Archive for 2009 – Page 2

Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #9

Dear Friends of Truth,

Faith and I were pleased to be with Friends in Northwest Yearly Meeting during their annual sessions this year in Newberg, Oregon. Northwest Yearly Meeting is a group of Evangelical Friends churches in the states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho. I have personal connections with Northwest Friends, as my father grew up in this Yearly Meeting, and my grandmother and aunt are still active members. I had visited them last year, and I was very pleased at what I observed and experienced among them. I feel confident in saying that they are one of the healthiest Yearly Meetings in the United States, standing firmly in the Quaker tradition while also embracing their Evangelical heritage.

Colin Saxton, NWYM’s superintendent, gave the opening sermon on Monday night. It was an impactful message, calling us to greater faithfulness in our spiritual lives as we prepare for the inevitable spiritual storms that threaten to tear us apart as individuals and as the Body of Christ. Colin said that the word that God had kept giving him as he prepared for that night’s message was, “deeper.” Colin emphasized that, as important as “bigger and better” can be, all of our efforts are for nothing if they are not built on the Solid Rock. He encouraged us to get serious about our spiritual disciplines and to pay attention to the ways we are called to deepen our lives in Christ, to become a holy people fit for God’s work. Colin called us to be a people focused on being what God means us to be – not just on good works and achievement based on our own goals and expectations. It seemed that God was using Colin to call Northwest Yearly Meeting to prepare spiritually for the difficult times that are coming.

This year’s sessions were mostly easy. Last year, there had been a minute brought by a couple of the local churches regarding immigration and the US government’s response in curtailing illegal immigration. The minute was not ultimately approved, as Friends did not feel clear that they understood the issue sufficiently to approve a statement. This year, instead of trying to pass a minute, the Yearly Meeting approved forming an Immigration Taskforce. This working group will focus on three areas: 1) Providing accurate information to the churches about the realities of immigration to the United States and the injustices faced by many visitors in this country; 2) Carrying out advocacy to influence more just legislation and governmental policies towards visitors in our midst; and 3) Engaging in direct action to help immigrants in local communities, providing assistance and aid to those in greatest need. I was impressed with the way that NWYM moved forward, not trampling the concerns and perspectives of Friends on of this hot-button issue, but engaging with it in a way that will hopefully allow the Yearly Meeting to gain greater clarity and unity as they move forward in the ways that God is calling them.

I was pleased to meet with Ángel and Hernán Díaz, two leaders of the Spanish-language Friends Church movement in the Pacific Northwest. Ángel is pastor of a Spanish-language Friends church in Newberg, Oregon, and Hernán is a pastor in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington. Together, they are helping to develop an energetic Christian ministry among Spanish-speaking Friends in their areas. I was very impressed by them and the work that they are engaged in, and I pray that God will continue to guide them as they build up the Church in their communities. I also pray that God will continue to open ways for Spanish-speaking and English-speaking Friends to work together more closely as time goes on. This is an acknowledged concern of Friends in NWYM, and I hope that they will be encouraged as they seek to make their Yearly Meeting more integrated across cultural and linguistic barriers, so that the world may witness the Truth of Christ that breaks down all barriers of class, culture, race, nationality and gender.

The main speaker for Northwest Yearly Meeting this year was Bob Adhikary. Bob has previously spoken to Friends in Eastern Region, Mid-America Yearly Meeting, and at Barclay College. At these two last, there were widely publicized reports of spiritual outpourings that overwhelmed those present to hear him speak. Many came to Northwest Yearly Meeting wondering whether Bob would bring Revival with him, though we were cognizant that it is only God who can bring Revival, and that Bob could at best be an instrument of God’s work among us. Unfortunately, Bob’s style and message were uncomfortable for many of those gathered in Newberg, and deeply offensive for some. A hint of this is present in NWYM’s 2009 Epistle, which cites the Senior High Epistle, saying that, “The meeting was encouraged by [Bob Adhikary’s] passion for evangelism and the excitement in his message, but some of his statements caused a difference of opinion among the members of our group.” Adhikary’s statements included that the September 11th attacks and the Hurricane Katrina disaster were God’s Wrath on the United States for accepting sin – in particular, homosexuality.

The intensity of Bob Adhikary’s rhetoric led to some amount of response from the gathered body over the course of the week. During open worship in business, near the end of the sessions, several Friends stood up and reminded us of God’s universal love for all people. While Bob emphasized God’s anger at sin, some Friends felt led to encourage us to focus on God’s love and mercy. They reminded us that we are judged by God for how we treat the outcast and marginalized.

Colin Saxton’s message near the beginning of the sessions, calling us to go deeper and to make sure that we are truly grounded in Christ before the storm comes, was surely prophetic. Northwest Yearly Meeting is likely headed into a period of stretching and difficult discernment around the question of homosexuality in the Church. One of the local churches in the Portland area recently adopted a minute which states that they do, “not judge a person’s ministry and leadership on the basis of any incidental characteristic. It is our experience and testimony that God works through people without regard for race, age, gender or sexual orientation.” It seems inevitable that in the coming years Northwest Yearly Meeting will be challenged with divergent understandings of God’s work through people of differing sexual orientations and gender identities. I am confident in the human leadership of Northwest Yearly Meeting to guide the Yearly Meeting through these birth pangs. I pray that the one true Leader and Guide of Northwest Yearly Meeting, Jesus Christ, might be present with all Friends as they seek together the will of God and learn to walk together in Christ’s Way.

I have great love for Friends in Northwest Yearly Meeting. They feel like family to me. To be fair, that may be because much of the Yearly Meeting literally is family, to greater or lesser degrees. I hope to be able to continue to visit Northwest Yearly Meeting in the years to come. I pray that they will stay low and open to God’s present guidance in the way I have seen them be receptive these past two years, especially as they encounter greater challenges as a Yearly Meeting. I see God at work in Northwest Yearly Meeting, and I have greater hope for the future of Friends because of it.

Next, I’ll be visiting Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative), in Barnesville, Ohio. I am looking forward to spending some quality time with what is, in many ways, the most traditionalist of our Yearly Meetings. I am particuarly interested to see how business is conducted among them, and I pray that we will experience a palpable covering of Christ’s Spirit as we gather together this week.

Finally, please pray for Western Yearly Meeting. I am receiving reports that they are having very difficult sessions this year and could use our spiritual support. Please pray that they may be covered with the uniting and healing power of Christ.

