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What am I hearing over here?Barcelona am I hearing over here?By Alisha Garber for Anabaptist World
You are braver than you think you are: A letter to MVS participantsA letter to MVSers are braver than you think you are: A letter to MVS participantsBy Polly Carlson
Trauma stewardship: transforming wounds into wellnessTrauma stewardship stewardship: transforming wounds into wellnessBy Melody Pannell for Mennonite Mission Network
On elections: Three insights from missionElection reflections elections: Three insights from missionBy Joe Sawatzky
Congolese literacy leaders stand in solidarity with USA during COVID-19Letter of Love literacy leaders stand in solidarity with USA during COVID-19Translated by Lynda Hollinger-Janzen
The center holds hope for the futureFinding hope center holds hope for the futureBy Cynthia Friesen Coyle




Despite Manifest Destiny, Indigenous cultures have survived Manifest Destiny, Indigenous cultures have survivedBy Lynda Hollinger-Janzen with Cynthia Friesen Coyle<p><em>In the second of three blogs, Mennonite Mission Network participants reflect on </em><a href="">Mother Earth's Pandemic: The Doctrine of Discovery</a>, <em>an online conference. </em><a href="/blog/COVID-19-pandemic-grew-from-centuries-old-roots"><em>Read the first blog</em></a><em> here</em><em>. </em></p><p>Centuries-old Haudenosaunee prophesies predicted that one day the soft wind would become violent and pure water would become too murky to drink. During the <a href="">Mother Earth's Pandemic: The Doctrine of Discovery</a>, an online conference held in August, Tadodaho Sid Hill explained that industrialization and the resulting climate change have fulfilled these ancient warnings.</p><p>"Water is sacred," said Hill, the <em>Tadodaho, </em>or chief, who presides over the Grand Council of the Iroquois League. "For water to become [polluted] like this is a crime." </p><p>In the 15th century, the Catholic popes of Europe issued a series of papal bulls declaring that anyone who was not Christian was not human and, therefore, had no right to occupy land. This became known as The Doctrine of Christian Discovery. Since "discovered" Indigenous Peoples were considered "pagan," their land claims were nullified under what became the basis of international law. Many laws and policies still implicitly perpetuate this medieval ideology and undermine the humanity, rights, and sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples. </p><p><strong>Landmark case: Johnson vs. M'Intosh in 1823</strong></p><p>The Doctrine of Christian Discovery was directly cited in the Supreme Court's 1823 decision, Johnson vs. M'Intosh. In this dispute, Thomas Johnson had purchased land in what is today Illinois from a group of Miami people. William M'Intosh had supposedly purchased the same tract of land from the U. S. government. [There is evidence that this was a fabricated case to set a legal precedent for land purchased directly from Indigenous Peoples.] </p><p>Steven Newcomb, a Shawnee/Lenape presenter at the conference, is one of the foremost authorities on the Doctrine of Christian Discovery. He explained that in this decision the Supreme Court codified the concept that Indigenous nations lost their right to the land they occupied when it was "discovered" by the European "Christian" nations. Thus, only the U.S. government is authorized to buy and sell "Indian land." This unanimous ruling by Chief Justice John Marshall's court laid the foundation for federal Indian law. It continues to be invoked, for example, in the 2005 decision written by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in <em>City of Sherrill vs. Oneida Indian Nation of N. Y.</em></p><p><strong>Land "rights" result in genocide of Indigenous people</strong></p><p>The Supreme Court's decision in 1823 led to the Indian Removal Act, signed into law seven years later by Andrew Jackson, then president of the United States. Forced removal of tens of thousands of Indigenous Peoples and genocide followed. In 1838 alone, two well-documented death marches occurred. The Cherokee people in the southeastern part of the United States were driven from their land to Oklahoma in The Trail of Tears. In the Trail of Death, the Potawatomi people were tricked and forced from their lands south and east of Lake Michigan to Kansas, and later Oklahoma.</p><p>Before the arrival of European settlers, the population of Indigenous Peoples in the Americas is estimated to have been between <a href="">60 million</a> to more than 100 million. By 1600, only four million remained. Called The Great Dying, this was not only an extermination of more than 90 percent of Indigenous Peoples in the Americas, it was an <a href="">erasure of more than 10 percent of the world's population</a>. </p><p><strong>Separation of church and state?