3rd Sunday Missions & Social Concerns Emphasis
 

Over the past several years, approximately 8% of each dollar placed into the regular Sunday offerings of Winchester Friends Church has gone to cover our Indiana Yearly Meeting "missions assessment" in support of the various missions activities of IYM and Friends United Meeting, including FUM missions personnel and programs in Belize, Cuba, Jamaica, Kenya, and Palestine, plus White's Residential & Family Services chaplain's salary and a lengthy IYM list of other outreach ministries.

Additional Missions Offerings
Many Friends also often give extra offerings marked "missions." The Missions & Social Concerns Committee forwards those directly to the intended recipient, if one is specified. If a specific recipient is not named, the Committee accumulates and then distributes two-thirds of all such gifts quarterly to the local Food Pantry, the local Gas Help Fund, Christian Peacemaker Teams, and the FUM missions programs supported by our IYM missions assessment. The final one-third of unspecified missions donations is used to respond to other needs that arise spontaneously throughout the year.
On the third Sunday of each month, we collect and donate food items and money for the local Churches & Community Food Pantry.
For the Indiana Yearly Meeting 2012 Woolman Award, Winchester Quarterly Meeting asked Friends in this area to raise funds to care for orphans in East Africa and to support Randolph County's Pregnancy Care Center. That collection closes on April 15 for the May 1 project deadline.
FOAM (Fast Once A Month) participants skip a meal on the last Wednesday of each month, contribute its cost to local and global hunger relief, and use the time not spent cooking and eating to write to Congress regarding a hunger or poverty concern, and to pray for those who lack adequate food and nutrition.

Special Envelope Offerings
Each fall, the Committee highlights one of the FUM mission locations to educate Friends about the mission work we support, and to encourage additional giving to that particular mission. The fall rummage sale proceeds and at least part of the Christmas Envelope Offering for Missions are designated to the work of that year's highlighted mission (FUM Belize in 2011).

Each spring, the Committee highlights a social concern or a non-FUM mission and encourages extra outreach giving to it. The Easter Envelope Offering is normally designated for that concern, or to an urgent current need that may have arisen (for 2012, tornado relief in southern Indiana, and the Lunch 'n Munch kids' summer supplemental food program of the Food Pantry).

PENNIES FROM HEAVEN $10 bills are available from Missions & Social Concerns members for Friends willing to carry them until led to give it to someone needing a bit of help and a reminder of God's love.

SHAREHOLDERS IN SHALOM "seed money" of up to $50 is available to Friends willing to invest it along with their skills and time to produce something to be sold to benefit agencies working for peace and nonviolence, both locally and globally. You can participate by donating for the Shareholders items of other Friends at the south parlor table in the sanctuary.

 

Missions & Social Concerns Quiz

1) What country was last fall's FUM missions focus at Winchester Friends? What is this spring's current social concerns focus?


2) Which Sunday each month is Food Pantry Sunday at Winchester Friends?


3) What organization receives the food donated on Pantry Sunday?


4) What do the letters F.O.A.M. stand for?



5) What is Winchester Quarterly Meeting's 2010 Woolman Award project?



6) People in what four countries have thus far received KIVA microcredit loans from Winchester Friends?


7) How much Pennies From Heaven money will the Missions & Social Concerns Committee give at one time to Friends to carry in anticipation of being led to someone needing a bit of help and a reminder of God's love?


8) Name the Friends who do/have done the following Shareholders In Shalom projects to multiply seed money towards a world where violence is unnecessary and counterproductive:

Books for a Buck_____________ Baked goods, "cocoa cones"_____________

Fruit jams __________________ Woodcrafts_________________________

Crocheted items _____________ Pickles and salsa_____________________


9) When is Earth Hour 2010, and how many people worldwide will take part?


10) When is Earth Day 2010, and what will Winchester Friends do to celebrate it?


11) What is the name of the girl supported by the Compassion Garden, and in what country does she live?


12) What organization do the letters FCNL stand for?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Get Involved!
Winchester Friends offers everyone many opportunities to actively share God's love with those around you.

1) Jamaica.  During the first half of 2010, the Missions & Social Concerns Committee asks Friends to learn about the problem of violence in American society and culture, and to work at finding ways to helpfully address and reduce it.

2)  Community Food Pantry Sunday is observed on the third Sunday of each month.

3)  Friends bring staple food items to help restock the Community & Family Services / Area Churches Pantry at the CFO building.

4)  Fast Once A Month: Participants in this project fast from one meal each month, offer its cost to the FOAM Fund for local/global hunger relief, advocate for compassionate public policies via Bread for the World, and spend extra time while fasting to meditate and pray about those without enough food.

5) The IYM Woolman Award is a project in which the churches of our Quarterly Meeting work together for peace and/or to address a current social concern. In 2008, Winchester QM won the Award with their FOAM project. In 2009, our QM collected over 3000 food items and $8000+ for hunger relief. This year's project is collecting broken/unwanted electronics for recycling by a ministry in Indianapolis that trains and employs released jail/prison inmates.

6)  KIVA Microcredit Loans: With $1000 from Best Special Projects in 2009, the Missions & Social Concerns Committee established a <KIVA.org> loan account and has made six $200 loans to clothing sellers, livestock growers, car parts sellers, grocers, and fishmongers in the Dominican Republic, Uganda, Kenya, and Lebanon. As the money is repaid, new loans are made.

7) Pennies From Heaven participants accept $10 or $20 and agree to ask the Lord to lead them to another person (not a relative or close friend) who is struggling in a situation of genuine human need and could use the cash and encouragement. After the gift is given, the participating Friend agrees to report briefly in writing as to how God led them, how the money was actually used, and any spiritual lessons they learned by taking part.

8) Shareholders in Shalom participants accept from $10 - $50 to invest in raw materials or ingredients, then add their own skill, time, and sweat to produce something which can be sold to increase the original money for supporting people and organizations doing peace/nonviolence projects and training around the world. The participating Friend reports briefly in writing on how the money was invested, how much was gained, and what God taught them.
 