Your brother in Christ Jesus,

Micah Bales

Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #8

Dear brothers and sisters in Truth,

My travels among Friends this summer are now underway as Faith and I visit Eastern Region Yearly Meeting at their annual sessions in Canton, Ohio. It might be fair to say that Eastern Region Yearly Meeting is the flagship of Evangelical Friends Church in North America. Eastern Region (formerly Ohio Yearly Meeting [Damascus]) was the only one of the Orthodox Yearly Meetings to decline membership in the Five Years Meeting (now Friends United Meeting) when it was formed in 1902. Eastern Region felt that FYM’s statements of faith were not sufficently Evangelical. They were certainly uncomfortable with some aspects of FYM’s corporate statement of faith – the Richmond Declaration – which denied the use of outward signs of sacrament, such as water baptism and bread and wine communion. Since the late 19th century, Eastern Region has held that there should be “freedom of conscience” with regard to outward signs of sacrament. Since the 19th century, some churches in Eastern Region have celebrated these rituals, but they are optional: No one is required to be baptized with water or partake in bread and wine communion in order to be a member of the Friends Church.

Over time, a number of other North American Yearly Meetings became disaffected with the insufficiently Evangelical stance of the Five Years Meeting. Oregon (now Northwest) Yearly Meeting broke away from FYM in the 1926 after FYM would not acknowledge the Richmond Declaration as a creed. Kansas (now Mid-America) Yearly Meeting withdrew in 1937, and most of Nebraska Yearly Meeting‘s monthly meetings withdrew and formed Rocky Mountain Yearly Meeting in 1957. Evangelical Friends Alliance (now Evangelical Friends Church) was formed in 1965, and Evangelical Friends Church in North America now includes Southwest Yearly Meeting (formerly California) and Alaska Yearly Meeting.

But Eastern Region is the original. Here, ever since the Revival experience of the mid-1800s, Friends have greatly emphasized the tradition of Evangelical Protestantism, often at the expense of Friends heritage. The attitude among Friends in Eastern Region might be described as: “hold onto what is essential, jettison everything else.” And for most Friends in Eastern Region, what is essential is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, fidelity to the Bible as the Word of God, and an actively missional stance in the wider world (see Matthew 28:19-20). And, by and large, the Evangelical Protestant tradition has all of these things.

The Friends tradition, except as it directly supports these three emphases, is not seen by most Friends in Eastern Region as being necessary. It is worth noting that the Friends tradition is often referred to as “Friends distinctives” by members of Evangelical Friends Church: They are the things that make Friends “distinctive” from other Evangelical Protestants. But the Evangelical Protestant tradition – the story of Luther and Wesley – is normative. As a Yearly Meeting, Eastern Region is Protestant first, Quaker second – if at all. It is worth noting that most Friends here do not identify as “Quaker,” as that word is associated with liberal, non-Bible-based Friends branches. Friends here are very careful to distinguish between the Friends Church and Quakers.

Attending Eastern Region Yearly Meeting has been a “cultural experience” for me on a variety of levels. The first worship service I attended was a three-and-a-half-hour-long Spanish-language service. There were around 200 Spanish-speaking Friends in attendence to hear many individuals and groups perform music, to sing congregationally, and to hear a number of speakers, including a guest preacher who spoke for around an hour. He was an impressive orator who alternated between stand-up comedy and fire-and-brimstone screaming. Just when I thought I couldn’t take any more warning and judgment, he made us laugh. I enjoyed seeing the vibrancy of the Spanish-language Friends at Eastern Region, though I was a bit concerned at how segregated the Spanish-language and English-language sub-Yearly Meetings were. Most of the Spanish-speakers only stayed for the weekend, leaving the English-speakers to do Eastern Region’s business on Monday and Tuesday. It was as if there were two Yearly Meetings, and the English-language Yearly Meeting was where the business was done.

The English-language portion of the Yearly Meeting was just as much a cultural experience. The worship services were made up of three primary elements: Congregational singing; performing artists (from Hungarian Gypsy musicians to a teeny-bop Christian rock band); and preaching. Friends applauded after most of the songs and sermons, and there were rarely even a few seconds of silence between events. I had difficulty with how prepared and managed everything felt; and the congregational singing and preaching was often triumphalist in nature.

Another challenge for me was the almost exclusively male leadership of the Yearly Meeting. Eastern Region has no female senior pastors. One younger Friend who I spoke to said that she had female Friends who had left the Friends Church to join the Mennonites in order to be able to engage in pastoral ministry. They did not feel that they could do so in Eastern Region. It was noteworthy that this year the Yearly Meeting recorded one of their long-time missionaries as a minister of the gospel – but not his wife, who has been co-missionary with him for decades. No one publicly questioned why this should be so. Throughout the time here at Yearly Meeting, I have heard statements that underscored the role of women in Eastern Region: For example, when one leader prayed that God would, “raise up new missionaries and missionaries’ wives.”

Another thing that I must mention is that Eastern Region Friends vote. I had known this before I arrived, but knowing that Friends in this Yearly Meeting vote could not entirely prevent me from having my breath taken away when I first witnessed it. Most of Eastern Region’s business is done without discussion: A report is presented and approved (they say “favor” to indicate approval). However, a vote is taken on “motions” – that is, on any action item.

Voting seems to be especially important for cases when there is a question from the floor about the decisions that the leadership has presented to the body. The only vote where I heard any “noes” came after one individual questioned whether it was in right order to freeze for the coming year the Yearly Meeting’s “minimum wage” for pastoral ministers. After this man had spoken, the clerk called for a vote on the matter without hearing further discussion. The vote was taken by voice, and I would guess that it passed by a margin of at least ten to one. It seems that voting in this particular case served the function of allowing some Friends to “stand aside” on the decision. But I was disturbed that no time was given to discernment of the matter; Friends were not encouraged to wait on God to provide further guidance. There was a schedule, and Friends intended to get on with it – so a quick vote took care of the voice of dissention.

Eastern Region had its good points, of course. I was impressed with the fact that the Yearly Meeting took half a day to do service projects in the community. I went with a team of Friends that weeded the grounds of a local Jewish community center, and a dozen other teams served the local community in many other ways. One team visited a man in very poor health and cleaned up his yard. Another team visited the local fire station that had just lost a fireman and cleaned their vehicles and prayed with them. Yet another team worked with children. I thought that many Friends could learn from Eastern Region’s very practical service orientation.

I was also deeply impressed by Eastern Region’s cross-cultural emphasis. While I am concerned by the de facto segregation of the Spanish-speaking and English-speaking sections of the Yearly Meeting, I am very excited about the development of that relationship. Eastern Region also has a Chinese-language congregation, and “ethnic ministry” is a stated emphasis of the Yearly Meeting. I am excited to see how greater partnership might develop between Friends of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Eastern Region bears witness to Friends’ Testimony of Unity: to the power of Christ’s Spirit to unite us across cultural, class, and linguistic barriers.

