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Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #21 – Setting off on the Quaker Youth Pilgrimage

Dear Friends of Truth,

I write to you from Seattle, Washington, as I await the other leaders for the Quaker Youth Pilgrimage (QYP). The Pilgrimage will bring together around twenty-five Quaker youth, between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, from across North America and Europe. Together with me and three other adult leaders, we will venture around the Pacific Northwest exploring what modern-day Quakerism looks like in this part of the world. We will discover together what it means to be Friends, and seek to encourage one another in our walks with the Lord.

QYP occurs once every two years and is a joint program of FWCC Section of the Americas and FWCC Europe and Middle East Section. Hosting for the Pilgrimage rotates between the two sections; in 2008, it was held in England, but this year we in the Americas are hosting. There are two adult leaders selected by Friends in each section, and I was asked to be one of the leaders from the Section of the Americas this year. The other three leaders hail from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and Britain Yearly Meeting.

The pilgrims come from across the unprogrammed Friends world. Representing Europe, we will have pilgrims from Ireland, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Sweden. From North America, there are pilgrims from the eastern and western United States, the Midwest, and Canada. While the group will certainly be diverse in national and regional background, there may be far less diversity in terms of Friends perspectives. The group is almost exclusively unprogrammed in background; as far as I am aware, there is only one pilgrim from a pastoral Meeting. I am pleased that we will be traveling together in the Northwest, where there is a fairly wide variety of Friends represented, and I hope that our encounters with Evangelical Friends will prove helpful in expanding our understanding of what it means to be Quakers.

We will be together for a solid month. QYP goes from July 13th until August 13th, and the leaders and pilgrims will be living and serving together this whole time. I am sure that it will be a very intense experience, and that we will have the opportunity to get to know one another deeply. Based on what I have heard from past leaders and pilgrims, I am confident that the Pilgrimage will be a very rich experience for all of us. I am also sure that it will carry with it a unique set of challenges that will stretch us in many ways.

In the past months, I have been doing a lot of praying about the Pilgrimage. At times, I have felt very uncertain as to what my role was to be in this program. I have very little experience with ministry among high schoolers, and volunteering to be a leader for QYP was way outside my comfort zone. However, I felt clearly led by God to undertake this work, and I trust that God will sustain me, show me how I am to walk with this group, and provide us with the spiritual gifts that the group needs to accomplish God’s purpose for us.

After much prayer and counsel from my elders, I have come to view my role with this group as being that of a chaplain and spiritual nurturer. I am seeking to let go of my expectations and my desire to control outcomes, and to simply be the person that God has created me to be. My example, my groundedness in Christ, and my love and care for the pilgrims and adult leaders will speak clearly. I believe I am called to be a model (a “pattern and example,” if that strikes my Quaker readers better) for the QYP participants.

The great challenge that I see before me, and for which I beg your prayers, is this: I am called to be like good potter’s clay. I am to be yielded, receptive to whatever shape the Potter chooses to give me; yet I am also to be firm enough that I hold my given form, even against great external pressure. I pray that I will be yielded and tender in the Spirit, and yet never lukewarm or insecure.

The adult leaders will be gathering this evening in Seattle, and the pilgrims will arrive on the 15th. Please pray for the QYP leaders as we meet together and seek to be united in God’s Spirit. And please continue your prayers for leaders and pilgrims both as we seek together God’s mission for us as Friends.

Your yoke-fellow in Christ Jesus,

Micah Bales

Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #17 – Growing Roots in the City and in the Soul

Dear Children of the Day,

Greetings in the love of Christ. The last month has been full of work and blessings, and there is much to report. After being able to spend some weeks at home in DC, travel has reemerged as a signature feature of my life and work. In the months ahead, my schedule looks to grow only more intense as I work to strengthen Friends throughout my region and in North America as a whole.

In the DC Area


William Penn House I have been mostly settled in DC for the past month, and I’ve had the chance to focus more on ministry within the local region. Capitol Hill Friends continues to meet, and Faith and I attend the nearby Takoma Park Meeting on an increasingly regular basis. We have also made two visits this month to Old Town Friends in the neighboring city of Baltimore. I have enjoyed getting to know the Friends at these two Meetings, and I hope to work with them to nurture the life of the Spirit in our midst.