Books for a Buck : Georgia Thorpe,  Baked goods, "cocoa cones": Linda Sipe, Fruit jams:  Doris Girton and Norma Ludy,  Woodcrafts: Murray Schemmer, Crocheted items: Delilah Wilkinson,  Pickles and salsa:  Pam Ferguson

9)  Earth Hour 2010 is from 8:30-9:30 PM on Saturday March 27. Over one billion people are expected to turn off all lights for an hour to reduce fossil fuel use.
 

10)  Earth Day 2010 is April 22. The Missions & Social Concerns Committee plans to hand out 100 flowering dogwood tree seedlings on Sunday April 18.

11)  The Compassion Garden has been grown beside the church parking lot each summer since 2002. Friends donate for the vegetables produced, and all the proceeds go to support the education and living expenses of Janet Murekensi (now 14) in Uganda.

12) Friends Committee on National Legislation offers frequent assistance for contacting Congress to advocate for Friends' spiritual values in national policies.

If you're not involved in missions and social concerns, it's not for lack of opportunities -- it's a choice you make!


 

Fall 2014 Missions Focus:  Jamaica Yearly Meeting
During the first half of each year, the Missions & Social Concerns Committee asks Friends to focus on a contemporary social concern.  In the latter half of each year, we call Friends' attention to one Friends United Meeting international missions location.  For the fall of 2014, that focus is upon Quaker presence and ministry since 1881 on the Caribbean island of Jamaica.
 
       Jamaica is an island nation just south of Cuba in the Caribbean Sea (map attached).  It is home to nearly 3 million people and measures 145 miles east to west, 50 miles north to south at its widest point, making it slightly smaller than Connecticut.  Jamaica is the third-largest island in the West Indies, smaller only than Cuba and Hispaniola (Haiti/Dominican Republic).  Half of Jamaica's area is mountainous; its highest peak is Blue Mountain at 7402 feet.  Jamaica means "land of wood and water," an apt name for the island described by Christopher Columbus after his 1494 visit as a place filled with lush foliage, tropical fruits, forested mountains, and exotic birds.  Spanish entrepreneurs and settlers followed Columbus and established plantations to export various products to Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries.  Much of the hot, difficult agricultural work was done by African slaves and indentured servants brought from India. 
 
       England's competition for colonizing the New World led to armed conflict with Spain, and in 1650 the English navy took Jamaica from Spain.  Among the English settlers who quickly replaced the Spanish on Jamaica were a number of Quakers seeking religious freedom and opportunities for evangelism and ministry to the island's slaves.  When Friends founder George Fox visited Jamaica in December 1670, he was welcomed by around 9000 Quakers and helped them establish seven Friends Meetings before he left in February 1671.  He urged humane treatment and spiritual ministry for the slaves and encouraged Friends to set up schools for the slaves' children. 
 
       England controlled Jamaica from 1650 until granting it independence in 1962. English is the island's
official language.  Locals use a unique English dialect called patois (PA' twah) in everyday conversation.
 
       Friends United Meeting's ministries in Jamaica can be traced back to 1881 through the work of Evi Sharpless, a missionary from Iowa Yearly Meeting.  Those Friends' earliest efforts included concern for the especially poor descendants of Indian indentured servants and other rural Jamaicans on the eastern half of the island.  Schools and orphanages were set up, and several Friends chapels or meetinghouses were built.

From 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM on Saturday September 20, the Missions & Social Concerns Committee will conduct the Fall Rummage Sale for Missions in the meetinghouse basement.  Many Friends already have contributed secondhand or unwanted household items, furniture, electronics, books, clothing, and other rummage for this fundraiser.  (You are welcome to bring additional donations to the meetinghouse until Wednesday September 17.) 
 
Proceeds from the sale will go to help fund the construction of a new meetinghouse for Friendstown and Albany Friends in northeast Jamaica.  Albany's building has become unusable due to age and storm damage, and the two congregations have decided to merge and build a new facility.  Deep River Friends (North Carolina Yearly Meeting), pastored by Scott Wagoner (son of Joyce and Bill), has taken the lead in helping the Friendstown-Albany group to raise funds and get their new meetinghouse built.  The money raised by our rummage sale will be channeled through Deep River Friends for the purchase of building materials and other construction expenses.  Opportunities to join a work team to Jamaica this winter also will be explored.
 
The Missions & Social Concerns Committee welcomes everyone to come help sort and display rummage beginning the evening of September 14, and to help conduct the sale on the 20th.  Contact the church office for additional information.
 
From the October newletter:
 
 
 
I had the exciting opportunity to go on my first international mission trip to Jamaica with North Carolina Yearly Meeting.  My trip was from July 26th - August 2, 2014.  We flew into Montego Bay and then traveled to Amity Hall where we stayed for the week. During our time there, we also visited Seaside and Port Antonio.
 
Our mission work focused on interacting and building relationships with the Jamaican children through sports camp.  The main sport we focused on was American football. The children were so loving and accepting of us.
 
I learned a lot on my trip to Jamaica, most of which came from the Jamaicans that I met.  The one thing that I learned, that will stay with me forever, is that it is possible to be happy even in the worst of situations. The Jamaicans are always so full of energy, constantly smiling and always talking!  If you aren't talking or smiling they think that something is wrong and will do whatever they can to make you smile.  Even with very little (in our American eyes), they are happy and ready to serve the Lord. That is what I will remember most about Jamaica.
 
I feel it is important for North American Christians to have a relationship with Jamaican Christians because they can teach us how to worship in the simplest of ways. Their church services consist of only their voices and an old tambourine. However, they need our help in developing their church facilities. They are small and most do not have air conditioning; many have just a small fan.  The location of the island makes the heat of the sun even hotter and makes the churches stifling at times.
 
I am so thankful I had the opportunity to go on this trip and make new friends, experience a new culture and learn that Christians are united by the same God, wherever they live, and wherever and however they worship.
 
--MacKenzie Bales of New Liberty Congregational Christian Church, Randolph Southern HS junior, granddaughter of Gary Girton
 
 
The Rummage Sale for Missions held September 21 raised over $900 for construction materials for the new Friendstown/Albany Friends meetinghouse in northeast Jamaica.  The Missions & Social Concerns Committee will add Missions Unspecified funds to make our donation an even $1000.  Thank you to everyone who gave sale items, money, and effort!
 
