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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Hooked On The Wrong End Of The Food Chain

Good health starts here...
...and ends here.

Somewhere in our pursuit of progress and of the good life we have lost our connection with the earth that sustains us. Even in our own agriculturally productive Shenandoah Valley, once known as the "bread basket of the Confederacy", we have become almost totally food dependent. If it weren't for an abundance of highly processed and packaged food products trucked here from all over the world, most of us would starve.

source
According to one source, in the years between 1950 and 1970 the number of farms in the US, and the number of people who relied on them for their living, dropped by half before the trend began leveling off. And thanks to more mechanization and specialized factory farming, the size of farms has doubled.

At the same time, due to the relatively low cost of all of our food "imports", fewer and fewer non-farm families bother with having backyard chickens or otherwise raising and preserving any of their own food. While this may make us feel more independent at one level, we have actually become ever more dependent on other people and systems than ever for our survival.

Meanwhile, we have become a nation that now spends more time and money eating out than we do in the grocery aisle or the farmer's market--and in preparing our own meals at home. And unfortunately, much of our eating out is at fast food outlets, resulting in our becoming increasingly addicted to a diet high in calories, fat, salt and sugar. And as we all know, that puts us at greater risk for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems and other serious threats to our health. 

We would all be better off doing more hoeing and less mowing, becoming producers of more of what we need to live on and less reliant on being ever more passive consumers.

Monday, November 27, 2017

A Christmas Open House Too Good To Miss!


Everyone in the whole world is invited to the 2017 Gemeinschaft Home Christmas Reception and Open House this Sunday afternoon, December 3, at 1423 Mt. Clinton Pike.

Open house will be from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Feel free to bring your questions about the program to members of the staff, residents, and/or Board members.

Meanwhile there will be hot drinks and freshly baked Christmas cookies and treats from the Gemeinschaft kitchen. Residents and staff will also be available for brief tours of the house.

You can RSVP at 540-434-1690 or execassistant@gemeinschafthome.org, or you can just show up.

In either case you can show your support of Gemeinschaft by making a year-end donation and/or a loan toward the $33,000 "Raise the Roof" project. We're almost half way toward our goal for this project!

So please come, and invite your friends and neighbors to join you.

Here are links to the Gemeinschaft website and Facebook pages: 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Our Trickle-Down Congregational Economics


Are the Lazarus's at our table only getting our leftovers?
A Proposed Congregational Mission Statement:
To be good news for the poor, to heal the broken, to proclaim release for prisoners, to restore sight to the blind, to advocate for the oppressed, and to celebrate God's Jubilee for all.

If we were to truly represent Jesus' Inside-Out Kingdom, how would that be reflected in our congregational budgets?

Church budgets are moral documents, a reflection of our actual values. Follow the money, we are told.

This is not to say that alleviating the needs of the homeless and destitute is the only thing Jesus' followers are about. We also need to help support, as needed, those in teaching, pastoral care and other church ministries. And if we own a building, we need to maintain it and pay the utility bills.

But how can our budgets better reflect Jesus' primary mission as announced in Luke 4?

Here are some current budget percentages typical of Mennonite churches in our community:

40% Staff salaries and benefits
20% Utilities, maintenance, repairs, supplies, capital costs
15% Tuition grants for those attending church schools
15% Support for missions and other church related institutions and organizations
10% Support for relief agencies and charitable organizations

Of course not even the 10% (?) we send to agencies to which we outsource our food and relief aid all goes to the poor. There are administrative and other personnel involved who are paid well and who are well cared for.

But some of our giving does eventually reach the truly needy, for which I am sure they are truly grateful.

And to be clear, my concern is not just about developing alternative budget pie charts, but about our being able to vastly enlarge the charitable pie itself. Like most Americans, we carefully calculate our giving so it doesn't interfere with our goal of amassing more wealth every year of our working life. Can followers of Jesus really find any support in the gospels for that kind of entitlement?

According to a 2005 study, U.S. Mennonites, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, don't even give a tithe of their incomes to charity, much less sell their surplus wealth, downsize their homes, or adjust their spending to be more like that of their sisters and brothers in the rest of the world. Were we to do so, most of our congregations, in the spirit of Pentecost, could easily triple the size of their church budgets without experiencing any real hardship.

