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Showing posts from 2007

Burnout, Prayer, and Hope

Hello friend, Teaching prisoners how to pray and meditate as a way of reducing violence in their lives is a ministry of Bo Lozoff, Director of Bo in Its a Meaningful Life- It Just Takes Practice says, “When we integrate committed service to our lifestyle, the temptation may arise to lighten up on our (quiet time) personal spiritual practices. But I believe that's what leads to burnout for so many people. Trying to dedicate yourself entirely through outward activity, no matter how much you seem to be helping others, will sooner or later chew you up and spit you out if you don't take time for inner silence as well. It's like trying to breathe out all the time without breathing in. How long can that last? Be sure to breathe in, too, so that you're helping others from a deeper place (p. 295).” Thomas Keating, in his book on Christian meditation, Open Heart Open Mind, says, “The principal effects of meditation are experienced in daily life, not in th

Planting in California and Oregon

Dear Friend, “Thank you so much for coming to share with the students; I am sure we will talking about this for a number of days,” remarked one of the staff members at the Wellspring Friends School in Oregon. “Wow, look at the donations they made,” I said to my friend Cyrus after my presentation at the Modesto Junior College. Cyrus responded, “Students don’t have much money, so when they make donation, you know you touched them.” “These books about peacemaking will be great for our library; I’ve been thinking that we need something along this line,” remarked the librarian after I contributed peace books after giving a presentation in four classes at Mission High in San Francisco. I had many good conversations and feel my sharing was received very well in the 25 venues at which I presented in Oregon and California. It was quite exhausting at times, though it seemed well worth it. Pray that the seeds planted in that trip would sprout, grow, and flourish. Thanks for your prayers and

"Blood Brothers"

Dear Friends, In my continuing peacemaking education, I recently read the book Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour. He is a Christian - a Palestinian priest who grew up during the formation of the state of Israel. His family is part of a Church that dates back to the very beginnings of Christianity. It has been very helpful for me in coming to understand, in a very personal way, how the conflict has affected, and is still affecting, the Jews and Palestinians living in the area. Here's one story: A man had asked Elias, who was his pastor, to come to his house because his mother was dying. After her death, Elias said to him, "We must surely invite your four brothers to come to see the body before she is buried." The brother responded, "We hate each other so much, if you invite them, you will have five funerals on your hands." This was an example of the animosity between people, even within families, in this village. Later, in the middle of the worship on Easte

My Next Peace Trip

Dear Friend, My next trip to Colombia will take me in a bit of a new direction, for I have been invited by the Colombian Mennonite Brethren to work for three months with them. I will be sharing about CPT work as a way of promoting peacemaking amongst their 44 congregations and nearly 4000 members. Because the Colombian Mennonite Brethren are in the process of recovering their peace heritage, it is a particularly ripe time for this to happen and I am very excited for this opportunity. This direction may not look as "exciting" as being on the front lines with CPT on the Opon River. However, I feel my potential for helping the Colombian peace process is multiplied in this opportunity because I will be encouraging more Colombian Christians to get involved in peacemaking in their own country. The Church has an important part to play, especially in bringing the call to love our enemies and integrity into the Colombian peace process. Last Thursday I shared with a

Visiting Bureau County Jail

Dear friends, "Did you go to church before you were put in jail?" I asked over the phone, through the glass window between us. Roy* responded, "No, but I did accept God at the worship service the Gideons have here every Saturday. I am reading the book of Proverbs in the King James Bible they gave me, though it is hard to understand." I asked, "Would you like to pray?" He said, "Sure." I then led us in a short prayer time. I shared with him about the different pieces of peacemaking literature I had brought for him. I knew he had some interest in that because we had met the first time at our weekly peace vigil some three years ago. Upon arriving for my next visit, the jailer told me, "Roy's visiting time is nearly up. Go right in, so you can have a minute or two with him." Again through the glass and phone I said, "Well, we don't have much time. What would you like to talk about?" To my surprise, he said, &qu

Talking at the Bureau County Fair Letter

"You're urging our congress to cut funding for our troops in Iraq really disturbs me, I am a vet from WW II and that is not supportive of the troops. I totally disagree with you." Said the vet after I told him about CPT work. I responded, "I feel it is supportive to bring them home alive, not in a..." (I never got to finish my sentence as it obviously did not make much sense to him.) He interrupted me, "This conversation was a waste of our time." I answered, "I don't think so, even though we disagree deeply. For us to talk with each other is what Jesus would want us to do." We ended by shaking hands as he parted. "How do you like working for the Carnival?" I asked a 20-some year old woman. "Well it sure beats living on the street." I wonder what in her history made her say that. After I shared quite extensively about CPT work, a brother responded, "That is good work you do. I was in Vietnam, and I am sti

