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Faithful Risk Taking

By Dorlan Bales

At its best, faithful risk taking is a response to the experience of God’s love and the Holy Spirit’s call to share that love with others. This study is an invitation to reflect on words and deeds of people described in scripture, Quaker history and people who took Spirit-led risks. What could it mean today to hear and obey a spiritual call to move beyond what is safe and familiar?

Biblical Risk Taking: Abraham and His Decendants

The story of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the children of Israel begins with God’s call roughly 4,000 years ago: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you (Genesis 12:1).” Abraham’s willingness to obey God and set out on a long, dangerous journey with his wife Sarah was a risky decision with huge consequences.

Isaac’s son Jacob, also called Israel, had 12 sons one of whom, Joseph, was sold into Egyptian slavery by his jealous older brothers. There Joseph interpreted the Pharaoh’s dreams and was put in charge of storing surplus food, making the Pharaoh very powerful when years of regional famine came. Jacob took his family south to Egypt in search of food and encountered a merciful Joseph who secured good land for them, so that the children of Israel multiplied.

After Joseph died a new Pharaoh came to power. Afraid of an Israelite rebellion, he decreed that Hebrew baby boys be thrown into the Nile River. One baby, Moses, was saved by the Pharaoh’s daughter and raised in her father’s court. However, after killing an Egyptian who had abused one of his relatives, Moses was forced to flee to the Arabian desert (Exodus 1-2). There he married the daughter of a Midianite high priest who worshiped Yahweh, revealed to Moses as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ex. 3:1-15).

God called Moses to go to the Pharaoh and free the Israelites — a difficult calling with lots of risk! Despite his reservations, Moses obeyed God and at this turning point in Hebrew history, confronted the most powerful ruler on earth leading the Israelites to the land of Canaan where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had lived generations ago.

Jeremiah was beaten, put knee-deep in a muddy cistern and nearly starved to death (Jeremiah 37-38). See also the classic confrontation between King Ahab and the prophet Elijah in I Kings 18:17-18. Ahab called Elijah a troubler of Israel and Elijah responded by saying, “I have not troubled Israel; but you have, and your father’s house, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals [Canaan’s gods].”

A prophet’s calling was risky, because they often spoke words of reproof and pleaded for the nation’s return to the living God of justice and mercy. Their words of judgment were unpopular not only with the king himself but also with the many people who were depending on their king for food and protection.

Queries

Can you imagine leaving your country and relatives the way Abraham and Sarah did if God called you to do so?

Would you go at God’s command, inspired with the faithfulness of Moses and the prophets, to tell a powerful person to obey a just and merciful God?

Risky Discipleship in the New Testament

How did Jesus teach and demonstrate God’s justice and loving kindness, identifying with the risk taking prophetic tradition he knew from the Hebrew scriptures? In addition to characterizing powerful religious authorities’ names as hypocrite, blind fool, and whitewashed tomb (Matthew 23), Jesus infuriated them when he broke the letter of ceremonial laws in order to be faithful to their spirit, saying that, “the Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).”

Healing on the Sabbath, fellowship with those who did not keep the law, talking with women and other breaches of the purity laws made Jesus popular with crowds of common people, but Jesus left temple authorities shaking their heads as he refocused Jewish faith away from rigid rules toward God’s love for everyone.

It’s likely that Jesus would have had a much longer life and ministry if he had not spoken prophetic words to the scribes, temple authorities and Pharisees. His risky faithfulness led to crucifixion by the Roman occupiers at the request of the Jewish leaders who collaborated with them.

Jesus’ disciples surely knew that they could be next to die, but seven weeks after his crucifixion, on the Day of Pentecost, they experienced the outpouring of Jesus’ Holy Spirit (Acts 2). Peter and John began healing people’s physical infirmities and proclaiming in public that, “in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead (Acts 4:2).”

The priests and Sadducees were furious and brought them before the temple authorities. Peter freely admitted that he had been instrumental in the healing of a crippled beggar made whole by the power of the crucified Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the cornerstone the rulers had rejected. Let off with a warning because the authorities were afraid to punish them, Jesus’ followers prayed for boldness and kept teaching and healing in Jesus’ name, rejoicing that they were worthy to suffer dishonor “for the sake of the name (Acts 4-5).”

The temple council’s patience ran out when one of the new leaders, Stephen, accused them of opposing the Holy Spirit and killing the prophets as their ancestors had done, of receiving the law but not keeping it. They dragged Stephen out of the city and stoned him to death.

Immediately a harsh persecution was unleashed against the Jerusalem church, scattering most members of that Spirit-filled community to other cities. A man then named Saul, later known as Paul the apostle, approved of what of the stoning and went to the homes of Jesus’ Jerusalem followers and dragged those he found off to prison (Acts 6:7-7:3 and 7:51-8:3).

That done, Saul headed for Damascus to arrest others. On the road Saul was knocked to the ground, blinded by a flash of light and heard the voice of Jesus tell him to enter the city. A disciple there named Ananias had a vision in which Jesus told him to go help Saul regain his sight. A risky thing to do, as Ananias reminded Jesus! However, Ananias obediently took the risk. Saul did indeed regain his vision, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and preached in the synagogue so powerfully that he had to leave Damascus quickly in a basket let down over the city wall (Acts 9:1-23)!

When Saul came back to Jerusalem and sought out the disciples, they were understandably afraid. It took Barnabas’ risky advocacy to gain the group’s trust. Soon, Paul, as he was now known, was accepted and speaking boldly. When enemies tried to kill him, it was the disciples who rushed him out of town and sent him far away to his home town for his own protection (Acts 9:26-30).
Those who responded to the preaching of Peter, Stephen and Paul immediately faced the possibility of physical violence at the hands of the powerful Sadducee aristocrats who were outraged by the disciples’ proclamation of a resurrected Jesus present in their midst. But very soon a difficult, divisive question emerged from within the group, one which threatened to divide Christ’s followers.

Peter, who had travelled to the city of Joppa, had a puzzling vision which concluded with the words: “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” The day before, a Roman officer named Cornelius in nearby Caesarea had seen a vision telling him to send for Peter, who went to Cornelius’ house the next day, eager to hear the Roman’s story and share his own change of heart. The result was the Holy Spirit being poured out on “even the Gentiles” and Peter baptizing them with water in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 10).

This caused no small stir in the Jerusalem church! Peter told his story again, remembering that Jesus had said: “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit,” and concluded by saying that, “if then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” This testimony convinced Peter’s critics, who accepted what seemed unthinkably risky to them, welcoming those who were not Jews into the fellowship of those who follow Jesus (Acts 11:1-18).