The emphasis at Eastern Region is on church-growth, foreign missions, and Evangelical Protestant theology based in the authority of Scripture as the Word of God. I did not detect much interest in engaging with other (non-Evangelical) Friends. Nevertheless, I believe that Friends would do well to reach out to Eastern Region Yearly Meeting, inviting them to share fellowship with the wider Religious Society of Friends. Despite our doctrinal differences, we are all children of one Heavenly Father, and we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray that the Holy Spirit will permeate all of the churches of Eastern Region Yearly Meeting and that Friends will be responsive to the Inward Light of Christ as it seeks to lead them in His Way.

This coming week, Faith and I will be visiting Northwest Yearly Meeting, also a part of Evangelical Friends Church. I was blessed to visit Northwest Yearly Meeting last year, along with Tyler Hampton, and I am looking forward to being among Friends there again.

I pray that the Spirit of Christ is richly dwelling in each of you, leading you in the way of truth and mercy, justice and love.

Your friend in the Way of Jesus,

Micah Bales

Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #7

Dear Children of Light,
I write to you from Richmond, Indiana, home of Friends United Meeting’s North American office. This week, FUM’s General Board is coming together for its three-times-per-year business meeting. As I write to you about the way God has been working in my life and in the life of Friends in the Great Plains region, I ask you to take a moment to pray for Friends United Meeting. I further request that you continue to hold FUM in prayer. FUM as an organization and as a fellowship of Friends is severely tested at this time, with financial, spiritual and intercultural difficulties that threaten to overwhelm the tenuous unity that Orthodox Friends do have after almost two centuries of schism and contention. We on the General Board need your prayers this week, as we come together to discern the future of FUM. Please pray that Christ’s presence be keenly felt here among us, and that we be receptive to our Present Teacher and Lord.
Before I dive into the depths of discernment with Friends in Richmond, I would like to update you about the events of the past few weeks among Friends in the heartland of the United States. Three main events have taken place since I last wrote you: A visit among Friends in Saint Louis; a visit to the Meetings of Manhattan, Topeka, Lawrence, and Kansas City; and Great Plains Yearly Meeting, which met this past weekend at University Friends Meeting, in Wichita. This has been a time of intense activity, spiritual preparation, and discernment.
St. Louis Friends Meeting
I spent Sunday, 24 May, with St. Louis Friends Meeting, part of Illinois Yearly Meeting. I enjoyed my visit among Friends in St. Louis, staying with a lovely family from the Meeting who opened their home to me for several days. I was very grateful for their graciousness as hosts and their eagerness to share about their lives and their experiences among Friends in the St. Louis area. My interaction with the Meeting as a whole was limited to a few hours on Sunday morning. Despite the brevity of my visit, I felt that I received some sense of those who were gathered. Their meetinghouse was lovely. It seemed to have been converted from something else, but I was not sure what. I appreciated the meetingroom, which had soaring ceilings and enormous windows that bathed the space in light. The meeting for worship itself was quite grounded (“more than usual,” a local Friend told me) and fairly large (by Great Plains standards, anyway). I estimated that there were probably thirty or so in attendance that morning. I was grateful for the chance to visit Friends in St. Louis and for the hospitality that I was shown.
The I-70 Corridor
The following weekend, I made another trip to be with Friends in Manhattan, Topeka, Lawrence, and Kansas City. I am always astonished by the joy which I feel when I am among Friends along the I-70 Corridor. I tell them that they are the closest the Great Plains comes to being like “out East” – in this little strip of Kansas-Missouri, Meetings are less than an hour apart! But my joy at being with Friends here comes not from blessings of geography, but instead from the quality of their fellowship and their hunger for God’s presence. Friends in Manhattan are doing well, despite the recent loss of two key members who have moved to Virginia. They are presently exploring Quaker understandings of marriage, as two sojourners from the Kansas City area have asked to marry under the care of the Meeting.
I was delighted to see new faces everywhere I went during this trip, and my visit to Topeka was probably the prime example of this. I spent most of my time in Topeka with several members who I had not met before. They gave me a tour of the scenic Potwin neighborhood in Topeka, and we sat together on one family’s porch in that neighborhood, getting to know each other better. We talked a great deal about the history of Topeka Meeting, and Friends noted how it had been in decline in terms of membership and energy for the past decade or more. Friends expressed their hope that the Meeting might recover the vitality that it once had, but there was uncertainty as to what form that recovery might take.
I spent Sunday morning with Friends at Oread Meeting, in Lawrence, and I went out to lunch with three Friends from the Meeting after the service. I was sad that more Friends did not feel able to meet with me and share about their Meeting, though I was grateful for the few who did. In Kansas City, at Penn Valley Friends Meeting, quite a few Friends turned out to share a potluck dinner with me at their meetinghouse, and I was very encouraged by our conversation during and following the meal. Friends at Penn Valley Meeting are very earnest and have a hunger to learn more about the wider Quaker world. I was encouraged by their enthusiasm and their thirst for the things of the Spirit. I pray that I may be able to visit them, and all of these Meetings, again in the near future.
Great Plains Yearly Meeting
As I mentioned in my previous newsletter, I have sought to spiritually prepare myself during these past weeks for the annual sessions of Great Plains Yearly Meeting, which took place 4-7 June. It is as if my entire year had been inclining towards this moment, the yearly meeting being to my year what Sunday meeting for worship is to my week. Yearly Meeting time is a moment to pause and discern with the wider body of Friends what God is calling us to in the coming year. I went into the sessions holding before God my ministry among Friends in this region, and asking God to guide me and Faith as to the next steps in our walk in Christ. As a part of this discernment, there was a review of the past year’s ministry with GPYM’s Ministry and Counsel. We heard from my Oversight Committee, as well as from representatives from each Monthly Meeting in the Yearly Meeting about how they had experienced my ministry.
Finally, Ministry and Counsel considered the future of my ministry in the Great Plains. It quickly became clear that some Friends in the Yearly Meeting were out of unity with my ministry. Some were uncomfortable with their perception of my theology. Some did not see how my work fit into our current model of ministry – there’s really not an easy “job description” for what I am engaged in. Some were uncertain of how they felt about free gospel ministry – witness to the Seed of Christ in all people, in the tradition of the Apostle Paul and George Fox. A visiting Friend pointed out that Great Plains Yearly Meeting had a choice: We could stick to our status quo of routine and ritual; or we could embrace an apostolic ministry, which would not fit our current plans, but which would shake us up and call us to deeper faithfulness as a Church. The road that we were on, this Friend insisted, would lead ever downward into stagnation; but the apostolic ministry builds up, even as it challenges our feelings of self-satisfaction and safety.
Ministry and Counsel concluded by drafting the following minute:
Friends are deeply grateful for Micah’s faithful service among us this past year. Nevertheless, we do not feel able to lend the kind of support that would enable Micah to continue as a released Friend. Our Yearly Meeting simply is not yet at a place where we can corporately affirm an apostolic ministry. With needs so great and laborers so few, it grieves us not to be able to fully take advantage of Micah’s willingness to serve among us.

