Reflection: Spreading the Word

by | Feb 12, 2020

See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand!

Galatians 6:11

I am writing this column after watching the Oscars.  Even though I have not seen the film “Parasite,” I got emotional seeing the joy of the filmmaker Bong Joon Ho and his colleagues, reflecting Korea’s great national pride in the film’s historic wins.  Reportedly, no Korean film has even been nominated for an Oscar before this year, and no Best Picture Oscar has been awarded to a non-English-language film. 

I guess I am proving some of what Charlene Jin Lee shared with us at this weekend’s Winterfest.  In her insightful, gentle way, she gave the participants many new understandings about the challenges and benefits in engaging more directly with people from other backgrounds, or as she suggested, “loving one another deeply.”  I am grateful for Charlene and all the presenters on a variety of topics, and for the hospitality of Arcadia Community Church; many people commented on how beautiful the sanctuary is and the welcome of the staff and volunteers.  I am especially grateful for the Education (now EEE—Education, Equipping, and Empowerment) Committee, especially Winterfest co-chairs Deidra Goulding and Pat Martinez-Miller, and EEE chair Jennifer Ackerman.

There were moments at Winterfest when people gave us a glimpse into their worlds, and it was touching and enlightening when they did.  It gave just a taste of how much more deeply we can experience God’s way as we hear the stories and insights of others.  And as we learn more about and from each other, we care more for them and what is important to them.  So even though the Republic of Korea has achieved economic success and I have joked how culturally cool all things Korean are, I was thrilled to see the country experience such unprecedented praise for their art.

Coincidentally, I was in an interview with a pastoral candidate, and when asked how he might help the congregation heal from past wounds, he simply said he would listen to them.  In a similar way, Charlene and others have encouraged especially dominant-culture people to be more intentional in listening to others in order to gain their perspective.  But it is also an awesome way of showing respect and offering healing love to the other to just listen.  One Winterfest session had the group hearing and responding to a poem from an accomplished poet who has been granted asylum.  The poet was deeply touched to be heard and acknowledged by the group members.

Often we think we must have the right thing to say, or do something when we know someone has a need.  But sometimes the greatest gift is to listen.  I have mentioned meeting a young man named Bertrand who is at Adelanto, and I keep wondering if I should be doing more, or if he expects something from me.  He telephones me once in a while, and once sounded concerned about the way court cases are being handled.  I asked him what I can do, and he said nothing, he just wanted me to know.  I think it just feels better that there’s someone out there he can call once in a while.

Recently Bertrand sent me a letter, and in the letter he gave the names of people in his prayer group at Adelanto.  I took copies of the letter to a gathering of the Refugee Ministry team at Claremont Presbyterian Church so they could hear the voice from someone at Adelanto, and I asked them to pray for the people in the prayer group.

Bertrand called me later, because he was surprised and moved that someone from Claremont took the time to write to him.

Someone else took the letter and gave it to Kristi Van Nostran, who took the names of the detainees in the prayer group and put them into the database for possible future visitors.

And I gave a copy of the letter to Steve Wiebe, with whom I had gone to Adelanto (through one of Kristi’s monthly group trips), when together we first met Bertrand.  Steve and I are going to Adelanto early this Monday morning, because Bertrand has a court date.  I ask your prayers for Bertrand and all the people facing the judge on their own. 

I mentioned this to a woman at church yesterday, and she offered $100 to help this person she’s never met.

As the message of this young man’s hand-written letter was spreading, I started to feel like we are reliving the distribution of the apostle Paul’s letters.  I love Galatians 6:11 because it’s so real—Paul commenting on how bad his handwriting is.  It’s a reminder that several if not all of the epistles, or letters, are just that—actual letters from Paul (sometimes from prison himself).  I can imagine people taking it on themselves to share his letters with others, and for the word to spread enough to become part of the canon of the New Testament.

We now have many channels for communication—so many that we may feel overwhelmed.  But whether you are approached in a meeting or phone call, a letter or email, even a tweet or a text, may you take the time to listen deeply to those who are sharing authentically.  And may we share a word if it expands our appreciation for life in God’s world.  As we listen, and appreciate, we will grow in our love for each other, and grow closer to more of God’s children.