Last December, unbeknownst to each other, my daughter-in-law and I bought each other bamboo toothbrushes as Christmas presents. Earlier in the year, she had heard me lament the plastic toothbrushes I was regularly contributing to the local landfill. In the larger scheme, those toothbrushes didn’t seem very important, but the long life of those plastic handles was an uncomfortable reality.
Every winter, I hear a radio advertisement for a back-to-the-woods summer children’s camp in Ontario. The ad closes with the tagline, “You send us your child, and we’ll send you back a new one.” It’s a great slogan. It points out that renewal and transformation occur when people are pulled away from their daily routines to spend time in the great outdoors.
I got my first taste of journalism at a Mennonite school. As a second-year English major, I began writing for The Weather Vane, the student newspaper at Eastern Mennonite College (now Eastern Mennonite University), in Harrisonburg, Va. The following year I accepted the challenge of becoming co-editor of the features section.
In the past few weeks, a theme has emerged in my Advent singing and Scripture reading: fear.
Fear is all around us. A recent book about a fearmongering president is on the bestseller list. Politicians and pundits stoke a public paranoia, using it to boost their own power. Credible scientific reports alert us to the troubling facts surrounding present and future climate change.
Since 1939, Mennonite women in British Columbia have been gathering each spring for a day of spiritual encouragement and fellowship. But this year, as the planned date approached, no location had been determined and no one had stepped up to coordinate the day. Was the tradition dead? One concerned woman took the initiative and secured a speaker, found a meeting place and hired a caterer.
The young couple was living far from home, juggling college studies and part-time work, in preparation for overseas missionary work. Their first child was due and then complications set in. It was a difficult birth, and the hospital bill totalled much more than their meagre budget allowed. When the time came for the new father to take mother and baby home, the hospital authorities balked.
In a recent adult Sunday school class, a member of my church spoke about her quarter-century journey of relating to Indigenous people. Twenty-five years and still learning, she admitted. Given the centuries of injustice and pain our neighbours have experienced, that doesn’t seem like such a long time.
The allegation of sexual abuse at a church camp (on page 13) reminds us of the sad reality that sexual abuse touches the church community in profound ways. The example of Christ and our peace theology compel us to recognize and to address the violence that happens in our midst.
“I enjoy the magazine very much. Will you keep printing it? I don’t have a computer,” wrote a reader in British Columbia this June. She was responding to our spring fundraising appeal. A reader in Ontario also said, “We do not have a computer, so we enjoy the printed CM.”
Thank you for letting us know!
It is June 20, World Refugee Day. Near the Mexico-U.S. border, thousands of people are waiting. Fleeing conflict and violence in their own countries, they are seeking safety. Reports emerge of refugee children being detained and separated from their parents, who are also locked up. These families are torn apart by a policy of “zero tolerance” for so-called “illegal immigrants.”
The concept is simple. In a public place, an older adult sits on a green bench that is marked with the hashtag #ElderWisdom. Community members are invited to sit and engage in conversation about the senior’s life, experience and insights. Afterwards, community members can share about their experience on social media, using the hashtag.
Recently, my husband and I sat with friends at a table in an Ethiopian restaurant. As we dipped pieces of injera (sourdough flatbread) into the tasty sauces, we reported on our lives: a new business, a new grandchild, past school experiences, current professional realities.
Consider what happens when people gather around the table:
I don’t like the cover of today’s issue. I don’t want to see it lying on my coffee table. You probably don’t either. At the top, a large uniformed man wields a whip, as armed soldiers ride toward a house below. Red and yellow flames shoot up in the background.
Over the past few months I have had the privilege of seeing a whole new side of camps, and this experience has only confirmed and strengthened my belief in the importance of a camp ministry for the broader church.