Queries

How do you extend your love beyond your own tribe and nation, proclaiming God’s love and justice for all the way Jesus did, and break today’s purity codes by risking friendship with those looked down upon by religious people?

Barnabas and Ananias were led to take a risk through the urging of Christ. When has Christ given you a leading that involved risk? Describe how you felt? How did you overcome your worries and fears?

Can you imagine how much faith would be required to change your heart and mind, like Peter did, in response to the Living Christ’s teaching about something you have believed all your life?

Risky Quaker Discipleship

The Quaker movement emerged in a time of turmoil just after the English Civil War, which ended when the Puritan New Model Army defeated the forces of Charles I, who was then beheaded in 1647. During the 1650s, as the number of Quakers was increasing, an unstable coalition of Puritan reformers in parliament governed England.

During this decade Mary Dyer, who with her husband had been expelled from Puritan Massachusetts in 1638 and had moved to Rhode Island, returned alone to England in 1650. She became a Quaker after hearing George Fox preach and returned across the Atlantic in 1658 to challenge Massachusetts’ harsh theocratic rule. In 1660, more than 20 years before Penn’s colony was founded, she was hanged in Boston for reentering the colony after being banished.

George Fox met with England’s Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell four times (1653-58). Although Fox and other Quakers were themselves put in prison for disputing with priests and magistrates, there were no systematic persecutions of Quakers during those years. After Cromwell died and Charles II was installed as king in 1660, however, mass arrests of dissenters began. Many of the great Quaker leaders died in prison or as a result of earlier imprisonment. Quaker refusal to obey laws requiring the taking of oaths resulted in imprisonment. Another law forbade all religious gatherings of more than four people other than family members. Failure to pay tithes to the state church brought ruinous fines and imprisonment.

According to Hugh Barbour’s The Quakers in Puritan England, only 119 Friends were imprisoned in 1658. But in 1664, 1,709 Friends were jailed in London and Middlesex. Quakers suffered more than other dissenting groups because they met publicly and regularly after their meetinghouses were boarded up. Children kept meeting while their parents were in prison. This bold behavior and the willingness to suffer for their convictions was part of the Quaker Lamb’s War.

Throughout the 1670s and 80s, over 1,000 Friends suffered in cold, wet, crowded dungeons. Epidemics were frequent and release could often be secured only by paying fines, which Quakers refused to do. George Fox spent more than five years in such dungeons. (Barbour, 228-9) American Quakers from the late 17th to the mid-18th centuries faced difficult issues that tested their faith. One such issue was that of slaveholding within the Society of Friends. Condemned by Anthony Benezet, John Woolman and other Friends, more and more Quakers became clear that slaveholding and using slave-made products was incompatible with Christ’s love and teachings. Coming to unity, however, was a slow process. The spiritual struggle put both the reformers and the wider Society of Friends at risk. In 1775, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting called on Quakers to free their slaves and conducted visitations with those who did not comply. Three years later, Philadelphia Quarter reported that most of its members were clear of slaveholding. (See Pamela Moore’s Quakers and Slavery article at www.archstreetfriends.org/tour/)

Another trial for Friends, who had a corporate testimony against participation in war as early as 1660, was pressure from their neighbors to participate in the Indian Wars and the Revolutionary War. John Woolman’s Journal, chapter 8, describes his risky visit to Native Americans on the frontier in 1762.

There was physical risk (see the Doyle Penrose painting None Shall Make Them Afraid, that portrays a war party bursting into a frontier meetinghouse) and risk of social ostracism and loss of business for Quakers who refused to support armed struggle. The Quaker testimony against participation in wars continued to be risky in the 19th and 20th centuries during the United States’ Civil War, two world wars, and more limited wars which followed.

Queries

Did you know that Quakers suffered imprisonment and death for their faith both in England and in the American colonies?

Under what circumstances could you imagine risking arrest or financial hardship for showing love and speaking in public for justice? Have you experienced your faith as risky in a large or small way?

Willingness to Respond to a Call That May Include Risk

Because God’s inward call to love and justice puts people of faith in tension with what George Fox called “the world’s ways,” obedience to the Spirit has always threatened the established order of individuals, faith communities and the wider society. For example, as a young man John Woolman felt an inward “stop” when asked by well-respected Quakers to write wills that included slaves as property (Journal, chapters I and III).

Friends are known for speaking and acting prophetically to end war and slavery, sometimes suffering for their conscience-based unwillingness to participate. 20th-century American Quakers Marion and Earnest Bromley were active resisters of racism and war taxes. Bayard Rustin, the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, worked tirelessly for civil rights, economic justice and gay/lesbian rights. In our own century Virginia Quaker Tom Fox, in Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams, was one of four CPT members kidnapped in November 2005. Tom’s body was found three months later. The other three CPTers were freed soon after.

What injustices may Jesus be calling Christians to address today? What behaviors and attitudes are incompatible with loving God with all our hearts and loving others as much as we love ourselves?
As members of a fearful society increasingly fractured and led by the drum beat of wealth-seeking’s idolatrous short-sightedness, what risks may be necessary to follow a God who loves everyone and seeks the well-being of the entire creation? How may we hear more deeply and grow more obedient to the Holy Spirit’s persistent invitation to live with others in the fullness of God’s love, to be the light of the world, the salt of the earth and the bit of yeast with power far beyond its size?

Queries

Do you believe that Christ is present to teach you inwardly, using many gracious outward means? Have you experienced a call from God? What may be distracting you from listening, or blocking a positive response to a call you may have heard?

Is hearing and responding to a risky call only for a tiny percentage of extraordinary people of faith in special times and places? Why or why not?

If you were asked to speak and act in the name of a loving God against injustice, and if in doing so could result in suffering for yourself, your family or Friends you know, can you imagine being obedient to that call as Old Testament prophets, Jesus’ first followers and many Quakers have been?

Dorlan BalesDorlan Bales grew up in Northwest Yearly Meeting, the eldest child of pastor/teachers George and Elenita. Between ministry studies at George Fox University and Earlham School of Religion, he completed two years of alternative service at a children’s hospital in Vietnam. After studying theology in Chicago, he was led to Wichita, Kansas where he lives with his wife Kathryn Damiano, stays in touch with sons Micah and Andrew and writes grant proposals for Sunflower Community Action, which he helped found. He is a member of Heartland Friends Meeting, works for peace and justice, and enjoys playing and making violins.