</strong></p><p>"Even though we say we are a nation that is built on the idea of separation of church and state, the Supreme court <em>still</em> turns to 'Christian' documents [the papal bulls] with regard to Indigenous Peoples and their rights," said Cynthia Friesen Coyle, one of the Mission Network participants in the Mother Earth Pandemic conference.<br></p><p>Friesen Coyle marvels that despite physical massacres and cultural genocide through forced participation in boarding schools that sought to "kill the Indian, to save the child," Indigenous cultures have survived. <br></p><p>Mooney D'Arcy of the Acjachemen Nation/Juaneno Band of Mission Indians said that within 70 years of White settler arrival in her people's territory [southern California], the land became unrecognizable. She presented a map with the original names and locations of each of tribal community and their sacred sites overlaid with the current map of southern California.  Mooney D'Arcy's visual presentation of her ancestral lands before the arrival of White settlers made a deep impression on Friesen Coyle, a graphic designer. <br></p><p>"The concrete and asphalt everywhere, the chopping up of land into small 'owned' plots, the mining and fracking, the lack of care for the forests that lead to forest fires, the polluted lakes and rivers, the disrespect we have had for their sacred sites . . . I was filled with profound sadness at what we have done to the land, the animals, and the people of this land in the name of progress," Friesen Coyle said. "We are so blind!"<br></p><p>On her walks around Goshen, Indiana, where she lives, Friesen Coyle said she often wonders how the area looked <em>before</em> settlers, when the Potawatomi people lived with the land and took care of the earth.<br></p><p>The devastating forest fires currently raging through the land of Mooney D'Arcy's people are, in part, a result of White settler forest management practices and industrialization that doesn't factor in environmental costs. These fires, like a raging fever, are another symptom of the colonizing virus that is Mother Earth's Pandemic.</p><p>After participating in the conference, Friesen Coyle and Hollinger-Janzen wonder how White settler descendants can live as good guests on the land. Other Anabaptists are also actively reflecting on this question. <a href="">Anabaptist Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition</a> held their annual meetings in tandem with the Mother Earth's Pandemic conference. <br></p>
COVID-19 pandemic grew from centuries-old roots pandemic grew from centuries-old rootsBy Lynda Hollinger-Janzen with Cynthia Friesen Coyle<p><em>In June, Mennonite Church Executive Board staff issued a </em><a href=""><em>statement on racial injustice</em></a><em> after the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. A widely shared video recording triggered a breaking point in a nation where COVID-19 is revealing deadly racial inequities and political divisions are exacerbated by hate speech. As part of a response to staff pain, Mennonite Mission Network offered 30 minutes daily for prayer, reflections, education, rest, as well as renewal and action. Three Mission Network women chose to use part of this time to learn from their Indigenous brothers and sisters through participation in </em><a href="">Mother Earth's Pandemic: The Doctrine of Discovery</a>, <em>an online conference. This is the first of three blogs to share their insights.</em></p><p>In contrast to the gut-wrenching anxiety of the daily news; gratitude radiated from the August online conference, <a href="">Mother Earth's Pandemic: The Doctrine of Discovery</a>. </p><p>Organized by the Haudenosaunee people of northeastern North America, the conference featured presenters from Indigenous communities around world. The global pandemic prevented this annual conference from taking place in direct communion with the land, water, and air in which Indigenous cultures are rooted. Instead, organizers brought these elements into cyberspace. </p><p><strong>"Every day is Thanksgiving Day."</strong></p><p>The conference opened with songs of gratitude and friendship recorded on the shores of Onandaga Lake. Tadodaho* Sid Hill translated part of the song from the Onandaga language into English, "First, we acknowledge the people. Then starting from the ground up, the medicines, the trees, the berries, the four-leggeds…the winds, all these relations to whom we are connected… We finish by thanking Creator for sending his love to us every day and every night and giving us a way to make things right with him."</p><p>Cynthia Friesen Coyle, Mission Network graphic designer, was refreshed by the spirit of thankfulness and connection with the earth. It is a constant reminder of our orientation to the earth — the grounding in the earth connects the Haudenosaunee people with others in their community and with the creatures (viewed as relatives) that inhabit this world of ours, she said.