Watching for the Spirit

DSC03366-edited-500w

Gardeners gathered for the Going to the Garden retreat and vision meeting. Photo by Growing Power

A reflection by Nathan Hosler, director of the Office of Public Witness

It was late March a few years ago, and the winter chill seemed to be breaking. Since the day was beautiful and I was feeling good, I decided, mid-run, to go a little farther. After crossing the Anacostia River at the 11th Street bridge, I continued along the riverside trail. The morning sun was shining on my left shoulder and my back as I trotted on the bike trail, tall and dry meadow grass on both sides. I then saw a red-winged blackbird. It was perched and wobbling on a plant. The bird tipped toward me and then—as I caught a full view of red-orange patches illuminated in direct morning sunlight—it took flight.

A few days before Pentecost this year, I was running in the morning, again. This time it was in Wisconsin at a Going to the Garden retreat and vision meeting. On this particular run through the farmland I noticed a wild turkey take flight—fast, heavy, barreling through the sky just above the field. Upon returning to our lodging, I paused next to a flowering bush and watched hummingbirds flit and dip.

We had gathered to watch for the Spirit with gardeners from the lower ninth ward in New Orleans, Maryland, Alaska, and near a Navajo reservation in New Mexico. Going to the Garden began several years ago as a way to encourage and support congregations to engage their communities and address food insecurity and hunger. This project has been a joint effort between the Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C., and the Global Food Initiative (formerly the Global Food Crisis Fund).

Most of the gardeners did not start with a grand plan but caught a glimpse of a new possible reality. In Alaska, a connection with people from the Gwich’in First Nation was formed through a shared experience of hunting, which led to a new relationship and an invitation to return. Through this relationship, we learned about the health challenges of the Gwich’in community, and consequently drew Brethren to garden there every summer for nearly 10 years.

From the Wisconsin gathering emerged the idea of garden advocates. Several interested Going to the Garden partners will be able to apply for funding through the Global Food Initiative to fund a member of their local community to become a garden advocate. These advocates will work to expand the capacity of the projects, engage with the Office of Public Witness in local and national level advocacy as it relates to food security and hunger, and provide additional support for publicity and outreach.

We have heard stories of efforts meeting community needs for food, connections forming between churches and their communities, youth being empowered, grandparents in Native American communities sharing food-growing knowledge with youth, and how valuable denominational staff have been for support. The movement of the Spirit has been evident and noted. Many of these stories have and will continue to show up in places likes Messenger magazine, the Going to the Garden Facebook page and webpage, and on YouTube.

The Holy Spirit often is pictured as a dove. I don’t want to claim too much for the red-winged blackbird, the hummingbird, or even the turkey, but the flight of these birds is a reminder of the movement of God all around us. While denominational structures shift, individuals in leadership change, and programs morph for new vision, the Spirit continues to move.

As we continue to watch for the Spirit, I invite you to support the ongoing work of the Office of Public Witness, and all of the ministries of the Church of the Brethren, both financially and prayerfully. Your partnership is essential for the ongoing work of these programs, and it is only through your support that these ministries continue.

Learn more about the work of the Office of Public Witness at www.brethren.org/witness or support it today at www.brethren.org/give .

Proclaiming freedom

CCS leaders: from the left, Becky Ullom Naugle, Richard Newton, Jesse Winter, and Nate Hosler. Photo by Kendra Harbeck

CCS leaders: from the left, Becky Ullom Naugle,
Richard Newton, Jesse Winter, and Nate Hosler.
Photo by Kendra Harbeck