Quaker Life – May/June 2014

Gathered for Mission: Equipping to Serve

One of the things I love about Friends is our radical assertion that we’re all called to ministry and all given access to God’s wisdom and power. The Spirit empowers us to move gracefully in the water of life even when we are in way over our heads. I believe and rely on this because I experience it regularly.

Learning to live in that Life and Power, then, as well as teaching and training others to do the same ought to take our best time and energy. Though we may have some natural instincts that incline us to know and follow Christ, most of us need to learn how. This is what discipleship is all about — being a student of Christ. It is essential that we share with one another what we know about how to listen attentively, walk wisely and minister gracefully. Expecting each of us to figure it out on our own, an unfortunate tendency among Friends, hinders us and undermines the central place of this in our life together.

Along with nurturing our spiritual depth, however, comes the opportunity and responsibility to train one another in the work of service and leadership. Instead of expecting our clerks, our pastors, our treasurers, our elders, our youth workers, our committee and board members to learn by trial and error — what if we resolved to mentor, teach and equip them to serve faithfully and effectively? What if we intentionally invested in their training for their sake and the importance of the work?

The thought of a spiritually energized and thoroughly equipped cadre of servant leaders and empowered ministers, ones who knew what on earth they were supposed to be doing and how best to do it, is not beyond the realm of possibility. It is, in fact, part of FUM’s hope for the future of Friends. A renewed commitment to this might just cause us to experience something akin to a baptism — a new and deeper immersion into God’s will and ways in our time.

Colin Saxton – General Secretary, Friends United Meeting

Christ’s Call to Mission: The Journey Outward - By Dorlan Bales


 
“The scriptures are far from neutral on economic questions. Income disparity between the top 1% and others was as great in ancient times as it is in today’s world. Prophets admonished the powerful not to just practice superficial piety; but, to deal justly and show mercy.”

Read more
 
 

Equipping To Serve: Through Work Teams - By Nancy McCormick & Linda Garrison


 
“In order for our yearly meetings to support work teams, we need to believe in them. We need to support them financially and we need to support them spiritually.”

Read more
 
 

Equipping to Serve: Through the Work of a Missionary - By Henry Sabatia


 
“I told them ‘in my Kenyan culture, you cannot sit as other people are working. Either I stand, or I join you in working.’”

Read more
 
 
 

Equipping to Serve: Through Caring


 
“Two ministries located in different parts of the world: one in the Kibera Slum in Nairobi and the other in the Amari Refugee Camp in Palestine, serve the children of the poorest of the poor.”

Read more
 
 

Equipping to Serve: Through Training – By Eden Grace


 
“Ramallah Friends School is poised to equip the entire Palestinian educational system to serve children with disabilities, and by extension all children, as precious sons and daughters of the living God.”

Read more
 
 

Equipping to Serve: Through Education – By Robert J. Wafula


“Friends, now that I am going back to FTC please join me in celebrating my recent appointment as principal. I feel honored to represent global Quakers in this position.”
 
 
Read more
 
 

Serving from Our Times of Worship – By Steve Olshewsky


“Our places of worship equip us to go out and preach the good news in other places thereby extending our community.”
 
 
Read more
 
 

Grassroots Ministry: Energizing and Equipping in Uganda and Tanzania - By Marian Baker


 
“Reconciliation, rejuvenation, new members, completion of a meetinghouse, wow! The conferences are energizing to all of us.”

Read more
 
 
 

Other Articles In This Issue:

Staff Columns

Out of My Mind – Colin Saxton
Amazing Grace – Eden Grace

Other Articles

A New People To Be Gathered – David Jaimes
Ask Tom: When did standing committees become so pervasive? – Thomas Hamm
Passages: Quaker Obituaries

Quaker Life – July/August 2014

A People to be Scattered: Risk Taking

I find it interesting to compare how people of faith are much like my family when it comes to taking risks. Some confess that they will be able to face the risk and move on, only to fall smack on their faces. They react to everything that comes their way and boldly make statements of faith that have no substance. With such an individual little time is spent in prayer, gaining discernment and understanding.

Others will take a chance only when they can see they are in a position of strength. Little trust is given to the Lord. They will take a risk only when they believe they cannot lose. Everything has to look like it will work before they move. They don’t act upon faith. Yet some have faith that they can take risks — but only when it will benefit themselves.

And finally, there are those who wait and move when the time is right. These individuals have seasoned their relationships with God in such a manner that they know the time to move and the time to sit back. Taking a risk is not something frightening, but a matter of the right move.

I wonder, in the walk of faith, which player describes you?

Annie Glen – Communications Editor, Friends United Meeting

Faithful Risk Taking - By Dorlan Bales

“At its best, faithful risk taking is a response to the experience of God’s love and the Holy Spirit’s call to share that love with others. What could it mean today to hear and obey a spiritual call to move beyond what is safe and familiar?”

Read more

 

 

The Risks You Take Will Make You Well - By Scott Wagoner

“If we are faithful, we also can hear the words of Jesus, ‘Courage, Friends and Quakers. You took a risk of faith, and now you are well.’”

Read more

 

 

Re-Imaging Prophethood from within the Belly of the Machine - By Evan Knappenberger

“Here is the promise: thirst for justice, yearn for the voice of God in all things, hunger for right relation with God, with neighbors, with sparrows, and even with the text read-from-without.”

Read more

 

 

The Balance Beam of Risk - By Mimi Marstaller

“I think God wants us to be spiritual entrepreneurs. I think he wants us to knock on new doors, explore unknown territory and embark on new paths, unimpeded by the fear of failure.”

Read more

 

 

Towards a Practical Peace Movement - By Isaac May

“A great people gathers as they energize and equip others for reaching out for Christ to the whole world.”

Read more

 

 

Investing the Quaker Way - By Norval Reece

“A great people gathers as they energize and equip others for reaching out for Christ to the whole world.”

Read more

 

 

Other Articles In This Issue:

Staff Columns

Meanderings & Musings – Annie Glen
Spreading the Word – Micah Bales

FUM News and Updates

FUM News in Brief

Other Content

Time for the Highroad – Steve Olshewsky
Letter to the Editor – David Zarempka
Book Reviews
Passages: Quaker Obituaries

Passages: Quaker Obituaries – July/August 2014

PHILLIPS Arta Phillips, 83, Arta Jessie Phillip of Wabash, Indiana, died April 20, 2014 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She was born February 24, 1031 in Akron, Indiana, to Galen and Clarissa (Barber) Walker. Arta was a 1949 graduate of Laketon High School and attended the International Business College in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She married Lawrence G. “Larry” Phillips in Chili, Indiana, on September 20, 1954. He died May 27, 2008. She worked for Atlas Industries and retired on June 30, 1993. She was a member of and very active in the Wabash Friends Church. Arta is survived by her daughter, Deborah Sue (Daniel) Rapp; and three granddaughters, Alecia and Danielle Rapp, and Heather Nicole Rapp all of Wabash, Indiana. She was preceded in death by her parents; husband, Lawrence G. Phillips and brother, Merl Walker.