From November Newsletter:
Fall 2014 Missions Focus:  Jamaica Yearly Meeting
During the first half of each year, the Missions & Social Concerns Committee asks Friends to focus on a contemporary social concern.  In the latter half of each year, we call Friends' attention to one Friends United Meeting international missions location.  For the fall of 2014, that focus is upon Quaker presence and ministry since 1881 on the Caribbean island nation of Jamaica.
 
 
Hanna Townsend, at Dover Friends Meeting, Jamaica
 
I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Jamaica in August 2014 with North Carolina Yearly Meeting.  While it was always planned that the trip was a work trip, I had a secret (okay, maybe not-so-secret) motive for going.  Jamaica has always had a very special place in my heart because it has played a very special part in the life of my family.  It is where my mom grew up and where my grandparents Joyce and Bill Wagoner called home for over 10 years.  To have the chance to go to Jamaica, see places that I grew up hearing about, meet people who know my family and hopefully do my grandparents proud, was a dream come true.
 
My meeting, Deep River Friends, partnered with Centre Friends and Poplar Ridge Friends to bring a group of almost thirty people to the island!  We had enough people on our team that we were able to do two Vacation Bible Schools, work on building the Friendstown and Albany meetinghouse, and repaint the inside and outside of Dover Friends Meeting.  None of that work could have been completed, however, without the help of our Jamaican friends who worked beside us.
 
The goal of the partnership between NCYM and Jamaica Yearly Meeting is to help foster leadership within JYM and it was such an experience to see the budding leadership in our friends.  Friends like Anthony, Odio Junior, Hyjahman and Junior; all men in their twenties with a passion for furthering the kingdom of Christ in Jamaica.  Newly recorded, Anthony has a dream to move to the Dover community and revitalize the meeting.  These men are just one of many examples of who we are supporting when we support Jamaica Yearly Meeting.
 
While work through manual labor is easily measured, the greatest work of all -- the work that was done in the hearts of those who went -- almost completely lacks tangible proof.  I know we were the ones who were supposed to be "ministering", but we left Jamaica feeling like we were on the receiving end of the ministry.  God is doing great things in Jamaica and it was our blessing to be a part of it!
 
--Hanna Townsend of Deep River Friends Meeting, North Carolina; school teacher, granddaughter of Winchester Friends Bill & Joyce Wagoner
 
 
From December 2014 Newsletter....
 

On November 30, a panel of Friends with Jamaica experience (Karen and Norman Peters, MacKenzie Bales - New Liberty Congregational Christian, Joyce and Bill Wagoner, Judy Kendall, Letha and Austin Cox, Sharon Reynard) shared their missions learnings with an intergenerational Sunday School class.  Wagoners served as pastors in Jamaica from 1958-1971; Kendalls were pastors there from 1961-1969; Sharon, the Coxes, and the Peters served on a short-term missions team to Highgate in the mid-1970s; and MacKenzie was part of a North Carolina Yearly Meeting work team to Amity Hall in July 2014.

 
In their reports, the panelists noted several consistent themes.  All were exposed to a new kind of poverty that made them newly aware of and thankful for the abundance back home that North Americans too often take for granted.  Several spoke of the spiritual growth that took place when they stepped out of their comfort zones and had to trust the Lord for protection and grace in unknown circumstances.  Others spoke of their hope for new self-reliance and indigenous Christian ministry among Jamaican Friends after years of dependency upon and "brain drain" to the US (some for educational and economic opportunities, others as missionaries to "lost" America!).  Joyce Wagoner closed the discussion by telling of a US Friend's prayers for her family in Jamaica at the precise time that one of her children was dangerously ill.  Joyce told the group that every exposure to God's work in Jamaica can heighten our awareness of Friends' needs there and remind us to be those "unknowing" pray-ers who might just be facilitating miracles.
 
Watch for announcement of opportunities to join a work team to help build the new Friendstown meetinghouse in early 2015!
 
 
Thank you to several Friends who responded to the Missions & Social Concerns Committee's invitation in September to make a special donation to Christian agencies working to help refugees from violence in Syria and northern Iraq.  Donations totaling $200 were received and sent in mid-October (along with $250 of "missions unspecified" funds) to Mennonite Central Committee for their Iraq/Syria refugee ministries "in the name of Christ."

 

Fall 2013 Missions Focus - Cuba Yearly Meeting
 
During the first half of each year, the Missions & Social ConcernsCommittee asks Friends to focus on ways to address a contemporary social concern.  In the latter half of each year, we call Friends' attention to one Friends United Meeting international missions location.  For 2013, that focus will be upon Quaker  presence and ministry on the Caribbean island of Cuba since 1900.
 
While returning to the US aboard a Boston Fruit Co. ship after an 1897 visit to Friends mission work in Jamaica, Iowa Yearly Meeting general superintendent Zenas Martin was challenged by the ship's   captain Lorenzo Baker to start similar evangelistic, education, and development work among the laborers and families on new fruit plantations his company was opening in eastern Cuba. 
 
The Spanish-American War (Cuba's war of independence) had raged since 1895, and the eastern end of the island had been badly damaged physically and economically.  The Spanish held much of the population in harsh detention camps to suppress the rebellion, causing widespread starvation and disease.  Infrastructure barely existed, poverty abounded, livestock numbers had been decimated, and people were hungry despite the rich agricultural potential of the area.  In early 1898, the US battleship Maine was sunk in Havana harbor, prompting the US to declare war on Spain.  After only three months of fighting, the Spanish gave up their hold on Cuba.  They withdrew in January 1899, and American troops moved in to occupy Cuba.
 
Zenas Martin returned to Iowa in 1897 and over the next two years persuaded Friends there to organize for new outreach in Cuba.  Without coordination, Captain Baker simultaneously raised interest and support for Cuba missions among New York and New England Friends.  At the same time, Quaker missionaries in Mexico also were becaming concerned for Cubans' plight via cultural contacts with Cuban Christians.  When they all learned of their common goal through connection with the budding American Friends Board of Missions (a forerunner of FUM), they saw the Spirit's clear leading and moved ahead with plans to send workers supported by five midwestern and northeastern US Yearly Meetings. 
 
