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Monday, October 30, 2017

Nuclear War Is A Greater Threat Than Ever

small box on the left represents all of WWII Allied bombing
1945: total allied bombs dropped in WW II    1985: world's nuclear weapons equals                                     (3 megatons )                                       6,667 WWII's  (20,000 megatons)

According to the 1985 Center for Defense Information graph above, the world reached a peak of some 20,000 megatons of nuclear weapons thirty years ago, most of them in the possession of the US and the USSR. Thanks to various diplomatic efforts since then, the world now has just over 6,500 megatons, but that still represents over 2000 times the destructive force of all of the bombs detonated in all of World War II. 

This is both utterly unimaginable and absolutely immoral, and represents a flagrant violation of God's first recorded command to our human ancestors, to "tend the earth and care for it".

Early this year the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists advanced its doomsday clock to only 2.5 minutes to midnight, their highest alert since 1953.  According to a January 26, 2017, New York Times piece, two of the group’s officials said, “In 2016, the global security landscape darkened as the international community failed to come to grips with humanity’s most pressing threats: nuclear weapons and climate change,” and went on to say:

“Making matters worse, the [U.S.] now has a president who has promised to impede progress on both of those fronts. . . . Mr. Trump’s statements and actions have been unsettling. He has made ill-considered comments about expanding and even deploying the American nuclear arsenal.”

North Korea's recent aggressive tone, and its development of missiles capable of reaching US targets has of course added to the danger, along with the President's repeated provocative and derogatory statements about its leader, Kim Jong Un. For example, in his address to the United Nations (lauded by evangelist Franklin Graham as "his best speech ever"), President Trump literally threatened to destroy North Korea:

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”


Our threatening to call off the Iran nuclear agreement is another of other factors that may inch us closer toward a nuclear Armageddon. Needless to say, there has never been a time when our efforts at urgent prayer and active persuasion have been more needed.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Six Decades Later, I Remember With Tears

Memories of Highland Retreat will forever be with me.
Four ducks on a pond, 
A grass-bank beyond, 
A blue sky of spring, 
White clouds on the wing; 
What a little thing 
To remember for years-
To remember with tears!
- William Allingham

At Highland Retreat Camp's annual dinner last night I was asked to share some memories of being a part of the leadership of the Camp's fledgling summer camp program in the early 1960's. Board member Rowland Shank and our good friend Gerald Good asked me to be an assistant director for the 1964 season, and asked my soon-to-be wife Alma Jean to help with the food.

I didn’t realize then how that summer would change our lives, leading us to continue working there for the next two years as camp directors, with my home economics major bride managing the kitchen. After that I was privileged to serve on the Highland board for many years, and helped raise money for Highland’s first swimming pool and other projects. Later our own children enjoyed summer camps there and served as counselors.

Preparing for my little talk got me in touch with a rich reservoir of emotional memories I will always cherish. I can still hear Gerry Good’s boisterous voice and hearty laugh, the quieting sound of Capon Run in the middle of the camp grounds, the enthusiastic singing around the campfire, which I loved. Some of those songs still sing themselves in my head: 

I love the mountains,
I love the rolling hills,
I love the flowers
I love the daffodils,
I love the fireside
When the lights are low..

Ah, the firesides. I can still see the weekly "log cabin" campfires blazing in the dark and finally collapsing in a dramatic burst of flames. And I can see the circle of campers all around the pond in a late night candle lighting ceremony, and the quiet candle-lit walk back to camp for the night. And then the  intense competition between tent groups in the last morning's fire building contest.



I can still smell the weekly tinfoil dinners, the pancake and eggs breakfasts around each group's campfire, the Friday evening chicken barbecue provided by Carl Harman, and the taste of lots of great food, enriched by the surplus USDA butter and cheese and peanut butter that were in plentiful supply in those days. 

I can re-experience all this in a deeply visceral way, suggesting the power of this kind of weeklong experience in the company of God’s world and God’s people in a setting like Highland.

I remember one summer particularly, when outstanding counselors like Ron Moyer, Paul Beiler, John Fairfield and others regularly got up well before breakfast to go on bird a walk with whoever wanted to join them, just for the sheer love of nature, and how joining them was seen as really cool by a lot of the kids who looked up to them as role models. 

