Fair Trade and Advent

by Lisa Schmidt

For the past several years, Oak Hills has been partnering with local and international organizations to bring to our church goods that provide a fair wage and sustainable working conditions to artisans around the world as one of our Advent practices. While the market is certainly fun and, we hope, and enjoyable experience, this is not the main reason why we do it. At the fair trade market you can be sure that your spending seeks to build up people and communities.

The fair trade market  is a wonderful opportunity during Advent to engage in the practices of formation and mission. It invites us to look at our holiday spending and to invite God into the process. We can ask him to examine our hearts and to bring anything to our attention that is not in alignment with his will as we seek to have him be the focus of our Advent season. Why am I buying gifts? What is a reasonable amount for me to spend? How can I push back against the pull of consumerism during this holiday season? How does what I buy affect others?

The fair trade market also has a missional focus. God is at work around the world redeeming and restoring all things to himself. There are organizations already at work in our community and around the world to bring dignity and worth to trafficking survivors, and to provide a living wage to people in developing nations. We know that some of the goods that we see in the stores where we live are made by people who are working in terrible conditions or are being exploited in other ways. How can I use my spending this holiday season not only to bring joy to the recipient of my gift, but also to those who are involved in the process that I may never see?

Our encouragement this Advent season is that you would seek to more fully invite God into your holiday spending, and that you would consider how your spending affects those around the world. May God be glorified this Advent season, not only with our lips, but also with our spending.

If you can not make it to the Fair Trade Market at Oak Hills you may shop on line throughout the year.







Mission and Formation

by Lisa Schmidt

Our highest calling as humans is to live in communion with God. As we follow him and become his disciples, he teaches us, guides us, and leads us in the best life possible – a life lived with God. As we know, this takes effort on our end. We need to cooperate with the Spirit, who ultimately does the work in us to make us more like Jesus.

There is another side of this, however. God does not call us to become more like him for just our own sake, but also for the sake of the world. Jesus calls us to become more like him so that we can a be a sign, servant, and foretaste of the kingdom of God. God longs to gather all people to him and is already working in the world to redeem and restore all things to himself. We are called to join him in what he is already doing in this world as we walk with him throughout our daily lives.

We are a sent people, and our God is a sending God. Throughout the bible, God gathers his people and sends them out. In the old testament, Israel was set apart as God’s people in order that they might be a light to the rest of the world. One of my favorite examples of this in the new testament is when Jesus gathers his disciples together on a mountain in Galilee after his resurrection. They worship him there and then he sends them back out into the world, giving them the Great Commission.

Our God is a God of mission; he is at work both inside and outside of the walls of the church. God is on the move everywhere we already go – the grocery store, our child’s soccer game, at work, in our neighborhood. Our calling is to be attentive to where the Spirit is moving and to join him in what he’s already doing. This discernment necessitates that we are actively listening to God’s voice and seeking to become more like Jesus. Without paying attention to one’s formation, we are on a road to burnout. Without mission, we risk become overly self-focused and we miss out on a key part of God’s heart for the world.



“Jesus Loves the Little Children”

On August 6th El Dorado Union Public School will be starting.

On August 13th Folsom Cordova’s Public School will be starting.

Right now teachers are prepping and parents are eagerly waiting.  Though it is not time for spring cleaning or New Year Resolutions, the start of a new school year always seems like a time to reset the schedule and evaluate priorities.  Having registered for sports months ago I didn’t consider what our fall schedule might look like.  Last week when I  received our schedule for 4 sports teams, I realized, this fall, we’ll be at a field seven days a week.  My priorities don’t need to be pondered long, they are quite glaring… I value my kids and their desire to play sports.  There is nothing wrong with that, but in this busy season I need to see where God is already at work and where He is leading me.

Children, not just mine, but all children are dear to my heart.  Is it their curiosity, innocents, potential, vulnerability, resilience … I am not sure, but one thing I do know, I want every child to know they are lovable because they are loved by God.  As the school year starts I see so many flocking to school and I wonder what will that child face today? What words of truth will seep into his/her heart.  What lies will be reinforced? What joys to they notice? What burdens do they carry?