We are encouraged that Micah continues to feel a burden for Friends in the Great Plains. As we look to the future, we hope that opportunities will present themselves for Micah to continue in service to Friends in the Great Plains. We thus authorize the preparation of a general travel minute to facilitate his continued ministry as way may open. (One Friend stood aside on the authorization of a general travel minute.)
I was initially saddened by this outcome, because I had hoped that Friends would feel led to release me to continue ministry in the Great Plains region. But as it became clear that there was not unity for this, I felt an unexpected joy in my heart. I knew that I had been faithful, and that that was sufficient. I did not (and do not) know what the future holds for me and Faith, but I felt deep certainty in that moment that God’s purposes were being worked out in me and that God would provide for tomorrow, just as God is providing for today.
Most of the rest of GPYM was fairly routine, but Saturday evening was remarkable. “The future of GPYM” had been on the agenda for business meeting and was supposed to have been up for discussion during the second-to-last business meeting on Saturday. However, there was so much other business, including the approval of the long-awaited Yearly Meeting Handbook, that business was about to close without discussing our future at all. As the clerk was about to close our sessions, visitor Jonathan Vogel-Borne asked, “what about the future?” The assistant clerk looked at his watch and said, “well, we have two minutes left. Would anyone like to talk about the future?” I was on my feet and at the front of the assembled Body before I knew what I was doing.
I was so grateful for those Friends who were holding me in prayer in that moment, because I was quite disoriented. I just knew that I had to speak to the Body. I tried to calm myself, praying for guidance before I spoke. I told Friends, “I’m going to speak for myself, and I hope that some of God comes out.” I told Friends that I was disappointed with them for letting annual sessions slip by without wrestling with our future as a Yearly Meeting. I told them that I was concerned that we have become as formal as the Pharisees or the Christians of George Fox’s day, mistaking routine for virtue and form for substance. I told them that I loved them all, and I begged them to humble themselves and open themselves to the presence of Christ in their hearts, to follow that inward guidance. Because the status quo hasn’t been working for a long time.
This led to a time of open worship. It was a remarkable time of deep prayer out of which some Friends spoke, encouraging Friends in Great Plains Yearly Meeting not to give up the race, but to press forward in faith. Immediately following that, Friends reassembled downstairs to hear Jonathan Vogel-Borne speak for the third time. Jonathan spoke with reference to Ezekiel and the dry bones, and there was a palpable covering of the Holy Spirit among us, which continued as we returned to open worship. Some gave vocal ministry out of this silence that was distinctly Spirit-led and prophetic. Following this time of deep worship, we continued worship as we sang hymns together.
This was, without a doubt, the most spiritually-active session of Great Plains Yearly Meeting that I have experienced since I first attended in 2004. The air was thickened at times with God’s presence, and it was clear that the Holy Spirit was working on us, calling us to greater faithfulness and vision. I do not know what the future holds, but I am at peace. The Day Star shines in the darkness and exposes our strongholds of rebellion. The Lamb’s War is underway and Christ’s victory is assured. I only pray that we will turn, that we will yield, that we will allow God to shape us into what we were meant to be – a holy people, set apart to do the work of Love in the world.
Next Steps
My summer is looking to be quite intense. I will be in Richmond all this week for General Board meetings. The week after next, I will be helping out with Quivering Arrow Camp, a Friends summer camp for children in Northern Oklahoma, headed up by Brad Wood, pastor of Kickapoo Friends (Mid-America YM). Shortly thereafter I will be leaving Wichita to travel throughout the United States for most of the summer, up until my wedding on September 5th. Among my intended travels are: Evangelical Friends Church – Eastern Region, Northwest Yearly Meeting, and Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative). I also hope to visit Friends in Michigan, and may visit other Friends as way opens.
As for after September 5th – God only knows. Faith and I are in active discernment about where we are going to land after the wedding, but this has still not been made clear to us. We hope that God will let us in on the secret soon. We can wait, though; we know God is at work and has a plan for us, even if we can’t see it yet.
I pray that you experience the peace of Christ in your midst and in your hearts as we strive together in the work that God has laid out for us.
Your friend in Christ,
Micah Bales

Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #6

Dear Friends of Truth,

My travels in the ministry in the past weeks have been wide-ranging and diverse. I have been able to visit with brothers and sisters here in the Wichita area who, though sharing a common bond in the Spirit of Christ, are in many ways quite different from one another, and have in many cases have little contact with one another. I have also traveled in the wider region, to visit Friends in Oklahoma; and we’ve also been blessed to receive Friends from the wider region at Heartland.

On Saturday, 2 May, Heartland Meeting hosted a gathering of Friends from the wider region. In addition to Friends from Heartland and University Meetings in Wichita, we also had visitors from Great Bend and Lawrence, Kansas. We met at Heartland meetinghouse and shared a rich time of fellowship, worship, a potluck meal, and discussion about the state of our personal walks with God, our meetings, and our hopes for the future of Friends in this region. We agreed that more frequent regional gatherings would be a good thing, and we thought that it would be a step forward if there were four opportunities for regional fellowship each year. Great Plains Yearly Meeting (in early summer) and Missouri Valley Friends Conference (in early fall) seemed like good opportunities for Friends to gather regionally, and we considered how we might host winter and springtime gatherings for Friends in our part of the country. We plan to have workshops about this topic at both Great Plains Yearly Meeting and Missouri Valley Friends Conference.

The next day, I attended Sunday worship at Iglesia Evangélica Amigos, the Hispanic Friends church in Wichita. I was warmly received by the brothers and sisters there, and I took part in their Bible study and worship service. The service featured singing, with the lyrics of the songs projected onto a screen at the front of the worship space; and some of the young girls of the meeting danced and played tamborine at the front as we sang. The speaker that day was a visiting pastor. He was the founding pastor of the meeting in the 1980s, but had since moved on to shepherd another Friends church in Emporia. After the service, he told me about his ministry of teaching among Hispanic Friends in Western Kansas: He visits four different meetings in one day – one Sunday every month – and teaches workshops. It seemed he was doing the same thing at the Friends church in Wichita: After the worship service, he led a workshop on leadership for the brothers and sisters here in Wichita. I was very impressed with the meeting and leadership at Iglesia Evangélica Amigos, and wished I could spend more time with them. I suspect I’ll be back.

The following weekend, I was invited to attend Mennonite Church of the Servant’s annual retreat at Camp Mennoscah. I really enjoyed my time with folks there. We did scripture memorization (1 John 4:7-8), worshipped, and spent time discussing and discerning how Church of the Servant is to become more missional as a body. Church of the Servant is moving in the direction of becoming more in line with the New Monastic movement. They are seeking ways to be more intentional about their community life together, including seeking a cause/project that they can work on as a church. In my observation of this church, I would say that they are already more community-oriented than most congregations, and I am excited at their passion to continue to deepen their corporate life with God and to examine how they can live more Christ-like lives together. I felt grateful that they included me in their retreat. It was good to get to know them better, and spending time with them in the countryside was refreshing.