I recall parents saying things like, My son or daughter couldn’t stop talking about camp and their friends and their hikes and their adventures. And I remember hardworking but fun loving kitchen workers. Not above an occasional prank, one of them once put some ex lax in some chocolate chip cookies packed for a counselor's all day hike, as revenge for his habitually complaining about the food.

So many random things come to mind, mostly the blessings that came our way in spite of our youth and inexperience, and in spite of how primitive everything was those early years. For example, there was the famed “Wayne’s Motor Lodge”, a slightly renovated and very small chicken house which served as the first kitchen, our having to carry water from the bath house for cooking until the first real kitchen was built, the little camper we lived in the first summer we were directors, and of course the army surplus tents that housed the campers in those early years.

So with all camp supporters, I hope we can keep creating these kinds of memories, and always keep the program simple, close to God, close to nature, close to our hearts and always in our prayers.
Highland annual dinner

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Getting Past Our Black And White Thinking

Thankfully, God made us all "people of color".
Question: How many Americans are white, and how many are black? Answer: None. Zero. Unless artificially painted for some clown or minstrel act, no human being can be described as either “white” or “black”. Rather, each of us represents one of an infinite number of shades in God’s vast palette of skin colors. In other words, we are all “people of color,” neither ghostly white nor bituminous black, but some shade of pink, brown, peach, tan, coffee or dark olive.

So why think in terms of color-based categories at all?

I’m not suggesting we become color blind, but rather color-honoring, appreciating and celebrating the variety of shapes, sizes, hues and other unique features represented in the human family.

Having said that, we’re faced with an urgent need to address long-standing, racially-based inequities and injustices in our country. These have been with us ever since the original “white supremacists,” our European ancestors, claimed the right to arbitrarily occupy North American land and to conquer and destroy any who dared resist them. Both their beliefs in the “Right of Discovery” and the principle of “Manifest Destiny” represented a racial bias that remains all too common today, consciously or unconsciously held by members of a dominant culture that takes certain advantages and privileges for granted.

In the United States, race still stands out as a major factor associated with people having greater or lesser power, status and influence — power, here, defined here what helps people achieve their goals. Wealth plays a large role as well, along with other factors like ethnicity, education, national origin, and religious affiliation. Each of these can affect the chances of people getting a desired job, living in the neighborhood of their choice, being admitted to a quality school or receiving a just outcome in court.

Of course, enjoying the typical advantages associated with being part of the dominant culture, like growing up in a well-to-do family rather than a poor one, having access to a good education rather than an inferior one, being part of a mainline Christian denomination, rather than being a Muslim or a Hindu, or being of Western European ancestry rather than of Asian or African descent, do not guarantee anyone’s success. Nor does not enjoying any or many of these advantages doom one to failure. But these factors do tend to create strong headwinds or tailwinds that greatly affect the likelihood of success.

So those of us who are members of a social class formerly known as WASPs (White, Anglo-Saxon Protestants) must acknowledge that we remain “western European people of privilege” who tend to have a head start in the race for success. If we deny that, we should ask whether we would be willing to trade places with those among us who are of non-European descent.
So let’s work at creating a more level playing field for people of all shades of color and all kinds of ethnicities.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Raqqa, Syria: Liberation Through Obliteration

How is this kind of massive bombing not an act of terror and genocide?
To most western observers, finally freeing Raqqa from ISIS control is unmitigated good news, a victory worthy of great celebration.

But at what cost? And who pays?

According to an AP report in today's paper, 80% of this once prosperous city along the Euphrates (about the size of Richmond) is no longer habitable. Hundreds of civilians have been killed or maimed for life by massive bombing and drone strikes that have decimated the population and rendered those who survived homeless and with little hope for their future.

So what constitutes a military success? Have we completely lost our moral bearings and our credibility as a nation that supports human rights for all, including the inherent right to life itself? In the interest of achieving victory at any price, do we justify any and every means of achieving it? A nuclear strike? Chemical warfare?

It's just not possible, in my mind, to make any meaningful moral distinction between the terrible atrocities committed by ISIS and the equally unthinkable terror caused by massive bombing raids.

According to today's article, "Associated Press drone footage taken Thursday showed bombed-out shells of buildings and heaps of concrete slabs piled on streets littered with destroyed cars. Entire neighborhoods were turned to rubble, with no sign of civilian life--testimony to the thousands of bombs dropped on the city mainly by U.S. warplanes."

Someday history will judge us for condoning this form of holocaust. 

May God have mercy on us all. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

For Which Pledge Should We Be 'Kneeling'?