SELLECK Barbara Ellen Shoop Selleck, 83, passed away on April 16, 2014. Barbara Ellen Shoop Selleck was born May 13, 1930, to William Joshua Shoop and his wife, Bertha May Bateman Shoop, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Barbara was the fifth of eight children. Ralph and Barbara married June 24, 1949, and moved to Wichita, Kansas, where they lived until 1963, when they moved to Arlington. Four children were born to the couple, Ronald, Cynthia, Michael and Kathy. She was preceded in death by her husband, Ralph; son, Mike; sons-in-law, Jackie and George; and grandson, Benjamin. Survivors: Brother, James Shoop of Eugene, Oregon.; son, Ronald Selleck and wife, Linda, of High Point, North Carolina; daughters, Cynthia Selleck Evans and husband, Bob, of Plano, Texas; Kathy Selleck Bledsoe of Arlington, Texas, Marcelle Simms of Round Rock, Texas; daughter-in-law, Pam of Venus. She also leaves behind 11 grandchildren, eight greatgrandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

THOMPSON Winifred Glee Blansett Thompson, 97, died January 13, 2014, at Friends Fellowship Community in Richmond, Indiana. She was born July 12, 1916, to Noldo and Nan Blansett in rural, Randolph County, Indiana. She had an older brother, Pat and two older sisters, Idris and Grace. Winnie and her family attended Rural Friends Church. Winnie received her education in Randolph County schools and graduated from McKinley High School as valedictorian of the class of 1934. After graduation, she did not miss an alumni banquet for the next 78 consecutive years. Upon finishing high school, Winnie worked as a secretary for 13 years at Peacock Insurance Agency in Winchester, Indiana. It was there that she met Carl (Barney) Thompson when he brought an insurance claim to the office after an auto accident. They dated for some time and in 1943 were married under the arched door way between the living room and dining room of the parsonage at Winchester Friends Church. Winnie continued working a few more years at the insurance office while Barney built their family farming business. Their daughter Jill was born in 1956. The Thompsons resided on several different farmsteads in the area, finishing up at their farm on Old US 27 south of Winchester. Barney retired from farming in 1991, and in late 2000 he and Winnie moved to a home on Franklin Street in Winchester. In 2008 they moved to a condominium at Summers Pointe retirement village in Winchester. Since mid-2012, Winnie and Barney lived at Friends Fellowship Community in Richmond, Indiana, where they celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in June 2013. After their marriage in 1943, Winnie and Barney became active, faithful members of Winchester Friends Church and the William Penn Sunday School Class. Winnie sang in the choir for over 50 years, worked with the youth, served in many committee roles and was a tireless USFW worker. Winnie was a leader in several community organizations and efforts over the years, and she and Barney were fixtures at Winchester Community High School boys’ and girls’ basketball games. Winnie cherished her many friendships. She loved gardening and flowers. She was passionate about helping others, frequently taking food and flowers to those who were ill, elderly, or homebound. She also regularly visited residents in nursing homes. Winnie was preceded in death by her brother and her two sisters. She is survived by her husband Carl (Barney) Thompson, a resident at Friends Fellowship Community; her daughter Jill Ash, and two grandchildren Nan and Carl Ash, all of Encinitas, California; and one nephew, Dr. Jack Mendleson (wife Dianne), of Mesa, Arizona.

Book Reviews – July/August 2014

I Heard Their Cry: God’s Hope for the People of Guatemala

Ray and Virginia Canfield
WestBow Press, 289 pp., $22.95

Friends (Quaker) missionaries Ray and Virginia Canfield have done far more than compile a family memoir about agricultural and medical work in Guatemala — they have articulated a strong missiology and a fervent spiritual commitment that can be appreciated on many levels. They record frequent answers to prayer, adventurous living and human pathos. I found the book easy to read and thought how valuable it would be for a family to read together. The Canfields are not afraid to be personally vulnerable and freely admit mistakes and “ideas that didn’t work!” This is a strong statement of the whole gospel — body, mind and spirit — and highlights the importance of cultural sensitivity under physical, emotional and spiritual stress. Ray and Virginia treat their own “ministry” lightly, and instead focus on the development of leadership and spiritual maturity in others. Rather than destroy a culture, this kind of Christ-centered missionary work has preserved, enhanced and advanced the culture of a long oppressed and neglected indigenous group.

Dr. Ron Stansell
Professor Emeritus of Religion and Missions
George Fox University, Newberg, Oregon

Letter to the Editor – July/August 2014

Dear Editor,

When I return to the rural areas of Kenya after a visit to the rural countryside in Rwanda, Burundi or eastern Congo, I feel like I have gone from poverty to the Garden of Eden because Kenya is so much more lush and prosperous. And this has nothing to do with the climate or rainfall, but the difference in culture. As I ride around the countryside in Central Africa, I see mostly women — frequently in groups of three to fifteen – working in the fields together. Only here and there do you see a man working and he is usually quite young. When I taught Rwandan refugees in 1964-65, I was told no respectable man would be seen working with a hoe. Kenya is a completely different story where men are frequently in the fields working. This is my theory: in Kenya, unlike Central Africa, oxen are used for plowing. Since cattle are a man’s responsibility, this means that the men do the plowing. Moreover, they would have needed to invest a considerable sum in buying a plow and then training the oxen. As a result they have an investment in their fields. It is absurd to think that Central African agriculture can be prosperous when only women by themselves — already burdened with cooking, carrying water and firewood, tending the children and the sick — will be able to adequately produce bountiful harvests as is done in Kenya. They also lack the capital to invest in improvements.