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary vulnerable is defined as able to be easily physically, emotionally or mentally hurt, influenced, or attacked.  According the World Health Organization youth are among the most vulnerable and poverty is a major contributing factor in vulnerability.  Poverty in Folsom looks very different from poverty in a refugee camps, but in both places are in need of a community that can offer opportunity and the truth of God’s love.

God is already at work in the lives of children and in leaders in our community through The Playmakers, Adopt-A Ward, and Folsom’s Hope. But they need others, invested individuals, to walk with them and Jesus.  Adopt-A-Ward needs people to hold bible studies in juvenile hall, and artist who would like to share their craft, monthly or just once.  The Playmakers, hires individuals to run an afterschool programs to mentor youth on the core values of accountability, commitment, teamwork, and family to prepare them to become people of enduring character who will lead their families and community.  Folsom’s Hope runs after school programs and in-school mentoring programs.  Mentors are always need for elementary and middle school students.

I can see where God is meeting me in my passions and leading me to advocate for others. In just one week I received emails from 3 organizations requesting time to share ways they are caring for vulnerable children.  What I love about each organization is they believe not just in “rescuing” children but addressing prevention, crisis intervention, and reintegration.  It is exciting for me to see others who share the same passion for youth as I do and invite others to be advocates for the future.  As a result, Oak Hills is hosting a Vulnerable Children Awareness night.  The vision is to empower you to partner with organizations that are improving the livelihood of children both locally and around the world.  We will have speakers from World Relief Sacramento, the Institute for Children’s Aid- Refugee Foster Care, Defending the Cause and 3 Strands Global. Each organization will speak for about 15 min and have a specific ways you can get involved.

Please join us Monday, August 27th at 6:30 pm in the Family Auditorium to find out how you can empower the next generation.

Fast for World Refugee Day on June 20

By Lisa Schmidt

Increasingly over the past few years, I find myself more and more drawn to the idea of feasting and fasting as part of a larger rhythm of life. We have so much to rejoice in as Christians and the reality of the Gospel is something to celebrate. God is too amazing to be only celebrated at Christmas and Easter.

I love the idea of sharing a meal with others in a spirit of celebration and deep gratitude to God for His faithfulness as a regular practice of our Christian walk. Rich meats, fine wine enjoyed in the company of others with a spirit of celebration and an eye to one day when we will celebrate with believers from every time and place in the presence of our risen King – this is something to get excited about! Feasting is also a great way to be missional in your neighborhood – everyone loves a party.

Fasting, however, is a little harder for me to get excited about. In the past, I had primarily thought of fasting as either a way to make the feast more festive (celebrating Easter takes on a whole new meaning when you’ve spent six weeks journeying through Lent), or as a way of practicing self-control and remembering that I do not live on bread alone.

And while I still believe that this is true, my eyes have recently been opened to the fact that biblical fasting focuses less on the results of fasting, and more on the circumstances which bring about the fasting. Scott McKnight in his book Fasting, states: “The focus in the Christian tradition is not ‘if you fast you will get’ but ‘when this happens, God’s people fast.’”

Barry Jones in his book Dwell: Life with God for the World lists some examples of why God’s people fast in the Bible: loss in battle (Judges 20:26), relief from famine (Jeremiah 14:1-12; Joel 1:14), the death of a leader (1 Samuel 31:13; 1 Chronicles 10:12; 2 Samuel 1:12), personal sorrow (1 Samuel 1:7-8; Job 3:24; Pslam 42:1-5), the sin of the community (Daniel 9:3-14; Nehemiah 1:4-7), and personal sin (2 Samuel 12:16-23; 1 Kings 21:27-29). Put simply, God’s people fasted in response to the brokenness of the world. Barry Jones goes on to say: “Fasting is the way we engage our bodies in protest against the vandalism of shalom.”

When faced with the brokenness of this world, we often want to look away or to try and find a way to fix it. When we take either (or both) of those options, we miss out on a third option – grieving this “vandalism of shalom,” by fasting and praying. While there are certainly times of celebration in our lives as our God is a joyous God, there are also times to weep and mourn as our God weeps and mourns.