Plus it would be a powerful witness to a skeptical world, and a source of great joy to everyone concerned.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Survey Says--86 Members Of Inmate Families Weigh In On Local Jail Policies

Special thanks to Dr. Robert Robinson and student interns at Mary Baldwin University for analyzing the results of a survey distributed at the Rockingham County jail in early August to assess visitors’ attitudes towards 17 different policies and services at the jail.  
  • There were 86 respondents to the survey. 
  • They were able to indicate their relationship to the inmate they were visiting and make comments of their own on the form. 
  • Note: Some people responded with N/A for some questions and therefore no rating was given for that question, making the number of respondents vary for each question. 
In the survey, respondents were asked to assign items a level of importance from “0” to “3,” with “0” representing “not important, or I don’t know”, “1” representing “somewhat important”, “2” representing “very important”, and “3” representing “extremely important” to these seventeen different statements.  The statements below are arranged in order of priority based on responses from participants.  

1. “Commissary items being more affordable for inmates”
2. “Phone calls being more affordable (and longer) for inmates”
3. “Inmates having better access to a mental health counselor”
4. “Inmates having more opportunities to attend substance abuse recovery groups (AA, etc.) and other programs while in jail.”
5. “Inmates being able to attend job training and skills classes while in jail”
6. “Inmates having better access to affordable medical care/prescriptions”
7. “The $1 a day fee ($3 a day at MRRJ) reduced or eliminated”
8. “Having more frequent opportunities for family members to visit inmates”
9. “Non-violent inmates being allowed to visit family members without being in handcuffs”. 
10. “Inmates having more opportunities for physical exercise”
11. “Inmates having access to education-focused e-tablets, books and other study materials”. 
12. “A number to call for information about how to help an inmate”
13. “Complaint (grievance) procedure in place for family members’ concerns”.
14. “Inmates having fewer hours in lockdown (where applicable)”
15. “Non-violent inmates being allowed to wear street clothes and not being handcuffed when appearing in court”
16. “A manual with information for family members about local jail rules”
17. “Support groups for family members to meet with on a regular basis”
  • There was only one variable where “extremely important” was not the mode (e.g., the most often chosen) #17, "support groups for families to meet with on a regular basis"
  • There were several variables where “extremely important” was assigned by more than 70% of respondents
    • Examples: reducing the daily fee charged by the jail, having more frequent visitation of inmates, having more affordable commissary items, having phone calls be more affordable (and longer),  inmates having better access to medical health care/prescriptions, inmates having better access to mental health counselor, inmates having more opportunities for job and skills training while in jail, and inmates having more opportunities to attend substance abuse recovery groups (AA, etc.) and other programs while in jail.
Here are some of the written comments by family members:

- Daughter had a baby two months ago, has been allowed no physical contact.
- My brother was under the care of a psychiatric doctor at the time of his arrest, and was on two NECESSARY medications (Gabapentin)(Abilify), and as of today my little brother STILL hasn’t even seen a doctor, or been given any meds! This is cruel and unusual punishment, and I have spoken to and retained a lawyer for this and another legal matter. But I would love to avoid the messiness of a lawsuit, I just want my brother’s mental health needs met and stabilized ASAP.
- Machine and debit card costs extra money for use ($5 to deposit $20). We both (mother and grandmother) live over 25 miles one way drive. We would like to do more, but can’t do it. Too expensive! We’re both on social security income.
- Not fair that families have to pay so much for everything while inmates are in jail.
- Amounts of money having to be paid weekly is ridiculous.
- Inmates go outside ONCE monthly if that.
- Daughter has cyst on ovaries which ruptured, needs hysterectomy, pre-cancerous cells.
- Mental health & physical health need better resources
- Expenses for family ridiculous!

Re: Support groups for family members:
- We have it through church and friends, others might not. W/inmate

Re: Substance abuse programs:
- So few exist!
- The prison system fails to remember addiction is a sickness. They are quick to lock up but have way too little resources or extended waits for what resources they do have. Therefore the addict gets caught up in the revolving door. They definitely need better drug/substance abuse programs that continue once the offender is released, as well as job skills so the offender is not just continually thrown out of jail the same or worse than they were when they went in, with no money and no job.