</p><p>"When a culture is built around a sense of thankfulness and gratitude instead of fear, the outcomes are respect and care for what is around you," Friesen Coyle said. "This respect and care are reflected in the foundational principles of the Haudenosaunee people: peace, equity, and union. They make decisions, not just for today, but they consider how an action will affect the next seven generations."<br></p><p>Jake Edwards, an Onondaga elder, contrasted the one day of Thanksgiving on the calendar used by the dominant culture in the United States with the Haudenosaunee world view. </p><p>"For us, every day is Thanksgiving Day," he said. </p><p><strong>The Great Law of Peace</strong></p><p>In 909 CE, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy was formed by the Peacemaker who brought together five feuding nations: Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Seneca. (The Tuscarora people joined in 1722.) The Confederacy was based on <em>Skä•noñh</em> (The Great Law of Peace), which required weapons, greed, and jealousy to be buried at the base of a pine tree. The leaders of the nations were instructed to lock arms around the tree of peace. A <em>wampum belt</em> documents this history and binding commitment. </p><p>Indigenous historians, or faithkeepers, narrate the post-15<sup>th</sup>-century account of Turtle Island [United States] in ways that most students in the United States have never read in <a href="">school textbooks</a>. Oren Lyons opened the conference by describing a matrilineal society with a representative government based on <strong><em>Skä•noñh</em></strong>. In Lyons' history, European people enter the story as confused and clumsy. Their first acts are to hack down berry bushes and fruit-bearing vines "to clear the way." Because they destroyed food sources, they became dependent on the Haudenosaunee people for survival. The Haudenosaunee people shared of the abundance of the land, not because they were in awe of European people, but because their society taught them to work for the good of all people from the present and seven generations into the future. In Haudenosaunee tradition, if a deer gives up its life to a hunter, the hunter leaves a portion of the meat hanging in a tree for the next person who comes along.</p><p><strong>COVID-19 is result of White settler exploitation of land, people</strong></p><p>The European invaders were governed by a less communitarian set of laws, now called the Doctrine of Christian Discovery, issued by the Catholic popes of Europe. These laws declared that anyone who was not a Christian was not a human being and, therefore, had no right to occupy land. Practice of these laws allowed for land theft, treachery, lying, murder, and disregard of treaties made with the Indigenous nations of Turtle Island. The White settlers' lack of respect and their refusal to live harmoniously with the land and their neighbors resulted in the devastation of the natural world, human suffering and death. <a href="">This was the beginning of the pandemic that grew in magnitude over the centuries to result in the global COVID-19 crisis that ravages the world today.</a> </p><p>Oren Lyons believes that it is possible to allow a natural balance to return to the world if we reorient ourselves to a less prideful worldview.</p><p><strong><em>Skä•noñh and shalom</em></strong></p><p>Friesen Coyle and Hollinger-Janzen found that in many ways the Haudenosaunee culture reflects biblical and Anabaptist values more truly than the White settler culture in which they live. Hollinger-Janzen noticed the similarities between <strong><em>skä•noñh </em></strong><strong>that combines the meanings of "peace" and "wellness" in much the same way as does the Hebrew word, </strong><strong><em>shalom.</em></strong></p><p><strong><em></em></strong>"What I heard at this conference makes me feel like the way of the Haudenosaunee is far closer to the way of God that I know and understand," Friesen Coyle said. "I'm reminded of Bible verses that combine "peace" and "thankfulness," like Col. 3:15, 'Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.'"</p><p>* <em>Tadodaho</em> is the title of the chief who presides over the Grand Council of the Iroquois League. "Iroquois" is a pejorative colonial name given to the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. <br></p>
Donor giving continues during pandemic shutdown giving continues during pandemic shutdownBy Karen Horsman <p>​<strong style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Editor's note:</strong><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> </span><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;">To mark the National Day of Charity on Sept. 5 in the United States, Karen Horsman, Mennonite Mission Network's director of Donor Relations, reflects on how grateful she and her team are for the ongoing generosity of donors during the COVID-19 pandemic.</em></p><p> </p><p>As this past winter deepened in northern Indiana, the news of the horrible virus in Wuhan, China, seeped into my consciousness. I felt sorry for those wounded by the outbreak of this terrible disease. The desperation of the situation became clearer to me when I heard that the Chinese authorities were building a multi-story hospital to handle the overwhelming numbers of patients.