Barry Jones also opened my eyes to the fact that fully half of the references in Scripture to fasting pertain to fasting together in community. What would happen if we as God’s people expressed, in a physical way, together, our sadness at the current injustice of the world and our deep longing for the world to come more fully under the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ?

The Missional Strategies Team at Oak Hills will be fasting on Wednesday June 20th – World Refugee Day – as a response to the global and local injustices being committed against refugees. We would love for you to join us.

You can also join us by praying, along with others around the world, this prayer written by Mark Koenig the Director of Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations:

God of the journey,

We remember that Mary and Joseph Had to flee to Egypt,

Taking Jesus to safety,

Leaving home behind.


We pray for sisters and brothers

Around your world Who are forced to leave their homes.

We pray for brothers and sisters who are

Driven from home by natural disasters.

We pray for sisters and brothers who are

Driven from unnatural acts of violence and persecution.

We pray for brothers and sisters who are

Driven from home because of inadequate responses to natural events.

We pray for those who leave their countries and cross borders.

We pray for those who are internally displaced,

Finding new places to live within their own country.

We pray for those who are exposed to freezing cold and searing heat,

Those who lack food, water, shelter, and other necessities of life,

Those who are exploited, violated, and abused, and

Those who mourn the loss of place and all that brings.

We give thanks for the strength, courage, and grace of our sisters and brothers

Who are refugees or internally displaced.

We give thanks for the contributions they make in their new places

And for the ways in which they enrich our lives.

Guide the leaders of the world to find creative ways to respond,

To extend protection and provide safe haven,

To care compassionately and respectfully for the needs of our sisters and brothers,

To address the situations and circumstances that force people to leave their homes.

To do justice and to seek peace.

Show us ways that we can support our brothers and sisters whom we encounter.

Inspire us to engage in the efforts to create a world

In which all have a safe place to call home.

We pray in the name of the refugee Jesus,


We feast because the Kingdom of God has come, and we fast because it has not yet come into its fullness. We feast because Jesus has come, and we fast waiting for him to return to make all things right. I believe that both of these are an important part of our walk with God, and a key to understanding more fully God’s heart for the world that He loves. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Two local organizations that Oak Hills has worked with to support refugees are:       World Relief and The International Refugee Committee

**If fasting is something new you, consider looking at the chapter on Fasting from Richard Fosters book, Celebration of Disciplines.  Or here is a link to an excerpt from his book. http://www.thelighthouse.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Fasting-Booklet.pdf

If a food fast is not something you can do for health reasons, you may consider fasting from a favorite food or daily activity.

Alaska 2018 By Holly Carlson

IMG_3498For the past two years, Oak Hills has sent a group of people to a small subsistence living Tlingit village, Klukwan, in southeast Alaska. While one of the purposes of the trip was to provide assistance to this struggling village, most of us who went feel like we received much more than we gave.  This year we helped strip a house so that it can be renovated so that growing and returning families can have new places to live, we helped fix up the church, we did some work in the community, and we helped serve a meal to visitors in the hospitality house. But we were gifted with such beautiful experiences.

This community is abounding with the gift of storytelling, the lack of distractions, the ability to listen, generous giving, prolific art and master craftsmanship, and interdependent community. This is a community where a person’s value is determined by the stories they have been gifted to share, and the amount of possessions they have given away.  Education, financial success, professional status – these are only as valuable as what they provide their community.  A person coming into the community with wealth who does not share it would not be held in high esteem, while someone without any income who works hard at the salmon harvest and generously shares her food would be highly respected.

This seems so intuitive! Does our community esteem the same values? Are we distracted by big homes, high ranking jobs, a bunch of letters after our names? Why do we long for more?

Both times I have gone to Klukwan I have wanted to stay.  It was such a blessing to see Jami and Jason Cambell thriving there; they are a couple who went on the first trip and were asked to stay and pastor the community church.  If you ever find yourself in Klukwan, I strongly recommend going to church on Sunday and experiencing God through Jami’s teaching.  Something about this community brings out beauty in people.  For me, the performance issues and busyness is stripped away and I just get to be me.  I wish I had more places like that here in Folsom.