On a related note, I continue to assist with the Church of the Servant’s Celebrate Recovery program. The main organizer of the group, Amy, has been very ill in the past weeks and has been unable to attend, much less organize, our weekly sessions. Jerry Truex and I have been taking up the slack. Given the circumstances, however, I think things are going well. We have a solid core group at this point, and I hope that we will soon be ready to start advertising the group and seeking a larger attendance.

My one real out-of-town ministry trip in the past few weeks has been to visit Friends at Council House Meeting, near Wyandotte, Oklahoma. I headed down on Saturday and stayed with Frankie Sue Johnson, the clerk of the Meeting. I got the chance to meet her daughter-in-law, and to see her three grandchildren again when they dropped by for dinner. Sunday morning, I was asked to give the message at meeting for worship. I invited the meeting to share a bit of open worship with me, and several people shared out of the silence. Then, I spoke about my own spiritual journey and about the importance of waiting on God’s guidance in our hearts. It was a small group, so it felt silly to stand up on a platform and preach; I just turned around in my bench and spoke to everyone seated next to and behind me. Afterwards, we had lunch together before I headed back to Wichita.

I hurried home, because I had an engagement with the University Friends youth group that evening. Dave Kingrey, the youth minister there, had asked me to share about my ministry and experience. I spoke first to the high school group, and then to the middle school group. My topic with each was: “How does God speak to us?” I asked the youth whether God had ever spoken to them, and what it felt like. I led each group in a brief period of open worship and then asked them what their experience of the silence was. I was particularly impressed with how tender and spiritually sensitive the middle schoolers were. They had experienced silent worship before, but they had not understood what the purpose was. After sharing a few minutes in silence together, one boy said, “it was different this time, now that I know what we’re supposed to be doing.” I felt blessed to have this opportunity with the youth group.

I expect that the next few weeks will be fairly intense. For me on a personal level, the coming weeks will be a time of inward preparation for yearly meeting sessions, 4-7 June. Yearly meeting will be a time of discernment with Friends as to whether my ministry has been helpful, and as to whether we feel that God is calling us as a Yearly Meeting to continue this ministry. I am praying for God to grant me spiritual groundedness and peace as I go into this process, trusting that God is in control and will work all things for good for those who love God. As I do this inward preparation, I will continue my work. This coming weekend I will be visiting Friends in St. Louis, Missouri. The weekend following that, I hope to visit Friends in Manhattan, Topeka and Lawrence, Kansas; and Kansas City, Missouri.

I thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement, and ask that you continue to pray for me and my work of visitation and encouraging the Church to turn to its Inward Guide, Jesus Christ. I hope that you will join me also in prayer for the spiritual renewal of the Church in a world that is so deeply in need of Christ’s presence, love and justice.

Yours in Christ’s service,

Micah Bales

Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #5

Dear Friends of Truth,

Things have kept moving along in the past weeks as I have continued to visit Friends in the Great Plains region. I have covered a lot of ground since my last newsletter, traveling well over a thousand miles and visiting Friends in Manhattan, Topeka and Lawerence, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri; and Kearney, Central City, and Grand Island, Nebraska. In addition, I have continued my work in Wichita. I have met with individuals, as well as being invited to speak to the youth of Crossroads Friends Church. I have also continued to assist the Mennonite Church of the Servant‘s addiction recovery program.

In Wichita

In the past weeks I have had a number of opportunities to meet with individuals here in Wichita. I have met with a variety of folks, both from the various Friends meetings and churches in the city, as well as with friends from other traditions. I have felt enriched by every encounter, and I pray that I have been a blessing to those I have met with. It has been especially encouraging to meet with ministers from Heartland, University and Crossroads Friends meetings. I am impressed with their sincerity, drive and vision, and I am eager to see how I might be of service to each of their congregations. I continue to meet with Mennonite and Methodist ministers, seeking to be receptive to how God may be calling us to work together for the incarnation of Christ’s Presence and Reign with us.

I felt particularly blessed to be invited to visit Crossroad Friends Church’s youth group. I spent an evening playing soccer with the youth, out in the country to the Northwest of Wichita. Later, we sat together eating cinnamon rolls and drinking pink limonade; and, after a time of prayer, I spent perhaps fifteen minutes sharing about my spiritual journey and how Christ has led me in my life. I then took questions from the youth, and asked them some, as well. I was grateful for the chance to get to know these young people, and to share with them about what God has done in my life.

I continue attending weekly at the Mennonite Church of the Servant’s meetinghouse, assisting as best I can with their addiction recovery program, using materials from Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered adaptation of the twelve steps program. The group has thus far not grown very much in number, but those of us who do attend are a solid, increasingly tight-knit group; each of us hopes to work to draw in new attenders to increase the impact of our little group, which we feel has much to offer to our friends and neighbors.

Visiting Friends in Northeastern Kansas

The weekend before last, I experienced a rapid change of plans, which ultimately worked out very well. I had planned to visit the Kearney worship group on the weekend of April 19-21, and then to visit the new worship group in Grand Island the weekend following. However, as I spoke with John and Marianna Damon in Kearney, I realized that visiting central Nebraska twice in two weeks would probably be overkill; I would do better to visit Kearney and Grand Island in the same weekend. The Damons and I agreed that I should wait until the next weekend, when I would visit both worship groups. All of a sudden, I had no plans for the weekend.

Now, I had been feeling a distinct leading towards visiting Friends in Northeastern Kansas since my trip to West Texas, and with my weekend free, I realized immediately that this was the time to make those visits. But would Friends be able to meet with me on only a day’s notice? I made a lot of phone calls very quickly. To my great joy, way opened for Friends in Northeastern Kansas to meet with me, even on such short notice. Each meeting that I felt led to visit was able to receive me! I felt deep gratitude for God’s touch in opening the way for these unexpected visits.

The next day, Friday, I arrived in Manhattan, Kansas. I met with Friends from Manhattan Friends Meeting for dinner. There were about eight of us, and it was wonderful to see these Friends again after having been away for more than a year. The big news in Manhattan is that there are three new attenders; two are seeking marriage under the care of the meeting, and one is currently seeking membership in the meeting. Also big news, though less encouraging, is that Stephen and Debbie Long, vibrant and valued members of the meeting, are moving very soon to Virginia. This is a great loss for the meeting, being so small. Nevertheless, Friends remain upbeat: “We’re up three and down two – that’s still good,” one Friend said. One of the things that I love about Friends in Manhattan is their determination and optimism about what God can do through them. I trust that God will continue to bless them and use them as an instrument of love and reconciliation in Manhattan. I look forward to seeing how I might be of service to these Friends as they serve their community.