</p><p>But that was in Wuhan, far from where I lived in the Michiana area close to Elkhart-Goshen, Indiana. </p><p>I quickly learned how wrong I was. </p><p>In March when the COVID-19 virus sent us all into shutdown, I felt uncertain about how these unprecedented times were going to affect donations to Mennonite Mission Network. As our Donor Relations team adjusted to this new reality, we began praying for our donors, our families, and our coworkers. </p><p>"O God, we pray for those who are experiencing this virus, for those on the front lines fighting it, for those who are mourning their loved ones. Help us to do the right thing. Help us to minister to those around us," we prayed. Little did we know that we were the ones who would be ministered to.</p><p>To accompany our prayers, we began calling our donors, not only because they are financial supporters of Mission Network, but because they are part of our family. For family, you care. For family, you listen. For family, you pray. And that is what we did.  </p><p>Our phone calls reached lonely people who were isolated from family and friends. They loved hearing from us, and our mutual relationships deepened. They ministered to us by letting us more deeply into their daily experiences. As a result, our team gained a richer appreciation of how God moves in people's lives.  </p><p>Thankfulness abounded on both sides of those calls. Because we were in the middle of an ever-growing pandemic, the ordinary trials of life seemed to acquire a more poignant meaning. Illness, inability to hug a grandchild, a cancer diagnosis — all of these were freely shared with us. We prayed with them, and those humble petitions to our loving God took on a new urgency.  </p><p><strong>A few of those phone calls especially stand out to me: </strong></p><p>An elderly couple confessed a worry about not having enough food. They were isolated and did not have a way to access groceries in their area. This predicament loomed on their horizon. The Donor Relations representative alerted our Church Relations representative and together they connected with a church in the couple's area. Soon after, some congregational members delivered food to them. </p><p>Another team member talked to donors who said they couldn't get out to shop for food and other items because they didn't have protective masks. Our team arranged for masks to be delivered. </p><p>Our team is being blessed by these interactions and the constant stream of written and verbal feedback thanking us for our care and concern. These donors probably do not realize what a blessing they have been to us: a spur to us keep going, a confirmation of our ministry, a wonderment of the Lord's infinite faithfulness. Their generosity is overflowing, and as a result, we have not experienced a disruption in financial support. </p><p>We are all learning valuable lessons that include, but are not limited, to these: </p><ul><li>The world is a small place and we are interconnected.</li><li>Fear, trouble, and worry are handled best when shared.</li><li>Concentrate on the important things and pray unceasingly.</li><li>Thank God for our donors. They have been our lifeline in more ways than can be numbered.<br></li></ul>
Bruce the bat, God’s messenger the bat, God’s messengerBy Zachary Headings<p>This past week, on two separate nights, I was treated to the unpleasant surprise of a bat flying around my kitchen. This isn't the first time I've experienced this. The first time was mere months after moving into our rented apartment in Goshen, Indiana. I walked to the bathroom in the dark and saw something flutter past, illuminated by the flashing blue light on my headphones. </p><p>After some frantic waving and … err … <em>batting</em>, we got the bat to fly out the door. A few months later, my wife, Emma, screamed from the bathroom. I ran to see what was wrong and found that she was showering with a bat hanging in between the plastic curtain and the cloth curtain. I put on some gloves, got him into a Tupperware container, and left him outside on a tree to go about his business. </p><p>During an eight-month lull without winged intruders, I educated myself on bats. Then came the practicum for all my book learning.</p><p>I woke up Emma and had her close off the kitchen from the living room with a blanket. Then I took a blanket into the kitchen and navigated toward the bat as it swooped around, using the blanket to make sure that the bat didn't maneuver behind me. Eventually, I got to the front door, opened it, and waited until my furry friend made its way outside. Then we closed the door, washed our hands, and headed back to bed.</p><p>After the last two encounters, I Googled about bats, realizing that a colony may be living in our attic. </p><p>I came across one word that tightened my throat and drenched my forehead in sweat. </p><p><em>Rabies.