Even as I sit down to write this entry, my mind is wandering to all the things I have to do today, all the things I would like to do, all the discomforts I am trying to avoid.

All this is not to say that Folsom is terrible and Klukwan is perfect.  They have significant struggles with substance abuse, mental illness, loneliness, and disunity.  I believe those are struggles in all communities.  But when people live so close together in small numbers, and when they truly depend on each other for survival, flaws are much more difficult to hide.  Klukwan lives with one foot in American culture and one foot in native tradition.  The division creates some internal (and external) turmoil that is going to take this community a lot of time to reconcile. Despite their struggles, I still think our lives would be enriched by bringing a little bit of Klukwan here.

What if we did things just a little bit differently?  What if we lived a little more simply? What if we gave away a little more money without any strings attached (because we all know that if our employer paid us only if we would spend it on necessities we would all be in trouble)? What if when people were talking to us, we let them finish, and then waited for a few seconds, minutes even, before we started speaking? What if we told people our story a little more often – without the garnishes and thrills – the boring stuff, the simple stuff?  What if we actually turned off our phones and our computers and our televisions most nights? What about even one night a week?

If you want to experience a little bit of Klukwan I have a couple of suggestions for you.

  1. Ask a friend/family member/loved one to tell a story about their childhood pet or childhood memory.  It can be a short story, a long story, it doesn’t matter.  Let them tell you the entire story with no interruptions (this means turn your phones on silent, TVs off, music off, etc).  Then let them finish.  Wait at least 30 seconds in silence.  Afterward, don’t ask any questions, don’t try to clarify something you didn’t quite hear or understand.  Trust that what they told you was everything and enough, and walk away with that.
  2. Have one night a week with the people you live with (or if you live alone, with close friends or family) where electronics get turned off at 5 PM.  You eat together, play games, talk, read, and maybe even go to bed early.
  3. Give something away without any regard to whether the recipient is “deserving” or whether they will use it “wisely”
  4. Find a way to depend on someone – ask someone else to do your grocery shopping, ask for a ride when you would have normally used an Uber, ask someone else to make dinner, etc
  5. Go spend some time in nature – find a waterfall hike, head up to Tahoe or to the ocean, go kayaking

Please continue to pray for Klukwan.

  • Pray for the upcoming Salmon harvest- that it will be bountiful and that they can store up food for the winter
  • Pray for Jami and Jason as they shepherd the church in Klukwan
  • Pray for the Kingdom of God to reign in Klukwan – that disunity and spite will disappear in the light of the Good News of Jesus Christ
  • Pray for those struggling with substance abuse, depression, and other mental illnesses – that they will be given peace, healing, and be valued in the midst of their struggles
  • Pray for the youth of Klukwan living abroad that want to return home that they may find a way.
  • Pray for the Oak Hills trip next year – that we will have skilled laborers come as well as hopefully a trip co-leader

Relationships Make all the Difference

In September, Kody Renfro’s (Communications Administrator @ Oak Hills) grandmother moved into Folsom Care Center. Since Kody lived just down the street she decided to visit her grandmother daily as much as possible. Though Kody’s grandmother recognizes her, she is not aware that Kody is her granddaughter. Sometimes Kody is a childhood friend, other times she is “one of the neighborhood children”, but most often she is “my best friend”. Kody commented that she is happy to be whoever her grandma needs her to be that day. As she walks in she is not sure what time period they will be in or how their relationship started, but what is beautiful is that there is a relationship.

Although this looks like a blessing for Kody’s grandmother (and it is), Kody is noticing what a gift it is for her. She is learning how to slow down and be more present with others; there is no purpose in worrying about errands and to do lists or incessantly checking the cellphone when sitting inside Folsom Care Center. And after a difficult or frustrating day, sitting with her grandmother for a while tends to put things in perspective, and Kody leaves a little more centered and renewed. That doesn’t mean there aren’t days when she doesn’t feel like going or it feels like another item on the to do list, but she is grateful for the opportunity to make these visits a part of her everyday life rhythm.