I spent Friday night in Manhattan, graciously hosted by the Conrow family, and in the morning I was off to visit Friends in Topeka. I had lunch with Sue Wine and David Ozaki, and then we made our way over to the meetinghouse, where the Sergeants joined us and we had a time of fellowship and worship. Friends in Topeka are feeling small and discouraged right now, struggling in the wake of the loss of a key family last year, who moved to New Zealand. Friends in Topeka want God to breathe new life into their meeting, to build them up and make them what they were meant to be; but it’s hard, and the way forward is not clear right now. I am sure that Friends in Topeka would appreciate your prayers for God’s felt presence and power in their meeting. I will be praying for them as they wait on God’s guidance and strength. Saturday evening I stayed with Sue and John Wine at their home in the country. The Wines have a small farm, which I found a refreshing place to be, and I am grateful for their hospitality.

On Sunday morning, I made my way over to Lawrence to worship with Oread Friends. I enjoyed being with them for Sunday morning worship, and I got the chance to visit with some of them after worship, during tea time. As I talked with a few Friends about my travels, I mentioned that my original plan for this ministry had involved staying with each meeting for a couple of weeks, but that I had determined that most meetings would be better served by shorter, weekend visits. I was surprised and pleased to have these Friends express their interest in having me visit Friends in Lawrence for a longer period. They suggested that I might stay for a couple of weeks, visiting with Friends in their homes, holding called meetings for worship, and deepening my relationship with the local community. I am excited by this suggestion, and Friends in Lawrence and I will be in conversation in the upcoming weeks and months as to when might be the best time for me to visit them for an extended period.

After tea time at Oread and a brief stop to a Lawrence coffeeshop, I headed to Kansas City. I made several looping tours of the downtown area, trying to figure out where I was. Finally, in the early evening, I found my way to the home of Shane Rowse, clerk of Penn Valley Friends Meeting. He and his family hosted me and several other local Friends very warmly that evening. They prepared a delicious Southern-style meal, and we talked together for hours into the evening. I appreciated the lively and curious spirit of these Friends, and I look forward to visiting them again soon.

In fact, I hope to visit all four of these meetings again this May. I look forward to continuing to deepen our friendship and to encourage the strengthening of their lives as individuals and meetings. Each of these local meetings is special and important, and I want to support them in any way that I am able.

On to Central Nebraska

Just as I was beginning to recover from this whirlwind tour of Northeastern Kansas, I made my way to central Nebraska this past weekend (24-26 April) to visit Friends there. On Friday and Saturday, I visited John and Marianna Damon, the core of the Kearney worship group. These Friends were very gracious to me, inviting me into their home and taking good care of me. I had wonderful conversations with both John and Marianna, and got a sense for their lives, including their struggles to establish a meeting in Kearney. I was glad to be able to visit them and encourage them in their walk as Friends, and hope that way will open for me to be of further service to them as they continue to seek God’s will in their lives.

On Sunday, I worshipped with Friends at Central City. We sang hymns and shared a time of open worship, sitting around tables in the anteroom of their meetinghouse. After the service, I spoke with Friends about the ministry I am carrying out. They, in turn, explained the present situation with their local meeting, especially their plans for raising funds to provide a substantial endowment for their meetinghouse. The meeting no longer feels able to maintain the meetinghouse themselves, and they hope to raise $50,000 in order to ensure that the meetinghouse can be used by the local historical society for the next decade.

Don Reeves took me out to lunch at a local waffle restaurant after meeting, and then I headed over to the monthly gathering for worship in Grand Island. We met in the basement of the United Methodist meetinghouse, and a Methodist minister gave a message about how impressed he was with Shane Claiborne. Following his presentation, we had a period of open worship. I was sad that there was not much time for fellowship following the service. The meeting for worship occurs immediately before the meeting of Nebraskans for Peace in the same space, and attenders of that group began arriving as our meeting for worship ended. As most of the Friends in attendence also take part in Nebraskans for Peace, the worship gathering transformed into a peace meeting almost immediately. I wished that I had more time to visit with Friends. I hope that on a subsequent visit I might get to know them better.

Big news: In the discussion following worship at Central City, I was informed that Central City Monthly Meeting did not, in fact, have plans to lay down. Instead, it looks increasingly likely that Friends will continue to meet in Central City on a monthly basis for the forseeable future. The model that Friends in central Nebraska increasingly seem to be drawn to is that of a single monthly meeting composed of several preparative meetings (worship groups). Friends in Kearney will continue to meet twice a month, and Friends in Grand Island and Central City will meet once a month. This is exciting news for everyone: Central City Monthly Meeting is not laying down – it is re-organizing. Nevertheless, it is clear that Friends in central Nebraska are struggling at this time, and they could use the support of Friends in the region. Please be praying for Friends in central Nebraska; may they feel God’s presence and be open to God’s guidance for how they are to move forward.

Looking Ahead

This coming weekend, Heartland Friends Meeting is hosting a regional gathering of Friends. We hope to have guests from as far North as central Nebraska, as far West as Great Bend, as far South as Texas and as far East as Arkansas. The gathering will be from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm, Saturday, 2 May, at Heartland meetinghouse. We will be gathering for a time of fellowship, worship, hymn singing, and a time of worship sharing and discussion about how God is calling us to service in our local communities. Together, we will seek strength and guidance from the Present Teacher, praying for the wisdom and the courage to be a blessing to our local communities and to build up our local meetings.

On the weekend of 9-10 May, I have been invited to attend a retreat for Mennonite Church of the Servant. I look forward to learning from these brothers and sisters as they gather together to rededicate themselves to the work of the Church in Wichita. On 17 May, I have been asked to speak to youth group at University Friends. On 24 May, I hope to visit Friends in Saint Louis, and the following weekend I hope to visit Friends in Manhattan, Topeka, Lawrence and Kansas City. And the weekend after that, 4-7 June, Great Plains Yearly Meeting will be having its annual gathering, hosted this year by University Friends Meeting, in Wichita. I hope that many of you are able to make this gathering.

Please continue to pray for my ministry in the Great Plains region, and for all of the Friends meetings in this part of the country. May we seek God’s will alone, setting aside our fear and pride as we take up the cross of Christ and embrace God’s mission for us as Friends.