Can Christans pledge unqualified allegiance to the Bible, the Christian flag AND the American flag?
There's been a lot of controversy over certain NFL players kneeling during the singing of the national anthem at football games, with large numbers of patriotic Christians recently vowing to boycott NFL games until something is done to punish them for not standing during this familiar ritual.

My first thought is that such an NFL boycott might be way overdue, given the fact that American sports have become a Mammon-driven, nationalistic religion that demands huge investments of money, time and devotion of its followers and tends to take precedence over faith, family and almost every other loyalty.

But the question of whether Christians should stand with their right hand over their heart and pledge allegiance to a nation's flag remains an important one, assuming we take such forms of oaths seriously. Some Quakers, Amish, Mennonites and other believers, including Jehovah's Witnesses, choose not to do this, based on their belief that they are fundamentally and first of all members of an alternative worldwide kingdom ruled by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. They argue that we wouldn't expect people who are citizens of some other nation pledge allegiance to our flag, would we?

Other Christians choose to stand out of respect for the government of whatever nation in which they reside, but use the time to pray silently for those in positions of governmental responsibility, as commanded in the New Testament.

The original pledge, written in 1892 by Baptist minister Francis Bellamy, well over a hundred years after the nation's founding, simply said, "I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." The phrases "of the United States of America' and "under God" were added later, the latter in 1954 at the height of the nation's fervent resistance to a godless communism.

In addition to the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed, here's a pledge I would gladly join with others to kneel for:

I pledge unconditional allegiance to the cross-bearing life of Jesus Christ,
and to the worldwide community of beleivers
whom he has called and redeemed,
one people of faith and obedience
offering life, liberty and love for all.

Having said that, I would never insist that others recite this with me. Freedom of speech, conscience and religious expression are among the things that clearly make America great.

Monday, October 16, 2017

How Mammon-Driven Technologies Are Programming Our Kids' Brains

This is more subtle, and more dangerous, than we realize.
According to former Google product manager Tristen Harris, millions of us, and notably our children and teens, are being brainwashed by forms of media that are highly addictive and potentially destructive. "We as individuals can try to use our devices more responsibly," he says, "but it's our willpower against hundreds of engineers who are paid to keep us glued to the screen." 

Here are some of the examples he gives of this kind of highly sophisticated and personalized programming:

YouTube autoplays more videos to keep us from leaving.
Instagram shows new 'likes' one at a time, to keep us checking for more.
Facebook show whatever is known to keep us scrolling, based on our history of use.
Snapchat turns conversations into streaks we don't want to lose.
Our news media turns events into breaking news to keep as many of our eyeballs on the screen as possible.

The primary goal of the entire newer media industry is not to inform, or even to entertain, but to seduce us into buying products and services we and our children are generally far better off without.

It is here that our Old Order Amish and Mennonite friends who shun such technology may be far wiser than they realize. They know intuitively that not everything modern is in their best interest, and that simpler and more direct forms of communication may be best for all of us of all ages. 

Harris's answer, however, is not to abandon technology but to "change the  technology industry to put our best interests first".

Which sounds good, but who gets to determine what those 'best interests' are?

Meanwhile, it had better be each of us, along with others in our communities of faith.

Check this link for a CBS 60-Minutes interview with Harris: 

https://www.cbsnews.com/videos/brain-hacking/

Tristen Harris, CBS 60-minutes photo

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Adopted By A Family Of Former Strangers

Ruth Ann and Al Shirk, Alma Jean and I, Gladys and Jesse Yoder,
Orpha and Lloyd Gingrich, Freda Zehr, Lloyd and Beverly Wert
Siblings in the front row are in order of their age, except for
Lloyd, on the right, who should be between Ruth Ann and Alma 
Jean, and Freda, who should be between Alma Jean and Gladys.

Last Saturday Alma Jean and I attended a reunion of the remaining six members of her family (and many of their descendants) at Landis Homes near Lititz, Pennsylvania. Already deceased are her oldest brother Harold (and Mary) Wert, older sister Alene (and Mark) Yoder, and brother-in-law Vernon Zehr.

The Michael and Alma Wert family grew up in rural Juniata County, Pennsvania, at the foot of scenic Shade Mountain, and I met and married beautiful Alma Jean at Eastern Mennonite College (now EMU) in the early sixties.