David in Combat Boots at Cornerstone

Dear Friends, "I just got off the plane yesterday from Iraq, and I return in about two weeks," he said. I replied,"Wow!" He and Logan than began a long conversation about Iraq with a lot of military jargon I could not understand. David went on to say, "It seems sometimes you just can't get throgh to some people, and you just have to take them out. One of the guys under my command just won't listen. He is so angry at losing his buddies that he just wants to take out every Iraqi he sees. I have talked and talked to him and I just can't get him to stop that." Logan responded,"You know, some times rhetoric just does not work; you just have to act. When we took Sammarh in Iraq, my buddy entered the Iraqi police station without resistance because they were on our side. But he was so angry at losing his buddies that he slapped the Iraqi police captain in the face and hit him in the gut. Do you know what I did? I just put myself in front of my

Tobacco Spitters at Cornerstone

Hello friends, Four fellows slowly walked up to the Christian Peacemakers Team booth and spit tobacco on the ground as I asked, "Would you like to hear how we are working at reducing violence in conflict areas of the world?" They gruffly said, "Yeah." I gave them the same talk I gave many times during Cornerstone Festival: "Here is CPTer Art Gish in Palestine in front of a tank that was about to run over the farmers' market behind him; he was able to save the farmers' market that day." I ended with, "Would you like some literature?" No, they didn't want any literature, as I thought. One of them, who seemed to be the spokesman, proceeded to tell us, "I have been in Afghanistan. The Afghan people are really good people. I spent 15 hours a day with them, and I really got to know them. They were so glad we got rid of the Taliban, especially for the liberation of the women. We really helped that country." I responded, "I

Shirtless Brother at Cornerstone

Hello friends, "Would you like to hear about how we are reducing violence in the war zones of the world?" I said to the shirtless brother as he hurriedly passed our booth amongst the crowd seemingly trying to avoid us. He responded, "You wouldn't want to talk to me; I just got back from deployment in Iraq." He then stared at the photo of Art Gish standing in front of the tank to save the farmers' market in Hebron and then pointing to the photo said, "I've been there." "You know, I would really like to hear your story," I responded. Then he began to tell Tracey (who is in the army reserves) and me his story. "I was part of the first troops from Kuwait to take Baghdad when the war started. The people welcomed us; they were really glad for our arri val. I was a mortar launcher." Tracey shared, "I wanted to deploy to Iraq to help the people, but my unit will never be deployed to Iraq and besides I am in administration.

A Seventy Year-Old Woman Listens to God

Hello friends: "Since I was about 17, every night I pray certain verses from Psalm 18. I share this to encourage you to be attentive so you might hear the Lord in your quiet time too. I will share two of the times I heard the Lord speak to me." So shared a 70-some year old women about her personal experience with mediation and prayer as the Manchester Church of the Brethren worship began. A few days later in a conversation with a neighbor friend Bob, he said to me, "You know God is always trying to speak to us, but the problem is we don't stop long enough so we can hear Him." This all has made me try to be more attentive to what the Lord might be saying to me in my quiet time. Here's what came to me recently. In reading Luke 9:12-17, the feeding of the five thousand, the disciples said, "Why don't we send them off to find lodging and food in the nearby villages?" Jesus said, "You feed them." They responded, "But there are o

A Third Way for Colombia

Hello Friends, Here is good news article, Colombia's Third Way , that gives some important insight into what is happening in Colombia government circles that you probably haven't seen in the news. I think you will find it worth reading. This would be a good time to write your legislator about reducing military aid and increasing humanitarian aid (i.e.. aid for schools and health care) to Colombia. This would alleviate a lot of the suffering in Colombia and help the budding peace process. Use this link for an easy way to write your legislators. Thanks for: Getting helpers to talk with people at the Cornerstone Festival Booth. The good friends who continue to help me through some hard conflicts in relationships and that I can now say it was good. Pray for: For my interactions at a booth I will have at the Iowa City Mennonite Relief Sale June 2nd and 3rd. and at Cornerstone June 26-30. For my slide talks at one or two church coming up in Iowa.