This is evident in the article written by Henry Sabatia in the May/June 2014 issue of Quaker Life. Rwandan, Burundian, and eastern Congolese are hierarchical elitists. The leader is supposed to sit in a chair and watch while the common folks do the work. The Kenyan pastor on the other hand can’t sit and watch as he must become involved in the work. Which is more motivating, “Sitting and watching or leading by example?” Do note that what he did in the Congo was culturally inappropriate which didn’t hinder him a bit. A second obvious point is the enthusiasm Pastor Henry has for building the church (Compared to here in Kenya, we don’t have churches in such condition.) Even though he has no material resources to offer, this does not deter him. He is all encouragement, praying that he can roof the church before the rains come. He gets everyone to help, including people from other denominations. This energy, this enthusiasm, this drive to succeed is another attribute where Kenyans are so different from Central Africans who wait until someone does something for them — there seems to be no reason why the parishioners could not have built a simple, but adequate church before Pastor Henry came, but they didn’t. Third, when he first comes he expresses his solidarity with the church members (What you eat, I’ll eat. Whatever you do, we’ll do together.) Notice how Pastor Henry wishes to stay with his rural hosts even when there is danger of gunshots. He wants to stay with the people he is serving rather than be evacuated. This is that friendliness that makes Kenyans so appealing. Central Africans, on the other hand, are much more stand-offish.

These differences, and others not covered in this article, mean that AGLI’s work in Kenya is so much easier and frankly “cheaper” because we don’t have to be highfalutin. In Kenya we can do a workshop at the Peace House for any number of people because we can just throw mattresses on the floor with one room for men and one for women and everyone is accommodating. We can do a one-day workshop and just give people half a loaf of bread and a soda for lunch. In Kenya we can ask participants and their community to supply food (the most expensive item for any workshop). When violence erupts, Getry Agizah, Peter Serete, and countless others of our Kenyan facilitators or citizen reporters will arrive as soon as possible. They may not know what they are going to do, but the important step has been taken — they have shown up.

Sincerely,

David Zarempka
African Great Lakes Initiative
of the Friends Church Peace Teams, Coordinator

FUM News In Brief – July/August 2014

Update on Kaimosi Hospital

Friends United Meeting entered into a temporary arrangement with East Africa Yearly Meeting eight years ago to restore Friends Hospital Kaimosi from the brink of collapse. The hospital’s situation was dire, and Friends around the world answered the call with an outpouring of prayer, volunteer time and financial resources. Under FUM’s leadership, the hospital became financially stable with a well-qualified professional staff and an ever-improving reputation for medical care in the name of Jesus. We praise God for all that has been achieved during these years of FUM’s management of Kaimosi Hospital, including:

• Financial transparency and accountability through a Team Management system
• The Adopt-a-Nurse Program
• Donations of essential pieces of equipment: Portable ultra-sound machine, oxygenators, etc.
• Delivery of a container of medical equipment and supplies through World Medical Relief
• Purchase of an ambulance
• Hiring of a resident doctor to assist the government appointed doctor
• Renovation of half of the main hospital building
• Purchase of medications and other hospital supplies
• Support for the Comprehensive Care Center (CCC) for over 1,500 HIV/Aids and TB patients
• Perhaps most significantly, the staff was paid a living wage, consistently and on time throughout the 8 years.

On 1 February 2014, FUM ceased its involvement with Kaimosi Hospital. East Africa Yearly Meeting, in cooperation with Friends Church Kenya, entered into a new relationship for the future of the hospital. The National Council of Churches of Kenya has chosen this facility to be the flagship of their new “Jumuia” chain of high-quality Christian hospitals and is poised to invest significant funds in upgrading the buildings, equipment and staffing in order to attract patients from across Kenya.

Three months after the handover, Agatha Ganira, director of the hospital’s HIV/AIDS program (called the CCC) stated:

The hospital is running well. We have now settled in and finished our probation of three months. The staff are happy; at the beginning there was a lot of tension but they have relaxed and are working well. We have a devotion and staff meeting every Tuesday where our new Administrator has been spiritually feeding us. Since he is a trained pastor, he has really changed the staff attitude toward this meeting. His teaching and preaching have been building us spiritually. … The community has started using the facility and they appreciate the positive way that services are offered. The Patient Care Service Manager and I visit churches every Sunday for mobilizationand sensitization and it has been fruitful. The CCC still offers free services for HIV and TB and there is good support for these clients from the clinicians. … We are fully now computerized, from registration, outpatient and all other departments. This has reduced a lot of paperwork. … Renovations will be starting soon, and I believe that after renovations are complete there will be a lot of changes including offering of specialized services according to the NCCK’s long term vision. The school of nursing will be reopened so that they can be able to have enough trained nurses. Please continue to pray for us as we go through this transition.

FUM will, of course, continue to pray for Kaimosi Hospital. There are some “wrapping up” costs associated with this transition, and Friends are urged to continue to send donations for Kaimosi Hospital over the coming months. Although Kaimosi Hospital is no longer be associated with FUM, Friends have certainly not exhausted the gospel mandate to offer healing to the sick in Jesus’ name! As we look ahead, we invite all Friends to pray with the FUM Board as it discerns how God might be leading Friends into new forms of healthcare ministry in East Africa.

Update on Turkana Friends Mission (TFM)

By John Moru

Kalokol Youth Polytechnic has been revived by Turkana county government, which has completed fencing and renovation of buildings. An agreement between TFM and Kalokol Youth Polytechnic has been developed for both parts to sign.

The constituency development funds for Loima Sub County assisted Friends School Lokoyo in constructing two permanent classrooms. Now the school at Lokoyo has eight classrooms, a great benefit the community of Lokoyo where there had been donated by CDF a four room building intended to become a dispensary, although medicine and a nurse have yet to be acquired.

Katapakori has placed the mud on the church building and finished the office to include a door that we acquired from the mission office in Lodwar, when we purchased the metal doors for the TFM office. They have also bought approximately 10 plastic chairs.

Katilu has made concrete blocks for putting walls onto their pillars and they are organizing for fundraising for the construction and a cement foundation.

Kanamkemer, a new village meeting, opened in Lodwar 29/9/2012. It is situated on the western side of Nawoitorong Women’s Lodge. On the 25th of May 2014, Kshs 110,000 for purchasing a church plot was raised.

The Ekukurit Friends Women Group in Kalokol and the Kitamunae Friends Women Group in Lodwar received small business training grants of Kshs 403,000 and Kshs 401,500 respectively from Right Sharing of World Resources. Lochuga and Katilu women groups are seeking training funds from the government.

In spite of animals that have moved to look for pasture, the water pump at Katapakori is still working. Drought and famine have struck, spreading malnutrition among both children and adults.

FTC ongoing students Tracy and Etienne are finding their studies rewarding, although raising tuition funding remains a challenge. FTC has afforded them time to complete their studies.

