With what is happening in the world, I have had a lot of time to listen and reflect about various aspects of our society in regards to race. Me being a white man will never fully be able to understand the experiences of those in the black community. However I can reach out to them, listen, speak up when I see injustice, and join with my brothers and sisters in fighting for just and equal systems.
When I was a kid, my father was the pastor of our local Community of Christ which was located in a small town mostly comprised of white people. One woman in our congregation was married to a black man who she would bring with her to church. Me being a kid didn't think twice about it. This man and I built a friendship over the years through common interests.
When I was a teenager, years after my father passed away unexpectedly, this man and I were talking. The man said the first time he came to our Community of Christ congregation he was worried about being accepted for his skin color and his interracial marriage. He had faced racism from the surrounding community and didn't know how church would be. When he walked in the door, my father immediately stopped what he was doing up front in preparation for the service, came back, shook his hand, and welcomed him. This one act put some of his worries aside knowing the leader of this congregation cared enough about him as a person to walk straight back and welcome him. To this man, this small act of acceptance and welcoming meant so much more.
It is this radical welcoming of people for who they are, both their similarities and differences to which we are called as disciples.
What Can We Do
These last few weeks have been quite a ride for many of us as we have been faced with the racism that still exists and ostracizes part of our population. The killing of unarmed black men have been senseless and do not reflect the values we seek as followers of God. The current systems in place are not holding to the standards we deem appropriate. We believe in the inestimable worth of all people which means things need to change to ensure all truly feel they have a place at the table.
Now how do we do that? I don't know entirely. I acknowledge I do not fully understand the issues because of my own bias and privilege, but I am willing to listen and sit with the stories of those in the black community who are living in the injustice without inserting my opinion. I can research systematic racism to have a greater understanding of the issues. I can consciously be friends with those from different cultures and backgrounds than myself. I can teach my kids about racism and read books about other cultures. I can join in the non-violent protests using my voice and actions. Like many of you I have a lot to learn and understand, but I cannot be silent when I see or hear of injustice.
We as individuals have a power to enact change. Saying its not my problem turns our back on our power as individuals and as a collective society. So I encourage you to look for ways to act, use your voice, and help change society for the better so that all those oppressed, abused, downtrodden, no matter your skin color, income, past, etc. will be accepted for who they are and have equal rights and voice.
Thank you to all those who follow along. Please comment about your thoughts and feelings over the past few weeks.
This week reach out and listen to those in the black community and hear their stories.
I started this journey two years ago in hopes of providing content to help others along their spiritual journey as well as learn about Community of Christ. I have learned a lot over these two years and have been blessed with some wonderful people to share their stories and experience on here. For our two year anniversary I wanted to share some lessons I have learned about this ministry and hopefully they are pertinent to your faith journey.
1. God journeys with us
The more I write and hear from others the more I know God is right there with each one of us on the journey. God is shaping who we are by the experiences we live in and through each day. When we respond to God's prompting in our lives we usually find ourselves giving to and blessing others. It is in these actions where God is fully present living, loving, and working. God is with us during the ups and downs and will forever be along the journey with us.
2. We must share our stories
When we share stories people begin to connect and understand who God is. It is in our personal witness that people come to know and feel the love of Christ. Stories are meaningful, inspiring, and empower others to find God. They also help us remember the times when we had a personal encounter with the divine and what it meant for us in that moment. Stories teach how God is moving and working in the world. It makes God's love into something tangible and real that can actually happen to me.
3. Everyone has something to contribute
Some of the most valuable and meaningful content over the last two years were from guest bloggers sharing their heart about their personal encounter with Christ. Many were flattered about the opportunity to share and wondered if it would be good enough. God has each given us stories to share which will contribute to the spiritual growth of others. I cannot stress enough that each one of us can contribute. We all have gifts, talents, and a story others need to hear.
4. No one is beyond God's grace
Life has a way of chewing us up and spitting us out. Bad circumstances and events happen to people and we often feel we are not worthy or deserving enough to be loved. But God thinks differently. God sees your worth and value and calls you a beloved child. God knows the struggles you have been through and yet loves you all the same. That's what grace is. God continues to choose you and call you by your name, because you are worthy and deserving of love.
Thank you to all those who have supported the blog these last two years. I have appreciated hearing the positive feedback.
This week hug someone and tell them they are worthy of God's love!
Our guest blogger this week is Janelle Hilger-Kopshinsky. Janelle lives with her family in Olathe and began volunteering at Camp Hope in 2008 and now serves as Chair of Camp SIBsational for KyMel, Inc. a non-profit whose goal is to provide connecting experiences for families on the cancer journey. She is a licensed, clinical social worker and works as a prevention response specialist within several educational, for-profit and non-profit community agencies in Kansas. She likes to binge novels and sporting events while living across the street from family and laughing with her husband, Dan. Some of her favorite things include travel, all things KyMel, “outdoorsy” backyard adventures, and a satisfying cup of warm coffee.