Sharing at the Mennonite Relief Sale and Hannibal, MO

Dear Friends, The woman came up somewhat anxio usly to my booth at the Peoria Mennonite Relief Sale and asked, "Do you really see any changes that give you hope that the situation in Colombia is getting better?" I asked her to sit down with me so I could tell her some of the things I see happening. "When I first went there five years ago, numerous organizations were a bit unclear about their stance on the use of a gun to try to fix the tremendous injustice that exists there. Today, most if not all, are clearly against all use of violence. One thing about war, the more war we have, the more people are able to see that it just does not work. It shows itself for what it is. The evil is brought to the light. "Another source of hope is that since 2001, the Pentecostal, Mennonite, Brethren and other churches are helping displaced people, which is threatening to the armed groups that caused them to abandon their homes. "Five years ago we spent five to six days a

Jim Fitz's 2007 Peace Plans

Greetings friends! Here are my plans for 2007 combined with a report on 2006. I gave 34 presentations this past year , sharing with about 1355 persons about CPT peacemaking. I see this as planting seeds which help people to consider nonviolent ways of resolving conflicts from the personal to the international level. To start off, here are some photos that catch some of the highlights of my peacemaking. Here I am planting peace seeds by sharing photos and stories about CPT with this army sergeant in the Opon. He asked several times, "Do you think a person could be forgiven if they killed someone?" He added, "It sure doesn't make any sense the way we Colombians are killing each other." Even soldiers are seeking the way to peace. This was part of a couple of days where persons who had lost family members in a massacre broke their years of the silence. This is an important element in forging a lasting peace for Colombia that is based on reconciliation and justic

Sharing in St Louis

Hello Friends, "Did I talk to too much about faith and prayer? It's hard for me to talk about my peacemaking and not mention these things. That's just where their questions seem to go," I said to a human rights professor, after speaking to her university class. She responded, "Oh no, that was fine. I asked that question about whether you proselytize because I knew that you didn't. But I felt it important for the students to realize that faith can be an important part of peace and justice work and it does not necessarily mean you proselytize." Art Sandler, the other professor at Webster University, said, "That was really good. The students were really engaged. We should make your visit an annual affair." I heard this sentiment of inviting me again next year often, after the 14 times of sharing in St Louis and Hannibal, Missouri. After the presentation to the Pax Christi group at St Louis University, one of the students, upon seeing my "

Traveling Peacemaking

Hello friends, "I used to be very active in the peace movement, but my current work has been so consuming I haven't participated much in the last ten years," shared Rich Wood, a former United Methodist pastor, during a conversation with me on the train to Chicago. For the past ten years Rich has been dedicating himself to exposing the way drug companies are wrongfully pushing farmers to use unnecessary drugs on animals here and abroad. I also got to share CPT photos and stories with him. "It is very encouraging to hear about CPT peacemaking. Even though I get 40 emails a day, I would still like to be on your mailing list." I responded, "You can always delete my email if you are getting too many emails; I will never know it!" And I added, "But don't forget your work is an important part of peacemaking and I want to encourage you to keep at it. Blessings to you in it." Rich and I agreed though our work often feels overwhelming, one th

You Got in My Head

Hello friends, "Your friend Mr. Fitz got in my head. He got even me thinking. We never pay attention in that class, but everyone was listening," a star football player at Verdugo High School said to my friend Cordell Bowman. Before the class started the teacher told me, "Now this class might get out of hand, and if it does we will just usher you out of the room." Another teacher, after hearing my sharing, said, "You have to share this with more people. So for the next 90 minute period, please go to my friend's class for 45 minutes and then come back to my class. You got me thinking too." Another teacher shar ed, "You talked about values, something these students seldom hear about, and that was good." For four classes in a row, I shared in this LA high school. I never have had such attention from students during high school classes. They filled the time with lots of important questions. I was worn out, energized, and very encouraged when

Last Days in Colombia

Dear friends, My three months in Colombia and on the CPT team there were drawing to a close, and Noah was leading the team worship which would be my final one this time. He asked people to share anything they wanted to share with me or to say prayers for me. Michele shared, "I really appreciate the fact that when you took me downtown to make a copy of my passport, you also introduced me to your many friends that we met along the way. I also appreciate how you shared CPT brochures with those we did business with." Pierre said, "I just always chuckle inside whenever I see you giving out a Peace Pilgrim pamphlet. I can't help but think that you are a peace pilgrim too." He added, "And you will be Uncle Jim to our two-year-old daughter Vania from now on!" As I listened to these and other sharings and looked around at each person, suddenly a light went on in me which made me share, "You have each helped me become more of what God meant me to be du