FTC Anniversary Day

By Oscar Lugusa Malande

One’s day of birth occurs once in a lifetime. The celebration of this event — one’s birthday — occurs annually and is a day on which to remember, thank God for the blessings afforded during the year past and continuation of God’s blessings throughout the next year. It is also day of celebration and reflection on which others often express good wishes. Yet, sometimes this day goes unnoticed because of our day to day activities.

Occasionally, however, these annual celebrations pass unnoticed. At the October 2013 meeting of the General Board of Friends United Meeting in Africa, Pastor Aggrey Mukilima, General Superintendant, Nairobi Yearly Meeting of Friends and FTC alumnus realized that the celebration of FTC’ date of birth had been ignored. Subsequent planning and consultative meetings rectified this oversight.

The principal of FTC, Dr. Ann Riggs, had an opportunity to visit the archives of Five Years Meeting and Friends United Meeting at Earlham College, and her research unearthed the roots of FTC reaching back to 1931. She found that the official minuting of the decision to begin the college was penned on 9 September 1941. Several years of planning and preparation later, students attended inaugural lectures on 15 April several years later. A symbolic date each year on a Saturday soon after Easter was proposed for the annual celebration of the birth of FTC, a date coordinated with the study schedules of the residential and school-based (or part-time) programmes.

On 9 April 2014, the first birthday celebration of FTC was held. Conceived as a day to focus on annual African fund-raising for the college, a target for making sure that each current student’s fees have been paid in full and a chance for the alumni to come together to support the college. It was a day marked by joy and ceremony. Above all it was a time to celebrate and to thank God for what he had done, despite the many challenges that have come along the way, to ensure that FTC achieve its remarkable accomplishments. The theme of the day was from Psalm 145:10: “All your works shall give thanks you, O Lord , and all your faithful shall bless you.” (NRSV)

Guests included Friends United Meeting Vice Presiding Clerk for Africa Churchill Kibisu who read the messages of FUM Clerk Cliff Loesch; African Ministries Director John Muhanji, who conveyed the words of FUM General Secretary Colin Saxton; Global Ministry Director Grace Eden and the incoming Principal Dr. Robert Wafula. Additional speeches by FTC board members, leaders from different yearly meetings, leaders of the alumni and other guests were presented.

Several speeches focused on the need that African yearly meetings, especially Kenyan yearly meetings, continue with the spirit of supporting FTC as their own. There was concern that the continuing process of accreditation with Association for Christian Theological Education in Africa (ACTEA) requires 50% of operating income to be African. The realization of this goal can be met only with energetic support from the African yearly meetings. FTC Alumni Association chairman Pastor Herman Chibeyia called for the alumni to mightily unite in the spirit of supporting the college. Everyone who attended expressed enthusiasm for a bright future ahead for FTC, recognizing that institution as being the root of Quakerism in Africa.

The outgoing principal, Dr. Ann Riggs, was applauded for her tireless efforts and good exemplary leadership at FTC. Her mentorship in initiating, through training at FTC, a self-propagating, self-supporting and self-sustaining church in Africa was noted and greatly honored. The message of the incoming principal made clear that he intends to build on and expand this legacy that has been motivated and shaped by the Kaimosi mission from its beginning. Continuing with the accreditation process with the Association for Christian Theological Education in Africa (ACTEA) and promoting the existing income-generating development projects were among the many he specifically cited.

The celebration was crowned with presentations from FTC students. One of the students presented a poetic metaphor emphasizing Mother Africa’s role in nurturing metaphorical child, FTC, to ensure the full realization of the child’s potential. She admonished that rejection and neglect of the child could result in failure of the child’s capacity to achieve its full potential. As the child, FTC must be nurtured and supported by its mother and other stakeholders, particularly as it seeks to grow on the African continent.

Peter Kiliswa, the ex-officio member of the college’s board from Lugulu Yearly Meeting of Friends, while in discussion with the chairperson of the FTC anniversary day planning committee and ex-officio member of the college’s board from Lugulu Yearly Meeting of Friends, expressed great satisfaction with the success of this the first time event as well as his gratitude for all who attended. He noted that there is need to continue working together to enlightening all Quakers concerning the value of FTC in Africa and the wider world and in training servants of God and humanity for the Friends Church. The chairman noted that there is need for early planning of the coming anniversary and requested prayers as we look forward with much expectation to that day. The Board of Governors has identified 11 April 2015 for the next anniversary celebration.

After this day of celebration, moving to another level in fundraising to support FTC, Dr. Wafula launched FTC Anniversary Funds Drive. All friends of the college are called upon to make pledges on-line and to send in their contributions. African donations may be sent to the FUM African Ministries Office in Kisumu via Mpesa number 0701 781 282. Dr. Wafula requests that donors ensure that they call Judith Ngoya to specify that a contribution is for 2014 FTC Anniversary Fund Drive. Friends living in the U.S. may send donations by personal check, money order or credit card to Friends United Meeting, 101 Quaker Hill Drive, Richmond, IN 47374. Mark the check payable to FTC.

Many thanks to all who have joined in this new effort of celebration and support.

Transition in Belize

By Dale Graves, Interim Director of Belize Friends Mission

My first trip to Belize was with a Friends United Meeting (FUM) short term work project. We were working at La Democracia, under the care of Mike and Kay Cain, building an addition onto a garage. It was a good experience. That experience was a beginning. Since that time I have become more involved and am currently the FUM representative on the board of the Belize Friends School. I attend two of the three board meetings each year by Skype or conference call and the third meeting in person. This gives me the chance to make Belizean friends and to begin — just begin, mind you — to understand some of the issues in the area where the school is located. During these visits I stayed in the home of my close friends Sam and Becky Barber and listened at length to their perspective.

The Friends School serves students who are behind in their studies, typically a young man or woman who did not pass the exam for entrance into high school. Students are given an additional one or two years of instruction and then allowed to retake the test. The school graduates 10-15 students each year and for the past few years, every graduate has enrolled in high school next year.

However, recent conversations have centered on what other work God is calling us to do. Can Friends serve Belize in ways we have not yet thought of? What could an expanded Friends presence in Belize look like? Are there Belizeans who would find the Friends message of Christ as present teacher and guide a welcome one? What can be done about poverty and gang violence on the South Side of Belize City? Do the churches on the South Side of Belize City work together, or could they? And a myriad of other questions that beg for answers.

