parts of Virginia and West Virginia. The catchment area will be south to Woodstock, east to Leesburg, and north to Martinsburg. It is my hope that anyone traveling to Hagerstown from the Martinsburg area will continue to do so, but that we will reach out into the larger WV and VA area to make our presence known. Our new venue is The Lord’s Chapel in Winchester, and our very first service will be a pride celebration on June 3rd!

Of course, you cannot fail to notice that our Hagerstown home has become increasingly cramped on Sundays and that we need a larger space to worship in. We were bursting out of the seams on Easter Sunday! I believe we need space to grow and so are going to try a different venue for a while to see what impact it has on our growth. On June 10th we will be moving our regular Sunday worship service to the Clarion Hotel on Rt. 40.  Worship will take place at the usual time, 10:30am, and we are exploring various ways to ensure that those who currently walk to the church have equal access. It’s a wonderful space, disabled accessible with its own kitchen, bathrooms, and rooms which overlook the sanctuary and which are perfect for a Sunday School and creche. We’ll have our usual coffee hour afterwards and there’s a wonderful hotel to explore as well. Of course, all of our other events, ministries, and day to day office work will continue to take place at our church building on West Church Street. We’re not losing our home, we’re gaining an annex!

Lots of exciting stuff. Vision and mission statements, core values, all in the pipe line. Mission trips and retreats on the drawing board. more ways to reach out into our own communities being explored. Please come and talk to me, or a board member if you have any questions. Please let me know if you’d like to be involved in some way. And please join me in praying that God continue to be the sponsor of our plans, and that God’s Will continue to guide our steps.
With Love

REV. MICHAEL

The Grace of God

You know that the past 9 months has been difficult for Chris and I. We’ve both lost friends that were special to us over the last few months. That would be difficult enough for any couple but there’s also my brother’s death, my dad’s suicide, mum diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, my niece’s heart condition, and last week I was diagnosed with secondary bi-polar disorder. Sigh.

I want to be able to ‘fix’ things – but I can’t. I want to be able to wave a ‘magic wand’ and have everything be alright, but know that I am as powerless over such things as anyone else.

I’m telling you this by way of confession in case the such fears and worry causing events should ever trouble you.  Sometimes we just don’t know what is going to happen. Faith is hope, and hanging on, because we don’t know what else to do and letting go is not an option.  Sometimes we wonder where God is, why this is happening, and all the old fears flood back – the ones we thought left years ago. Maybe I did something wrong and God is punishing? Maybe there’s some lesson I’m not learning? Maybe I’m not good enough. Maybe God doesn’t love me. Maybe all this is somehow my fault? What do we do then?

We do what we can do, and trust in God.

Your deacons and prayer team are amazing, and I’ve felt the Grace of God in the power of their prayers. Your support has been loving and unconditional, and I am more grateful than you can imagine. Your board have been amazing, and I hope you appreciate Terry, Arlene, Dan, and John, as much as I do.

This week we held our Ash Wednesday service.  It was a reminder that God never lets us go, never abandons us, never lets us walk alone, no matter how things look.  God can take the ashes of any life or situation and turn them into something new, something wonderful.  Every time.

Trusting God isn’t a ‘one shot’ deal.  It’s new every single day.  That’s why God’s Grace is new every single day.  There are days when it’s so easy to trust God. – I feel good, things are going well, I can feel God’s presence all around me.  But then there are other days it’s not so easy, days when I feel confused, feel alone, feel ‘down’ and fogged in.  It’s at those times more than any other that God seeks us out, walks beside us, and leads us through.  With hindsight I can see God has walked with me through all the dark and shadowy places of my life.  God is with us all the time!  But the truth is that even Pastors have their moments and that’s why Jesus gives us each other.

I pray that, whatever you may go through, that God’s Love and Grace may reach out to you through those around you.  I pray that you may never doubt God’s love. I pray that even when you doubt those around you that you may find the grace to love them anyway, for then you truly are Christ to them..

Much Love

Rev. Michael.

We can’t do it all ourselves

A preacher retired and moved to the country to enjoy life and practice his hobby of yard work. Needing a lawn mower, he headed into town to buy one. On the way he saw a sign advertising a lawn mower for sale. He stopped at the house and a young lad came out to greet him. The pre acher asked about the lawn mower and the kid said it was behind the house. The two went to look at the lawn mower. The engine was sputtering along at idle speed. The preacher increased the speed of the engine and mowed a few strips. Satisfied that the mower would do the job they settled on a price of $25.00.