Kody is not only getting to know her grandma more she is getting to know other residents and staff. Over time, they made the connection that Oak Hills and Denise Gregorini have been serving at Folsom Care Center through SuperSeniors for years. While helping with Cappuccino Christmas last year, Kody had the vision of inviting seniors. Little did she know that just a few days after pitching the idea her grandmother would be moved to Folsom Care Center. Now Kody has the connections to see this desire come to fruition. Personally, I love this story because it embodies “life on mission.” Kody took her everyday life, used it to love others, noticed that God was already at work, and was able to further connect Oak Hills with the community around her.  I look forward to seeing how life, ministry partners and church programs continue to weave together!


Denise Gregorini and SuperSeniors holds church services at 10:00 AM at Folsom Care Center.  Denise would love to see more children at the service.  The service is not long so you’ll have plenty of time to back to Oak Hills for the 11am service.   If your family is interested in joining please contact Denise at denise@gregorini.com.

Super Seniors also has special events throughout the year that are great ways for families to serve together. http://superseniorssacramento.org/


Prison Ministry Around the World

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”    Mathew 25: 37-40 


Oak Hills supports two ministries that work directly with those in prison.  Adopt-A-Ward provides weekly Bible studies in the Sacramento County Youth Detention Facility and Ylli Beqiraj has a prison ministry in Albania.  Beyond these two wonderful ministries there are numerous Oak Hillians who serve those in prison and their families through various organisations.  Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in physical chains that God would break any strongholds on their soul.


It is a beautiful thing that Jesus meets us where we are.  And it is beautiful that Rick and Chris Johnson are meeting youth where they are; the students they happen to be meeting with are at Juvenile Hall.  Rick and Chris have been faithful to lead weekly a Bible study, providing the Johnson’s opportunities to support children and their families. 

Recently Rick and Chris received the Sacramento Youth Detention Facility Annual Chaplaincy Volunteer Awards for their service and commitment to the Adopt-A-Ward Program being piloted by Oak Hills Church.  The Chaplaincy Volunteer Banquet was attended by a couple hundred people including local county supervisors, the chief probation officer, and top juvenile hall administrative staff.  Part of the ceremony included a video highlighting certain programs, including the Adopt-A-Ward program featuring mentee Anaya B who is being mentored by Oak Hillian, Christine Evanson.

 If you’d like more information on how you can be part of Adopt-A-Ward and the wonderful impact they are having please contact Rick at rick_johnson@comcast.net

A Story From Yllialbania map

A young man from Vlore was condemned in Norway for two years. Through the local chaplain he found out that there is a Christian organization that helps people either in prison or soon to be released. He was impressed and asked if anyone could help him travel home from Rinas once he was released because he didn’t have anybody expecting his arrival.  SHKBSH, the organization that supervises prison ministry in Albania, contacted Ylli, because of his local prison ministry. Ylli agreed and met the young man in the airport and drove him home. As Ylli puts it, “In the long journey from Rinas to Vlore we talked about many things that have happened in Albania and in his life when in Norway but a little about God. I had the feeling that he was expecting me to take advantage of the situation so I didn’t talk much about religion. Towards the end he warmed to me and promised to phone and have coffee with me soon.”

Reminding people of their value because they are created in Christ’s image is a wonderful testimony to God’s unconditional love for us!  

To read more about Ylli’s ministry in Albania click here.


handsAll HANDS on Deck

Fellow Oak Hillians, Jerry and Lois Scott, are involved with a prison ministry called Kairos.  They will be part of a retreat at Folsom Prison with 48 inmates, April 12-15.  Part of the decorations for the retreat are cut out hands with bible verses on them.  This is a visual reminder for the participants that there are people supporting them in prayer.  Our youth group made over 100 hand prints, what a beautiful reminder there is forgiveness in Christ. 