 A reflection from the 2016 Christian Citizenship Seminar

On April 23rd, Church of the Brethren youth from around the country met in New York City to learn about mass incarceration at Christian Citizenship Seminar (CCS). After hearing from Dr. Richard Newton, a professor at Elizabethtown College, and Ashley Ellis, an advocate for persons reentering society, the youth began to see the connection between mass incarceration and racism in the United States. The youth traveled to Washington, D.C. to continue learning about the issue and to prepare for legislative visits with their senators and representatives. During their visits to Capitol Hill, the youth asked their legislators to support sentencing reform legislation and bills that aided with prison reentry programs. Melen Ghebrai from Olympic View Church of the Brethren (Seattle, Wash.) offered the following reflection about her time at CCS.
—Jesse Winter, 
Brethren Volunteer Service worker serving with the Office of Public Witness 

CCS was an incredible life- changing experience. We began the week instantly exposed to the injustices of the criminal justice system and the immediate urge of reconstruction rather than reform. Each day we had new speakers explain what was happening and why it was important. I recognized the injustice but was confused about what we could do about it. As a high school student and person of color, all throughout my life I have been given the impression that my opinions on certain social and political issues do not matter. CCS, however, changed my doubt and gave me the voice I longed for. Throughout the week each powerful speaker built my passion, interests, and my desire to advocate for a renewed system in society that provides redemption and mercy for its citizens.

At CCS, I met several students from around the U.S and even overseas who share the same faith as me and belong to the Church of the Brethren, and this created a sense of community. We learned beside each other and asked questions, which fueled our interest and passion. As the week came to an end, we divided into groups for our lobby visits. I was accompanied by a volunteer from BVS, but did the visits mostly on my own. The experience was rewarding and very powerful.

Just a week prior I was sitting in a classroom advocating for students pushed from the school to the prison pipeline. It was nice walking through Capitol Hill and meeting with senators and representatives who are pushing for an end to this destructive system. CCS is something I would be very happy to attend next year. It was an opportunity that opened new doors and enlightened youth about the importance of remaining socially aware on the issues and solutions that shape our country.

Christian Citizenship Seminar is organized by the Office of Public Witness and Youth and Young Adult Ministries of the Church of the Brethren. Learn more about CCS at www.brethren.org/ccs, or support this ministry today at www.brethren.org/give.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Move mountains

As we seek to raise valleys and lower mountains  to make way for our God, your help is essential. Photo by Glenn Riegel

As we seek to raise valleys and lower mountains
to make way for our God, your help is essential.
Photo by Glenn Riegel

By Matt DeBall, coordinator of Donor Communications

January. A new beginning. A fresh start. In these first few weeks of the year, we have the perfect opportunity to take stock of lifestyle habits, try new patterns, set goals, or even chart a new course altogether. For Christ-followers, it only seems natural to also consider how to love God and neighbor in new ways.

In seeking to respond anew to the movement of God, I can’t help but think of our recent celebration of Christmas. The prophet Isaiah shares, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low…. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed” (Isaiah 4:3-5).

While this scripture is traditionally used in beautiful Advent liturgies and alludes to the coming of the Christ-child, it is also a call to continually make way for the Kingdom of God in our world. Our God is coming, and we need to move mountains to make the road ready. This challenge from the prophet also reveals the way in which God, as our sovereign Lord, desires for us to be prepared for the Holy Spirit to make bold moves in us and through us every day.

Changing geological features as Isaiah describes certainly seems like a daunting task, but as Jesus shared with his disciples, faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains (Matthew 17:20). By trusting in our Savior, we have enough faith to raise any valley and flatten every mountain. With Jesus, every roadblock to God’s Kingdom is removed.

As we begin this year, your Church of the Brethren staff are planning for numerous opportunities to make way for our God and share love with one another. Brethren Volunteer Service is getting ready to recruit, train, and place volunteers in the US and around the world. Congregational Life Ministries is preparing to grow faith and train leaders at events like the Church Planting Conference and National Young Adult Conference, and partner with the Office of Public Witness to facilitate discussions about “Proclaiming Freedom: The Racial Injustice of Mass Incarceration.” The Workcamp Office is gearing up for a summer of “Blazing with Holiness” at more than 20 workcamps in the US, Puerto Rico, and Northern Ireland. Youth and Young Adult Ministries and the Office of Ministry are preparing for Ministry Summer Service interns and mentors. Global Mission and Service continues to walk with international partners and sense new places where God may be leading.