In conversation with FUM I indicated that I would expect no salary, but that I would need my housing, food allowance, health insurance and travel paid for as well as the costs of doing the work: use of a car, internet access, office supplies (I will be supplying my own computer), money for conference registrations, and so on, and so on.

The budget for my year in Belize is now $32,000, and this is where you come in. I am asking for your support and prayers, but I am also asking you to partner with me in funding this work.

I am looking for 110 folks who will commit to $25 per month for one year By folks, I mean individuals, Friends meetings, Sunday School classes, prayer groups, worship groups, youth groups or any other group who might make a commitment. Would you, or a group you are involved in, make such a commitment?

I promise to:

• answer any questions you might have and visit with you by Skype or phone from Belize;
• keep in constant contact with you about what is going on at the school through Facebook, blogs, and the FUM website;
• keep you posted as the needs assessment and the future plans progress; and
• introduce you to my Belizean Friends as I meet them.

I believe God has great things ahead for Friends in Belize and I really hope
you will be a part of that.

God bless you,
Dale Graves

Transition in Belize

Preparations are underway to launch new initiatives in ministry as Sam and Becky Barber conclude their service at Belize Friends School by the end of August 2014. They and their family will be transitioning back to the United States by the end of the year. During their time in Belize, Sam and Becky have served as co-directors of the school, taught in the classroom and hosted short-term mission teams. Their family of four children was joined by three Belizean children in 2010. All seven children have been encouraged to take part in the ministry according to their individual interests and talents. The Barber family’s unique gift of Christian relationships has touched many Belizeans and made a significant impact for God’s community.

Friends United Meeting’s mission for over 40 years at Belize Friends School has focused on “bridging the gap between poverty and possibility” by providing a second chance to inner-city youth who have failed in traditional educational settings. FUM has been in a discernment process throughout the past two years regarding how to expand ministry and continue to faithfully carry out its purpose statement in a sustainable way in this region of the world.

In the next 12 months, FUM will build upon the groundwork begun by the Barbers toward an expanded Friends ministry. To this end, FUM has approached Dale Graves of Western Yearly Meeting to serve as Interim Director of Belize Friends Mission. Dale’s educational background, knowledge for and love of the Belize mission and availability as a recent retiree make him ideally suited for an interim appointment in Belize. He will begin his one year appointment in August 2014 with a focus on research, community needs assessment and program planning for a holistic Belize Friends Mission that addresses the unmet needs of the south side neighborhood of Belize City.

FUM views this transitional period as an opportune moment to raise up local leadership for the school. Plans are underway to appoint an interim principal. Dale will work with the principal and the local school board to restructure the staffing that will continue the expansion of the highly successful educational program. In addition, FUM intends to strengthen the board and invite its members to work alongside Dale and the interim principal to lay the foundation for an expanded holistic gospel ministry in Belize City. We ask all Friends to join us in praying for faithfulness in this discernment process and for courageous imagination as we seek to follow Christ in Belize.

Adopting Rorogio!

By Duha Masri, Head of Ramallah Friends Preschool

The children in our kindergarten are engaged in a project that reflects genuine understanding of our school’s core values of integrity, fairness, respect and justice. Each year we explore academic themes that provide opportunities for the children to collaborate with their teachers, peers and families. This encourages children as they begin to believe that living by these core values empowers them to become ethical leaders and global citizens. They also learn that the time to begin is . . . now!

This year’s theme is on the shared responsibility we hold for our planet. Students began with learning and research. They went far beyond mere academic knowledge by considering how to be personally involved.

During the research and learning phase, children came across the ivory trade of tusks in Kenya that often orphans new-born elephants. Our kindergartners were concerned and looked for a way to take action. With the help of teachers and parents, we got in touch with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust who cares for orphaned elephants.

Children learned that caring for orphaned elephants is made possible by people who step forward, leading them to decide to adopt one. They made and sold holiday cards in the community to raise money and spread awareness of the damage done by ivory trade. As a result, the Ramallah Friends kindergarten now sponsors Rorogio who was born on August 10, 2012, and was orphaned by poachers in Kenya. But she is a very robust little elephant who was lucky enough to be rescued thanks to many people who ensured help came her way and now continue to care for her until she can become independent.

The children did not stop with adopting Rorogio. They are now engaged in conversations with their teachers, families and school partners on how to support a local zoo in Qalqilya, Palestine. Such opportunities for children to know and care for their world are pivotal to us here at the kindergarten of Ramallah Friends Schools. Our children recognize that these opportunities are important to their commitment in solving problems, and that it is possible for them to care for humans, animals and the planet.

Quaker Links

By Joyce Ajlouny, RFS Director

Our school would not have survived 145 years of turmoil and hardship if it weren’t for our noble Quaker mission that is further fermented by the various and precious partnerships we have with Friends from around the globe.

This winter the school had the pleasure of receiving Colin Saxton, FUM’s General Secretary, and Eden Grace, FUM’s Director of Global Ministries. Being that they were both fairly new to their positions, this was an important visit that further familiarized them with the school community. It was heartening to see them interact and build relationships with the students, teachers, administrators and board members. I could see the pride in their faces as they saw firsthand what a profound impact FUM’s work, through the Ramallah Friends School, has on the lives of its students and the wider community. Reading newsletters and reports don’t have the same impact as visiting because “seeing is believing” and more importantly “seeing is feeling” how individual lives are touched. The school community enjoyed connecting with Colin and Eden and asked them to return often.

Back in the U.S., I had the pleasure of attending the Bethesda Monthly Meeting’s (BMM) Spring Fling — a lively annual event that generates funds for the school’s scholarship fund. This program has been in place for over 30 years, thanks to the initiative of BMM member China Jessup and the efforts of many that continued to sustain the program. Attending the function was quite a treat as I really enjoyed the social interaction, food, auction, music and the friendships formed. However, I was most touched by the “behind the scenes” effort of those who organized the event this year and throughout the past three decades. I wish I could have brought our students with me to show them that there are many who care about them, pray for them and raise funds that help transform their lives. For now, they’ll have to make do with my word . . . and some pictures.

At the same time, Ramallah Friends Schools had the pleasure of receiving delegations of students, staff and board members from sister Quaker schools in the U.S. Four of these schools provide a full annual scholarship for one of our sophomores to attend their schools. We recently received news of the generous scholarships our students are provided from Quaker colleges, such as Earlham and Guilford.

Such partnerships, along with those from the various monthly and yearly meetings and from F/friends who continue to send us support, greetings and prayers, are essential as we continue to move forward as a leading school in Palestine. They are an important reminder of our remarkable Quaker testimonies that ensure our students are given hope, dignity and the opportunity to reach their potential as value-led learners and human beings.