All of this has blessed me in indescribable ways. The Wert family couldn't have been more welcoming, and I have bonds with them that are comparable to those of my own blood ties (By the way, I'm not related to the Delaware based Yoder brothers who married two of Alma Jean's sisters, but they also adopted me like the rest).

It's wonderful how this works. We leave our own family of origin and become united to an unrelated clan that immediately gives us new siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents and a host of nieces and nephews. These chosen bonds add to the wealth of family that adds to our feeling of identity, security and great joy.

Its an amazing grace, and I can never thank God enough for it.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Revised Version Of The Four Spiritual Laws

Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ International (CCCI), first published his well known tract, "The Four Spiritual Laws", in 1952. Since then over a million copies have been distributed as a tool for evangelism.
As an evangelical Christian, I don't want to negate Bright's succinct summation of God's good news, but here is another wording I'd prefer:

1. LAW ONE
God loves everyone in the whole world, and has a wonderful plan to restore all creatures and all creation to God's intended peace and harmony (shalom).

2. LAW TWO
From the beginning of time human beings have been hell bent on gaining their own self-centered versions of the good life through violence, manipulation and sheer force. 

3. LAW THREE
Jesus Christ, the Sent One, has come to offer a way of restoration and redemption based on our renouncing our selfish and sinful living and on loving God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength--and our every neighbor, friend and foe alike, as ourselves.

4. LAW FOUR 
Together we must acknowledge Jesus's way of peace and reconciliation with God and with others, and join with God's people everywhere to work and pray for God's will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven.

Footnote:
I recently ran across a story about Arthur Burns, former chair of the United States Federal Reserve System and a person of faith. As a diligent seeker for truth he regularly met some members of the White House staff for prayer and for fellowship. 

As the only Jewish member of the group he was typically not asked to lead in the closing prayer, as others thought he might not feel comfortable doing so with a group of professed Christians.

One day when he finally was asked, he prayed as follows:

"Lord, I pray that you would bring Jews to know Jesus Christ. 
I pray that you would bring Muslims to know Jesus Christ. 
Finally, I pray that you would bring Christians to know Jesus Christ. Amen"

I would add my own Amen to that.

The Arthur Burns vignette from Os Guinness's book, The Call)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Community Criminal Justice Days October 18-19


The Institute for Reform and Solutions, a Staunton headquartered non-profit organization, with offices also in Harrisonburg, is hosting Community Criminal Justice Days, on October 18, and 19, 2017 at Blue Ridge Community College in Weyers Cave, Virginia.

Blue Ridge Community College photo
Community Criminal Justice Days has been designed to share information with the citizens of Rockingham, Page, Augusta, Highland, Rockbridge Counties about  local, state, and national criminal justice issues, activities, programs, and legislation. The forums are designed to educate and familiarize the public with the functions and operations of our local justice agencies while providing an overview of the related issues facing our nation today. 

Nationally recognized experts, as well as state and local practitioners, will  present research, and evidence-based initiatives which effectively address the social dysfunctions contributing to the escalating arrest and incarceration rates. Importantly, strategies will be outlined which provide communities with essential tools to join together to confront local problems.
This event offers unique opportunities for all citizens, government officials, business owners, non-profit agencies, and all stakeholders in our region. Justice-Involved persons and their families are encouraged to attend to lend their voices to the discussions. College and university students are invited attend CCJD, and may collaborate to address local initiatives. Representatives of these agencies and organizations will circulate throughout the building, available for questions or comments, anxious to connect with the conference participants.

The culmination of the conference, on Thursday, October 19th, will showcase a Candidates' Forum. This roundtable event will bring together candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates, running for election for Legislative Districts 6, 25, 20, and 24, to share their views on justice-related issues, past and future legislative action to improve the lives of not only their constituents but all Virginians. The candidates will also be briefed on the tenor of the discussions of the two days, in an effort to craft a potential legislative agenda for the 2018 Session of the general Assembly.

Community Criminal Justice Days has been designed to fortify relationships, embrace our neighbors, promote civility, and generate ideas for improvements in their local criminal justice systems. as well as general quality of life. These days represent an initial dialog between citizens, their governments, non-profit partners, and the private sector which, with your support, will successfully deliver significant, positive outcomes for our communities.

Registration is free at:
http://reformcjs.org/community-criminal-justice-day-ii/

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Are We Trending First Class Or Tourist Class?

tour·ist class: n. the least expensive seating or accommodations for passengers in a ship, aircraft, or hotel.