In preparing for God’s favor and a fruitful year of ministry, we recognize that we can’t do this alone. As the saying goes, “many hands make light work.” Now and throughout this year, we need your prayerful and financial support. As we seek to raise valleys and lower mountains to make way for our God, your help is essential. We pray that you will join us as we love God and neighbor in the year ahead.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Walking with Brethren in the Dominican Republic

Pastor Sauveur Charles from La Descubierta Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic explains the regularization process to Jeff Boshart. Photo by Nathan Hosler

Pastor Sauveur Charles from La Descubierta Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic explains the regularization process to Jeff Boshart.
Photo by Nathan Hosler

By Nathan Hosler, director of the Office of Public Witness

Statelessness. Ecumenical cooperation. Regularization. These are words that describe the work of the Office of Public Witness. Words that make many eyes glaze over. But these words of jargon are closely linked to the actual lives of our sisters and brothers in the Dominican Republic. For them, these words are critical—not abstract, theoretical, or of little interest.

This past December, Jeff Boshart, manager of the Global Food Crisis Fund and the Emerging Global Mission Fund, and I traveled to Haiti and the Dominican Republic to visit the Brethren churches there. In 2013, there was a change of legislation declaring that all persons of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic after 1929 were rendered not Dominican. Since they were not born in Haiti, they were also deemed not Haitian. People caught between these parameters became stateless—a legal issue of citizenship but also an enormous risk of exploitation and trafficking. Additionally, those who immigrated to the Dominican Republic before 2007 needed to complete an expensive, difficult regularization process.

As Jeff and I met with people in this situation, it became increasingly apparent that the system wasn’t working. Many could not begin the process of regularization because of the great distances from their homes to the appropriate offices. Others had begun the process, but had spent all their money through repeated trips with little or no progress. In this situation we, and the Brethren in the D.R., engaged in ecumenical cooperation and coordinated between US denominational programs to offer help.

As you read this now, much has changed. In late spring, Global Mission and Service began assisting Dominican pastors to support Brethren in the registration process, and Church of the Brethren congregations in Miami, Fla., sought ways to provide support. Also, in Washington, D.C., the Office of Public Witness communicated concerns and shared in strategic collaboration with organizations like Church World Service. Recently, with the threat of mass deportations from the D.R., that may begin as soon as August 1, the government of Haiti has said it is unprepared to handle a great influx of people. Nonetheless, we continue to advocate for all who are stateless.

The issues we see in the Dominican Republic and in other places are not simply for a policy wonk or theologian—they are issues of life, livelihood, and family. I know many of us feel overwhelmed by the great needs we see, the seemingly endless conflicts, and continued injustices. However, we must endure in faithfully bearing witness to Jesus who gives life and a sense of belonging to all.

Grants of $16,000 have already been allocated by Global Mission and Service and the Emergency Disaster Fund (with plans to give more) to support Dominican Haitian Brethren in the regularization process. Learn more about Church of the Brethren international partnerships at www.brethren.org/partners .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Growing friendships

Squash harvested from the garden at  Mount Morris Church of the Brethren. Photo by Carol Erickson

Squash harvested from the garden at
Mount Morris Church of the Brethren.
Photo by Carol Erickson

By Carol Erickson, garden coordinator for the Mount Morris (Ill.) Church of the Brethren

Plans for our garden at the Mount Morris Church of the Brethren began on a snowy evening in 2009. Experienced and rookie gardeners, church people, limited income adults, and curious individuals gathered to discuss planting 32 garden plots across the street from the church. We decided that this garden would be dedicated to growing produce for the Loaves and Fish Food Pantry. Five years later, the garden has become not only a place to grow food but a place to grow friendships.