</em></p><p>Backstory alert: I suffer from (undiagnosed) health anxiety. If I think something is wrong with me, I Google symptoms. Eventually, I get so stressed that I have panic attacks. And sometimes, I manifest symptoms that I'm so concerned about.</p><p>I spent Thursday, Friday, and much of Saturday as a barely-held-together mess. From my research (read: frantic Googling), the symptoms of my anxiety exactly matched the symptoms of rabies. </p><p>Now, the facts. Rabies is very rare in the United States. <a href="">Only one to three cases are reported per year.</a> Most of these indeed do come from bats, but the number of bats that carry rabies is very low. Only <a href="">6 percent of bats</a> brought in to be tested for rabies (the ones that people find in their bedrooms, on the ground, behaving erratically, or otherwise weak or sick) are actually found to be infected with the virus. </p><p>At no point during these four bat encounters did Emma or I have any contact with the bats. They did not touch, bite, or scratch us. We have never found them in our bedroom while we would have been sleeping. </p><p>I say all this to illustrate how illogical my anxiety was. But, as those with anxiety know, logic doesn't dictate how your mind and body react to those sorts of stimuli. Fear of something, whatever that something may be, doesn't respond to logic very well.</p><p>But in my case, it responded, in the end, to my taking some time to meditate, breath, and pray. When I do this, I talk out loud to myself and to God. I asked God, "What will it take for this fear to go away?"</p><p>I received my answer in the form of yet another bat encounter.</p><p>I had calmed down significantly by Sunday morning. As we left the house at early dawn, we descended the covered stairs from our second-story apartment. As we did so, we heard a chittering screech from the wall to our left. It was apparent that a bat had begun roosting there. Emma looked at me. I could see in her eyes that she expected this to trigger another panic attack. But in that moment, I had one thought: <em>He's not hurting anyone. He's just sleeping. He's a tiny, cute puppy with wings.</em></p><p>This was, somehow, the answer to my fear. This bat in our wall was the last deep breath in a calming meditation that God had set to work in my mind. And with that, the last dredges of anxiety left, and I laughed. We continued down the stairs and elected to name our new neighbor Bruce, after Bruce Wayne, or Batman.</p><p>After consulting with our landlord, we've determined how the bats are getting into the living space. We've discerned we're likely not dealing with a colony of bats, but rather just a few unfortunate friends that went down the wrong chimney. Our home has been sealed, and we feel safer. We'll replace the faulty chimney caps as soon as the bats leave for the winter, to ensure no young pups are sealed within our walls. </p><p>Bats are an important part of God's creation. They're active pollinators and they eat a truly astounding 1,000 insects every hour. Even though they triggered my anxiety and fear, one of them became the healer that cleansed my anxiety. Be on the lookout for ways God is helping you deal with your fears.<br></p>
Reflections on a life of ministry in Venezuela on a life of ministry in VenezuelaBy Linda Shelly <p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">I looked at my phone early on the morning of Aug. 5 and saw that Pastor Erwin Mirabal, president of the church conference </span><a href="/partners/Asociación%20Civil%20Red%20de%20Misiones%20Menonita%20de%20Venezuela" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;font-style:inherit;"><em>Red de Misiones Menonita de Venezuela</em></a><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">, had died of COVID-19. We had been praying for him for two weeks. His condition was stable the day before. His death was a shock for many.</span></p><p>The global pandemic is peaking later in Latin America than most other regions. Reports coming to Mennonite Mission Network told of economic hardship; pandemic restrictions stopped people from working as day laborers or selling in the streets. Mission Network supported partner churches have been reaching out to help the most vulnerable people with food. </p><p>Now, as the virus spreads more rapidly in Latin America, prayer chains are active for people who are sick, and we mourn deaths together with partners. Mission Network relates with Venezuela through a partnership including <em>Iglesia Cristiana Menonita de Colombia (IMCOL)</em> and Central Plains Mennonite Conference (CPMC).<br></p><p>We have made partnership visits together in Venezuela since 2013. Colombian leaders have known Erwin much longer. On Aug. 13, we were among those who gathered on Zoom to record tributes for Erwin for the Spanish podcast <em><a href="">Merienda Menonita</a>.</em></p><p><span style="background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;"><strong>Sharing our reflections helped our healing process. I have translated some excerpts of the testimonies, beginning with an introduction given by Peter Stucky of Colombia.