Zenas Martin traveled back to Havana in April 1900, then one month later sailed 500 miles east to the Holguin region where United Fruit Co. had opened its plantations.  He was joined in November 1900 by Friends volunteers from Kansas, Iowa, Texas, Indiana, and Mexico.  In the small triangular area between Banes, Holguin, and Puerto Padre, these Quakers began holding worship gatherings and started schools for "the preaching of biblical Christianity and its practical expression through Friends' testimonies."  Quaker work in Cuba was underway.   
(source - Friends in Cuba, Hiram H. Hilty, 1977)
 
From August 2013 Newsletter:
 
Cuba Yearly Meeting - Fall 2013 Missions Focus
Cuba Yearly Meeting is headquartered at Holguin in eastern Cuba.  It is quite evangelical in its message and ministries.  There are at least twelve churches (Holguin, Vista Alegre, Banes, Velasco, Bocas, Puerto Padre, Gibara, Havana, Retrete, Delicias, Floro Perez, Pueblo Nuevo), some of which attract 100
or more worshipers on Sundays.  All except the Havana Meeting are located in Holguin or Las Tunas Provinces in eastern Cuba.  Some are rural, and others are in busy urban centers.  A few Meetings are served by a resident pastor, and several others have seminary students  (primarily being trained at the Good Shepherd Lutheran seminary) giving leadership to the churches.  All employ a programmed style of worship.  Most have very active men's, women's, and young Friends' groups that meet through the week, in addition to meetings for Christian education on Sunday morning and worship on Sunday evening.  There are over 1000 Friends now taking part in the ministries of Cuba Yearly Meeting churches.  They are experiencing at least some freedom to meet for Bible studies, prayer, and fellowship in homes.
 
Cuba Yearly Meeting's primary goal currently is to train up leaders for these already-established groups, plus additional leaders for opening new churches and staffing other ministry opportunities as well.  At present, that is being accomplished mostly through supporting Friends students at the Good Shepherd seminary and by training at the local Meeting level.  Cuba Yearly Meeting also is building a three-story multipurpose facility in Holguin, where the Yearly Meeting office will be situated along with modest apartments for retired pastors, a seminary facility, and accommodations for visitors.  A longer-term goal is construction of a meetinghouse for the Friends in Havana, the capital city.
 
FUM's 10-person work team trip to Cuba from January 20-February 1, 2014, will help with the construction project in Holguin (approximate cost $2000 per person, registration deadline September 30, scholarship assistance available).  Contact the church office if you're interested in joining this work team.
(sources:  www.fum.org;  Linda Garrison, FUM Cuba trip leader; Ramone Gonzales, CYM clerk)
 
From September 2013  Newsletter:
 
 Friends in Cuba have recently adopted an ambitious goal of establishing the Instituto Cuaquero Cubano de Paz (Cuban Quaker Institute of Peace), a school in Holguin which will offer courses in peacebuilding/conflict transformation along with Quaker history, theology, testimonies, and practice. The Institute's goal is to help develop a culture of peace across Latin America by forming an international community of peacemakers who take practical actions to reduce violence in their societies.  The Institute will train community leaders in both conflict transformation skills and concepts, and the spiritual principles of peace which are integral to Friends' gospel message. 
 
 That training will take the form of short and extended courses, conferences, public lectures, and publications.  The Institute's target audience includes pastors and seminary students, social services and mental health professionals, political leaders, and others in positions of influence in their communities.  During its early development, the Institute will bring guest instructors to Holguin from outside Cuba.  The school hopes to welcome a diversity of students -- Cuban, North American, Latin American, Christian and non-Christian, women and men.

 The Institute of Peace will be housed in a three-story building in Holguin (still under construction at this time), with some courses also conducted in Cuba Yearly Meeting facilities in nearby Gibara.  Both locations will be able to offer accommodations and meals for students. 

 Friends United Meeting will sponsor a work team to Cuba next January 20 to February 1, both to help with the ongoing construction of the building in Holguin and to build relationships with Friends in Cuba.  You can support their efforts in three ways.  First, pray for the logistics (permits, visas, transportation, etc.) to work out smoothly.  Second, the proceeds of our September 7 Rummage Sale for Missions will be sent to Cuba Yearly Meeting to help with the construction and startup costs of the Institute of Peace, so donate and/or purchase rummage and help with the sale.  Third, the Missions & Social Concerns Committee is offering financial support to help send some Friends from Winchester to serve on the FUM work team.  Friends interested in making the trip to Cuba should let the church office know of your interest by September 15.
 
 
From October 2013  Newsletter:
The September-October issue of Quaker Life magazine included a brief summary of Cuba Yearly Meeting's recent report to the FUM Board indicating that CYM now has 500 official members in nine Monthly Meetings.  Previous information has listed eight Meetings and five worship groups, with up to 1200 Cubans participating in the thirteen groups on a typical Sunday.  CYM's goal is to increase their membership to 600 by the end of 2013.  FUM's September Focus insert reported that the presiding clerk of Cuba Yearly Meeting is now a woman named Odalys Hernandez.  Former clerk Ramon Gonzalez-Longoria remains very active in CYM's growing ministries.
 
On September 7, Winchester Friends' Missions & Social Concerns Committee's annual Rummage Sale for Missions raised a total of $800 to be donated to the work of Cuba Yearly Meeting, most likely for construction costs of the Cuban Quaker Institute of Peace in Holguin.  The Committee thanks everyone who donated sale items, helped sort, display, and sell them,  and helped clean up after the sale!  Half a box-truck load of unsold items were donated to Muncie Mission after the sale.
 
The $800 raised by the rummage sale will be carried to Cuba next January by our Friends Shane and Julie Hall, who have joined FUM's ten-member work team traveling to Holguin January 20-February 1 to help with construction of the Peace Institute facility and to build relationships with Cuban Friends.  Winchester Friends will underwrite part of the $4000+ cost of their trip with a Best Special Projects grant and possibly with unused funds from previous grants currently held in reserve.  If you would like to invest in this outreach ministry, your donation can be made to the church, clearly designated "Cuba missions trip."  Please pray for the Halls and the entire FUM team as they prepare for travel to Cuba, especially in light of possible delays in diplomatic permits and paperwork due to the current US government shutdown.
 