Missional Living is Alive and Well


“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into Exile, Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7

What a joy it has been to be part of the Oak Hills staff for the past 4 months!  My name is Emily Hooey and I am the new Missional Living Coordinator.  I was hesitant to accept this position, unsure of what I had to contribute.  But at a meeting with all the volunteers who lead various compassion ministries at Oak Hills  I was so inspired and encouraged by all that God is doing through members of Oak Hills, I couldn’t help but want to be a more permanent part of the of the community.  It is also because of that meeting that I want to start this newsletter.   It is incredible and live giving to see all the ways Oak Hills is serving the local community. I want everybody to know what we are up to and what is going on.

My vision for the Missional Ling Blog is to highlight some of your local and international partners each month and provide a list of upcoming service opportunities to get involved with.  I hope you enjoy reading about our amazing ministry partners and are as encouraged as I have been.  I also hope this is a resource you will use when looking to get more involved with what God is doing in Folsom and the world.

Local: HART of Folsom


Last week Oak Hills provided hot meals, fresh clothing, and a warm, safe place for our community’s homeless who wanted to take advantage of HART’s Winter Shelter.HART of Folsom is a community based volunteer organization assisting those experiencing homelessness in Folsom toward self-sufficiency and greater independence.

The Winter Shelter is a joint effort with local church to offer temporary, emergency shelter for people in Folsom.  The Shelter rotates between churches each week December-February.  Oak Hills hosted the shelter Jan 21-27 and Feb 4-11.  It was a great success! One of the beautiful things about the shelter is it gives the guests an opportunity to get to know HART and the services they provide year round.

What we heard from so many of our volunteers is how blessed they were by the experience.  But don’t take  my word, here is what Debi Zacharia had to say, “My volunteer experience was the highlight of my week – truly a blessing.  I will be more proactive next year and sign up a lot more!”

To get involved please contact Judi Alexander: judialexander496@gmail.com


International: Procaim!


Steve, Dawn, Bianca and Sofia Liberti moved to Germany in 2011 to pursue a ministry among an increasing Muslim population and to have greater access to bring Christ’s love to Central Asia, North Africa, the Balkans and Europe.

As the Lord led them to leave their home, He placed them in a community where others forced to leave their homes were settling.  There are three refugee communities within 20 miles of the Liberti’s home.

Last week Steve was asked to bring his Drum Circle beets to a refugee community in Kander & Efringen Kirchen. Activities like this have been going on for the past two years and to this point only women and children have attended.  While a bit unsure of the “long term missional strategy” of this event Steve was faithful to bring his giftings to the community.  Of course God showed up.  For the first time a group of men attended the community gathering. Steve will continue to reach out to Refugees in Kandern & Efringen Kirchen with his Drum Circle.



Get Involved: Folsom’s HOPE


Folsom’s Hope serves the physical, educational, relational, material and spiritual needs of children and their families.

Sutter Middle, Theodore Judah and Blanche Sprentz have lunch time mentoring programs that connects children with a caring, supportive adult mentor once a week during their school-scheduled lunch hour. Mentors have the opportunity to truly get to know their student over the course of the school year — and provide ongoing love, guidance and encouragement. Male mentors are always in high demand.

To get involved please contact Salwa: salwa.kasabian@FolsomsHope.org

kleenexWe are collecting non-perishable food items, particularly canned meals with pop tops, for the Twin Lakes Food Bank and boxes of Kleenex for Blanche Sprentz Elementary. Drop off your donations for these ministry partners at the Mission Booth in the lobby any time throughout Lent. 

Diversity, the Body of Christ, and the Why Christian? Conference

On Saturday, September 12th, I led the Spiritual Formation Academy retreat on mission, and, specifically, on friendships at the margins (if you haven’t read Friendship at the Margins by Chris Heuertz and Christine D. Pohl, I highly recommend it).  One of four sessions was on the necessity of such friendships: not only is it important to recognize those who have been pushed to the margins, relationships with them are necessary for our (privileged) hearts, our spiritual formation, and our calling to love all of our neighbors (not just the ones who look, talk, or act like us).  After the retreat was over, I scrambled to get my work for the next week done and then quickly left for the Why Christian? Conference in Minneapolis.  There, I was going to hear over fourteen women pastors, writers, and leaders speak about their lives and experiences.