Re: Medical care:
- Prescriptions are needed as well as visits with the doctor. Visits cost $10 each and some medications are refused to inmates.
- Make sure they get their medicine when family delivers it the day she came in and it been 5 days without her medicine. And I called and talked to a nurse at the jail. 

Re: Phone calls:
- The local calls are 21 cents a minute. That’s $3+ for a 15 minute call. Could be much cheaper and more affordable. (I have 4 children that want to speak with Daddy and he has to call more than once to speak with them)
- Calls are ridiculously expensive. Life continues for us out here. So we have to discuss lawyer, legal stuff, with our loved ones, which cannot always be done in 15 minutes. So then we end up paying $3.17+ for each 15 minute call till business is taken care of.

Re: Commissary:
- Commissary is expensive and needed by inmates. Family members provide the money to the accounts.
- Salt/pepper/mayo/mustard/ketchup not provided except as commissary items.

Re: More frequent visits:
- The definition of family is very limiting for some inmates.
- 30 minute visits are once per week and short especially with multiple visitors (4 children).
- Mothers to be able to bring strollers for their infants when visiting.
- We should have at least two visitations a week.

Re: The daily fee:
- The fees for inmates per day should be eliminated—another burden for family. ex: To provide money for commissary the fee per day must be added because it will be deducted before the inmate can receive commissary (along with medical fees) so to give $30 for commissary $60 or more must be deposited and that doesn’t include the fee for depositing.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

HARD TIME VIRGINIA, Volume II, Number 4

Harrisonburg Group Invites Author Dale Brumfield to Discuss His Latest Book

Dale Brumfield, currently with Virginians Against the Death Penalty, has just published a fascinating book on the history of Thomas Jefferson's brain child, the Virginia State Penitentiary. 

This notorious prison opened in 1800 and set the standard for the future of the American prison system for years to come. It was Virginia's only state prison until Mecklenberg Correctional Center was opened in 1976. Today there are 39 state prisons in Virginia, housing over 38,000 inmates, with a total of additional 30,000 or so in Virginia jails and federal prisons.

The Penitentiary's historic original building, since razed to make room for development in downtown Richmond, was designed by U.S. Capitol and White House architect Benjamin Latrobe, and was considered a sign of great improvement over the cruel and often public forms of punishment common in those days. But over time it became notorious for many of the wrong reasons.

From the book's cover:

"The prison endured severe overcrowding, three fires, an earthquake and numerous riots. More than 240 prisoners were executed there by electric chair. At one time, the ACLU called it the "most shameful prison in America." The institution was plagued by racial injustice, eugenics experiments and the presence of children imprisoned among adults." 

The Harrisonburg-based "Aging Persons In Prison Human Rights Campaign" group sponsored Brumfield's book-signing event.


September And October Parole Release Numbers Are The Lowest Ever

According to September and October parole release figures posted by the Parole Board consecutively just days ago, the Virginia Parole Board granted only 6 inmates parole releases in September, a grant rate of below 3%. In October, according to their report, they released no one. Not one. Zero. (They are also mandated, by the way, to post each month's results at the end of that month)


Some might reasonably ask whether these dismal numbers reflect one or both of the following:

1. The newly constituted Parole Board is unwilling to, or incapable of, carrying out its mission, which is to "grant parole to those offenders whose release is compatible with public safety." We all know there are scores of inmates who have made every effort for years to demonstrate they are worthy of release, who have worked hard to maintain an infraction-free record, have taken every rehabilitation and educational class possible, and who have earned solid recommendations both within and outside of prison.  In addition there are hundreds of inmates, at Deerfield Correctional Center and elsewhere, who are aging and ailing, are blind, in wheel chairs, and otherwise immobilized, and who are way beyond deserving of geriatric release.

2. The entire Virginia Department of Corrections system is utterly dysfunctional and void of any success in carrying out its mission, which is to "...enhance the quality of life in the Commonwealth by improving public safety... through reintegration of sentenced men and women in our custody and care by providing supervision and control, effective programs and re-entry services in safe environments which foster positive change and growth consistent with research-based evidence, fiscal responsibility, and constitutional standards."

Quotes From A Recent Article by David M. Reutter, "Parole Remains Elusive For Virginia Inmates"

"We have a different culture in this country than exists in Canada or Europe where people who have committed very bad crimes serve 20 years or so, and that is pretty significant punishment," said criminal defense attorney Steve Rosenfield. "Supporting that are our own studies in this country that show that once people reach their 30's and start aging into their 50's and 60's, the rate and incidence of crimes that are committed by them when they are released is exceedingly small."