Later in the day, the young lad was riding his bicycle when he spied the preacher pulling on the engine starter rope. The kid stopped and watched for a couple of minutes. He asked, “What’s wrong?” The reply came, “I can’t get this mower started.

Do you know how?” The kid said, “Yep.” “Well, how do you do it? Tell me!”, the preacher yelled.

The kid replied, “You have to cuss it.” The preacher rose up indignantly. “Now you listen here. I am a preacher and if I ever did cuss, not saying I have, I’ve forgotten how to do it after all these years.” With a wise look on his face well beyond his years, the kid said, “Preacher, you keep on pulling that rope and it’ll all come back to ya.”

There are some days when we think that we’ve ‘made it’.  That we’ve eventually got that problem licked, kicked that habit, shrugged off that temptation once and for all, and that all should be smooth sailing from here on in.  In the Ecclesiastes 9:11 King David remarks that ‘Time and unforeseen occurrence befall us all”, and they surely do. There are inevitably going to be new hurdles to leap, new challenges to face, and sometimes the old ones that we think are dead and buried come back to haunt us.  That’s the bad news, the pessimistic side.

On the other hand with optimism we remember that we don’t have to face any of it alone.  In Matthew 28:20 we are reminded that Jesus promises to be with us through everything that life can throw at us.  Perhaps the greatest human mistake is in thinking we can do it all by ourselves when we don’t have to.  It can be a tough lesson but I pray there comes a time when you think of a better solution to the problem besides continuing to “keep pulling that rope”!

Say “Yes” to whatever God calls you

I was struck this week by the image of Jesus calling Peter and Andrew to be disciples and follow Jesus. It was the focus of our Gospel reading last week, and although I chose to preach on Jonah, (Too many Jonah’s – not enough whales!), the picture of Jesus calling Peter and Andrew fishing came to mind. I wonder what they were talking about whilst they were with their Father on the boat just before they met Jesus.  I think they were probably talking about the everyday things; what they were going to have for dinner, where the best place was to catch fish, and what they thought the future had to hold for them.  I suspect that they planned to be fishermen all their lives, as probably had been their Father and generations of family members before them.  I suspect they had no idea about how drastically their lives were about to change.

I reckon that Peter had no idea that he would be instrumental is starting a new Jewish movement that would be called ‘Christianity’ and eventually cover the globe.  I suspect that had he known that when he saw Jesus on the beach he might have wanted to prepare himself a little more before dashing after Jesus into the unknown.

I know how he feels!  Walking in faith, walking with God, is a great deal like stumbling into the dark, the foggy unknown.  As much as we’d like to think that we know what tomorrow will bring, we don’t.  “Time and Chance happen to us all”, as King David said.  (Ecc 9:11)

Fortunately following Christ doesn’t mean that we have to know what tomorrow will bring, only that we never face it alone.   Following Christ means following where the Spirit of Christ leads us and often that’s into unfamiliar territory.  For me it was to seminary, to New York, then here to Hagerstown.

I remember talking to Troy Perry about the founding of MCC. I remember someone asked him “What was it like to be the one called to start an LGBT friendly Christian Church?” and Troy replied, “Oh, I don’t for one moment think I was the only one called to start an LGBT friendly church, I was just the first one to say ‘yes’”.

I wonder what it was like for Delores when she was called to be an evangelist? I wonder if she knew what she was getting herself into? I wonder what it was like for Nancy Wilson to be called to be the moderator of MCC, and even after many years in MCC whether she knew what she was getting herself into!

Even in our own church. Colleen, called to seminary and into ministry, along with Charlie, Elaine, Drew, Harry, and Harold, also called into ministry as Deacons. Those who God called to our Board, Prayer team, Steering Committee, Stewardship team, Choir, Praise band, and as volunteers in the various ministries of the church. It’s never quite what you think it’s going to be. It’s always more than you reckon on, and a source of personal growth. If we take our calling seriously, as a calling by the Holy Spirit, then it always draws us in closer to god, and reveals Christ in ways we never suspected.

Where is God calling you?  You don’t know yet?  That’s OK!  The disciples didn’t know either.  Our job is not to ‘know’ but follow the one who does.  We just need to be willing to step out when we are called, ready or not.  Faith is not about working out if we can see the future or not, faith is simply about recognizing Christ’s voice and saying ‘YES’ when we are called.