</strong></span></p><p>As a young man in the 1980s, Erwin traveled to a workshop taught by John Driver in Colombia. (Driver served with Mennonite Board of Missions, a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network.) Erwin didn't understand much at first. But he kept reading Driver's writings, which led him to passionately embrace and practice the Sermon on the Mount. He sought more opportunities to study, and the <em>Seminario Bíblico Menonita de Colombia</em> under Alix Lozano's leadership developed seminary education in Venezuela. Erwin guided students in developing churches, and soon the <a href="/Impact/locations/Latin%20America/Venezuela">Venezuela Partnership </a>was formed.</p><p><strong>Erwin inspired many people in Venezuela and beyond, as these testimonies demonstrate:</strong> </p><ul><li>Lozano and Ricardo Esquivia had long-term relationships with Erwin. Ricardo Esquivia said, "I met Erwin about 25 years ago. …  It really impacted me to visit Venezuela again last year and experience above all the commitment that he had for his people, his place, his country. He expressed the hope that something would change, that it was going to change." <br>Lozano said, "My memory of Erwin is the fascination he felt for Anabaptism. He found in following Jesus his reason for being and his practice of life. Another aspect that was very challenging was his practical living with the most marginalized people in society through forming humble faith communities, such as Isla Margarita and then in Caracas .... I would like to bring to memory the words of Hans Denck, 'No one can truly know Christ unless they follow him in life.' I think this is a description of Erwin Mirabal."<br></li><li><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Holly Blosser Yoder, who coordinates CPMC's involvement, </span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">shared, "I saw Erwin as a type of Paul the apostle … </span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> </span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">traveling </span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">among groups of believers, teaching them and encouraging them, building up their fellowships, empowering them for compassionate ministry and service in their communities."</span><br></li><li>Now with Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, David Boshart traveled three times to Venezuela in his former CPMC role. He said, "I was impressed with Erwin's humility combined with his entrepreneurial vision. This unusual combination of gifts has been a key factor in the amazing growth of the food grinding enterprise, the cooperative games for peace ministry, and, most importantly, the seminary program. I was always impressed by the way Erwin modeled humble, servant leadership and the obvious respect everyone in the church held for him and the way they listened intently when he did speak."</li><li>Carlos Moreno coordinates the IMCOL missions committee. He said, "Something that I always liked about my brother Erwin was his respectful way of saying things. I also liked his loving and tender way with his community, his family, and all the people who were close to him. … At some point we were talking about whether he had the intention, or if he wanted to leave Venezuela due to the difficult situation and have the possibility of coming to Colombia. He told me, 'Well, my place, the place where God has called me, is here, and this is my community. These are my brothers and sisters whom I want to accompany and serve.'"</li><li>Oscar Herrera, who also visited Venezuela representing the IMCOL missions committee, said, "Erwin was convinced that Anabaptist Mennonite theology is relevant in this historical moment in Venezuela amid the violence that began in this time of crisis in this country … He considered that sitting at the table as Jesus did with his disciples was a blessing, like a privilege and a miracle before the Lord, a joy, a celebration."<br><br>Since Erwin's death, Mission Network has continued to accompany the people of the churches in Venezuela. His wife, Haydee Vegas, talks about their deep desire to continue despite the pain of loss. Their daughter, Helena Mirabal, shared, "Seeking Jesus is the best way. Outside of him there is nothing, not even in moments of pain and affliction. During the most terrible thing we can be going through, Jesus is there; he is always there. With human hands and feet."<br><br></li></ul>