Meanderings and Musings – July/August 2014

By Annie Glen, Communications Editor

My family and I love to play board games. One of our favorites is RISK.

“This time I will conquer the world!” My husband invariably predicts, and just as invariably, he is the first one eliminated. When it comes to playing this game, my daughters and I are ruthless — nothing will stop us from world domination! Observing each member’s strategy of play affords great insight into how much each actually dares to risk. I usually hold back until I have what I believe to be a sufficient number of armies. I will take a country next to one of mine, but will generally risk only one adventure per turn.

My elder daughter taunts people into making moves that benefit her. When it is her turn, she attacks with gusto, taking as many countries as she can. Any agreements she made the play before no longer apply. Annihilation is her main goal. Nothing will stop her.

My younger daughter, however, sits and watches. She patiently gathers her forces, observes where weak spots are and plots. She lulls people into believing the players (other than she) are the ones about which they should worry. Before anyone knows it, she has amassed the most armies and frequently wins the game.

I find it interesting to compare how people of faith are much like my family when it comes to taking risks. Some confess that they will be able to face the risk and move on, only to fall smack on their faces. They react to everything that comes their way and boldly make statements of faith that have no substance. With such an individual little time is spent in prayer, gaining discernment and understanding. Others will take a chance only when they can see they are in a position of strength. Little trust is given to the Lord. They will take a risk only when they believe
they cannot lose. Everything has to look like it will work before they move. They don’t act upon faith.

Yet some have faith that they can take risks — but only when it will benefit themselves.

And finally, there are those who wait and move when the time is right. These individuals have seasoned their relationships with God in such a manner that they know the time to move and the time to sit back. Taking a risk is not something frightening, but a matter of the right move.

I wonder, in the walk of faith, which player describes you?

Spreading the Word – July/August 2014

By Micah Bales, Web & Communications Specialist

There are millions of people who would love to do something daring: Live an adventure, take risks, see the world with new eyes. Each one of us, in our own way, wants to experience a life of vivid purposefulness, to live in the eternal now. We yearn for the joy that comes with growing into the life for which God created us.

Why do so few of us find it? In a world so full of beauty, why are so many lives tarnished by ugliness? In an abundant creation, why are so many naked, hungry, homeless? On this earth that God created and said it is good, what is the meaning of all the brokenness we experience in our lives?

At no time in my life have I yearned more fiercely than in my late teens and early twenties. Even though for much of my young adulthood I did not consider myself a Christian, I always hungered for the life and power of God’s kingdom. I wanted to experience a way of living that would connect me with my deepest purpose, unite me with a sense of meaning that went beyond me and my petty desires. I longed to witness a world transformed and to have my life turned upside down in beautiful and surprising ways.

There were a number of obstacles keeping me from entering this life of beauty and power. Not the least of these was my reluctance to take a personal leap of faith. As much as I burned for a world of vivid justice and love, deep down I expected someone else to take the first step. It was as if I were standing on the edge of a cliff, dying from thirst, desperate to taste the life-giving water that I knew lay below. But I could not bring myself to jump. It was too much to bear. What if no one jumped in after me? What if I drowned?

I excused my lack of courage by appealing to the importance of community. Surely I couldn’t do something so rash, so dangerous without others supporting me in it! Jesus was inviting me to abandon my priorities, my possessions, my very self, to come and be his disciple; seeking first the kingdom of God. But I wanted assurances. “I’ll jump,” I told myself, “but I need a community of people who are willing to hold hands with me and jump at the same time.”

I met together with other seekers like me. We talked about community, about what it might look like to hold hands and make that leap of faith together. We talked, and we talked some more. But we never jumped. We loved the beauty of the water below; we thirsted for it together. But when it came time to make a commitment, to make a life-altering choice, we walked away from the edge. We went our separate ways. We discovered that we were a community of dreamers, not cliff divers.

Still, I longed for that life of power that I knew could be mine, if only I would release my need for control and fall into the loving arms of God. But if it wouldn’t work to wait until there were others who were willing to hold hands and take the plunge with me. What alternative did I have? Did God really expect me to go it alone?

I discovered that there was another way down to the water: I could climb. Taking a little risk now can be more powerful than dreaming about a big risk in the future. Rather than demanding the immediate perfection that I imagined, I committed myself to the life-long journey of personal transformation. And, to my surprise, I found community there. I came across other climbers along the path, women and men following Jesus in the way of life.

As I grow into this community of everyday risks, I find God inviting me into bigger ones. As I draw closer to the water, it becomes less unthinkable to jump in. As I discover so many fellow risk-takers along the way, I find courage to move forward in faith, even when no one is holding my hand.

Equipping to Serve: Through Training

Equipping a Nation to Serve All Children

By Eden Grace

Approximately five percent of all children in the world, according to the World Health Organization, have a moderate-to-severe disability. In some countries, these children can expect to receive excellent care and education allowing them to reach their highest potential. In Palestine, however, there are no government-funded educational services for children with disabilities. The public schools will not accommodate them. There is an unfortunately high rate of institutionalization for these precious children. In all of Palestine, there is only one school that accepts these children: Ramallah Friends School. Friends don’t just “accept” them; everyone on the campus loves, cherishes and sees each child as important and fully-integrated members of the school community. The Friends School sees the face of God in these special children.

This approach is utterly innovative in the Palestinian context. The special needs program at RFS began about 16 years ago when a particularly-assertive parent and an unusually visionary teacher persisted in advocating for the importance of mainstreaming children with disabilities. Today, the school is able to serve two or three students with severe disabilities at every grade level. These students are fully integrated into the educational and social life of their peers, while also receiving intensive one-on-one support from trained learning specialists. In overcoming social stigma against people with disabilities, the school has become a model for how differentiated teaching in a diverse student body leads to better outcomes for all children.

But two or three students per grade — only about 40 students across the whole school — is just the tip of the iceberg compared to the number of Palestinian children with moderate-to-severe disabilities. Parents, school administrators and government officials are pleading for help. In response to this huge unmet need, Ramallah Friends School is preparing to become a training center in full-inclusion special education, teaching and mentoring those who are attempting to replicate RFS’s program in other schools. This idea is still in the planning stages, with many questions yet to be answered, but already the level of excitement is rising. RFS is poised to equip the entire Palestinian educational system to serve children with disabilities, and by extension all children, as precious sons and daughters of the living God.