Yours in service,

Micah Bales

Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #4

Greetings to you in the Life of Christ,

The past few weeks have been eventful. I have made two major trips to visit Friends in the Great Plains region. I traveled to Hominy, Oklahoma, to visit the Friends meeting there on the Osage Nation reservation; and this past weekend I journeyed to West Texas to be among Friends of Lubbock Monthly Meeting and Caprock Friends Christian Fellowship. Here in Wichita, I have continued to gather with local Friends and listen for how God is guiding us as meetings, as well as exploring other avenues of ministry in the city, beyond the Friends community. The coming month looks to be similarly eventful, with trips planned to central Nebraska and with Heartland Friends hosting the first of what is hoped to be a quarterly gathering of Friends from throughout the region.

Ministry continues and branches out in Wichita

Here in the city of Wichita, I have continued to meet with Friends and I have heard both how God has worked in our lives, as well as the hunger that we feel for God’s presence and unity in our lives. Friends have a desire to reclaim the sense of spiritual bondedness and intimacy that we have experienced in the past and which we believe is God’s intention for us.

As I work among Wichita’s Quaker community, I have continued to put some energy into reaching out to the wider Christian church in the city. Last week, I helped to arrange a meeting during which members of the Mennonite Church of the Servant came together with a group of young Methodists who have been called to live together in intentional community and serve their local neighborhood in downtown Wichita. The meeting was very good, and I was pleased to see these two groups connect with each other. The Mennonite Church of the Servant represents a group of people that have worked for decades to be the Body of Christ in Wichita, living out an incarnational ministry of love and social justice in their work among some of the most marginalized people in the city. On the other hand, this small group of young Methodists represents a new generation of Christians in Wichita who are concerned to live “in the abandoned places of Empire” and get their hands dirty in the everyday work of Christ’s Kingdom. Both groups have a lot to offer each other in terms of experience, energy, and mutual support; I feel blessed to have been part of their meeting.

As I have been in contact with the Church of the Servant, their pastor, Jerry Truex, invited me to take part in an addiction recovery program that they are beginning. The program we are using – Celebrate Recovery – is an explictly Christian adaptation of the Twelve Steps Program, developed under the auspices of Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven” brand. The group is being facilitated by a member of Derby Friends Church (Mid-America Yearly Meeting), and Jerry Truex and I are there as support people. The first meeting was last Tuesday, and I was impressed by our first session. I was very moved by the presence of the Kingdom among our small group of six people. The spiritual humility of this group, its acknowledgement of need and openness to receiving God’s grace, was palpable, and God was very present with us as we met. I am looking forward to continuing to meet with this group in the coming weeks and months.

On the road

March 22nd through 25th, Faith and I visited Hominy Friends Meeting on the Osage Nation reservation, in Osage county, Oklahoma. I stayed with Jack Core, a member of the meeting, and had opportunities for worship and fellowship with many members of the meeting and of the wider community. On Saturday, Faith and I helped Hominy Meeting put on its annual Wild Onion dinner, which was an enormous success. We served around 140 people from Hominy and surrounding towns a delicious meal of scrambled eggs with wild onions, fry bread, beans and hominy, ham, grape dumplings and dessert. We were sold out at least two hours before we had intended to finish and had to turn many away without food – next year, we’ll have to make more!
On Sunday morning, I had been asked to bring the message during meeting for worship, and I spoke on 1 Corinthians 3:16. I reminded us that the New Covenant of Jesus Christ is one in which God refuses to be contained in boxes or tents or buildings crafted by human hands. The dwelling place of the Living God has become the Church – not a building, but the very lives of we who serve Christ. We are the Temple of God, and God will build us up and make us a worthy House for God’s Presence if we will submit ourselves to Christ’s purifying and redeeming Light.
That afternoon, some of us reconvened at the Hominy meetinghouse and I gave a presentation on Friends history and heritage. I walked us through the history of Friends from the 1650s through the twentieth century, and I explained the divisions of Friends in North America and where Great Plains Yearly Meeting comes from. Friends were impressed at the breadth of the Quaker spectrum that exists within our little yearly meeting, including the Liberal, Orthodox and Evangelical perspectives, as well as, on an individual level, the Conservative tradition.
The following weekend, I had planned to be among Friends in Manhattan, Kansas. However, the region experienced an intense ice and snow storm that prevented me from arriving. This was very disappointing for me; I had been looking forward to this visit for many months. I hope to be able to visit Friends there in the near future, and we are in conversation as to when that might happen.

This past weekend, however, I was able to visit Friends in Lubbock, Texas. I drove the roughly 500 miles one-way to Lubbock on Friday morning and afternoon and made it in time to catch up a bit with Friend Michael Hatfield at his home near Plainfield before heading in to Lubbock to meet with Lubbock Monthly Meeting. The meeting was coming together for a called gathering to discuss their answer to the question, “what is Quakerism?” in preparation for an upcoming visit from a local interfaith group, which they expected would ask many questions of them. I was very impressed with the ability of this group to articulate their understanding of Quakerism, putting their explanations in terms of what Quakerism is – not what it isn’t.

The Hatfields provided me with hospitality at their home near Plainfield, and on Saturday we stuck mostly around the house, enjoying a visit from a Mennonite family and later sharing worship with the Hatfields, another member of Caprock Christian Fellowship, and a Friend from Amarillo Meeting. It was good to get a sense of Michael and Lisa Hatfield’s existence, living with their three children in rural West Texas among plain-dressed Mennonites and Mormon polygamists. I liked it there. The landscape is even flatter than Kansas – a moonscape – and I often felt like I was on a sea or in space, moving between islands or space stations in the form of homes, towns, and cities. The expansiveness of the landscape was both terrifying and refreshing. Though the land is ranched and farmed, it felt more like a desert to me than farmland.

Sunday was busy. I attended Bible study, meeting for worship and meeting for business with Lubbock Meeting; then, I went to Friend Sara Scribner’s house (who attends both Lubbock MM and Caprock Christian Fellowship), where we enjoyed a meal and meeting for worship. We were blessed to have a Friend from Amarillo Monthly Meeting with us for all of this, giving me the chance to connect with three groups of Friends this weekend. I left the Hatfields early Monday morning, grateful for the warmth and hospitality I received from all of the Friends in the area, and especially from the Hatfield family.

Coming up

In the coming weeks there is a great deal of travel ahead for me, and a number of exciting ways that I will be engaged in ministry. First of all, I will soon be making trips to the worship groups in Kearney and Grand Island, Nebraska (April 17-19 and 24-26, respectively). I am looking forward to touching base with Friends in central Nebraska and being present with them as they listen for how God is calling them to move forward as the monthly meeting in Central City is laid down.

A very exciting event that is coming up soon is a quarterly gathering of Friends from around the region to be hosted by Heartland Meeting in Wichita. From 10am until 4pm, on Saturday, May 2nd, Friends from Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas (and beyond, if way opens!) are invited to come together at Heartland meetinghouse for a time of worship, a meal and fellowship, and a presentation or activity. We will be coming together for mutual support and to focus on how we can be Christ in our local communities. Please mark your calendars and save the date if you are within any sort of driving distance to make this event; those traveling from a very great distance will certainly receive hospitality if there is notice.

