09 June 2005

A step closer to Russia

Judy and I spent last Saturday at Quaker Hill in Richmond, Indiana, at the Friends United Meeting offices. We were being interviewed for international field staff positions, with the goal of service in Russia. Two other husband-wife teams were also being interviewed, one for service in Ramallah, and the other for Kenya or Jamaica.

It was an interesting and carefully-designed process. The selection committee of six was divided into three two-person teams: one to consider personal circumstances, one to consider spiritual life and calling, and one to consider gifts and abilities. These three teams interviewed each applicant separately. At the end of the day, the full six-member committee interviewed each couple as a couple. I thought it was a good process. It reminded me a little of our clearness committee for marriage, 25 years ago.

Earlier this week, we heard back from Friends United Meeting: our service as field staff had been approved. We now await two further developments:
  • We are hoping for joint approval by Northwest Yearly Meeting, which has three Friends committed to service in Russia, two of whom are already there.
  • The overall project of service in Russia still needs approval by the FUM board.
FUM is already incurring Russia-related expenses, and the generous gifts made by the late Paul and Marie Turner that sustained Russian expenses for the last ten years or so have been used up, so we also need to encourage donations to Friends United Meeting's Russia account. Without using up too much space here for financial pleading, here's a link to FUM's donation page.

In the meantime, we're drawing ever closer to the appearance of the Russian/Chechen/English revision of the classic Lighting Candles in the Dark, renamed The Power of Goodness for this new edition. The Friends International Library website is being revised as publication day approaches.

A note about Paul and Marie Turner: Both of them died in 2001, a few months apart, having been married to each other for around seventy years. When I said goodbye to them in June of 2000, on the eve of our move from Richmond, Indiana, to Portland, Oregon, the tears flowed freely—we knew we would not see each other again in this lifetime.

When I first met Paul, in 1976, he was a fundraiser for the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia. I did not know Marie until some years later, but she also worked for the Service Committee. They were also very involved with the Associated Committee of Friends on Indian Affairs, which Paul served as treasurer for many years.

If I remember correctly, Paul and Marie met at DePauw University. At one time, Paul taught accounting at Earlham College and later worked for the Farm Bureau. In their youth they were influenced by such well-known apostles of the Christian peace testimony as Kirby Page and Raymond Wilson, and they never let go of this concern. In 1982, they retired from the AFSC and left Philadelphia, moving to Friends Fellowship Community in Richmond, Indiana, which was their home for the rest of their lives. Their kitchen table was probably one of the most important peace centers in Indiana.

Shortly after arriving in Richmond, they began the first of several trips to the Soviet Union. Returning from these trips, they carefully put together their many slides into a number of programs which they took to Friends meetings throughout Indiana Yearly Meeting. Eventually their efforts led to Richmond's sister cities project, which linked Richmond with the city of Serpukhov, south of Moscow. They also cultivated relationships with the people they met on their overseas trips, including a number of journalists, diplomats, and English teachers.

The Turners did not live a wealthy lifestyle, but their philanthropy was nothing less than extravagant. As a fundraiser, Paul had known how to raise money; in their private lives, they were equally thoughtful about giving it away. Just about every mission and ministry of Friends United Meeting was on their donation list, as were many other concerns inside and outside Friends. They supported my visits to Russia from 1996 on; they also helped fund the publications of the Quaker US-USSR Committee and its successor, the Friends International Library, and they continued to support Richmond's Sister Cities program.

The Turners never just gave money; every gift came with a commitment to follow the organization's progress, read its newsletter, tell others about its work. Their attentiveness, love, and encouragement was constant. No matter how burdened I felt when I arrived at their apartment, I'd leave walking on air.

I love to think that, with our hoped-for work in Russia, we might get to continue a work that was close to the heart of these amazing Quakers.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful news, Johan and Judy! I am so happy to hear it!

Johan Maurer said...

Thank you, Carol.

Anonymous said...

I'll want pictures.

Johan Maurer said...

See my gallery at http://www.reedwood.org/russia.htm/. The newer gallery at http://www.flickr.com/photos/johansphotos/sets/438494/ has a lot of duplicates but some more recent photos, too.