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Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #14 – Sowing Seeds at Home and Further Afield

Dear Children of Light,

The past weeks have been quite eventful, and we have had a sense that God’s work is being advanced. Both here in DC and further afield, God has been very generous in placing us in a position to share the message of the Lord’s indescribable love and peace, available to each of us as we open ourselves to it. Faith and I were grateful to have the opportunity to visit Friends at Takoma Park Meeting (Preparative), a short metro ride away – right on the northeastern border between DC and Maryland. Takoma Park is a sweet little Meeting, with perhaps fifteen in attendence when we visited. We felt very honored to be asked to stay after Meeting and share with a group of Friends about our experiences traveling among Friends. It was a joy to share some of our observations with them, as well to hear their perspectives on a variety of issues. We pray that God continue to bless Takoma Park Meeting, calling it into ever-greater spiritual depth as the work of the Holy Spirit brings Friends there into maturity, bestowing all of the gifts of the Spirit upon them.

We have spent a lot of time away from home in the last weeks, and we have felt blessed by those whom we have encountered in our travels. Faith and I spent most of the week of Thanksgiving in Ohio, visiting her family. On our way back to DC, we were able to attend Sunday morning worship at Stillwater Friends Meeting, in Barnesville, Ohio. After worship, Fran Taber and Richard Simon invited us to have lunch with them; we greatly enjoyed their hospitality and warm company, before hitting the road again.

On December 4-6, we flew to Wichita, Kansas, to take part in a planning meeting for a Young Adult Friends gathering. This gathering, which will take place over Memorial Day weekend, 2010, seeks to bring Friends together from across the United States, Canada, and possibly Mexico. This was the full planning committee’s first in-person meeting, and I was very pleased with how well we worked together. Almost a dozen of us spent the weekend worshiping, getting to know one another, and seeking God’s guidance to make the initial decisions that would guide the rest of our planning process. We were led to adopt the theme: “Bearing Witness to the Word Among Us – Witness, Testimony and Transformation.” The accompanying scriptural passage that we felt directed to was 1 John 1:1-3.

I was very excited to see the kind of broad participation that we are getting from YAFs in the Evangelical Friends world early on in the process. Of the twelve members of the planning committee, four are from Evangelical Friends Church; with two from Eastern Region, one from Mid-America Yearly Meeting, and one from Northwest Yearly Meeting. One of our number is from the Conservative Friends tradition (Ohio Yearly Meeting), another is from the Beanite/Independent branch of the Liberal-Unprogrammed tradition (Pacific Yearly Meeting), and another is a member of an FGC Yearly Meeting (Lake Erie Yearly Meeting). Three of us are from the FUM branch of the Orthodox tradition – Great Plains Yearly Meeting, North Carolina Yearly Meeting, and Wilmington Yearly Meeting; and two of us are members of University Friends Meeting, which is dually affiliated with Great Plains Yearly Meeting (FUM) and Mid-America Yearly Meeting (Evangelical Friends Church).

With this kind of diversity on our planning committee, I feel very hopeful that the gathering we are planning can be an inviting space for Friends of all backgrounds – particuarly for pastoral and Evangelical Friends. In the coming months, the planning committee will be doing extensive outreach to Friends across the continent, in a wide variety of Yearly Meetings, seeking maximum participation by Friends from all backgrounds. We would be very grateful for your prayers as we work on the event planning and outreach work that will be necessary to bring together Young Adult Friends from across our geographical, cultural and historical landscape. I am confident that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. I have already seen what a great group of people the Lord has brought together to work on this project, and I am convinced that if we are obedient we will serve God’s purposes in the months to come.

Here at home, Faith and I have been doing a bit of local organizing. This past Wednesday, December 9th, we had the second meeting of the Christian worship group that we have been hosting on Capitol Hill. We had a good turnout, with nine individuals in attendence; and our time together was blessed with a sense of joy. Dinner was provided, following which we sang hymns together and read the first two chapters of Luke aloud. Following this time of preparation, we entered into open worship. After about an hour, and several vocal messages, an advice was read aloud. After another short period of silence, the meeting for worship ended with the shaking of hands. I felt very encouraged by the spirit that was present among us as we worshiped together and shared fellowship after worship. Of the nine of us, seven of us were in our mid- to late- twenties, while the other two participants were Baby Boomers. It is my hope that this worship group will serve as a place of spiritual refreshment and encouragement to seekers of all ages and life stages. I also hope that it can be a group in which all attenders are loved and accepted for who they are, even as Christ calls us to go deeper and be transformed in His purifying light.