 
From November 2013  Newsletter:
Cuba Quakers: SIMPLICITY + VISION + SPIRITUAL VITALITY = A LIVING CHURCH
      
 I was staying with a young couple in the city of Holguin, Cuba, who were members of the Holguin Friends Meeting. Our group from Friends United Meeting was traveling among Friends in Cuba, and on this night there was a carry-in meal at the Holguin meetinghouse. Holguin is a busy city of over 300,000 people, with a lot of traffic. My host and I were going to the meetinghouse on his bicycle, and yes, I was perched on the back as the passenger, desperately hanging on while holding a dish of food at the same time!  We stopped at a red light, and I heard a snorting noise behind me. I turned around only to look up into the nostrils of a horse. It was pulling a small carriage, called a Coco-Taxi. Yes, you can get bus rides and various automobile taxis, but one of the simplest ways of conveyance is by horse and carriage (didn't the Quakers call it horse and buggy?), otherwise known as a Coco-Taxi. The people who operate those Coco-Taxis probably struggle to make a living, but they do so by keeping it simple, with a vision of what they can do in that sprawling municipality, and believing they can do it.  And they stay closer to the people they help.
 
       Life has never been easy for Cuban Friends since Quaker work began there in 1901.  The last half-century has been a particular struggle for Cuban Quakers as a result of the revolution.  Government regulations and restrictions have forced Friends to labor to keep their meetinghouses standing, and not just open, and they are succeeding.  They have had to work hard to fill leadership gaps after members have migrated to the USA.  Thankfully, others -- including young people -- have come forward to fill those gaps.  In lifestyles and material things, they have had to do without much that we take for granted, but it hasn't dampened their faith. It probably has increased it.  I recall once when another host, Roberto, had to go out early one morning just to try to find bread.…and God supplied. 
 
       But finally, I am convinced that our Cuban Friends have gladly embraced simplicity and faithfully maintained their vision because of the vitality of their times of worship. They are full of joy, and the presence of the Spirit is evident, no matter which of the local meetings, or what kind of meeting.  Their singing is exuberant.  One comes away blessed!
 
       Nevertheless, nevertheless.… Friends in Cuba still need our help and support:  to maintain their meetinghouses, to train their leaders, to encourage them as Friends in their Christian faith as they witness to peace and other testimonies, and in other ways as brothers and sisters in Christ.
 
       But I'm convinced we also need their witness to us as a living church---as Coco-Taxi Christians and Quakers!
 
 
Answering a Culture of Fear by Building a Community of Love
There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear.....
  (I John 4:18)
 
During the first half of 2013, the Missions & Social Concerns Committee invites Friends to pray, read, and think deeply about the many challenges we face every day which tempt us to respond in fear, and to consider together practical ways instead to answer those challenges from a solid grounding in the perfect love that drives out fear.
 
       In the final century before Jerusalem fell in 586 BC and its inhabitants were sent to exile in Babylon, external threats grew, the Israelites' faithfulness waned, and conditions in Judah steadily deteriorated. God's prophets increasingly looked forward to the promised arrival of Messiah and His correction of all that had gone awry.  Part of that vision of hope included Micah's word that every person would "sit under his own vine and his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid" (Micah 4:4).  That's a tall order, no matter what century you live in, but from experience Micah knew that God's Spirit would address all the insecurities that caused people to live in fear.  We know now that God seeks to do that through the Church, His people called to love the Lord with their entire being, and to love their neighbors -- all of them -- as they themselves wish to be loved.

      In a world filled with violence, Christ's followers can choose to live unthreatening, peaceful lives.  They can treat others with such kindness, justice, and protective compassion that their greatest fear would become losing Christians' friendship.

      People fear financial distress, whether from bad luck, foolish choices, or predatory people.  Jesus' followers can offer a community of sharing, generosity, instruction and modeling of wise stewardship, and accountability that transforms greed and poverty into contentment and adequate provision.

      Perhaps because of instantaneous communications and endless news coverage of every corner of the globe, we are subconsciously trained to fear people who are somehow different from us.  Christ's community of love can offer a safe place to learn to identify and relate to "that of God in every person," regardless of their ethnicity, culture, or religion.

      An often-unspoken fear of 21st century people is that their lives will be of little consequence or meaning.  If I am one of over seven billion humans (and I'm not on TV, a rock star, or a professional athlete), how could my life possibly matter?  Jesus' invitation to become "fishers of men" alongside Him is still open.  The Church can eliminate that fear by providing constant opportunities for loving service, simple witness, and koinonia (deep fellowship "in the things that are eternal").

      The fear of failure often inhibits people from doing what they sense they should, or from making changes they know would improve their lives.  The Church can offer both encouragement and accountability to nurture success, and the redemptive, restorative fellowship of a "community of self-confessed failures" who've been rescued and renewed by Christ's grace.

      Others fear the suffering of illness and the unknowns of death.  In disciples seeking to "bear one another's burdens in order to fulfill the law of Christ," they can find healing accompaniment, effective intercession, and life in God's constant presence already begun here on earth in a way that doesn't solve all the mysteries, but makes eternity no longer frightening.

  God's desire is for the Church to be that community of perfect love that drives out fear.  We must strive for nothing less.
 

 

 
Answering a Culture of Fear by Building a Community of Love - As Jesus Loved
There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear.....
  (I John 4:18)
 
From May's Newsletter..........
 
We all know what real fear is. On this page in last month's newsletter, some incidents were related on how some people reacted in fear to what they thought were threatening situations. They were both amusing, and sad.  But what is love?  From his book "The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way," Bill Bryson tells of a conference of sociologists in America in 1977 that came up with this definition of love:  "The cognitive-affective state characterized by intrusive and obsessive fantasizing concerning reciprocity of amorant feelings by the object of the amorance."  And we say, "Whaaat?"
                       
The Bible tells us in I John 4:18 that "perfect love drives out fear."  But what is perfect love, and in our fallen human condition, can we ever live out perfect love anyway?  Jesus must have taken that into account when he left with his disciples and us a model for love: his love.  He was meeting with his disciples just hours before he was to be arrested and crucified.  The disciples had a feeling something bad was about to happen, because Jesus had talked about it, but they still didn't understand.  And when you are facing something you can't control and you don't understand, and all that has given your life meaning and stability seems to be threatened, that can be fearful.  In that context Jesus calmly tells them to meet that fear and everything else that awaits them with love.  This was not to be just any kind of love, but the kind of love he gave to them and to everyone he met and ministered to.  We could try to describe it using many superlatives, but one word stands out in how we need to express the love of Jesus in the midst of today's culture of fear:   UNCONDITIONALLY!

We need to love people as Jesus loved people: in spite of different ethnicity, culture, color, language, financial and social status, and every other category that makes them different and therefore persons we often fear.  Jesus lived a "hands on" love.  There wasn't the worst kind of disease or the widest cultural barrier or the most threatening situation on earth but what he didn't meet them all with unconditional love. 

Where and how do we put that into practice?  It does need to become more than a pious platitude, or a neat theory.  Can it be fleshed out in how we relate to our neighbors, or support a community effort to offer grace and space to immigrants, or just give more than a safe handout to a transient?  It may be like Jesus loved his disciples in the upper room when he washed their feet.  The instrument of love may be there right beside us waiting to be picked up and used.  It may never be easy, but his Spirit is here to help us.  So why don't we start, even in simple ways, to try changing a culture of fear into communities of love--
and try it the way Jesus loved? 
--by Bill Wagoner, Missions & Social Concerns Committee
 

 

 
Answering a Culture of Fear by Building a Community of Love
There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear.....
  (I John 4:18)
 
from April's newsletter.......
 
One day in 1973, a staff writer for a famous late-night comedian saw a tiny news article about a government agency having bureaucratic difficulty filling a contract for a large quantity of toilet tissue.  The writer sensed there was a joke in there and wrote something funny about a national toilet paper shortage into his boss's monologue.  Word of mouth took over, and people across the US rushed out to buy a year's supply of toilet tissue, creating an artificial shortage that caused hardship for many and snarled the usual supply channels for many weeks.

In the 1980s, fear of a Korean religious leader's growing popularity in the US prompted some Christians to mount a campaign to discredit him.  After someone noticed a crescent moon symbol on a coffee package and began spreading the false story that that company had been taken over by the Korean cult, many thousands of hours and dollars were wasted mounting a damaging boycott of their products -- time and money that could have been spent tangibly expressing Jesus' love, actually helping people who suffered.

Following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and after the terrifying events of September 11, 2001, fear-fueled responses based on false assumptions caused the unjust deaths, mistreatment, and suffering of many people in this country whose only "crime" was their ethnicity, culture, or religion.
 
A Friend reported recently that his coworkers, in response to last December's tragic school shootings, continue repeating unfounded rumors of a government ban or seizure of firearms in order to justify their costly stockpiling of guns and ammunition.  Investigation by public health and peace groups has shown that much of that fear has been stoked by the very companies reaping record profits from the extra sales of all those guns and bullets.

These examples illustrate the sad reality that when people fearfully try to protect themselves through falsehood, rumors, and half-truths, the reputations of others get damaged, mistrust is injected into relationships, innocent people get hurt, community is shattered, and the fear spreads.  That stands in stark contrast to the way of Jesus, who often opened conversations by saying, "Don't be afraid." 
One of the most basic, important ways His followers can begin building the community of love which drives out fear is to consistently speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), and consistently live the truth that sets us free (John 8:32).
 
 
Answering a Culture of Fear by Building a Community of Love
 
from the March Newsletter......

Spring 2013 Social Concerns Focus
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.....
(I John 4:18)
During the first half of 2013, the Missions & Social Concerns Committee invites Friends to pray, read, and think deeply about the many challenges we face every day which tempt us to respond in fear, and to consider together practical ways instead to answer those challenges from a solid grounding in the perfect love that drives out fear.
On the news in late February were two stories about people who make their living from commercial ocean fishing. One report told about a Louisiana family whose fishing business was closed by the devastating April 2010 Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill. Prohibited by the government from fishing in potentially tainted waters, this family had to find other ways to earn money. They used their boats to help contain and collect the oil washing in from the sea, and they offered their local expertise to the scientists brought in to study the spill's impact and to try lessening its damage. After more than a year's hiatus, commercial fishing was allowed to resume this year. The fisherman told interviewers that after that "sabbath," the fish are larger and more plentiful than he had ever seen in his ten-plus years of fishing.

Contrast that story with the other one regarding New England fishermen who've been told by federal regulators that they must limit their commercial catch of cod by 70% due to rapidly dwindling fish stocks caused by years of over-fishing. The only reaction reporters got from the fishermen they interviewed was fear over cutbacks and anger about government intervention into the industry they've profited from handily for the past thirty years. There was no acknowledgment of shared responsibility for past excesses. The message seemed to be that it would be better to allow them to keep making money for a few more years -- totally depleting the cod population in that area and guaranteeing that their grandchildren would never be able to fish commercially there -- rather than accept limits for a time so the cod numbers can recover for future generations.
 
Most of us feel powerless in the face of environmental disaster and climate disruption. It truly is frightening to contemplate rising sea levels, dislocated populations, more and stronger tornadoes, larger hurricanes, longer droughts, more damaging floods, and evermore expensive insurance. Too often, such fear causes people to get angry and bitter, or to try to gain an advantage. On the other hand, the love that drives out fear motivates people to get busy. It's not "26 acts of kindness," but those who love our planetary home and the Lord who created it should respond to ecological threats with an accumulation of small efforts that collectively could make a big difference -- participating in Earth Hour on March 23, shutting off unneeded lights and appliances, repairing leaky faucets, planting trees, helping the victims of environmental calamity, finding new ways to use less fossil fuel, lobbying government for policies that price carbon realistically, and on and on.
"Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." (Margaret Mead)
 

 

Answering a Culture of Fear by Building a Community of Love
Spring 2013 Social Concerns Focus
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear..... (I John 4:18)
 
From February's Newsletter......
 