Many individuals have helped plan and tend our community garden. In January, we gathered to share favorite hot dishes, pore over seed catalogs, and brainstorm ways to improve the garden. A local farmer offered his Japanese beetle-free farm for growing sweet corn and winter squash. Elderly residents of the Pinecrest Community grew seedlings of tomatoes, peppers, and herbs that were transplanted to the garden in May. In the spring, members of the church and community planted 50 pounds of potatoes, 20 asparagus plants, 20 new strawberry plants, and more.

The “Going to the Garden” grant from the Global Food Crisis Fund and the Office of Public Witness, which empowers congregations to start or improve community gardens, has helped us reach our goals. Thanks to the extra funds, we have improved access to water by purchasing hoses and instruments to collect rainwater off the church. We have increased productivity by building new frames to contain each plot of vegetables, and by installing cattle gates to support the growth of tomato plants. We have also strengthened the community aspect of the garden by painting two weathered picnic tables and adorning them with umbrellas for shade.

To further improve the community of the garden, we offer planned activities. Gardeners gathered in June at the Mount Morris Senior Center to can strawberry jam. Monthly potlucks allow gardeners to prepare tasty dishes and share from their garden’s abundance. The garden is also available for picnics.

By harvest time, our community garden will provide over 5,000 pounds of vegetables to the food pantry, and residents of Pinecrest Community will receive two deliveries of sweet corn. We are so thankful for the “Going to the Garden” grant. It has helped us grow healthy, fresh produce for many, and cultivate meaningful relationships. It has helped us come a long way since that first snowy night.

“Going to the garden” is a joint initiative of the Global Food Crisis Fund and the Office of Public Witness. Visit brethren.org/givegfcf to support this ministry today.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Statelessness & the Least of These: Nationality, Identity, and When You Have Neither

A week ago I boarded a flight from DC to Amsterdam to head to the World Council of Churches’ Consultation on Statelessness and the First Global Forum on Statelessness where participants from over 70 countries were present. We had booked a flight, made sure I had a place to stay, and I quickly packed about 2 hours before leaving for the week long trip. The organizers of the World Council of Churches’ Consultation on Statelessness knew I was coming but other than the airline and the hostel, the Netherlands was unaware of my imminent arrival as was the US of my departure. Though unannounced I sailed through passport control barely breaking my stride.

While as an Anabaptist/Church of the Brethren variety of Christian I am rather ambivalent concerning nationality and the notion of national identity this ease of border crossing (and my presumption that they will let me back in upon arrival in DC) is a level of assurance that is, well, assuring. This is, however, far from universal experience.

The two conferences I have been attending, both the WCC’s consultation and the First Global Forum on Statelessness, deal with people on precisely the opposite end of the spectrum. It is estimated that there are more than 10 million people throughout the world that are stateless. By stateless we mean they are without a nationality and without the benefits that this typically confers. People can be de jure or de facto stateless. The former is when a person is legally without a nationality and the latter is when someone is unable to effectively establish their nationality or whose nationality is either disputed or ineffective.

Nate WCC-Stateless-Hague

Director Nate Hosler with other World Council of Churches participants

Some discussion around statelessness focuses on the lack of identity that people feel. During this part of the discussion is where I feel some ambivalence. As a follower of Jesus, in whom “there is no Jew or Greek” and presumably no American, Canadian, or Nigerian, I hold that the nation-state is not the locus of identity. So while I don’t wish to under value people’s sense of displacement I find the lack of national identity a less poignant of the many concerns bound up in statelessness.

Much discussion however, focuses on those communities and individuals who suffer severely from neglect and active repression. At the WCC consultation we were visited by Imon Khan. He was part of the Rohyinga ethnic minority in Myanmar. In 1982 a change in citizenship laws rendered thousands of Rohyinga stateless. Iman was one of those who ended up in Bangladesh stateless. Eventually after both parents died and someone convinced him that he would easily find a job in the Netherlands he paid a smuggler to get him to Amsterdam.

