Dear Friends of Truth,
This month has been one of optimism for me and Friends on Capitol Hill, as we prepare for a busy summer. For some years now, summer has been a time of intense travel, visitation among different Friends bodies, changes in routine, and transitions in lifestyle. Above all, summer for me has been about cross-pollination, coming into contact with a wide variety of people, places and cultures. Summer is a special time to learn about how Christ is at work across the country and even the world.
This summer looks to be no different. Travels have already begun with a visit to the annual sessions of Great Plains Yearly Meeting. About a week and a half ago, Faith and I took Amtrak out to Wichita, Kansas. It was a blessing to spend a few days with my family in Wichita. I was also pleased to spend some time with area Friends. We visited Heartland Friends Meeting, where I was a member until I transferred to Rockingham last October. Faith and I were pleased to spend some time catching up with Charity Sandstrom, who gives pastoral leadership to Emporia Friends Church, as well as her husband Richard. We also got the chance to participate in a small gathering of Friends from both Heartland and University Friends Meeting. I was encouraged by the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work among Friends in Kansas. I am left with a concern to be in prayer for their continued faithfulness and growth in the Lord.
After these days in Wichita, we caught a ride down to Osage County, Oklahoma, where Hominy Friends Meeting was hosting the 104th annual sessions of Great Plains Yearly Meeting. This gathering of Friends from across Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma was a rich time of learning, business, worship and prayer. I perceived two main threads that ran through the weekend. The first was based in our theme from John 4:14, “streams of living water.” Throughout the sessions, we were reminded that Jesus offers us spiritual sustenance, refreshment and healing for our souls. If we are willing to open ourselves to his life-giving power and love, he will fill us with his Spirit and show us how to be his people together.
The other theme that ran through out time together was that of the relationship between European-descended Friends and Native Americans. This felt especially relevant to us, as two of the five Yearly Meetings in Great Plains are predominantly Native American. For Great Plains to understand its own identity, Friends there must grapple with the relationship between Indian language, culture and identity, and what it means to be a Christian in the Friends tradition. We were repeatedly reminded that Christianity and Native American cultures are no more incompatible than Christianity and European cultures. Friends on the Great Plains continue to explore what it means to be empowered to live fully into our historical, cultural and ethnic identities, while at the same time being united with others through our shared trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. (I explore this topic further on a recent blog post for Earlham School of Religion’s Learning and Leading.)
It was truly a blessing for me to see the way that the Holy Spirit is raising up fresh leadership in Great Plains Yearly Meeting. GPYM is clearly stronger than it was only a few years ago. Laura Dungan, who began her second year as presiding clerk of the Yearly Meeting, is one instrument that the Lord is using in the spiritual renewal of Friends in Great Plains. Through her prayerful, daring and disciplined guidance, GPYM is growing in its ability to listen deeply to the Spirit and ground its decision-making process in prayer. The business sessions this year were of a particularly worshipful character. We took time in worship before, during and after our business sessions. It should come as no surprise that business got done faster than anticipated. As Friends laid their concerns at Jesus’ feet in the silence, it was easier to determine what was truly important and what was human chatter.
Great Plains Yearly Meeting is growing. The spiritual stature of the Yearly Meeting has enlarged dramatically in just a few short cycles. GPYM is demonstrating vision, planning to host a clerking and leadership conference in Wichita, November 4-5, 2011. GPYM is demonstrating renewed leadership, with energetic engagement emerging in Hominy, Wichita and central Nebraska. Only time can tell how Friends will respond to this fresh blowing of the Holy Spirit, but this could be the beginning of an entirely new chapter in the history of Friends on the Great Plains.
I feel it important to bear witness to the fact that God is the one who is effecting this change in Great Plains Yearly Meeting. The Holy Spirit is raising up new leaders and granting new strength and vision to seasoned leadership. Jesus Christ is clearly present in the midst of his people, teaching and guiding them. I give thanks to our Lord and Father for the ways I see God moving in GPYM.
Faith and I got back to DC yesterday, but I am due to leave again shortly. On Thursday, I will be traveling to the United Kingdom to visit Friends there. I will be visiting some of the scattered Conservative Friends in the UK, as well as catching up with some of those who were with me on the 2010 Quaker Youth Pilgrimage. Even now, I still do not have all of the details of this trip ironed out. I am flying by the seat of my pants, but I pray that the Lord will guide my steps and place me where I am most needed.
After about a week in England, I will be continuing on to Kenya and Rwanda. The faculty of Earlham School of Religion is taking a trip to sites in Western Kenya and Kigali, and as a member of the administrative faculty of the school, I have been invited to participate.
Having never been to Africa, I am at once intrigued and intimidated. I do not know what to expect from this trip, but I am sure that I will be in good hands among Friends. I pray that the Lord will use this trip to tender my heart to the life of the Church in East Africa, and to deepen my understanding of the Religious Society of Friends in this part of the world.
It is hard to believe that I will be out of the country for almost a month. I have not even flown in an airplane in a year and a half. This has been intentional. I have felt and do feel a concern of the Lord to take very seriously the ecological costs of my lifestyle. Air travel is particularly damaging to God’s creation, and I am painfully aware of my personal role in the environmental destruction caused by the irresponsible use of fossil fuels. I pray that God will bless these travels in such a way that they will be worth the damage inflicted on the Creation.
Please hold me in prayer, dear Friends, as I travel among Friends abroad. Let me be a blessing to those whom I encounter, and let me receive with a grateful heart the blessings that our brothers and sisters across the seas have in store for me. Above all, grant it dear Lord that I be made humble and teachable!
In the love of Jesus Christ,
Brief Video From Great Plains Yearly Meeting: