Friday, August 28, 2015

Old LaFontaine School

Today is my day off, and sometimes on my day off, my mind wanders to places it doesn’t have time to when I am busy as the pastor of LaFontaine UMC. In its wandering, it ended up thinking about the old elementary school building. Now I don’t know about the structure or maintenance cost of the building. In fact, I have never been in it. I have heard through the grapevine that part of it needs to be torn down, but the other part is could be used for something. And I have heard many people dreaming about what that part could be used for. So here are my two cents of what I think would be cool.

I think it would be really neat to make the structurally sound part into a mini-mall of sorts. Almost all the businesses of LaFontaine are owned locally, and I sense there are many other entrepreneurs among us that just don’t have the capital to get started. But what if we as a community bought that building, removed the nonfunctional part, and rented out the rooms for small local start-ups? These are the businesses I would be excited about:

A small coffee shop with baked goods and comfortable seating (think Modocs with more bakery items)
A “Garage Sale” Room that could charge a nominal fee for renting
A consignment shop with clothing
An after school and e-learning day room with wi-fi for doing homework
A community garden to share fresh produce with our community
A “kids room” with simple toys for a place to go on rainy days to get out of the house
We could have a “HELP” board and a “I CAN HELP” board so that we can be good neighbors to each other.
A small babysitting service
An exercise room

What would it take to make something like this happen? Well, it would take a leader. I am not that leader. But I believe that leader is among us. It would take organizing as a group. If we were serious about it, we could see about getting volunteers knowledgeable about the do’s and don’ts of starting your own business to provide support for new entrepreneurs. It would be really neat to have some grants available for helping with overhead that first year. Most of all, we would need to raise the funds to get the building in working order…removing the dangerous part, and cleaning up the rest.

So I’m just putting the idea out there. Feel free to discuss on our LaFontaine Facebook Page what you would like to see in a “community mall,” to say whether you think we could make this happen, or if you would like to head up or be on a team to make this happen. You may just want to put up your dream of the business you would like to start. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

My Brother’s Keeper

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.  Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Genesis  4:8–10

My five year old was in the bath tub when he asked his sister to get his boat toy.  She shrugged her shoulder’s and answered, “It’s not my responsibility.”

I called her into her room. She had been doing this on and off for awhile, and every time it grated on me. It was time to have the conversation.

So where do you start in that conversation? With Cain killing Abel and telling God, “I am not my brother’s keeper”? I have noticed that this particular story is left out of all of her children’s Bible story books.  And she wasn’t murdering her brother, she just was being apathetic about helping him.

So I started with the holocaust. Okay, I know that is pretty extreme. But there were many individuals, and nations who were apathetic as World War 2 began. Many people died because of the apathy of others.  After all, it wasn’t their responsibility. I am sure I could have thought of other moments in history as well. The group Sojourners began because Christians were watching the turmoil of civil rights and realized their white churches were saying, “it isn’t our responsibility” and thought the church should be helping those seeking equality. In the story of the Good Samaritan, the hero is the first of four bystanders who took responsibility for the man at the side of the road. But, the first thing that came to my mind were those who died at the hands of evil men because it of a “it isn’t my responsibility” attitude.

But as I am finishing up the lecture, I realize I just made EVERYONE EVERYWHERE her responsibility. That was not right either. So I added a little to this.

“We have to help those who can’t do it themselves.”

Zeke was in the tub, and clearly couldn’t reach his toy. Lydia was inches away. She could have helped. So she should have. That doesn’t mean she has to go get stuff for him when he is perfectly able with same amount of effort to do it himself. It doesn’t mean caring for others trumps her own self care.

But our response should not be, “It isn’t my responsibility.”

So I am curious, how do you teach the next generation to help others in a balanced way? I feel like I am still learning where this line is myself, especially as someone who is often asked to help. It is a fine line to walk, and an important lesson to learn. So how do you do it?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Summer of Blessing: A Personal Testimony

I believe God is always working, always bringing life. Yet there are times, when it seems that all we see and feel is heart break. This last winter was hard time for our family, as we grieved losing the community we moved away from last summer. Though we still stay in contact through Facebook and the occasional text, they make poor substitutes for time together. As the darkest and coldest days came, I found myself constantly praying, pleading with God to bring new life, new friendships into our lives.

As I look back on this summer, I see that God heard that prayer.

One of the friends that we left behind was our dear friend Emmanuel and his family. He was a classmate in seminary, a brilliant man. He was also a refugee from Rwanda, and his church and friends were a vibrant and friendly group of Africans immigrants who had started a small fellowship. It brought our family so much joy connecting our two cultures and finding that we shared the same passion for God’s kingdom. Facebook just isn’t the same as having a barbeque together or going to each other’s church.

This summer, God blessed us here with new international friends in Angel and Claudia. Just as we were blessed through Emmanuel, we have been so blessed to learn more about their culture and to be revived by their passion for God’s kingdom. Though they are not a replacement, they help us in many of the same ways to remember how big God is and what he is capable of, and that we are not part of a dying movement.

Other friendships we had to let go of were those we had with the teenagers of my last church. It is still hard to see their posts on Facebook and not to be there to talk to them in the flesh about what is going on in their lives.The occasional text is not the same as walking home from church to discover a house full of teens in my living room discussing relationships and fantasy football teams. Seeing baby pictures is not the same as holding their babies in my arms and giving them random baby gear we have no use for anymore.

God has blessed us this summer, again, not with replacements, but  with new teens to love and care for.  One of those relationships that have helped heal my heart is that of our wonderful babysitter, who would often sit down and talk with me about life before the kids woke up. She has brought newjoy and purpose to me.  The joy and comfort our kids had in being the youngest in the youth group there has started to shine through as they have found friendship and trust in her and even met her friends. I love ya, girl!Thanks for being part of our family.

This last winter we lost for a short time our wonderful young neighbors. It is so great this summer to have Lyndzy stopping by again, and to be able to count on Lamoine to keep an eye on things when we aren’t around. It made for a lonely spring without you, and it is so great that God brought you back to us!

And probably the most exciting way God has worked this summer, is giving me some women friends. It is something I have been praying for since our arrival. A chance in counter and a move across town has given me a chance to talk about being a mom and being a wife and balancing work in a way I need. I feel warmth in my soul after our times together and hope in the future. I am really starting to love our little corner of town.

 I can’t understand how these relationships have bloomed except to know that God was at work, and brought us together. Thank God for how he hears our prayers and brings people into our lives to make life not just bearable, but joyful. I still miss those we have left behind, but I feel like we are finally settling in and feeling at home. It is not because we know where we are going now, but because we know we have someone to travel with.