So I pray, when the call comes, that you have the faith to step out and simply say ‘Yes’, to whatever God calls you.

Thank you for giving generously in 2011

It’ll soon be tax time again, and already I’ve had a couple of folks ask me about giving statements. They should be finished this weekend, and by next weekend they’ll be winging their way to you!

This year we’ll be distributing the statements to church members a little differently. My hope is that you’ll receive your giving statement from either myself, or a member of the Stewardship team. At the very least you’ll receive a phone call to let you know that it’s in the post.

Why? Well, for two reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, to say Thank you. Last year, in the most difficult economic climate, we were within only a few hundred dollars of our budget. Because of you we were able to open the doors every Sunday, pay church expenses, and be Christ in our community. The Gospel was preached, the hungry fed, and we continue to be a witness to God’s love.

I want you to know that I appreciate your faithfulness. More than that, your community appreciates your faithfulness. From the children who met Santa in our Christmas outreaches, to the families struggling with the effects of HIV/AIDS that received Thanksgiving dinner gift boxes. Last year Narcotics anonymous increased their meetings here at the church to two a week, and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) now meets every month.  PFLAG have now moved into their permanent new home in Frederick – and would like me to thank you very much for helping them through their time of transition.

Of course, it’s nice to read all of this, but I want you to know what a difference you make personally. Your gifts and tithes are so appreciated, you have no idea.

The second reason I want to talk to you is I want to make sure that you are aware of the ways in which you can support your church.

Of course, you can put money in the plate every week, but it’s not the most effective way to give. Even if you don’t attend church regularly I would encourage you to use an envelope (available in the foyer) and write your name on the front. That way the church can keep track of your giving over the year and print a report out for you. You may not need a tax receipt for your giving this year, but taxes can be reviewed over the coming years and you may find in the future that a tax receipt for this year’s giving is very useful. Circumstances change, so even if you don’t need a receipt right now, be aware that you may find a 2012 receipt very useful sometime in the future.

Another way to give is by direct deposit. If you’re on a regular salary you can have the bank take a set amount every month and direct transfer it to the church. It’s easy to set up, especially if you use internet banking services. This is an especially generous way to give to the church, because it makes sure that even if you take off for a time that the church is still supported. After all, when you’re away from home you don’t stop paying the rent, mortgage, utilities – if you did that there soon wouldn’t be a home to come ‘home’ to!  If you are a member of the church then this is your home in the same way. It’s your church. It belongs to you. (This may be very difficult to understand if you come from a longstanding tradition like the Roman catholic Church where you belong to the church and not the other way around!) You decide the future of the church by the way you support it.

I also want to make sure that you understand what tithing is and have the opportunity to tithe if you would like to. Tithing is not the same as giving. Giving is an act of charity. You put your hand in your pocket and give whatever you can afford to give. It springs from a grateful heart and is very much appreciated, but it is not a spiritual discipline. If you want your church experience to be a part of a much deeper spiritual walk then tithing is a way of connecting more intimately with God.

When we tithe we vow to set apart a portion of what we earn before we receive it. We choose to put God before money. You see, when we choose to give to the church our giving is limited by what we can afford to give, and what mood we’re in. Feeling broke, we give less. Feeling flush, we give more. Tithing is different in that we covenant with God to give a percentage of what we earn to God before we do anything else. We do it both when we feel like it, and when we don’t. We do it when we’re flush and when we’re broke. We do it because we want our finances, as well as everything else in our lives, to come second to our relationship with God. When we  receive more we give more, and when we earn less for any reason our tithe is less. But in each situation our covenant to give is not affected by how much money we may earn.

Do you ever find that the amount of money you give to the church is dictated by what you have in your pocket? You may want to give $20, but only have $10. Our giving to God is dictated, not what we choose to give, but by how much money we have. It’s not us, but money, that has the control! But – when we tithe a percentage (traditionally a tithe is 10%, but I know folks who covenant 5% and some who covenant 15%, and percentages in between) then the decision to keep our covenant with God is always ours. We earn $100, and if we’re tithing 10% we give $10, or if we earn $1 we give 10c. In each case we are true to our covenant, and money is never comes before our relationship with God.