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Most of this month has been a time of slow, quiet development. I am frustrated sometimes at how slowly my roots seem to be growing here in the District of Columbia. However, I know that building relationships takes a long time, and that it may well be years before I truly feel connected with my new hometown. The challenge is deepened by the fact that my professional life is largely unconnected to DC, and calls for frequent travel to other cities. Though I am impatient to go deeper in developing relationships where I live, I seek to trust in God’s timing, which is often very different from what I would prefer. I recognize that friendships do not develop overnight.


Travels to New Jersey and Philadelphia


In contrast to most of the month, this last week has been one of intense activity and travel. To begin with, Faith and I traveled to New Jersey and Philadelphia to meet with Friends there and encourage participation bymartinfamily young adult Friends in the Memorial Day YAF gathering in Wichita. We were honored to stay with Martin Kelley and his family at their home in New Jersey. It was good to re-connect with them over pizzelle, tea, pizza, and late-night card games. They were kind enough to let us use their house as a base of operations while we visited Friends in the city.

Our time with Friends in Philadelphia felt good. We met with Emily Stewart and Sadie Forsythe (young adult Friends coordinators at FGC and Philadelphia YM, respectively) and heard from them about how their communities were feeling about the upcoming YAF conference in Wichita. It was helpful to hear their sense of the communities where they serve as leaders. Following our time with them, we were able to have lunch with most of the YAF staff members of Philadelphia-based Quaker organizations (FGC, PYM and AFSC, in particular). It was a blessing to be able to share about the Wichita gathering and to address questions and concerns that Friends had about the event. The meeting left us feeling hopeful that we were developing good relationships with Friends in Philadelphia.
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We felt grateful for the chance to spend time with Julian Brelsford, who works for Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and has spent a great deal of his personal time and energy doing work in Haiti, where he was present during the recent, devastating earthquake. Faith and I appreciated his spirit, and we are grateful for the work that we see God doing through him.
We were also able to visit Betsy Blake, a fabulous Quaker minister and entrepreneur (her laundry detergent is amazing!) who is living as Pendle Hill‘s artist in residence this year. It was a joy to be with her and to share with one another what we have been experiencing in the last weeks and months, as well as to connect with some other YAFs who were present for a concert.

FWCC Section of the Americas Annual Meeting


pearlstone retreat center That evening, we drove to the FWCC Section of the Americas annual meeting site outside of Baltimore, and I attended the Quaker Youth Pilgrimage working group the following morning. I will be serving as a leader for the program this summer, which will take place in Oregon and Washington state. The pilgrimage will bring together Quaker youth (aged 16-18) from across the FWCC Section of the Americas and the European and Middle East Section, to spend a month together exploring our heritage as Friends and deepening our relationship with God. I have not had much experience with youth work before, but I feel that God is leading me to serve in this way. I trust that God will work through me, despite my sense of personal inadequacy for the task.

Ministers Retreat in Ohio


friends center sign After an evening back in DC, I was off again on Friday morning to a ministers retreat at Friends Center, in Barnesville, Ohio, facilitated by Brian Drayton, author of the widely-read “On Living With a Concern for Gospel Ministry.” The gathering included almost thirty ministers from throughout the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic. There was a very strong showing from Ohio Yearly Meeting – I was informed that most of Ohio’s active, recorded ministry was present at the event – and there were a number of Friends from Baltimore, Illinois and Ohio Valley yearly meetings.

stillwater meeting house Our time together was well-spent. The weekend was a time of almost constant worship and deep, expectant waiting on the Lord. It was a blessing to be among so many Friends who shared a concern for Gospel ministry, and I felt that my relationships in the Lord were deepened with a number of individuals. Perhaps most importantly, I had the opportunity to connect with other ministers from the DC area, two of whom I had never met before. I am hopeful that we might seek ways to support one another in our Gospel labors in the region.

Looking Ahead


Faith and I will be traveling again to New York state this weekend, to attend a gathering of Young Adult Friends and encourage them in their engagement with the Spirit. Then, on April 3rd, we will be hosting a regional YAF gathering at the William Penn House, for young adults in the DC/Baltimore area. Please pray for these events: May God pour out the Holy Spirit on us and deepen our commitment to Christ’s work in the world. Also, please pray that God prepare us for the challenges and the blessings that will come to those who gather in Wichita this Memorial Day weekend.

Blessings to all of you in the name of our Lord, who longs to gather us under his wing like a mother hen does her chicks. May we be brought into peace and unity in Christ’s name.

Yours in the love and hope that is in Christ Jesus,

Micah Bales