Upon arrival he was alternately conned out of his money and pushed to the streets. When he visited the consultation he wore a hat pulled low. In addition to telling his story he said he suffered from high blood pressure from the anxiety and uncertainty. Eventually throughout the afternoon and evening he spent with the group he removed his hat and began to relax. Upon leaving he said that this was the first time in his 26 year life that he felt like people had treated him like a human. While I don’t want to over analyze this brief encounter it illustrates the double component of lack of identity and belonging as well as the risk and deprivation that stateless persons experience.

In hopes of helping people like Imon, we drafted a statement affirming the the WCC’s 10th Assembly statement adopted last year on statelessness and recommending ways in which we as member churches can begin or continue to address statelessness in our corners of the world. The statement we released this week set our theological commitments alongside the problem before moving on to concrete recommendations

  • “The underlying theological assumption of active concern for those who are suffering is the belief that all people created by God constitute an inextricable unity. Solidarity and compassion are virtues that all Christians are called to practice, regardless of their possessions, as signs of their Christian discipleship. Compassion and care for one another and acknowledging the image of God in all humanity is at the core of our Christian identity and an expression of Christian discipleship.”
  • “These biblical and theological bases motivate us as churches and Christian bodies to express our Christian commitment and to be engaged in our prophetic witness to speak for the rights of those who are voiceless and marginalized as stateless people.”—(Full Statement Here)

As I board the plane tomorrow and make the journey home I will certainly be thinking about the many things I heard and remembering the many people I met. More importantly, however, I will be reflecting on the ways the Office of Public Witness can bring the issue of statelessness and the people affected into our work.

In Christ’s Peace,

Nate Hosler
(nhosler@brethren.org)

Transformed Seeing: Learning from Farm Workers

A little over a week ago I went south to Raleigh, North Carolina for the National Farm Worker Ministry’s board meeting. While my primary objective was to participate in the meetings and activities of the board I did manage to wander the streets of Raleigh the evening before and try out some Carolina BBQ. Today I want to spend some time telling what I saw and reflecting on this in light of the scripture passages we read earlier.

Nate preachning about the farm workers at Washington City Church of the Brethren

Nate preachning about the farm workers at Washington City Church of the Brethren

In Isaiah 51 we read

“Look to the rock from which you were hewn. Look to Abraham your father”

The prophet is calling the people to remember where they came from—to remember that God had delivered them and called them to righteousness and justice. This “remember” reminded me of being in middle school or high school, particularly early on when going out on my own was a newer experience. My parents, rather than listing specific rules that might include things like—“no driving stupidly even though you imagine yourself invincible” or “don’t drink,” they said something to the effect of “remember who you are.” A list of rules would have been tedious and likely not particularly effective. But by saying “remember who you are” they included the entirety of what they had taught and shown during my growing up.

The prophet is calling the people to remember where they came from. To remember they are a people of righteousness and justice and that God delivered them from slavery.

Two days after I arrived home from the National Farm Worker Ministry board meeting I was on a plane to Chicago in order to participate in Church of the Brethren staff meetings in Elgin. Like a good board member I had purchased a NFWM T-Shirt and was wearing it for my day of travel. I had a window seat and was the first person on in my three seat row. While sitting there, looking out the window, and not planning on talking to anyone I suddenly heard—“Oh, we get to sit with the National Farm Worker Ministry.” I looked up to see two women who at first I thought may be Catholic sisters (there are a lot of Catholics in farm worker organizing—and a number of representatives of Catholic women’s orders—nuns—on the NFWM board). It turns out that they were Episcopalian and were professors at Virginia Theological Seminary. It also turns out that they had done work with NFWM quite a long time ago but hadn’t heard much from them for many years.

