Build Relationships, Put an End to Violence

A picture of a young girl in Gaza, standing against a school and mourning the loss of a relative killed there, fills the main part of my browser this morning.

And yet the advertisements on the right-hand side of the page are for a new car, a deal on a pedicure, and an overnight getaway.

A story of global conflict and American lifestyle advertisements. It’s a mismatch, right? Or is it. I live in the U.S., in a small Ohio town where there really isn’t any violence to speak of. So I could click to claim the deal on a pedicure and go about my day or I could read the article and think about this world we live in: a world rife with conflict, a world filled with people who need to figure out how to understand each other, a world where we forget that we are connected to each other. Too often I get pulled into my own life and work and fail to see myself as a global citizen.

This week I had the pleasure of working on a forthcoming book, Christian, Muslim, Friend: Twelve Paths to Real Relationship, by David Shenk (November 1, 2014; Herald Press). The book invites readers into authentic, respectful friendship with Muslims. It invites readers to listen and understand different points of view while also holding fast to one’s own beliefs.

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This is Shenk’s fourth volume in the Christians Meeting Muslims Series. The other books in the series are:

  • A Muslim and A Christian in Dialogue, coauthored with Badru D. Kateregga (focuses on dialogue)
  • Journeys of the Muslim Nation and the Christian Church: Exploring the Mission of Two Communities (focuses on witness and invitation)
  • Teatime in Mogadishu: My Journey as a Peace Ambassador in the World of Islam, by Ahmed Ali Haile as told to David Shenk (focuses on peacemaking)
MuslimAndAChristianInDialogue JourneysOfTheMuslimNationAndTheChristianChurch Teatime InMogadishu

In the introduction to Christian, Muslim, Friend., Shenk writes, “I am writing these lines in June 2014, which has turned into a month of anguish. Boko Haram has kidnapped some three hundred high school girls in Nigeria. The United States is gearing up to provide more military assistance for moderate Muslims in Syria. Al Shabab have bombed a market and attacked Christians at worship in Kenya. Christian vigilantes are violently cleansing southern Chad of Muslims. A drone is reported to have killed Muslim militants in southern Yemen. The European Union Parliament is moving toward the right amid concerns about the growing Muslim immigrant community in Europe. … In Egypt, members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been served the death penalty by Egyptian courts.

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Author David Shenk

“These thirty days in June are the context in which relationship-building between Muslims and Christians must happen. The astonishment is that the participants in all these conflicts believe they are on God’s side. In case we have not noticed, peacemaking is urgent!”

Shenk’s writing is clear and easy-to-follow, with 12 paths that he sees as key to building relationships. These paths are designed to help readers learn and share about the contemporary challenges and realities of cultivating real relationships between Muslims and Christians, with particular reflection on the journey of North American and other Western Christians. For example, the first four paths are:

  • Live with Integrity: Christians and Muslims are often inclined to avoid candor in their relations with one another. This might be because of mistrust. However, integrity is foundational to wholesome relations.
  • Keep Identity Clear: The Muslim scriptures encourage Christians to be clear about their identity. Christians meeting Muslims most often experience appreciation for Christians who are clear about their faith and church commitments.
  • Cultivate Respect: In the present worldwide atmosphere much is said unkindly about people with different beliefs. Every effort must be nurtured to speak and think respectfully of one another.
  • Develop Trust: It is very significant when Muslims say that they trust their Christian neighbors, and vice versa. The three principles that are discussed in the three opening chapters of this book do sow seeds that nurture trust. Mistrust builds walls; trust creates open doors.

While Christian. Muslim. Friend. is specifically about fostering Christian-Muslim relationships, I believe it offers us encouragement and practical tools for building relationship amid all sorts of global violence. As Shenk writes, “Seeking the rule of God is a common strand of faith and intention that pulls us together in our work and witness.”

How do you seek relationship with the “other” in your context? How are you building friendship with those who believe differently?

Amy Gingerich, editorial director

Amy Gingerich

 

 

Letting Our Little Lights Shine While Getting to Heaven on Roller Skates  

By Mary Ann Weber

Do you look for itsy-bitsy spiders when you pass by drain spouts? Do you notice the wheels on a bus going ’round and ’round? Whenever you pass by a water fountain, do you remember that God’s love is deep and wide? Do you know better, now, what it means to be a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N?91992981

I’ve been thinking a lot about children’s music recently because MennoMedia uses music in many of our curriculum pieces for young people. As an example, go to the Shine: Living in God’s Light Sunday school curriculum website, https://shinecurriculum.com/music/, and check out the free downloads offered each quarter.

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We want music that is catchy, memorable, and creative. We want music that reflects that people all over the world love God, and that God loves people all over the world. We want music that acknowledges the community of faith, and music that guides children to form their own faith. We want music with substance, and we want to feature a variety of musical styles. It seems like a tall order, right?

There’s no doubt that music helps to shape us. Think about one of your favorite songs from childhood. Most likely, you still remember the lyrics and the melody. Maybe you even find yourself humming it on occasion. How did the song help to form you? What did you learn from the song?

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I’m fascinated by the messages in some of the songs I learned when young and can still relate to some of them. Yes, Jesus loves me. But some songs no longer resonate with my understanding of a life of faith. No, not every moment is a happy one since Jesus set me free. And I wonder about the substance of a song that tells us we’ll roll right by the pearly gates if we try to get to heaven on roller skates.

I’m grateful for songs that continue to inspire throughout my life. For example, when I travel or watch the news, I’m glad that the whole world is in God’s hands. I’m thankful that the world is filled with people who let their little lights shine everywhere they go. And it’s a comfort to know that God’s banner over me (and the whole world) is love.

