Happy 2016! You may be a little bit like me - I am already done with all the New Year posts and smart sayings and pithy quotes on making this year count. It's not that I don't want to make it count,but I know myself. I have made resolutions in the past and then when they get lost on my desk at work or get covered up on my bulletin board or I just figure things aren't dire - and the world won't end if I don't follow through on those little promises.I did decide on one thing this year though and think it might just have a pwoerful impact on lots of things - to be real in my ministry. I coordinate summer mission trips for high school youth - Young Neighbors in Action - and that's probably how you found this blog. I have been bringing, leading or coordinating mission trips since 1997. I haven't had time to have a garden, a summer vacation,workon a tan or learn to sail on the lake. I have often wondered, even, why I haven't decided it was time to do something else - or have gotten tired of it or discouraged at not making a big enough difference. I guess when it is your passion - the thing you were born to do - it can't leave you. For that I am grateful. But for being real in this area - service - what do I expect it to look like?
It’s always fun to try to guess the future. But history has shown that even our best guesses can be a little off. I’m still waiting for square tomatoes and grouch pills.
It is National Migration Week in our church and our bishops have encouraged us to pray for peace, unity and hope for all those having to leave their homes aid countries to make a better life. Migration hits close to home for me. My husband came to the US to flee war in his own country and has made a life here that has always included a little homesickness, longing for family, friends, food, language and music from Iran.We have worked hard to keep traditions and have a sense of pride in Persian culture with our family. Really, the food is amazing! He now volunteers with World Relief and has had the privilege of helping to settle a new Afghani family this past few months. Ali and Soheila were brought to the U.S. after helping our military in Afghanistan - they couldn't stay - their lives were compromised by their support of our troops. Soheila was 8 1/2 months pregnant and would be delivering her little one far from family and home in a very different culture. Little John Iman was born a few weeks ago - healthy and beautiful with a hopeful future. They invited us for dinner on Christmas - so we went of course with gifts and food and looking forward to snuggling with the baby.Their little apartment is furnished with second-hand furniture and dishes, mismatched tables and lamps, but filled with warmth and welcome. Kind people have given them all they need for the baby and they are planning their future with excitement and purpose. The dinner was delightful - yummy food from old family recipes - laughter, stories, taking turns holding John and best of all, sharing faith. On our way home my husband said, " I have never stopped being grateful for the chance to live here - and for the freedom and peace we have." That's it my friends...peace, freedom and hope are gifts! Pray a prayer of thanksgiving tonight for all God has given us!
I have been bombarded with incredible Advent messages this month. It seems like my Facebook friends and those I follow on Twitter and Instagram all have something to say about how to prepare for Christmas. I started out great - reading, listening, trying to incorporate the great ideas in my life...but then life got in the way! I felt a little guilty deleting beautiful Adventy images and stories...all designed to help me NOT do what I WAS doing - being busy, too tired to think without falling asleep with the Scripture on my lap. It occurred to me this morning as I sat with a cup of coffee looking at the fog and snow outside my kitchen. Life is exactly what is important. The Advent message I need to remember is "have I made room in my heart and home for Jesus?" To that I can say yes. With a week or so still ahead of me to prepare I will just think about how I can welcome all who will be around me this Christmas. How can I make my home a place to share my faith through hospitality, kindness and generosity? How can I make room in my heart for the stranger, the lonely, the hungry? It's not just an Advent message, but a life in Christ message. Blessings and happy Advent to you!
Welcome to our new Just5days webpage. We are so excited to have another way to connect with you! Last summer Just5Days engaged middle school youth in week-long mission trips in many cities around the country. Davenport / Quad cities was one of our new sites. I had the pleasure of working with Mary Ellen Pfeiffer and Sara Scogland to coordinate this "across state lines" J5D's. We also were blessed with the awesome musical talents of Chris Clow who is Campus Minister for St. Ambrose University in Davenport. The service opportunities were excellent and the youth had wonderful opportunities to serve, play, and pray together. We did have a bit of excitement our first night... at 2am the tornado sirens went off and we had to wake everyone up and head for the shelter area. Thankfully, there was no tornado but it did make for some fun memories! The following is an article from the local paper highlighting our time in the Quad Cities. Join us next summer in Davenport / Quad Cities! July 20-24
Every week on a summer mission trip is incredible. Each school or parish team comes with hopes, dreams and tons of energy and enthusiasm to change the world just a bit. This past summer we started a new site in Springfield Kentucky. It is a little burg a bit east of Louisville. A little town that cheers on the local high school foot ball team, knows when a neighbor is sick or in trouble and is about as proud as can be of their roots and heritage. Forward to the week YNIA was there for the first time. A little town, mostly Baptist, is turned upside down by a lot of Catholic teenagers from around the country. They weren't sure what to think - why were these teens here? Why do they need to work here? What are they trying to do?
With the ALS bucket challenge all over the place this month - it made me think about a part of social justice that is really important and that is ADVOCACY! I am so excited that this debilitating disease is getting so much attention - the awareness about it is just as important as the money raised. Raising awareness is a way to advocate for those who can't always do it for themselves - a way to bring attention to a need, an issue or a problem. When we know about something - we can act! Dumping a bucket of ice water on our heads for a cause is crazy - but cool and definitely effective!