John Lewis made me feel like an honored guest Lewis made me feel like an honored guestBy Wil LaVeist <p><em>In 2015, Wil LaVeist interviewed John Lewis for his radio show. Listen to the <a href="">full interview here</a>. Congressman Lewis wrote  <a href="">this essay </a> a few days before his death and planned for it to be published on the day of his funeral.</em></p><p>​</p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">"Get in good trouble."</span></p><p>Count me among those who will personally remember this encouraging phrase spoken by the late Congressman John Lewis, my brother.</p><p>After a battle with pancreatic cancer, Lewis, who at age 23 was getting into good trouble with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders, went home to the Lord on June 17. He was 80.</p><p>Back in 2015, <a href="">I was honored to interview Lewis</a> for my talk radio show in Hampton, Virginia, when he came to Hampton University as the commencement speaker. We recorded as we sat together in his guest quarters on the campus.</p><p>The interview was wide-ranging. From Lewis growing up poor in rural Alabama, to being inspired by Rosa Parks and King, to joining the Southern Freedom Movement, to serving in Congress. We talked about the ongoing battle against racial terror and police brutality against Black people. As Lewis recalled the impact <a href="">the murder of Emmet Till</a> had on him as a boy, I thought of the trauma <a href="">the killing of Randolph Evans</a> near my neighborhood had on me growing up.</p><p>The interview was a month after <a href="">the killing of Freddie Gray at the hands of Baltimore police.</a> Tensions were high then too across America. Lewis talked honestly about the role, challenges and shortcomings of Black politicians in fighting on behalf of Black people.</p><p>"We all must do more," Lewis said. "Baltimore today, yesterday it's Ferguson, tomorrow it will be some other place. It's a wakeup call for Black leadership."</p><p>How prophetic Lewis was then. America today wrestles yet again with why unarmed Black lives are too often taken at the hands of White police — Breonna Taylor in Louisville, George Floyd in Minneapolis, and others.</p><p>"It is very painful to see that on one hand we have come such a distance," Lewis said. "We've made progress, but on another hand, we slide backward."</p><p>He talked about the need for nonviolent direct-action workshops across the nation to teach young people how to wage a "nonviolent revolution." He expressed great optimism in seeing Black and White young people, particularly high school and college students, out in the streets protesting. Out getting in good trouble like Lewis did when he was young.</p><p>I shared Lewis's optimism then, and again recently, as part of a racially diverse crowd of nonviolent protestors <a href="">gathered at National Harbor</a> just outside of Washington, D.C., to march against racism and police brutality. I witnessed sincere White sisters and brothers who had the spirit of <a href="">Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner</a>; young men who believed so deeply in their shared humanity and equality with Black people that they willingly put their own White lives on the line.</p><p>It was a stark contrast to what can often be observed online, particularly on social media, as people post and click their activism from behind the comfort and anonymity of computer screens. One's position on #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) has become a litmus test for progressive and conservative street-cred, depending on your side of the political spectrum. Does supporting BLM essentially mean proclaiming, "Black lives matter, too," or are you instead affirming allegiance to the activist organization <a href="">Black Lives Matter Global Network</a> and all its beliefs? Or is BLM just the latest cause <em>célèbre</em> to market, monetize, and/or debate <em>ad nauseam</em>?</p><p>Most people of African descent in the United States and throughout the diaspora, view debating whether to state that "Black Lives Matter" as absurd and inherently racist. We've long known that our lives matter and have always mattered. We live it every day.</p><p>BLM is the modern iteration in the ongoing struggle for Black liberation, justice and equality. BLM is civil rights marchers holding signs proclaiming, "I Am A Man" and "Freedom Now." BLM is "Black Power" and "Black is beautiful."</p><p>I know Lewis would agree.</p><p>As we concluded the interview, Lewis said, "We must never ever give up. Our struggle is a struggle of a lifetime, and each generation must play a role and do its part."</p><p>After turning off my recorder, I tried to leave to allow Lewis his privacy and to eat his lunch. He wouldn't let me go so quickly. He invited me to stay and eat. Here I was honored to meet him, and he was treating me like the honored guest.</p><p>We talked for another 30 minutes about life. An ordained minister, Lewis shared that he delivered his first public sermon at age 15. He expressed his love of Jesus who had sustained him over the years.</p><p>My brother, John Lewis, told me to not worry when I get in "good trouble" because God would never leave me, nor forsake me.<br></p><p><br></p>



Giving thanks for God’s work among global partners’s-work-among-global-partnersGiving thanks for God’s work among global partners
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