Now I am in no way implying that they deserted good work and were being unfaithful but my bright red t-shirt that read—“Justice for Farm Workers” reminded them of their past. It reminded them of this particular fight for justice. For these friends, even though they hadn’t been connected with NFWM they had still been concerned and active in struggles for justice, caring for neighbor and the earth. This was not the case for the Israelites. For the Israelites the Prophet is calling them to a radical change back to the way of God. Isaiah calls them to remember who they are–a delivered people—a people of justice and righteousness. Remember where you came from.

While Isaiah in general as a book focuses on Israel’s vocation of justice, righteousness, and relationship to God these few verses specifically remind of several things: where they came from, that the Lord will comfort, that justice will go out in teaching as a light to the nations, and deliverance is coming. This passage focus on these three—where they came from, the salvation of the Lord and (very briefly) that this entails justice. Isaiah reminds us of this as well—we are a people delivered—saved—and called to justice.

On the first day of the meeting we went to visit farm workers. Specifically we visited and listened to farm worker organizers from FLOC (Farm Labor Organizing Campaign) and then to labor camps. The founder of FLOC, Baldemar Velasquez spoke to us of his early years of working in the fields and how he came to do this work, which started many decades ago. He started in the fields at age six and organized his first strike at age 12. As migrant farm workers his family moved with the seasons. One year the farmer offered to keep his father on to do handyman work during the winter. Since there weren’t crops to pick Baldemar was able to go to school. He said that the small house the family lived in was so poorly insulated and cold he didn’t need prodding to go to the well heated school.

One of the challenges that farm workers face is that often there are no pay stubs or records of how much they worked and what their pay is. They simply get an envelope with money and have no way of assuring that they are getting paid what they are supposed to. (This pay is also quite low so every bit earned is critical). This is how Baldemar’s father was paid. On one particular occasion he was certain that his envelope didn’t contain all that was owed him. Though he knew it risky, he desperately needed the money, so he decided to ask his supervisor about it. When he did this the man verbally abused him. Young Baldemar was witness to this. It was at this time that he began to question this system. He then told us of successful campaigns in the past, and he told of what they are working on now.

Later in the day we broke up into 3 different groups and visited several labor camps. Sometimes these camps are official but meager structures provided by the farm, sometimes they are unofficial actual camps, and sometimes it is a room or trailer that the workers need to pay rent for. One such trailer visited by a board member on another trip was dilapidated, crowded, and cost each worker $50 a week –which when calculated cost more than the board members child was paying for an apartment in New York City. My group visited two camps.

We went to see—but how do we see?

 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.–Romans 12:1-2

Chapter 12 follows Paul’s describing the Gentile readers’ being grafted into the vine of the family of God. This chapter and these verses are the result of this new relationship and connection to God. “by the mercies of God—to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Note the elements of this. Bodies are presented to God for spiritual worship. While this may feel repetitious it is critical that we keep before us that “spiritual” and “material” are not separated. How we live is not separate from how we worship. Being a Christian, a follower of Jesus, cannot be distilled down to “being a good person” or “worshipping God with a pure heart.”

The passage continues, 2 “Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Don’t be conformed but transformed. Don’t be stuffed into the world’s mold but be changed into something new. This being conformed indicates a restriction. A restriction in how we live, relate to others, see, and hear. One risk of this “world” language is that at times Christians have set a hard barrier between themselves and the “world” which is seen to be corrupt. I would like to make a slight distinction in how I believe the Bible uses “world” and some of the ways we might understand this. The Psalms, for example, celebrate many things in the world. That is they celebrate creation but also celebrate food and relationships. These things certainly can be over celebrated, abused, or worshiped but are in and of themselves beautiful and part of God’s good gifts. There is another, darker, understanding of world that I believe this passage is responding to. It is, for example, the system and habits of greed which place our own selves above others, above God, and above God’s creation. The old Brethren sought to distance themselves from this world by a variety of practices of non-conformity. One small thing was that men did not have mustaches because elaborate mustaches were signs of vanity and were also associated with the military. We also had unadorned churches—which were called meeting houses—so that we would focus on God and not seek to look good.