"That applies especially to those serving time for the most violent crimes," says Reutter, "An often cited Stanford University study of 860 murderers released on parole in California found only five returned to prison for new crimes, none of which were for homicide."

A Veteran Reviews His Life On Veteran's Day

"God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, And wisdom to know the difference." 


I would like to add "And above all let us be kind"! This, to me, defines civility.

I served my country because I believe in what this country stands for...

Sometimes we do the wrong thing... When I did wrong, I confessed because it was the right thing to do. After being in the system for almost a decade now, I'm ashamed of this country's level of apathy and mistreatment of the poor (because a court appointed attorney is not a proper defense, I believe, due to a conflict of interest), of minorities (because there is still prejudice in this country even still after all that we've been through, how far we've come), the psychologically unhealthy (because there are no other institutions equipped to take care of them).

I can now say I have witnessed these things personally because here in the Department of Corrections, I have been subjected to more apathy than I thought possible. Ironically, I have experienced better treatment from my fellow inmates than staff, probably because during my walk here in prison I have witnessed more men trying to get right with God then I ever did on the street. The hardest thing I've had to deal with while in prison is apathy from the staff, being looked down upon and being treated child-like or subhuman. When you treat men as subhuman, subhumans are what you're going to release to the public.

I pray almost every day that I can overcome this incarceration and that this country can do better, but what God says comes to pass, "The love of men will wax cold!" That may be true for worldly man but not spiritual men and it doesn't have to be true for this nation-under-God. Writing this letter is my only veteran's day celebration because I may be ashamed of some things I've done but I've done many good things also. I'll always be proud of the twenty plus years for which I was honorably discharged and no one can ever take that experience from me and likewise I'll come out of this incarceration a better man, glory be to God, because it won't be according to my will or the will of the Department of Corrections. I've turned my will over to God. And this country can do better if it turns back to God as well!

- Anonymous Virginia Inmate, 55, incarcerated since 2008

Deerfield's Blind Poet Dedicates A Poem To Singer Patsy Cline

Friends and Neighbors: I am Minor Junior Smith, The Poor Mountain Boy, a brother in Christ. 
Some of Country Music's greatest stars, either living or deceased, helped me as I composed this song. Besides commemorating the birth and sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, it will also commemorate the late, and one of country music's greatest, Ms. Patsy Cline'. Her last airplane flight was on March 5th of 1963. She was on a goodwill mission when her plane crashed.

                           "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes?"
Mom would often talk of her children, her son's and her daughters so fair.
She said they were much like the wild wind, often neglectful to care.
I'm writing this down in a trench, Mom. Don't scold if It isn't so neat,
the way you did when I was a kid, and I'd come home with mud on my feet.

You know folks, This whole world is full of singers, and some were chosen to change our minds 
when they sing. Keep those big eight wheels a-rolling, make that lonesome whistle whine,
for she tells a world of stories as she whistles through the pines.

In the Death-Car, lies a convict with a number for a name,
and he's going home this morning on that old big river train.
And Ms. Loretta Lynn sang: "Last night I dreamt, I took a walk up on Calvary Hill,
and what I saw with mine own eyes could not have been more real."

Loretta said she dreamt she saw three men a hanging on crosses in agony.
She said that the two outsiders cried out in pain, but the one in the middle looked at her,
and friends, I sincerely believe 
that he was also looking at you and me.

"In the beginning was the Word,and the word was with God, and the word was God." (St John 1:1)
God blessed the souls from Memphis. "How great Thou Art" by Elvis.
Much too soon he left the world in tears.
And also in the sixties, young Johnny Cash's "Come Home son it's supper time" echoed through the years.

Does the heart of country music still beat from the late Hank Williams? 
Hank sang:" I saw the light."
He was called home before us, and let his precious love flow on through our days and nights.

"All things were made by him;and without him was not anything made that was made." (St John 1:3).
Whose gonna fill their shoes? Whose gonna have their say?
"The Great Speckled Bird" or "I Didn't Hear Nobody Pray"?
Whose gonna give of their heart and soul to get to me and you?
Lord, I wonder,whose gonna fill their shoes. Lord, I wonder,whose gonna fill their shoes.