First, let me just say: wow.  The cathedral where we met was gorgeous, the worship was a source of joy and renewal, the gathering of so many different denominations together to dialog in love was hopeful.  But above everything else, I was strongly and forcefully reminded of the necessity of diverse voices in my life, and in the life of the body of Christ.  It made my talk the Saturday before feel like someone describing what a tiny rainbow reflected from a prism might look like, when all the while outside the window there is a glorious rainbow splashed across the sky.  I was struck to the core by the reminder that I am living in a muted echo of the true body of Christ when I am cut off from those with different experiences, traditions, beliefs, and practices.

At the conference all of the speakers’ talks centered on the question, “Why am I a Christian?”  This may seem simple, but each of the speakers had come from a place of rejection or deep wounding by the Church, and all of the speakers still choose to engage with the Church in spite of those wounds.  We heard from women who had been rejected for their gender, their sexuality, their race, their ethnicity, and their “rebellious” individuality.  What an amazing blessing to hear so many women of deep faith share their stories, wounds, anger, and hope.  Over and over again I realized how little I could understand Christ, or the Church at work in the world, when I limit the voices I hear to solely those who sound like or agree with me.

I need to be stretched by the struggles, anger, and stories of those who are different than me.  I need to be able to listen with love and compassion to ideas and experiences that I may not want to hear, or that I don’t understand.  Those who have experienced abuse, rejection, or violence at the hands of the Church or Christians have a right to express their frustration, anger, hurt, or betrayal without being judged for it.  Without everyone’s presence and voices at the table, the body of Christ will never be a full or vibrant reflection of God and God’s kingdom.

What does this mean for us?  Well, practically for me it means that I am subscribing to and reading blogs that represent different perspectives.  I am praying that God will open me up to be ready to enter in to and listen well to new/different/diverse perspectives.  These perspectives could be here in Folsom, or across the U.S., or elsewhere in the world.

I am also making sure that I make space to honor other peoples’ anger.  So many of the speakers talked about not being allowed to be angry.  Because they are Christian, they have felt the pressure to end their story on a high note, with forgiveness and healing, rather than raw wounds.  That’s not to say that forgiveness and healing are not important–they are integral to life in the Kingdom of God.  However, when I want someone who has been hurt/marginalized due to her race to talk about her healing, it more often has to do with me being uncomfortable with her anger, rather than simply a desire for her healing.  I need to understand that many wounds run deep, and I need to make space for and honor the pain that my brothers and sisters in Christ have experienced, rather than gloss it over.  Even if that makes me uncomfortable.  Especially if that makes me uncomfortable.

Lastly, I am reminding myself daily that really, this is about love.  I am called to love all of Christ’s body, from the toes to the arms to the split ends.  I can’t love what I have never met, and when I meet a part of the body that is new or different (or just gets on my nerves) with fear/frustration/judgement, it becomes very difficult for me to love well.  And loving God and our neighbors is pretty central to the Gospel (read: the most important things we are told to do, according to Jesus).

And there summer went…

Summer went by so quickly!  It seems like it was just May yesterday, and now we are in August.  So much happened in between day-to-day activities and summer camps.  We had a great visit from our partners, Mayette Ativo-Bueno and Tony Bueno.

Mayette and Tony in office

We also got to have Ireni back to update us on Restoration Ministries!

Ireni in the church

We had a backpack drive that brought in 24 backpacks, 14 bags of school supplies, and several Payless Gift Cards.

Backback Drive!

Not to mention raising over $2000 for the Bicol Center and bringing in over 120 toys during Arts Camp week!  Our campers were so generous!

We’ve got a lot going on when we look ahead, too.  More Powerhouse Meals, Shawn Young’s dessert and information event on August 20th (more to follow), a food drive for the Twin Lakes Food Bank on September 6th, and the Folsom Community Service Day on September 19th.

We have some much to be grateful for as this summer draws to a close, and so much to look forward to!  Thank you all for your dedicated service to furthering God’s Kingdom in your lives and our community.