The passage doesn’t, however, stop with a negative “do not conform” but continues with a “be transformed.” “But be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Being transformed we will know the will of God. Being transformed will begin to see like God. See in the way God sees. Hold this vision of transformed seeing for a bit while I head back to the farm workers.

During a time of reflecting on our experiences meeting farm workers and organizers the day before, a question mark arose. Most of these workers had gone to great lengths to get here and many have stayed for many years. While there have been cases of virtual or actual slavery, in Florida, for example, this is not exactly what we found. My group spoke with a man from Haiti who has been picking tobacco for 34 years. This despite the sickness people often feel from absorbing significant nicotine from handling the tobacco. Another worker we met is soon turning 28 and has been here for 9 years. When he described his home in Mexico with abundant fruits we asked why he stayed. He said he has friends and its “quiet”—that he liked it.  When he brought out a large bucket which holds 32 lbs of jalapeño peppers we asked how long it took to pick—15 minutes. And how much do you make from it?–$1, so that’s $4 an hour. There were probably hundreds of peppers in this large bucket. His fingers were blistered from the repetition of picking for 11-12 hours.

Though these conditions were obviously bad some of the group began to wonder why, if people keep coming and seem content, why do we do what we do? While some noted that this situation was complex, David of the United Methodists urged us not to call it complexity. Call it what it is—a system of greed. “Complexity” gives the impression of moral ambiguity. This is a system of greed and my desire for cheap food is a cause.

This is part of the being transformed. This is part of my seeing being transformed.

One of the participants was a visitor to the board meeting. She is a seminary student interested in food and environmental justice who the director invited to join us. She was in my group and met the jalapeño picking fellow. When we reflected as a group on this experience she spoke and was obviously moved. She said, “For several years I worked in a grocery store. I unloaded boxes of peppers from a particular farm. I saw those boxes at the farm today. (paraphrase)” These boxes were no longer just boxes filled somewhere somehow. They were filled by Sergio. Her vision was transformed.

Now this is not a call to paralyzing guilt but it is a call to attend to the transforming of our vision–to our total transformation. When our seeing is transformed—unsurprisingly, we see differently. How do we see? Who do we see?

Do we see the farm workers hidden from our sight back off the road? Do we see the system with its greed? Do we see our involvement? Do we see the people who abuse the workers?

Do we see Jesus?

“2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Go now, transformed.

–Nathan Hosler

Columbus, here we come!

Photo by Joel Brumbaugh-Cayford

Photo by Joel Brumbaugh-Cayford

“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5).

Annual Conference is two weeks away! Whether you’ll be in Columbus in person or not, there are many ways to participate in this important ministry of the Church of the Brethren. Here are a few ideas:

  • Daily offerings – During most evening worship services, an offering will be taken to support the ministry of Annual Conference. Funds raised will help cover the many expenses of producing such an efficient and creative conference. To participate online, visit www.brethren.org/giveac2014 .
  • Webcasting – If you won’t be at Annual Conference in person, be sure to join us online for all worship services and business sessions at www.brethren.org/acwebast . Webcasting is complimentary, but it is expensive, so please support our virtual community at www.brethren.org/giveac2014 .
  • Witness to the Host City – During Thursday evening worship, socks, disposable diapers, and hygiene kits will be collected for this year’s Witness to the Host City. Visit www.brethren.org/acwitnessto find what you can bring to share the love of Jesus with Columbus.
  • Special offering – A special offering will be taken during Friday evening worship this year. It will support the core mission and ministries of the Church of the Brethren like Congregational Life Ministries, Global Mission and Service, the Offices of Ministry and Public Witness, and many, many others. Participating in this special offering on July 4 will support the life-changing ministries of the Church of the Brethren, but if you can’t wait until then, visit www.brethren.org/give today.

“Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).

(Read this issue of eBrethren)