There are also spiritual benefits to tithing that we don’t often see by simply giving. Peace, joy, love, and all the fruits of the Spirit are waiting for those who are willing to allow the Holy Spirit to be the guiding force in their life. I want you to have those gifts. Even if by tithing the church receives less money I want you to be blessed. But, in my experience the church doesn’t lose out. I’ve found that faithfulness always wins out and the church is as blessed as the one who chooses to tithe.

Thank you for giving so generously through 2011. I hope you are as blessed by your church as your church is by you. I pray that as we move forward that you fall more deeply in love with God every day, and that your giving and tithing may be a reflection of the wonderful gifts that God blesses you with throughout the year ahead.

Haiti Mission Trip Diary

As you know, Colleen is visiting Haiti and the Dominican republic. Her travel group has been sending daily updates. I hope you enjoy these as much as I have. Looks like Colleen will have more than a few stories to share when she returns to us

Jan 6,2012

Day one: We woke up to a beautifully sunny day – the sky was blue and the clouds were light and fluffy. We were rested from our travel day and ready to begin the day. Breakfast was eggs, croissants, Haitian peanut butter (little spicy), and Haitian coffee (smooth and delicious). After breakfast we enjoyed a 3-hour lecture with Rev. Joloki, who is an ordained interfaith minister and voodoo priest. We learned about cultural perspectives, language, and the importance of relationships. We learned about the history and culture of Haiti as well as the religions of the area. After lunch we shopped at a village where the people supported themselves through the manufacture and selling of metallic sculptures. Our family will LOVE what we bring home. After shopping we returned to Villa MaMika where we debriefed and reflected on the lecture and the activities of the day. Supper was fish and vegetables. All the food is good and the people are hospitable and nice.

Jan 7, 2012

Today was a day of contrast, almost as if we visited three different countries. We were humbled and inspired by the faith and hope exemplified by the Haitian people. The day was packed full of experiences. To start, we visited a tent city. Approximately 50,000 people live on the grounds of what was once an 18 hole golf course. The conditions were beyond words. Nonetheless we were given a tour in small groups. Don’t worry, we have blessed with incredible interpreters. The response to our presence provoked a myriad of responses. The children were the most welcoming. In fact, those of us with blond hair were quite the entertainment for the girls. The second adventure of the day was visiting KOFAVIV. This organization is led by a group of young Haitian women who reach out to women and girls who have been raped providing safe reporting, medical needs, assistance in legal efforts and continued support. Their strength and will brought most of us to tears. They are victims who help victims. The increase in sex crimes has increased since the earthquake, due to tent city living and the trauma caused by disaster. These phenomenal women also provide education, counseling and support to young girls, teenagers and women who are forced to turn to prostitution. Part of this education is training women to make jewelry and other goods for sale. We had the pleasure of purchasing some of their beautiful work. Our third transition was a late lunch at a super swanky Haitian restaurant/guesthouse. Minutes from the tent city was a lush estate owned by wealthy Haitians. We lounged on furniture from all over the world, ate delicious food and attempted to process the dichotomy. It was a pleasant experience, but certainly strange after witnessing such suffering. We concluded our day with a drive through the surrounding country area. The UN and American Embassy seem to live pretty comfortably. They also are privileged to have access to Wal-Mart and RadioShack.  The drive was disconcerting and confusing. We debriefed during dinner. We have concluded that the thread uniting the different economic classes of this beautiful country is the commitment to building relationships and pride in this beautiful country. We will have plenty stories and experiences to share. Since I am the class nurse I feel it necessary to report on the welfare of the group. Despite the challenges of the terrain and cultural differences, we are well. A few bumps and bruises, minor sunburns and GI upset…..we are doing just fine. We love and miss you all,