I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Craig, for offering the opportunity to reflect and share “aloud” some of my personal experiences and in particular a “community gem” that remains an oasis for many children and families on the cancer journey.
Over the most recent weeks, along with the world, I have been reflecting on the mysteries of strengths available throughout life and beyond. This particular moment in time for me, has lifted up God’s strength in my life-noticeably found in the relationships that “I do life with” (a common phrase from Mark LoMurray, founder of Sources of Strength) such as family and friends, chosen family, mentors and guides and available communities. My spirituality is frequently strengthened through these relationships and is especially present TODAY as our world navigates into the unknown, a common certainty of living.
There is a parable in my faith community about the “Growing Seed” and a life that grows in stages and reaches fullness at the time of the harvest. Human beings have work to do in this process but the seed ripens “of its own accord.” "Growth is a process and God is the source.” This particular parable and lesson, from the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd helps me (and likely many others within faith communities) contemplate, explore and fall in love with life itself and to appreciate the strengths within each of us, as well as all around us.
A spiritual place for me that I would like to spend a little time sharing more about today, is the community found within KyMel,Inc; whose goal is to provide connecting experiences for families on the cancer journey. I hold this special place with DEEP REGARD in my heart, for the community impacts and ripples of hope witnessed within our families and campers, supporters and volunteers. Their beautiful and unique stories make up our cherished history.
What started as a “special place beyond the rainbow” in 1983 continues to nourish the lives of so many. In particular, the invitation to appreciate the stages of life and the stories of hope available at any given moment is etched into our existence. Although our organization and camps; CampHope and Camp SIBsational, are not “religious” in nature and these sentiments reflect my personal, spiritual journey, some of our traditions, practices and cultures are spiritual in origin- as they honor going through devastating circumstances, together and connecting ourselves to things greater than reality, as we uphold in shear appreciation the gift of life.
Camp Hope began as a dream of a special individual who wanted to give children with cancer a safe haven in the summer to be kids, a camp of their own. In 1983, Donna Brown, “Ma” Donna, established the first Camp Hope in partnership with the American Cancer Society. Her vision was inspired over time as a parent of two children with cancer. Even though her son, Kyle, died in 1971 from a brain tumor and her daughter, Melani, in 1984 from leukemia, she never gave up hope for a camp for kids with cancer to become a reality and out of resiliency, Camp Hope was created and continues to take place each summer. To read more about our history, please visit our website.
Knowing that the diagnosis of cancer affects the entire family, in 2019 Camp SIBsational was created for the siblings of children with cancer. Oftentimes siblings can feel scared, neglected, guilty and even jealous. While these are all normal emotions, they can make many siblings feel isolated. Camp SIBsational provides those siblings a fun experience with peers who also understand how they are feeling better than anybody else. While not a therapeutic camp, SIBsational has mental health professionals on hand at all times to help if needed. If you would love to hear more about this camping experience, we welcome you to contact us at any time.
Open to youth 5 to 17, free of charge, and 100% volunteer operated, Camp Hope in Claflin, Kansas and Camp SIBsational in Elmdale, Kansas (and the over 150 volunteers giving countless hours annually to ensure Camp Hope, Camp SIBsational and KyMel can remain a “home away from home” for our campers) continue to celebrate and appreciate the small-to-great moments offered in this world and for me, personally lends to a deeper understanding that God’s strength is in us, with us and all around us.
Janelle, thank you for sharing about these camps and the incredible impact they have on kids. I appreciate your willingness to vulnerably share about your spirituality and life experiences as we are all made better for it.
This week the goal is for us to share about Camp Hope and Camp SIBsational with someone else and if you feel compelled donate or go to their website and volunteer.
Craig Hidy like the majority of ministers in Community of Christ is a bi-vocational, self sustaining ordained minister. He is a member of the Midlands Mission Center Emporia Team and an ordained Seventy. He and his family, live in Topeka, Kansas.
The mission of the Seventy
“After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.” Luke 10:1-3 NRSV
What is a Seventy?
The Seventy carry out missionary work for the church in close association with other missionary leaders. They represent Christ primarily as ministers of evangelism through witnessing, inviting, and church planting.
They especially proclaim and promote Jesus Christ’s invitation to faithful discipleship through vibrant witness, and train individuals and congregations in witness and invitation.
They particularly minister with seekers, individually and in groups, to share the gospel in relevant ways and to invite response.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.
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Community of Christ
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