After our positive experiences hosting this time of worship and fellowship, Faith and I feel clear to begin holding this worship group on a regular basis starting in the new year. Beginning on Wednesday, January 13th, the worship group will meet every second and fourth Wednesday of the month. It is our hope that a solid group might develop over a period of sustained and regular meetings for worship. Please pray for the worship group as it takes its first halting steps. Pray that the group grow, gain in strength and maturity, and be raised up as a body that can be of service to God and our neighbors in the District of Columbia. Please also pray that God spiritually ground and actively teach every person who attends our meetings for worship, that we may all be brought into maturity and empowered to instruct others in the Way of the Gospel.

God bless each of you who read this letter, and may the Lord bless the ministry that God has called you to.

Your co-worker in Christ’s labor of love,

Micah Bales

Young Adult Friends Gathering, 2010: Save the date!

To all Friends everywhere,

We are excited to announce that University Friends Meeting is inviting Young Adult Friends (aged 18-35) from across North America to come together Friday, May 28 – Monday, May 31, 2010, in Wichita, Kansas. It is our prayer that this will be a time for Young Adult Friends from a wide variety of Yearly Meetings to gather to worship God, share in fellowship, and grow together in our faith as Friends.

Following the gathering, there will be an opportunity for a shared service project, Tuesday, June 1 – Thursday, June 3. YAFs will work together to let our faith shine, demonstrating our love for the people of Wichita. Finally, Thursday, June 3 – Sunday, June 6, Great Plains Yearly Meeting invites Friends to join them for their annual sessions, also held in Wichita.

We hope that you will join us as we worship God, share in fellowship, and are challenged to serve others as Christ calls us to. Please save these dates, and let other young adults know about this opportunity to deepen our faith together as we are gathered and led by the Holy Spirit.

In God’s love,

Karla Moran (Indiana Yearly Meeting)
karlamoran154 hotmail com
Tyler Hampton (Lake Erie Yearly Meeting)
hampton.tyler gmail com
Katie Terrell (Wilmington Yearly Meeting)
katiet fum org
Eileen Kinch (Ohio Yearly Meeting)
ekinch12 hotmail com
Faith Kelley (Evangelical Friends Church – Eastern Region)
ottergirlkelley gmail com
Kate Newlin (Pacific Yearly Meeting)
katenewlin gmail com
Micah Bales (Great Plains Yearly Meeting)
micahbales gmail com
Ruth Lowe (North Carolina Yearly Meeting [FUM])
lowerl guilford edu
Abbie McCracken (Northwest Yearly Meeting)
admccracken verizon net

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

Shane Claiborne comes to Wichita

The Church in Wichita was honored to receive Shane Claiborne, a fellow laborer from Philadelphia, who is a prominent voice in the New Monastic movement and an inspiration for many people – especially young Evangelical Christians – who are tired of “business as usual” in the Church and who long for a more radical call to discipleship in the Way of Jesus. Claiborne came to Wichita as a part of a larger speaking tour, during which he visited several Kansas communities. In Wichita, he spoke at Eastminster Presbyterian Church to a largely Evangelical audience. Claiborne preaches a message of unity within the church and between Protestant denominations, the Roman Catholic Church, and other branches of Christianity. He says that he and those in his community seek a renewal in the Church, not a continuation of the centuries of divisions that created the modern face of the Western church.

Claiborne especially highlighted the obligation of Christians (or “Christ-followers”) to work for social justice. He says that, “one of the signs of the early Church was ending poverty” (see Acts 4:34). Claiborne’s inclusive message stresses the importance of working with those whom we do not fully agree with – theologically or otherwise – so that together we might be about the work of the Kingdom of God. Hospitality to our brothers and sisters is critical to Claiborne’s understanding of the gospel. In particular, Claiborne preaches a Christ-like solidarity with those who are most shunned and despised by our society, such as the homeless, the addict, the physically and mentally infirm, and the poor. It is not enough to give charity, we must be an incarnational community; we are called to live and work among the poor. Flowing naturally from this loving concern for all of God’s children, Claiborne was explicit that the Way of Jesus is the way of nonviolence: War and oppression are incompatible with the Christian life.

I was impressed with Claiborne’s message, especially in that he combined a fidelity to orthodoxy (right belief) with a commitment to orthopraxy (right practice). Claiborne affirms the creeds of Roman and Protestant Christianity, but he insists that mere belief in Christ is not sufficient – we must strive to be like Christ in our lives. Love, mercy and humility are the key ingredients of our walk in the Way of Jesus; if our way of living does not give testimony to our belief in the person of Jesus, our intellectual assent to church doctrine is meaningless. As Claiborne put it: “You can have all the right answers and still be mean.”