 
Following December's Connecticut school shootings, the entire nation seemed to become caught up in fear-driven debate over just how many and what kind of guns are needed to make everyone safe. Almost unnoticed, some of the people most closely affected by the Newtown tragedy launched a 26 Acts of Kindness project to provide a way for traumatized people to change the world by filling it with intentional gentleness, in memory of the innocent Sandy Hook victims. Their example challenges us to move beyond our fears, to ask what could be done right here in our community to help people not to be afraid of others, but rather to serve them. What tangible expressions of Christ's perfect love could drive out that fear?
 
Many people have learned in the past five years to fear economic crisis, and to give up being compassionate and generous in order to safeguard whatever they still have. Imagine how remarkable it would be at such a time as this for the followers of Christ -- who fearlessly know that their "God will supply all of their needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus" -- to keep right on sharing what they have, watching over one another for good, so that others who are afraid will come to realize that they don't need to be. What could Jesus' followers do to live such fearless lives of practical, wise stewardship that others will want to learn to do the same?
 
Many other aspects of 21st century life are fueled by fear. Our nation's military spends more than do the next 15 largest national militaries combined, yet we fearfully keep buying weapons and ignoring human needs. We have clear, frightening evidence that burning fossil fuels is altering the earth's atmosphere, raising the level of the oceans, and making weather more extreme, yet we seem even more fearful of changing our lifestyles to use less energy. The contentious debate over immigration reform confronts us with our dueling fears of people who are different from us and the reality of life without their low-cost labor.
 
For the first half of 2013, let's be courageous enough to ask how fear has affected our opinions, our attitudes, our words, and our treatment of others. Let's find practical ways to express Christ's perfect love that drives out fear.
 
Let us then try what love will do. (William Penn, Fruits of Solitude, 1693)
 The Justice God Loves -- Spring 2012 Social Concerns Focus
Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!  Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.  Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.....
For I, the Lord, love justice.....  (Isaiah 1:16,17; 61:8)
 
Definitions of justice abound.  In government terms, justice refers to the societal system of determining which behaviors are acceptable and which are unacceptable, then implementing policies and regulations that encourage the former and discourage the latter.  In theory, it is a way of conducting society "just as" the people desire and intend.  In reality, however, only some of the people are allowed a real voice in that system, the policies and regulations that are adopted too often favor those who have a voice at the expense of those who do not, and the justice in that system ends up being quite relative.
 
The justice God loves surely is not like that. 
 
Sometimes justice is most clearly understood by awareness of what it is not, or by its absence.  A construction worker relates his experience of working through months of classes and on-the-job training at apprenticeship (reduced) wages in order to qualify for trade union certification and membership.  In the midst of that training course, he was assigned to labor alongside full-wage workers who had fewer skills and less knowledge than the apprentice had, but who had been allowed to skip apprenticeship and certification by simply purchasing the credential for a large sum of money.  Such an arrangement is apparently legal, but few would describe it as just, either for the apprentice or the customer.
 
Spiritual justice -- the justice God loves -- describes human society that functions "just as" its creator desires and intends.  It speaks of the treatment of people and the natural world according to the standards of the One whose very essence is love (I John 4:16), whose identity is truth (John 14:6).  Such a society deals with people on the basis of the truth of God's image in every individual, the truth of God's love for each person and the infinite value that love confers upon them.  Functioning in spiritual justice, a society treats people according to their humanity and need, not according to their skin color, gender, economic status, language, culture, country of birth, or other secondary categorizations.
 
During the first half of 2012, the Missions & Social Concerns Committee invites Friends to carefully consider "the justice God loves" and how it should impact our responses to the challenges facing our nation and the world after years of economic recession and globalization, environmental degradation, population migration, and armed conflict.  How might "the justice God loves" shape our actions regarding societal injustice in wages and prices, educational opportunities, access to health care, opportunities for employment, the treatment of foreigners, the use of natural resources, and care of people in need?  Might we together find a way to "let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream" (Amos 5:24)?

 
For the March Newsletter, Suzanne Weber reflects on justice in the education system.

I teach in a school where 58% of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. I am challenged to think about educational and economic justice every day. Government analysis shows that one in six US public school students attend high-poverty schools, and that the percentage of schools that are high-poverty has significantly increased over the past decade. It also confirms what we've long known: student achievement at high-poverty schools is lower than at other public schools. The difference in average academic skills between high- and low-income students is now 30–40% larger than it was 30 years ago. On a 500-point scale, the reading achievement gap in 2009 between eighth-grade students in wealthy vs. poor schools was 34 points, and the mathematics achievement gap was 38 points. High school students from low-income families dropped out of school six times more often than did their peers from high-income families. About 28% of graduates from poor high schools attended four-year colleges, compared with 52% of high school graduates from wealthier schools. And high school dropouts will earn about $260,000 less than high school graduates and $800,000 less than college graduates in their lifetime.

One reason for these differences is that children from poor families have less access to quality child care and preschool. (This is one reason the expansion of Winchester's YMCA child care program is so important.) Another reason is that higher-income families spend more on tutors and lessons, on private school tuition, and on college. Simply put, wealthier families have more money to invest in their children. In a system of true justice, public funds would be used to balance the difference, but that is difficult when corporations are given annual state tax cuts of $14 billion, resulting in school budget cuts of a similar size (source: Paul Buchheit, ".... Let the Children Pay," Common Dreams, January 2012).

Many very intelligent, skilled children are born into low-income homes and likely will attend poorly-funded schools. Without societal mechanisms in place to balance educational spending and opportunities and provide a base level of quality instruction for all kids, many of our brightest never will be "discovered" and placed into the educational programs that could help them to fully develop their intellect and capabilities. Those opportunities will go instead to less-capable kids whose wealthier families can pay for them. As a result, society might very well miss out on a cure for cancer, a much-needed new idea for clean renewable energy, a musical or artistic prodigy, or a statesman gifted for diplomacy and resolving the world's deadly conflicts. Those are losses we can ill-afford. A society concerned about the justice God loves will do whatever necessary to avoid those potential losses by using resources equitably to provide quality educational opportunities for all kids, regardless of their families' economic status.
 