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This is why children’s songs are running through my head. Let’s give children songs that encourage them to love God and follow Jesus. Let’s give them good songs that will help them grow into the people God wants them to be. Let’s give them music that will help them love themselves, their neighbors, and those across the world. Let’s raise our voices and sing!

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For other music products for children, check here.

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Mary Ann Weber
MennoMedia Managing editor

Midwest and Other Memories by Steve Carpenter

Has the summer taken you on any adventures this year, even to a low key local museum?

As MennoMedia’s Director of Development and Church Relations, one of the joys of my job is to travel to new places and meet interesting people. Recently I traveled to Iowa, the “heartland of America,” where I attended the Central Plains Mennonite Conference’s (CPMC) annual assembly. While there I also visited with many pastors and donors. CPMC is comprised of about 50 congregations in seven states. The annual meeting was held in Mt. Pleasant in southeast Iowa at Iowa Wesleyan College (IWC). For such a small institution, just 650 students, IWC boasts several notable alumni including astronaut Peggy Whitson who in 2007 became the first female commander of the International Space Station.

Astronaut Peggy Whitson

Astronaut Peggy Whitson

In 1958, another distinguished IWC alumni, James Van Allen , discovered the earth’s radiation belts which now carry his name.

Scientist James Van Allen

Scientist James Van Allen

None of the people I met on this trip had quite the same credentials as Whitson and Van Allen but one couple was doing some particularly interesting things. Larry and Mary Lou Roth, combined their faith, with a love for dairy farming and history to create a fascinating mini-museum called Midwest Memories situated in Wayland, Iowa. Larry operated a feed business and a dairy farm for many years. In 2009, after several years of retirement, he opened the Midwest Memories Museum to display his extensive collection of glass milk bottles and other dairy farming paraphernalia. The museum showcases a rich collection of agricultural antiques including:

• Milk bottles from the lower 48 states
• One-room school memorabilia
• Historic milking machines, cream separators, butter churns, milking stools, etc.
• Model farm tractors and unusual farm implements
• A cast iron watermelon hog oiler

Larry Roth's milk bottle collection display.

Larry Roth’s milk bottle collection display.

In 2012 he combined his collection with the Wayland Museum, which specializes in local history such as that of Wayland High School before it closed in 1963. It also houses artifacts from local servicemen killed in World War II. It is now called the Wayland and Midwest Memories Museum.

WWII history collection reflects sacrifices of local youth.

WWII history collection reflects sacrifices of local youth.

WWII Peace Treaty

Treaty ending WW II signed by Emperor Hirohito and General Douglas McArthur.

However, the museum isn’t just about dairy farms and local history. It is also about the Roth families’ faith. One section of the museum is called “Family” and highlights wedding certificates, a family Bible, and scripture plaques.

Family, faith, and farm were intertwined.

Family, faith, and farm were intertwined.

Marriage certificate of Larry's grandparents Ed and Lizzie Wenger married March 1906 (his mother's parents); marriage certificate of Larry's parents married December 30, 1930.

Marriage certificate of Larry’s grandparents Ed and Lizzie Wenger married March 1906 (his mother’s parents); marriage certificate of Larry’s parents married December 30, 1930.

Larry, as well as his grandparents, Ed and Lizzie Wenger, and parents, Elmer G. Roth and Minnie F. Wenger, knew the importance of passing faith on to their children. Likewise the museum isn’t just about farming traditions but also about family and faith traditions. Larry and Mary Lou are active at Bethel Mennonite Church, one of four Mennonite Churches in Wayland, the others being Sugar Creek, Wayland, and Eicher Emmanuel.

Calendar made by Sugar Creek and Bethel Mennonite Youth Fellowships in 1958.

Calendar made by Sugar Creek and Bethel Mennonite Youth Fellowships in 1958.

Likewise, MennoMedia knows the importance of passing faith on to the next generation. We recently published a book by Elsie Rempel titled Please Pass the Faith: the Art of Spiritual Grandparenting. This is an important book for biological as well as honorary grandparents who want to pass their faith on to their offspring.

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Like Larry Roth, MennoMedia is the guardian of a rich history. But rather than the history of dairy farming we curate a bounty of Anabaptist literature. We have contemporary titles and others dating back centuries including the Martyr’s Mirror, first published in 1660 and The Complete Writings of Menno Simons, who lived in the Netherlands in the 1500s and from whom Mennonites derive their name.

martyrs mirror jacket.qxpComplete Writings of Menno Simons

If you’re ever in Wayland, Iowa, check out the Wayland and Midwest Memories Museum, located on Main Street. It is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 9 and 4. Larry would be happy to give you a tour by prior arrangement if you call his cell phone at 319 331-5986.

Likewise, if you want to learn more about Anabaptist History check out An Introduction to Mennonite History by Cornelius Dyck, or Up From the Rubble, the harrowing story of the rescue of Mennonite refugees and their migration from Russia to Canada by Peter & Elfrieda Dyck.

3rd edition, 1993.

3rd edition, 1993.

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For those more interested in music than reading, or who enjoy traditional four-part a cappella singing, MennoMedia has a vast library of CDs derived from the music of the Mennonite Hour. All of these books and CDs can be ordered on-line through the MennoMedia store.

This is one of nearly two dozen a cappella CDs available on-line.

This is one of nearly two dozen a cappella CDs available on-line.

How do you share your faith with your children?

Is Mennonite history important to you?

Is your family’s history something you enjoy?

Steve Carpenter, Director of Development and Church Relations

Steve Carpenter, Director of Development and Church Relations