What a beautiful thought I am thinking, concerning The Great Speckled Bird.
I heard the crash on the highway, but I didn't hear nobody pray. 

Friends, I cannot recall the rest of the late Roy Acuff's two songs of inspiration. But, if she is still living, then I believe that my former wife, whom I have not seen in over four decades, perhaps could, and also some of the songs by our late and great Patsy Cline.

- Minor Junior Smith

Friday, November 17, 2017

An Annual Back Yard Light And Color Show

Our white oak holds on to its faded brown coat all winter.
Only in May does  does it don its colorful spring outfit to replace the old.


For a very brief time in early April it is bare like
most normal deciduous  trees are in fall and winter.
Today was a pleasant Friday, one of my days off, to spend a couple of hours on our Snapper mower, bagger attached, sweeping up the last clippings of grass and remaining leaves that have fallen from the maple, walnut, river birch and fruit trees on our .4 acre yard. They are all added to a giant compost pile next to our garden, ready to become the blankets of mulch we put down between rows of corn, beans and other produce each spring.

Our young white oak, though, now some twenty-year-old, isn't ready to yield its faded leaves just yet, and will refuse to do so until its new 6-8 inch growth, with brand new leaf buds, begin to emerge in early spring. The oak (above) grew up voluntarily right against the trunk of a large pine that was like its protective parent until a storm a decade years ago forced it to the ground, leaving the orphan tree to stand alone and fend for itself.

There must be some metaphors about resurrection and new life in all of this, to be sure. Regardless, we get to enjoy the wonder of this ordinary half-acre portion of God's wonderful world we all get to delight in every day, year round.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Ten Commandments Test For Judge Moore

Alabama's Judge Roy Moore, widely known for having refused to remove the Ten Commandments monument he had installed in the rotunda of the state judicial building when he was chief justice, is now running for the US Senate from his state.

Here are some principles I believe are consistent with the Bible's "Ten Words" that I suggest all office seekers who claim to promote religious values review:

I. Thou shalt have no other gods before me, neither Mars, Mammon, nor 'America First'.

II. Thou shalt not make, defend or show devotion to, any graven images or statues glorifying war or warriors, Confederate or otherwise.

III. Thou shalt not make vain use of the name of the Lord your God, especially for supporting political causes in the name of religion.

IV. Remember the Sabbath by promoting respite, respect and just wages for all workers, and thus allow everyone ample time for worship, rest and for promoting their general welfare.

V. Honor mothers and fathers by making sure they are supported in old age with adequate healthcare and other basic needs.

VI. Thou shalt not kill, neither condone, support or defend the destruction of any human life, whether in the womb, in warfare or through the promotion of policies that harm the planet or its inhabitants.

VII. Thou shalt not commit nor condone adultery, nor defend those who debase or harass women, minorities or youth.

VII. Thou shalt not steal resources from the poor or the less powerful for the sake of gaining more wealth for those who are already well-to-do.

IX. Thou shalt not bear false witness against any individuals or groups, nor label as "fake news" evidence-based information with which you happen to disagree.

X. Thou shalt not covet or misuse the privileges, wealth and power that go with holding office, but hold everyone in equal regard and as being on the same level, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or gender.

(Then there's also the nine-point Beatitudes Test, but that's a subject for another post.)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Rx For The Anxious--A Dedicated "Worry Hour"


All of us worry, sometimes imagining worst outcomes in ways that rob us of sleep, appetite and our general joy of living.

With tongue partly in cheek, I've suggested to some folks (and to myself), that we set aside a special time every day for the sole purpose of focusing on worries--whether about finances, family, our future, or whatever. Then at other times of the day (or night), that we postpone dealing with those thoughts and feelings, simply filing them until our designated "Worry Hour".

It sounds wacky, but some folks have actually found this helpful. Of course, if that designated time rolls around and we really can't seem to think of anything worth worrying about, fine. But if there are some things on our worry list that really deserve our attention, we can do some or all of the following:

1. Use a journal to record our worries--raw, unedited, the worst--then write the kinds of responses we might make if a friend or family member were to share these same fears with us. Or write a letter to God, followed by a letter we might imagine a caring God writing to us in response.