Jan 8, 2012

“Grab your Dutch Blitz and let’s play!” exclaimed Dr. Soto to me after we wrapped up another night of thoughtful debriefing and were still looking for more fun. It was a day full of play though and new experiences. We began the day early with a Mennonite Church Service across town under a larger tent with a roof of tarps and plastic chairs and wooden benches. The roads were dusty but the people were dressed in their best. Their’s was authentic praise and song lifted. We were received warmly and shared a song we’d learned in Creole and English. It was an honor to worship with our Haitian brothers and sisters. I even recognized the tune to some of the chorus songs we sang as ones I know from my church. I definitely felt at home with the people of this church. After church we were able to visit the school the church is building for the local children. Very near was the boys orphanage at the home of the pastor, Bishop Lesy Bertrand. We enjoyed the famous pumpkin soup or “Soup of Freedom” that is annually enjoyed in celebrate of the Haitian Independence. After lunch we talked and played with the children and the people of the orphanage. This orphanage had 12 boys. The second orphanage we visited held 92, quite a contrast seen back to back. These children at the Global Orphan Project were just as friendly, though these programs are run and funded in different ways. In all of these places we spent time in conversations with the people and fellow visitors. Sometimes for just a moment while we practiced our 3 key phrases encouraged by our guides and translator to say a proper hello and asking how they were and what their name was. They’ve certainly been right about connecting with people – Haiti is about relationships and a beautiful greeting opens the door to real communication. I’m finding that this is not true just of Haiti but of our group as well. We are a diverse group getting to know each other much better. Our own developing relationships as we work through differences in opinions and understandings mirror that which we see unfolding in Haiti. Our guides in Haiti have spoken of themselves as bridge builders and indeed their instructions are helping us understand Haiti as we understand ourselves better in this strange but ever beautiful place.

Jan 9, 2012

Today was a very exhausting day, we have been on the move from the time we woke up until late evening. However, it has been an extremely educational experience. We started the morning off meeting with a married couple from Mennonite Central Committee, Kurt and Wilda. We actually met with them last semester when they were in Lancaster. Today they led us into Cite Soleil, considered the most crime and gang infested area of the region. They took us the Pax Christie site in the area, whose ministry focuses on peace and social Justice. The program primary concentration is on troubled youth in gang infested areas. They are doing great and encouraging work with creating educational, agricultural, athletic and opportunities for disabled people. After leaving Cite Soleil we had a fabulous lunch at a Haitian Pizzeria. The food was good but there is nothing like an good old fashion American hamburger. Some us went to a gift shop and purchased some great gifts in downtown Port au Prince. The organization actually sells to 10,000 villages. We returned around 6:30 and had a delicious dinner of Haitian Lasagna, garlic bread, and fresh local produce. Around 7:30 we met in the conference room to meet with Pastor Jean Valerie who gave us an interesting perspective on Haitian Family, church, political and social theology from a Christian perspective. We had great dialog and was able to get question answer about our experience thus far from Haiti. Good night and we all send you are love.

Jan 10. 2012

Today was a day of learning about the culture of Ayiti (the name of Haiti in Kreyol). We spent much of the day with Carla, a woman originally from Philadelphia who has been living in Haiti for over 20 years. We met her at her house up in the mountains, in a town called Gwo Jan, where she lives with a small community of Haitians. We were blessed to experience pieces of traditional Ayiti culture. We helped roast, grind, and make coffee in the tradition way. We also helped with a new project they are working on making briket, a charcoal alternative made from saw dust, paper and cardboard pulp, and charcoal dust. The ingredients are mixed, measured, placed in a mold to squeeze out the water and placed in the sun to dry for a couple of days. It was exciting to hear about because the project is so new for them but it has a lot of potential to generate income, employ people in the community, and lessen Haiti’s dependence on charcoal (which the people here use to cook every meal). The amount of brikets that are needed to cook a meal is half the cost of the charcoal that would be needed. It was great for us to see how excited the locals were about this. One man who was there explaining the process to us told us that the brikets are going to change the country. Carla told us that he was so excited about it that he doesn’t sleep at night! It was great to see such positive energy looking toward the future of this country. Then we ate a great lunch of chicken, beans and rice that we helped prepare…We even had donuts! Next, we returned to the villa where we are staying for a small amount of relax time. After dinner, Carla and the young Haitian men she works with came to us to give us an authentic presentation on the history of Ayiti and how it reflects the mindset of the Ayiti people. Their presentation was called “Na sonje,” We will remember. What they showed us allowed us to fell the history in a way we never have before.

Jan 11, 2012

Today was our first official Sabbath day. After all of the powerful and transforming experiences this week, it was a real blessing to de-compress, and to just hang out and have fun with each other. Fourteen of us took a trip to Obama Beach…yes, that’s right it is really called Obama Beach. The beach was absolutely breath taking…we spent the afternoon swimming, playing, and relaxing. A few folks spent time relaxing by the pool at the guest house. We came together for our final delicious dinner prepared by the amazing staff at the guest house. We ended our night by sharing our individual responses to our time in Haiti, and then we walked the grounds of the guest house and spent time praying and giving Haiti a blessing. We will be packing tonight, and heading to the Dominican Republic in the morning! Many Blessings.