 

The Justice God Loves -- From the April 2012 Newsletter...... Social Concerns Focus
 
The scriptures make it clear that political and economic justice go hand in hand. The prophet Amos warned those with power against exploiting the poor, crying "Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land saying, 'When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?' -- skimping the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat." (Amos 8:4-6)

The United States' system of governance demonstrates quite clearly that political and economic power also go hand in hand. Election to Congress or other high office pretty much requires that one be wealthy or closely connected to wealth. The average spent by each candidate for the US House of Representatives in 2010 was $571,000, while each candidate for the US Senate spent an average of $2.42 million (Center for Responsive Politics). Most candidates must obtain their campaign money from wealthy people or corporations, with a resulting sense of obligation once in office.

With the recent rise of Super PACs (super political action committees), anonymous wealthy sponsors are free to recruit and lavishly fund candidates who support preserving the legal framework that protects their advantages for accumulating and holding great wealth. The wealthiest 1% of Americans currently pay the lowest tax rate that group has paid in the past 50 years, only one-half the rate they paid on ordinary income prior to the tax cuts of 1981. The ratio of corporate profits to laborers' wages was higher in 2011 than at any time since before the Great Depression. The average salary increase in 2010 for CEOs/executives was 24%, while the average wage increase in 2010 for laborers was a mere 3% (MSN Money). Such policies shift wealth into fewer and fewer hands and greatly increase the gap between the wealthy and the poor. The richest 1% of Americans now take home 24% of all income, the biggest percentage of total income gained by the top 1% in the past 90 years. (Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor; and Judd Legum, ThinkProgess)

These realities have even secular commentators sounding like Biblical prophets. "Current systems are deeply corrupt and not responsive to the needs of people. Representatives chosen by money and influence govern by money and influence.... When [profit], property, and privilege arrangements are not just, they must yield to the demands of human rights.... Exploitation is unacceptable." (Bill Quigley, Counterpunch) Living out "the justice God loves" means that the quest for gold must never violate Jesus' "Rule of Gold" -- always do to others "just as" you wish to be done to yourself (Luke 6:31), never forgetting that we are treating Jesus just as we treat "the least of" His brothers and sisters. (Matthew 25:40)
 

The May Newsletter reflects on justice in immigration.

 
After centuries of enslavement in Egypt, part of the Israelites' experience of becoming reacquainted with Jehovah as they trekked to the Promised Land was learning about God's love for justice. Right in the midst of the Law given to Moses at Mt. Sinai, they were instructed, "Do not mistreat or oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt." (Exodus 22:21 and 23:9) In the detailed ordering of life contained in Leviticus, they were told, "You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born. I am the LORD your God." (Leviticus 24:22) The accounts of the Hebrews' resettlement of Canaan demonstrate that those instructions proved far harder to obey than they sounded. From the news reports and political rhetoric of the 21st century, it appears we today are still learning how difficult they are, too.
 
Where is the line crossed into mistreatment or oppression? In some places in this country, drivers are stopped by police on a mere suspicion they are undocumented, just because they look Hispanic. One city in the Southwest recently outlawed Latino-American studies courses and withdrew books on that subject from schools' libraries. Those kinds of actions are not being carried out against people whose ancestors came here from England, Ireland, Germany, or Sweden. When immigration violations are prosecuted, in many cases those now being deported in record numbers were brought here as infants by their parents and know no other home. They are sent to their parents' homeland as aliens there because of others' actions they had no choice about. Sometimes, undocumented parents whose young children have been born here as US citizens are forced by deportation to break up their families. Too often, those calling for harsh immigration laws and enforcement refuse to acknowledge the important economic contribution made by low-wage, hardworking migrant workers to the standard of living Americans enjoy. Undocumented workers are paid those sub-par wages for labor documented workers won't do because employers know those workers have few rights and cannot report violations of labor laws.
 
The Law's instructions to the Israelites regarding aliens give us insight into the justice God loves. The Lord knows the status of "alien" is relative -- "you too were aliens in Egypt" He tells them, loved by God just as those are whom you are tempted to mistreat or oppress. What would life be like if Native Americans had had today's immigration laws on their books 500 years ago? "I am the LORD your God" means "I the LORD am their God," too. And don't forget, Jesus told His disciples that the alien they encounter might just be Him; "I was a stranger, and you took Me in......" (Matthew 25:35).
 
The June Newsletter reflects on justice for women's wages:
 
In the final book of the Old Testament, the Lord tells Israel through the prophet Malachi, "I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear Me...." (Malachi 3:5) In a similar spirit, Paul writes to people in positions of economic power, "Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven." (Colossians 4:1) The justice God loves does not allow the mistreatment of others, but requires rather that all people be treated "just as" God intends, with basic fairness and equity.
News stories in recent weeks have highlighted US labor statistics which most people would not consider "defrauding laborers of wages," but should give pause to thoughtful observers. Those stories reported that although the Equal Pay Act became US law in 1963 (at a time when women were paid only 59% of what men were paid), 49 years later in 2012 American women on average still earn only 77% of what men earn. For Hispanic and African-American women, that percentage is even lower, between 55-68%. Analysts point out that state laws prohibiting employers from paying different wages for "work of like or comparable character" usually fail to define "comparable" work, so women often continue to be paid less. (source National Committee on Pay Equity <www.pay-equity.org>) Unfortunately for Hoosier women, Indiana ranked 46th out of the 50 states in pay equity for women, averaging well below the national figure at only 71.8% of men's pay. (source US Census 2010)
Those numbers are of great concern because of the 21st century reality of American families and homes. Single women now head 30% of all US households and are economically responsible for 25% of all US children under age 18. (source National Women's Law Center <www.nwlc.org>) Women earning lower wages than men also receive smaller unemployment, Social Security, and other benefits, meaning that they and their children have been especially hard-hit by the recent recession.

It is difficult to imagine that the Lord who loves justice could be pleased with the huge and growing gulf between the wealthy and the poor in the US. What pleases God is surely something more like the Christians in Acts 4:32-34, treating others "just as" Christ had shown them, and working to establish a community where people were more important than possessions: They shared everything they had....., and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them....
 

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Earthday Trees

Missions Emphasis on Hunger Jan-June 2008

Missions Emphasis on Domestic Violence January-June 2010

Shareholders in Shalom

 

MCC Meat Canning Trip Jan. 22, 2008

 

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