When people in my Anabaptist/Mennonite tradition were hounded and persecuted all over Europe, many became destitute and homeless refugees because of their faith.

Those who survived were generally known as plain and simple people content to live without the trappings of wealth and luxury. They never expected to enjoy greater comforts, a higher social class or more personal comfort or conveniences than the homeless Galilean they claimed as their Master and Lord.

In other words, as sojourners and pilgrims on earth, most of my forebears chose tourist class rather than first class lifestyles.

Unfortunately, as Mennonites became more tolerated in places like the Netherlands, in pre-communist Russia and later in the New World--and then began to become far wealthier--all that began to change. This is all too evident today, not only in the kinds of elaborate homes and lifestyles many North American Mennonites now claim as their right, but in the structures and accommodations they insist on in the institutions that bear their name.

For example, in the 100 years of my alma mater Eastern Mennonite University's history, it has gone from being an ultra modest, church-supported campus operating on a shoe string budget and with spartan facilities to now being a multi-million dollar institution with state of the art facilities and amenities.

In its first several decades, faculty and staff knew they would have to supplement their incomes with other part time work if they were to be able to support their families. Yet they were willing to do this because they were committed to a life of sacrifice and service, and the struggling young school attracted students who tended to share those values.

Our Mennonite colleges now assume students will not enroll unless they are offered gourmet cafeteria fare, top of the line dormitory accommodations and state of the art academic and athletic programs.

Our local Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community reflects the same trend. VMRC is in the process of razing some of the brick duplexes that were built for retirees over three decades ago in order to build more expansive ones to take their place. As far as I know, the ones they are tearing down and replacing are perfectly sound structurally.

Why? It's what the market demands. Increasingly wealthy seniors expect state of the art accommodations.

But what is that saying about the state of our faith? And what does it say about our allegiance to Jesus?

Friday, October 6, 2017

Conventional Giving, 'Campaign' Giving And Compassion-Based Giving

"And when he saw him, he felt deep compassion for him."
In one of Jesus's best known gospel stories, it was a despised enemy Samaritan who took time to offer personal care to a person in dire need.

We tend to malign the Levite and the priest who "passed by on the other side", but they actually were a part of a long standing conventional relief program. As members of the priestly class, they received and administered tithes and offerings meant to maintain them and their fellow "clergy" and also to help the poor.

Every third year, according to Deuteronomy 14, the customary tithes from the people were to be stored locally rather than brought to Jerusalem, and Levites, immigrants, and orphans and widows were to "eat and be satisfied" from that source.

Thus the Levite and priest in the story were likely actively engaged in this form of welfare, but felt they didn't have the time or the means to render aid in this instance.

I thought of this in light of the recent SOS (Sharing Our Surplus) Campaign promoted at the September 29-30 Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale. An SOS Giving Booth was set up at the event to encourage people to give cash, check and credit card contributions in addition to helping the Mennonite Central Committee meet relief needs through our purchase of food and other items at the Sale.

The total SOS money raised was over $35,000, which many thought was quite respectable for this first try. And while I would have wished for a far larger amount, I too was truly grateful for the many people who took part.

What I missed hearing at the event were conversations about the plight of the 2.5 million refugees for whom the money was being raised. Most of the talk was about the great items and good food available at the sale, and about updates on moneys being raised at the SOS booth and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, on each of three sides of the 12'x12' "refugee tent" set up outside the main building (with MCC kits and information about refugee needs) were signs that read, "Millions of refugee families are forced to live in tents no larger than this one for years on end."

Yet I heard no one saying anything about this being outrageous and intolerable, no one telling their children about how terrible it must be like to have to live in tent cities like this.

So yes, the entire Relief Sale effort did take us beyond conventional giving through our regular channels, but did it represent a truly compassionate response?

Or was it just a part of yet another "campaign" to see how much money we could raise?

I guess I'll have to let God be the judge of that.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

If We Can't Regulate Guns, Can We Regulate Their Owners?

We seem to be missing the 'well-regulated' part.
Yet another ghastly attack on innocent civilians raises yet another round of agonizing questions. Like, why we can't do something to limit easy access to weapons of mass destruction by demented killers?

Sadly, in spite of the exponential increase in such tragedies in recent years, we seem to be getting nowhere when it comes to regulating guns. And since we keep hearing adages like "Guns don't kill people, people do," should we begin to take steps to regulate their owners instead?