2. Share some of our fears with a trusted friend, mentor or family member, via a phone call, visit or email.

3. Pray and meditate, imagining best case outcomes s well as worst ones. And reflect on all of the back-up assets we have in place in case we do suffer a bad illness or accident, experience a financial loss, or lose a loved one.

In other words, if we are to worry at all, let's do it with some intentionality and in a way that can offer us more positive results. And not have worries preoccupy our minds 24/7.

Life is just too short for that.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Book Signing Of The Story Of The "Most Shameful Prison In America" Set For 11/20/17

I recently met author Dale Brumfield, and am currently reading his fascinating page turner on the history of Thomas Jefferson's brain child, the Virginia State Penitentiary. This notorious prison opened in 1800 and  was Virginia's only state  prison until Mecklenberg Correctional Center was opened in 1976. Today there are 39 such correctional facilities in Virginia, housing a total of over 38,000 inmates (Over 30,000 additional individuals are housed in local jails and in federal prisons in Virginia).

The historic original penitentiary, since razed to make room for development in downtown Richmond, was designed by U.S. Capitol and White House architect Benjamin Latrobe, and represented a new approach to the rehabilitation of offenders in Virginia that was to be a great improvement over the harsh and often humiliating public forms of punishment common in those days. But over time "The Pen" became notorious for many of the wrong reasons.

From the book's cover:

"The prison endured severe overcrowding, three fires, an earthquake and numerous riots. More than 240 prisoners were executed there by electric chair. At one time, the ACLU called it the "most shameful prison in America." The institution was plagued by racial injustice, eugenics experiments and the presence of children imprisoned among adults." 

Please join author Dale Brumfield at the monthly meeting of the local chapter of "Aging Persons in Prison Human Rights Campaign" at its regular meeting at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Harrisonburg at 7:30 pm Monday, November 20, to get a signed copy of the book, or bring your copy of the book to have it signed if you've already purchased one. They can be purchased on line at 
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/virginia-state-penitentiary-dale-brumfield/1126526853?ean=9781467137638#/.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Gun Violence--Our Out-Of-Control Cancer

I'm weary of hearing nothing can be done about gun deaths.
"A well regulated tobacco industry being necessary to the prosperity of a free State, the right of the people to grow and use nicotine products shall not be infringed."
**************
If an Amendment such as this had become a part of our Constitution we would be having some serious debate over how we should define or defend it. But hopefully, we wouldn't just throw up our hands and avoid doing whatever possible to limit deaths from cigarettes and other nicotine products.

I propose an all out war on gun violence that would resemble the one we have been successfully waging on cancer.

Here are some parallels:

Cancer is a major cause of deaths among adults and children alike, as is gun violence. No one is safe from either threat, and no one knows all of its causes nor all the different forms these two killer problems can take. We recognize that no groups or individuals are immune from their harms or free of blame for contributing to them. There are no simple answers, no easy cures.

Since cancer is a complex disease which takes many forms, most reasonable people agree that ongoing research is needed over whatever time necessary in order to reduce cancer deaths and produce cancer cures. In the case of gun violence, Congress, under intense and ongoing pressure from the NRA, has actually withheld funds for such research.

In the case of deaths by cancer, we would consider it inadequate and inappropriate for legislators refusing to fund research or work at solutions to simply offer condolences to victims, as in, "You are in our thoughts and prayers."

Just because we can't pinpoint all of the reasons for deaths from cancer we don't throw up our hands and assume nothing can be done. As with any killer disease, we know some of what we need to know already, but recognize much more needs to be learned, and we are willing to join hands with people everywhere in search of a way to save as many lives as possible.

If one "shoe bomber" was given three life sentences and the rest of have had to take off our shoes at airports ever since, we can likewise commit to "regulating" the use of all explosive devices in the interest of saving lives, whether musket loaders (as allowed by the founders), hand grenades, shoes packed with gun powder, or other far more deadly weapons.

Tackling gun violence in these ways should never be seen as a left or right, liberal or conservative, Democratic or Republican issue. This is about saving the lives of men, women and children everywhere. In the near term, we won't be able to save everyone, but pro-lifers everywhere must do everything possible to preserve as many human lives as possible.

