05 April 2007

A question that came full circle

church on Nikolaev St., Elektrostal; photo from photo.electrostal.ru
Ten years ago, I wrote an Easter column for Quaker Life from Elektrostal, Russia. I uncautiously ended that column with a question for the reader, "Is God asking you to consider serving in this great country at this crucial time?" As it turned out, the question was really intended for the writer.

At the time I wrote, Friends United Meeting was looking for Friends who might move to Russia to accompany the small Friends groups in the country, particularly in Elektrostal. I assumed my role was to help recruit and prepare, while continuing the annual visits that I started in 1994.

Eventually, we moved to Oregon and became involved with Evangelical Friends in Northwest Yearly Meeting. In 2000, Northwest Yearly Meeting went through a process of considering where to put its mission energies after the maturing of their former fields, Bolivia and Peru. Russia was on the list because of a suggestion that Northwest Friends received from FUM. In the fall of 2000, while on one of my regular visits to Moscow and Elektrostal, I hosted visitors from Northwest YM who were part of that study process for a new place to serve. A year later, the superintendent of Northwest YM came with me on my next visit, and the year after that (2002), Liz Sugden accompanied me and stayed for two months.

After considering the report of its visitors, Northwest Yearly Meeting agreed to begin serving in Russia, sending the Neifert family and Liz as the first members of the new Yearly Meeting team there. The superintendent who visited in 2000 and 2001, Joe Gerick, had already said to me directly, "Johan, why haven't you already moved?" A weighty member of Reedwood said the same thing around the same time. At that point, I read my old Quaker Life editorial in a new way.

There are a lot of reasons for us to stay in Oregon, most of which could be summed up as "plain common sense." There's really only one reason that argues for moving to Russia, but it may be decisive--namely my old question, and its answer.

Leadings may be one thing, but common sense still has its pull on us--mostly taking the form of a lot of big and little ducks that have to be lined up in a row before we can actually move to Russia. Actually, Russian friends have lined up some of those ducks, including a job teaching English and lecturing. One major concern is the budget we must raise before we can go. (More about that later.*) You may have gathered that we're private people, despite the evidence of my public roles, so putting ourselves out there in the fundraising market is not as easy as our former roles--raising funds for others.

We need to know that people will help pray us through this transition. Among the specific concerns:
  • continued openness to leadings
  • a learning spirit rather than a campaigning spirit, to learn our ministry from people and the Holy Spirit rather than to be tempted to bring a prefab ministry
  • protection
  • wisdom
  • patience and trust (including about finances and the other ducks).

We hope to be relocated well before the end of the year. In other words, next Easter's commentary should come from Elektrostal.

* The short version: Northwest Yearly Meeting's address is 200 N Meridian, Newberg, Oregon, USA 97132. Contact: Mission administrator Duane Comfort, dcomfort at nwfriends.org. Note that you're contributing or pledging toward our service. Or send your snail mail address to me, johanpdx at gmail.com, and I'll send you our prayer/pledge card.

Wrighteous link: "Jesus' Resurrection and Christian Origins."

More links:

John Lamoreau, the co-author of Northwest Yearly Meeting's booklet on the peace testimony, Waging Peace, has just unveiled his new Web site, thejesusgospel.com, "sharing the teachings of Jesus that the world would like to ignore."

John Punshon has been journaling this whole Holy Week on the Barclay Press daily journal page.

Anne Lamott's visit to Portland a couple of days ago reminds me that she wrote a moving and unusual tribute to the late Molly Ivins.

Speaking of sobriety, one of my favorite addiction recovery stories comes from blues harpist Charlie Musselwhite, who recently celebrated his twentieth dry anniversary. You can see and hear him tell the story on Show #414 in the Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour archive. The story begins at about 37:20 on the video and about 36:00 on the audio podcast. (Actually, the whole show is great, including Australian guitarist Anne McCue.)

Christopher Simon writes on the "Issue attention cycle and renewable energy," in an article being circulated by Jenny Holmes, the environmental ministries director of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, who says, "This article is very hopeful about the ability of the American public to stay focused. From the trenches, I am definitely seeing the momentum.We are in the midst of a historic turning point on the way that our society obtains its energy. Our challenge is building the capacity to help move the faith community to the next level as a catalyst for deep change. We are bursting at the seams responding to the interest." And Christianity Today informs us that "Climate change is here to stay."

Christianity Today also gave me material for my ongoing meditations on innocence, in the form of an article by Agnieszka Tennant. So did Muddy Waters:


Anonymous said...

Your musings about common sense, Johan, reminded me of something I heard a Friend say many years ago when she was passing through 15th Street Meeting on a visit from France. She was one of those precious Friends who gives no discernible sign of having a mystical bone in her body. She was also a rather heavy-set woman, a bit on the order of Margaret Dumont, the kind of woman who always seemed to be wearing a hat. And she spoke rapidly with a slight French accent coloring her speech. What she rattled off in a throwaway fashion was this:

"As you know, when we are Friends, we find ourselves doing things that have very little to do with common sense."

Nothing I've ever heard or read has summed up having a leading so well.

Johan Maurer said...

Just what I needed to hear. Common sense is overrated!

I'm thinking of writing a column on Marla Ruzicka entitled, "Angels rush in where fools fear to tread."