So, with tongue partly in cheek, here's a radical idea that actually fits the wording of the Second Amendment itself. Why not have gun owners be drafted to become a part of weekend citizen militias formed in every town and hamlet in the US, headed by the governor of their respective states?

The purpose of their required monthly(?) training would not be to subvert or oppose the national government, but to collaborate with it for the general welfare and safety of the populace. In fact, every meeting should logically begin with a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance (to the United States of America), followed by a pledge to never use any weapon of any kind to harm or kill any innocent person anywhere in the nation.

The primary focus of these civilian forces would be for civil defense in the case of a national emergency and for concerted responses to natural disasters caused by floods, wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes.

Pro-life citizens opposed to owning guns (except for use in hunting or for control of animals destructive of crops and other wildlife) and/or who for reasons of conscience were against using a gun even for self defense, would be granted exemption from militia service. They would be given conscientious objector status, but could also be organized into civilian-based National Disaster Service (NDS) units available to serve in times of national crises.

And personally I'd be willing to exempt folks who only owned musket loaded weapons like those of the framers of the Constitution. Using only such weapons would have saved an awful lot of lives in Las Vegas.

If this plan wouldn't work, tell me what will. I just can't bear to see any more senseless slaughter.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Breaking News: Local Faith In Action Selects Criminal Justice As Its Focus For 2017-2018

Prayerfully seeking liberty and justice for all.
In its Covenant Assembly Meeting last evening, delegates from the 24 congregations representing Faith in Action agreed to work with other community groups on reforms in our local criminal justice system during the upcoming year.

Two primary emphases emerged in the two-hour meeting:

1) How can we reduce incarceration numbers?

a) by increasing the use of restorative justice as an alternative to the court process where possible
b) by bail bond and other reforms to reduce the number of non-violent persons in jail who are simply awaiting trial
c) by creating a drug court with the authority to divert addicted persons to treatment rather than incarceration

2) What reforms are needed in current jail policies and procedures that affect inmates and their families?

a) reviewing policing policies and practices
b) further improving healthcare and treatment for mentally ill and addicted inmates
c) reducing the financial burden families bear for phone and commissary costs and for the $1 a day "rent" imposed by our local jail ($3 per day for local inmates held at Middle River Regional Jail).
d) adding more educational opportunities for inmates

An Issues Committee will meet at 7 pm at the Asbury United Methodist Church (second floor) Monday evening, October 9, to further develop steps Faith in Action congregations may take to help create a model criminal justice system in our community.

I will be posting updates from time to time on further developments.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

"S.O.S. Campaign" Raises Just Over $35,000

Special thanks to everyone who helped this year's effort to raise cash contributions through a Giving Booth at the Relief Sale this weekend. The unofficial total is $35,575*, and as far as I know, there are very few expenses to deduct, since much of the time and materials needed were donated. 

My personal thanks to Joe Lapp and to Everence for staffing the table, to Mark Harmon and others from Harrisonburg Mennonite for setting up the "refugee tent" with MCC kits and SOS information outside the main building, to author Lauren Pichon for donating and selling her "Messages from Maryam" books for the SOS project (we have 8 left, if anyone would like one for a donation), to Karen Gonzols for creating the logo and the flier used in promoting the project (and for keeping minutes of our planning meetings), to Lisa Lehman and others who helped publicize SOS, to Relief Sale Chair Dave Rush for his great support, to Harman Construction, Kline/May Realty and Interchurch, Inc., for helping create a $1500 matching fund, for all of you who encouraged, contributed, attended planning meetings and otherwise helped make this happen. 

I would have been glad to have raised many times this year's amount, not for the campaign's sake, but for the sake of needy refugees of war and famine everywhere, but I'm truly grateful for what was accomplished, and for the fact that it appears that the total revenue from the Sale may be break all previous records, according to preliminary reports.

But in order  to keep our humility intact, and to remind us of the potential for SOS kind of giving in the future, we should note that $35,000 still represents only around $3.50 of such giving per person at this year's amazing event attended by some 10,000 people. That's equal to the price of about 3 1/2 glazed doughnuts.

I should add that My Coins Count, formerly Penny Power, another amazing cash giving project, raised another $26,000 from pocket change contributed over the past year by members of over 30 Mennonite congregations.

Thanks, everyone, and you can still contribute online at http://vareliefsale.com/donate/ (be sure to check the SOS button).

* The final and official tally was just under $41,000.