One disappointment that I had with Claiborne’s presentation that day was that he did not explicitly direct his hearers to the Inward Teacher, Christ in us. During the question-and-answer session, several individuals stood and asked questions of Claiborne: they wanted to know how they were to live this radical life of discipleship that Claiborne had been talking about. It felt like they were looking for a technique, a set of steps to follow, a rule to walk by. Claiborne did well in that he did not claim to have the answers; he made it clear that he was living out of his own experience and in his own context and that each of us must determine what is right in our own situation. But I wish that he had taken it a step further, directing his audience to seek guidance from the immediate presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst and in our hearts. I wish he had said, “I can’t tell you what the next step is for you – but Jesus Christ can, and he’s ready to lead you if you get still and listen within your heart for his voice.” It is clear to me that Claiborne himself practices this inward listening; it was implicit in everything he said. I just wish he had made it explicit for his audience, many of whom may never have heard of such a concept.

Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #2

Greetings to you in the Spirit of Christ,

I write to you once again to report on the state of my ministry in Great Plains Yearly Meeting and the wider region of Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. I arrived in Wichita in late January, and since that time I have been hard at work meeting with Friends, seeking how I might be of service to them, and encouraging us to listen to the still, small voice of Christ that desires to lead us into all truth, love and justice. Over the past few weeks I have learned a great deal about Friends, about myself, and about the call that I have been given. I have been humbled at many times, but in God’s mercy I have been lifted up again and placed on the path I am to walk. I have seen how limited my own wisdom is and how much I must lean on my Rock and my Foundation in all that I do. I have been reminded time and again that I am nothing, Christ is all – to him be the glory!

My work begins at Heartland Friends

A great blessing came Sunday before last at Heartland’s monthly meeting for business when I learned that an anonymous donor had given a generous contribution to my ministry fund. Thanks to this caring individual, I have just this week been able to take out a health insurance policy, and I plan to get my teeth examined for the first time in quite a while. I am very grateful for the generosity of this Friend, and for all those who support me in this ministry with their encouragement, counsel, financial support, prayers and assistance.

I have been particularly grateful to members of Heartland Meeting who have been willing to serve on a care and support committee for me. Three members of Heartland are coming together with me on a monthly basis to help ensure that I have the emotional, spiritual, financial and social resources that I need to be true to the work that God has called me to. The clerk of this committee, Aaron Fowler, has been especially diligent helping me deepen my understanding of my call and to facilitate prayerful listening and discernment among members of Heartland Meeting. We at Heartland are learning that we must come to unity among ourselves before we can hope to have any corporate witness to offer the wider community. It is my prayer that we will continue to deepen our attentiveness to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our midst and thus be drawn closer together in the love of Christ.

Friends United Meeting General Board

Just a few weeks after my return to Wichita, I was called away to duties far from home. During the second weekend in February, Cliff Loesch of University Friends and I traveled to Richmond, Indiana for Friends United Meeting (FUM) General Board meetings. We gathered together with representatives from yearly meetings and associations from across the United States and Canada to do the business of FUM and to share in fellowship and deep listening to the voice of our Teacher, Jesus Christ. FUM is facing many difficulties right now – financially, theologically, culturally, and spiritually – but I am confident that God’s Spirit is at work in FUM and that God has a plan for us, if we will humble ourselves and be receptive to Christ’s leading.

(For a more in-depth report on my experience at the General Board Meeting, please see my blog post on The Lamb’s War.)

Back in Wichita

While the North American and global connections represented by Friends United Meeting are deeply important to me, I was glad to return to Wichita following the board meetings. There is so much to do here in Wichita, and in the wider region; I feel that I must focus my energy here.

In particular, I have been excited by my meetings with other young adults here in Wichita. Faith and I recently met with a group of young United Methodists who have felt called by God to come together in a neighborhood near mine in Wichita. Based in a house that they have renovated, they are beginning to volunteer in the community and to seek ways to be of service as Christ leads them. It was inspiring to see how God is working in their lives and to think about how many other young people in this country must be also hearing and heeding God’s call. I was also blessed to meet with Paul Fowler, a young man who I grew up with in the Friends of Jesus community. I am impressed at his obvious leadership ability and his heart for seeking truth. I look forward to seeing how he and I can collaborate in deepening the spiritual lives of young people in Wichita and finding ways to reach out to our community in love. Finally, Faith and I recently got the opportunity to spend some time with Adam Monaghan, the youth ministries staff-person for Mid-America Yearly Meeting. Adam is a very sharp young leader and I’m enthusiastic about seeking ways that we can work together in furthering God’s kingdom here in Wichita. The human and spiritual resources in Wichita are immense, and I know that God has great plans for this city. God is already at work here and I only pray that my life can be a small addition to the ongoing action of the Creator.

