Friday, June 2, 2017

To what shall I compare the kingdom....

            This morning’s news is disheartening.  The headlines shout that the USA will withdraw from the Paris Climate agreements.  Follow-up articles tell the story of  conflicting opinions about what this will mean economically and politically for the country.  Concern, outrage, resistance, and resolve are words that appear again and again as business people and politicians seek to find a solid place to stand - either in solidarity with the administration or in opposition.   The international community shakes its collective head as the leadership in efforts to offset or contain the effects of climate change shifts away from the USA and other nations strengthen their commitment.  Once again, high drama makes the headlines.
            Meanwhile, back on my beloved island, my morning email contains a note from a church member asking for time in morning worship to make an announcement.  She writes from Haiti where she is on a brief trip to assess the state of health of PeaceQuilts, an island non-profit initiative to support women’s art and creativity by helping them to form small businesses to market their craft in the form of beautiful, colorful  quilts of all shapes and sizes. PeaceQuilts provides an opportunity for Haitian women to build their own businesses and earn a living wage.
            The announcement will provide information to the local church about several other island non-profit groups that are partnering to kick-off a summer of events that promote global aid initiatives focused on women’s empowerment and economic development. Representing work in Haiti, Zambia, Tanzania, and India, they hope to raise awareness about their organizations and the work they are doing as well as to showcase the resulting art and bring the crafts of the people they work with around the world to our island community.
            The African Artists’ Community Development Project, is a non-profit organization based on the island. Raising money for disabled children, orphans and women’s groups in Zambia by selling crafts here in the U.S., AACDP’s mission is expressed in the motto, “Buying African Crafts, Strengthening African Families.”  This group continues to explore empowerment commerce and has started a doll-making project with the mothers and grandmothers of the children at the Mama Bakhita Cheshire Home for Disabled Children.
            Maasai Partners, also based on the island, promotes health, educationwelfare, and economic development focusing on the Ngorongoro Conservation Area of northern Tanzania to combat the extreme poverty in the region.  Maasai Partners (working under NCN), believes the most successful development programs rely on the villagers themselves to determine what is most necessary for their own success. Collaborating with the villagers, identifying the resources needed to further community development and help alleviate poverty, Maasai Partners networks and collaborates with area nonprofits to establish effective programs within the villages, while also providing independent support. 
            Also participating as a local non-profit, will be a “The Invisible World”, a collaboration between a local plankton ecologist and Her Future Coalition. Her Future Coalition is a human trafficking rescue, recovery and prevention organization based in India. Plankton are not seen, but play a crucial role in the ecology of our planet, supplying 50% of the oxygen we breathe. Human trafficking goes on every day but is overlooked. The Invisible World reminds us to look at what is not seen on the surface, to change our way of thinking and how we see the world. 
            The email is a timely message of hope that antidotes my sinking feelings of incredulity and frustration.  The headlines seem always to carry the worst of the news of the state of the world, while, like plankton, the life blood of human resourcefulness and kindness and generosity and creativity go largely unnoticed.
            So - without a doubt, time will be given in morning worship for a woman to speak and for the congregation to hear the word of grace that will come - - the word that echoes the words of Jesus: “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God?  It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” (Luke 13:20,21).  Yeast is a homely metaphor - but it works.  I bake bread.  I am not a truly patient person by nature.  I am constantly checking the dough to see whether the yeast is doing its work.  It really does seem to have a mind of its own and does its best work in secret - invisibly.   It seems as though it waits for me to turn my back for a moment and then - VOILA! - the dough is ready to be baked.  
            So on this glorious day, with so much sunlight after so much gray rainy weather, I anticipate the word of grace - - that there is much “yeast” at work in the world - - that it is in the nature of yeast to grow and spread throughout the dough; -- that, indeed, while our attention may be focused on the dreary headlines, there are other forces at work - - and eventually we may enjoy the unspeakable delight of the aroma of fresh baked bread.

Vicky Hanjian


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