Here are some links to other posts on the subject:
http://harvyoder.blogspot.com/search?q=gun+violence

Saturday, November 4, 2017

MKC and EMU: Comparisons and Contrasts

Meserete Christos College, Ethiopia
Eastern Mennonite University, USA
Last evening Alma Jean and I attended a fund raising dinner at the Lindale Mennonite Church for the Meserete Christos College in Ethiopia, founded in 1994 and established at its present campus in 2007. It currently has nearly 200 men and women enrolled at its main campus, and over 200 at two satellite locations and in its distance education programs.

MKC was founded by Ethiopia's Meserete Kristos ("Christ the Foundation") Church, which has over 310,000 baptized members meeting at more than 2000 locations, and with a total attendance of well over 500,000. This means it now has well over five times the Sunday attendance of its mother church, Mennonite Church USA (MCUSA), which has 19 district conferences and a current 70,000 members.  

As a reflection of the huge disparity in wealth among worldwide Mennonites, MCUSA has a total of five colleges and two seminaries, each with budgets far surpassing that of this one fledgling Anabaptist-related college in Ethiopia, with an annual operating budget of around $450,000.

Tuition and room and board at MKC are just over $2000 a year in US dollars, but that is far more than most of its students can afford, Ethiopia being one of the poorest nations of the world. Thus much of last night's appeal was for more money for its scholarship fund. 

A year at EMU costs over $46,000, although significant financial aid is available. As a result of such factors as rising costs, a shrinking Mennonite constituency, and increased competition from other liberal arts colleges and universities, EMU is struggling to keep its enrollment numbers up, in spite of aggressive year-round recruitment efforts. Fewer than a third of its current students are Mennonites.

MKC, by contrast, almost exclusively serves its rapidly expanding mother church, Meserete Christos, which is hard pressed to train enough pastors and church leaders to serve its growing needs. It has absolutely no problem recruiting students, and would be able to greatly increase its enrollment if only more funds were available.

There is something wrong with this disparity. If we really believe that God shows no favoritism, and that we are all a part of one worldwide body of believers, how can we justify this embarrassing gap in distribution of resources?

At the very least, I would like to see us begin appointing believers from the Global South to serve as decision-making board members of each of our church institutions (via skype?). And meanwhile, should we consider a moratorium on new construction or expansion of our existing institutions until our world neighbors have more of their needs met? And should MCUSA have its colleges and seminaries become one "multiversity" (on separate campuses) to avoid competing with each other for needed dollars and adequate student enrollment?

A fascinating story, well told
I'm currently reading Don Kraybill's fascinating history of EMU's first 100 years. Some of the struggles and sacrifices associated with the early chapters of its story remind me of those of MKC's founding. 

I hope Meserete Christos College can learn from EMU's story, and that EMU can learn from theirs.

FYI, the total funds raised last night by the 70 or so of us attending was just under $7000. If you live in the US and want to contribute, please send your generous check to MK College Link, Box 1701, Harrisonburg, VA 22803.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

You Can Help Gemeinschaft Home's "Raise The Roof" Campaign With A $1000 Loan

Here's a  low-cost and pain-free way to help a good cause.
Gemeinschaft Home just approved installing a much needed new metal roof  on the back of the house that should last for a lifetime. To raise the $33,000 needed for this project, which also includes some necessary work on the front porch, we are soliciting three-year, interest-free loans of $1000 or more, all to be repaid by the end of 2020. Of course, outright gifts of any amount are also welcomed and appreciated!

As a member of Gemeinschaft's Networking and Fundraising Committee, I have agreed to promote this financing effort, one I hope to have completed by the end of this month.

We did a similar "loan-raising" campaign in 2011 to fund an efficient furnace system to heat and provide hot water for the Home, which has resulted in significant cost savings to the program. At the end of the three year period everyone who loaned money was repaid in full from a fund that Gemeinschaft created and added to for this purpose each month (Some individuals chose at the end to turn their loan into a gift).

We would like to raise the necessary commitments in gifts or loans in the next several weeks if possible. You can write a check for $1000 or more with "roof project" in the memo line and mail it to Gemeinschaft Home, P.O. Box 288, Harrisonburg, VA 22803. You will then receive a promissory note for the full amount to be redeemed in December, 2020, if you wish.

Please check the Gemeinschaft website or call 434-1690 for more information.

Thanks in advance for your generous help!