The Region

Of course, God is at work in places besides Wichita, as well. This Wednesday, Faith and I traveled to Great Bend, Kansas, to visit Jim and Jeanne Pitts in their home. We had a wonderful time of fellowship and sharing about how God is working in our lives. I was happy to hear about how much God has been using Jim and Jeanne in Great Bend, though I was sad to hear their feelings of isolation, being so far from like-minded Friends. We talked about ways they might come to feel more connected to other Friends in the region, including the idea of holding a regular quarterly meeting in Wichita for Friends from the wider region to come together for fellowship, worship, and mutual support. On our way out of town, Faith and I stopped by the Golden Belt bicycle shop to see Doug Chambers, another local Friend. It was good to touch base with him, and we hope to meet together with the Pitts and the Chambers again in the near future. I am praying that God will open the way for me and other Friends to provide support to Friends in Great Bend in whatever way might be most beneficial in building them up and supporting them in their ministry.

Faith and I are looking forward to traveling to Hominy Friends Meeting, in Osage country in Northern Oklahoma on March 20th-22nd. Friends there have invited us to come and help them with their Wild Onion Dinner that Saturday, and they have asked me to lead worship on Sunday. I feel very privileged to be invited to serve Friends in Hominy. I pray that I be open to how God wants to use me, and to how I am to be taught by Friends in Hominy. I am still looking for a traveling companion for this trip; if you feel a leading to accompany me in this ministry, please let me know.

I also have intentions to visit Friends in Manhattan, Lawrence, Topeka, and Kansas City, as well as in Lubbock, Texas, in the near future. I feel such love for Friends in these meetings, and I cannot wait to be with them. Dates are not yet nailed down for these visits, but it is likely that I will be traveling during the weekend of the 27-29 of March, and the weekend of the 3-5 of April. I am seeking traveling companions for these weekends, as well.

I had intended to visit Friends in Central City, Nebraska this past Sunday. However, Eric Jones, my contact person for that meeting, informed me that the meeting had recently come to clearness that the meeting would indeed be laid down in the near future. Given the present uncertainty in central Nebraska, it was suggested that now would not be a particularly good time for me to visit. I am standing by for more details from Friends in Nebraska to determine how I should proceed and how I could be of most service to Friends there. Please pray for Friends in Central City, Grand Island, and Kearney, Nebraska: that God may show them how they are to walk and empower them to move forward in the grace and power of the Spirit.

Right now

This Sunday, Faith and I will be visiting University Friends. We’ll be going out for breakfast with a number of Friends, and then leading a Sunday school class before worship. I am excited to worship with University Friends again and to listening with them to how God is leading us as a church.

Listening: That’s really at the core of my concern, my ministry. I have been doing a lot of reflecting in the past month, and it is clear to me that in the past I have attempted to give too many details about my ministry. People have wanted specifics, for me to flesh out what I intended to do in the coming months. But the more I sit with it, and the more I open myself to the Truth, the more I realize that I don’t know much of anything. I don’t have a plan.

Here’s what I do know:

*I feel great love for Friends in the Great Plains region of the United States, love that is not mine, but God’s.
*I feel that God has called me to be in this region and wants to use me here for the time being.
*I feel a deep concern for listening: That we be attentive to God’s Word in our hearts and discern together how God is teaching us and leading us as the Church. I believe that God wants me to keep listening, and that God wants to use me to encourage those around me to listen, too.

That’s my ministry. The details are flexible, and God is letting me in on the plan one step at a time – I’ve not been given a big picture, or any sense of what the ultimate result of this ministry might be. If I’m honest, I must say that I know virtually nothing, except these three points that I’ve listed.

This past month, Faith and I have been working part-time doing house-cleaning and renovation work. However, that job will soon be finished. I am presently looking for part-time employment that will be flexible enough that it will not interfere with the ministry I am called to. I have already applied at a coffee shop and at a homeless shelter, and I am investigating other possibilities. Please pray that God will guide me to an employer who understands my need for “tent-making” that will not interfere with the ministry that God has laid on my heart.

I pray that God will continue to humble me so that it may be clear that this ministry is of Jesus Christ, not my own. To him be all glory, honor and praise! Amen.

In love,

Micah Bales