At present I am still traveling without a companion, and if you are feeling a motion towards accompanying me on any of my trips, I would invite you to get in touch with me. Thank you all for your prayers and support, and thank you in particular to those who have written me and shared how God is working in your life. I am always encouraged to hear of God’s work among you, and I am grateful for the opportunity to receive your witness to God’s love and grace.

Your friend in Christ’s love,

Micah

Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #3

Dear Friends of Jesus,

My ministry of intervisitation and prayerful listening is continuing here in Wichita, Kansas, as I prepare to reach out to Friends communities in Oklahoma, Northern Kansas, Texas and Nebraska. These past two weeks have been a time of great blessing and hope for me, as I have felt and seen the work of the Lord prospering in the Body here in Wichita.

Among Friends in Wichita

A couple of weeks ago, I had my first in-person meeting with my yearly meeting oversight committee. I met with representatives from Heartland and University Friends meetings in Wichita and Hominy Friends Meeting in Hominy, Oklahoma. We had a rich time of worship and prayerful sharing on the state our local meetings and our personal walks with Christ. Following the meeting, David Nagle of Hominy Friends Meeting and I lingered to share more time together and discuss how we might work together in Oklahoma. There is a lot of work to be done, and I am looking forward to meeting with Friends in Hominy soon and seeing how I can be of service.

These past couple of weeks I have begun attending University Friends’ youth group on Sunday evenings. The youth group is very lively, with about thirty or forty middle school and high school aged youth present, depending on the night. They gather together around six o’clock; many of them are picked up by the church van. Once they are assembled, they participate in worship and religious education, followed by basketball in the gym or board games, and finally there are snacks before the youth are taken back home. I am thankful for the work that close to a dozen volunteers are putting in to keep this youth program going, which is in large part an outreach effort to the wider community – many of the participants are not from families of church members. I pray that God will guide me as I seek to be of service in this context.

I am excited by my opportunities to serve with Friends at University Meeting, and I am equally upbeat about the work that we are doing together at Heartland Meeting. This past Sunday was monthly meeting for business, and I was pleased at the discussions we had about how to move forward together in this ministry. We continue to discern how God wants to use me in my ministry to Heartland Friends. My care and support committee has been very proactive in supporting me and helping ground me, and the meeting as a whole, in this process. I felt very positive about our most recent meeting this past week; I feel like I am receiving a fair amount of counsel and constructive eldering from the committee, and it feels good to know that these Friends care about my welfare and about our faithfulness in caring for this ministry.

While I hope that Friends at Heartland Meeting are coming to know me better as we deepen our relationship, I feel that I am growing in appreciation and understanding for Heartland as a body. Since I have only been a member since late 2004, I have had a very limited view of Heartland’s character. Meeting with all of the active membership has helped me gain a greater appreciation for the history of the meeting and the human relationships that go back decades. The personal connections that undergird this meeting have been largely unknown to me as a relative newcomer, but with Friends’ help I am gaining a greater sense of the history of the meeting.

Beyond the Religious Society of Friends

As rich and valuable as my experiences have been with Friends in the last weeks, I have been increasingly sensing that God is calling me to engage not only with Quakers, but also with all seekers of God’s truth. In particular, I feel that God has been drawing me into relationship with the wider Christian Church here in Wichita. It began last month when Faith and I met with a group of young Methodists who were led to live together in a house that they had renovated in their neighborhood in downtown Wichita. We saw how God was moving not just among Friends, but throughout the Church, and we knew that we wanted to be a part of that larger movement of the Spirit. We have been drawn deeper into relationship with the wider Church in the past few weeks through encounters with fellow laborers from the Protestant tradition. First of all, Shane Claiborne came to Wichita. Then, I was able to meet with Jerry Truex, pastor of Mennonite Church of the Servant here in Wichita.

Jerry really impressed me with the story of his church and their work for peace and justice in Wichita. The church meets in a very marginalized part of Wichita, and many of their members are homeless, drug and alcohol addicts, and/or living in dire poverty. As I understand it, the church began in the 1970s as a collection of house churches that came together for Sunday morning worship. This legacy continues today, with most of the church members living in the neighborhood and being involved in ministries that seek to embody Christ’s love and justice among the poor of Wichita. I am interested in seeing how I and others might partner with Church of the Servant in walking in the Way of Christ among the poor in Wichita. I met recently with the young Methodist community to see if they would be interested in connecting with Jerry and the Church of the Servant to see how they might collaborate. God willing, a number of us should be meeting together to talk about the possibilities later this month.

Beyond Wichita

While things may soon be heating up here in Wichita, my schedule for visitation outside of the city is becoming more densely packed. I will be traveling to Hominy Friends Meeting in Osage Country, Oklahoma, March 20-22. I will be helping out with their annual Wild Onion Dinner, bringing a message that Sunday, and leading a workshop on Friends history and heritage. The following weekend, March 27-29, I will be traveling to Manhattan, Kansas, to visit the Friends meeting there. I have been so looking forward to this visit since the last time I visited there about a year ago. Friends in Manhattan are a precious meeting, and I am excited to be among them again. The weekend after that, April 3-5, I will be traveling to Lubbock, Texas, to visit Lubbock Friends Meeting (South Central Yearly Meeting) and Caprock Christian Fellowship.

Furthermore, I have received word from Eric Jones of Central City Monthly Meeting that the worship group in Kearney, Nebraska, will continue meeting on the first and third Sundays of the month, and that a new worship group will probably be formed in Grand Island, meeting every fourth Sunday. April 17-19, I will be in Kearney to meet with Friends there, followed by a trip to Grand Island April 24-26. It is my hope that my visits might be a sign to Friends in central Nebraska of Great Plains Yearly Meeting’s continuing love and concern for them. I also hope that God might in some way use me to lend energy and momentum to these two fledgling worship groups, that they may grow in God’s care into strong and deeply rooted meetings.

Right Now

I am very encouraged by the work that God is doing in the Church in the Great Plains region. I feel deep personal gratitude for how God has upheld me in my personal life and public ministry. The Good Shepherd really does feed his sheep, though I doubt. Thank you for your prayers, support, counsel and hospitality. Please know that God is working through us as we seek to be obedient together. Christ is walking beside us, among us.

For the coming weeks, I would ask that you:

* Continue praying – for me, for the meetings I will be visiting, for Great Plains Yearly Meeting, and for the entire Church in the Heartland of the United States. Your prayers are making a difference!

* Consider whether you feel led to accompany me on any of the visits I have mentioned.

* Write me and let me know how God is working in your life and what ministry God is calling you to.

Blessings on you and your ministry as we walk together in the Way of Jesus,

Micah Bales