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Peace building at Plow Creek

Dear Friend,

"I am a PeaceBuilder. I Pledge…to praise people, to give up put-downs, to seek wise people as advisors and friends, to notice the hurts I have caused and make amends, to right wrongs, to help others. I will build peace at home, at school, and in my community each day."

This is the pledge the local grade schoolers do each day after the normal pledge to the flag. Each class has even created its own PeaceBuilder’s flag.

Some of the result are we see more people listening, smiles, hugs, people helping one another, and bullying is decreased. We hear laughter, positive stories in staff meetings, “good job”, apologizing, cheers, encouragement, and students chanting "talk it out” to stop fights. We feel safe, happy, appreciated, hopeful, and close to others. These results come from students, administrators, teachers, bus drivers, and aids who are all trained in this school program.

To be a Peacebuilder is a personal decision only you can make. Ask yourself often…

Zechariah and Building Peace

Hello Friend,

"What was that scripture you opened with?" asked an attentive student at Webster U in St Louis. I replied, "It was Eugene Peterson's The Message, Zech. 9: 9-13, here notice what God is doing and how humans are to be part of it, then Mat. 28: 16-20 here notice Jesus' charge to the disciples even though they are not sure about their commitment, I find myself in the disciple shoes often times feeling a bit lukewarm about committing myself totally to God. Then Eph. 3:20. a reminder that God can do anything you know, then Zech. 8:13 this says what I sense is my purpose in this presentation, a glimpse into what God is doing through CPT. If we keep our focus on what the media tells us is happening we become afraid and wonder when will be the collapse of the world and it paralysis us. But if we keep our attention on what God is doing, we can live with hope and be energized to be a part of constructing peace and justice a new world here and now!&qu…
Here is good article from the September 1 issue of the Mennonite Weekly Reviewon the overall Colombian situation, I think you would find of interest. Say a prayer for the Colombian church to do what Jesus would do.
What kind of peace for Colombia?
By Rebecca Bartel and Bonnie Klassen
Mennonite Central Committee
Jim

The vet and the Buddhists at the 2008 County Fair

Dear friends

"Would you like to hear how we are reducing violence in the war zones of the world?" I asked Justin as he walked by my booth, and we started what turned out to be a very warm conversation. "No, I have been in the military for 15 years; I have seen too much of that already," Justin responded.

"WOW, you have been through a lot. Part of my calling is to pray for people; I will put you on my prayer list," I answered. Justin responded, "Well, that is awful nice of you, thank you very much."

"What do you do any way?" I asked. He answered, "I take care of my grandmother. Being in the military all those years, I saved my money. I live real simply, don't spend very much; her and I are the only ones left in our family, so we just have each other. . . Sorry I don't want to sign up for your letters, I just have seen too much already. I am sorry I gave all those years to military service, I am just trying to heal."

As…

Our big move and Cornerstone Peace building

The big move is Lyn and I are planning a move to Chicago by November, to be closer to our three children and four grandchildren, and so Lyn does not have a two hour drive to and from work and can more easily commute to Minneapolis to support her mother 95 and aunt 89. We will be part of Living Water Mennonite Church, where the Lord has given us many friends recent years. I have never lived in the city. In my head this seems clearly the right thing to do, though I find it emotionally challenging when I think about leaving Plow Creek community and rural life and moving to the all the noise, cement, and people of the city. We will be in Rogers Park, six blocks from Lake Michigan, which is consoling. I will continue my peace work with the support of the church there. I welcome your prayers for this transition.The unity between Lyn and I on this has been a bonus gift.

"David, how is it going in the Fellowship of Reconciliation booth?" He responded, "I am finding it a real cha…

Bits from my 35 year journey to a disciplined quiet time

Dear Friend,

“Lord help me do this breathing exercise, meditation exercise, work this reading into my thinking and living, and intercede for these my brothers and sisters.” That is how I begin my quiet time each day. Following are more of my prayers and thoughts.

“Give the persons I pray for the books, ideas and people to bring wholeness, healing, and health into their body minds, soul and society.”

“God, help me realize I am your servant and not You.”

Prayer is the language of people who are in trouble and know it, and who believe God can get them out.

I have found it helpful to write down prayers, concerns, and people's names to help me remember to pray for them. You are on the list. Often I just read the list, but I sense God still uses it, the effectiveness depends not on me but on God. Other times I sense I touch the people as I pray for them. Another help has been a picture of Jesus to remind me that God is present.

Sometimes I have carried worries for years until one day I …

Time to Pray

Dear Friends,

I have been sharing the following with people these days.

“Have you heard of the book JFK and the Unspeakable by James Douglas? In it Douglas, a Christian, shows through his in-depth studies that JFK’s assassination and some other political US assassinations were related to these persons being in the process of implementing some important changes.”

“I sense our country is at a crossroads in our history. And a political assassination could be devastating for the whole world. So I would like to encourage you to say a prayer for the protection of the candidates, and for God’s will to be done in these elections. I think we can with our prayers have a part in shaping history for the better. Ask your friends and church to do the same.”

“It would be so easy to let this just be something we use to make conversation about the election and another thing to feel helpless about. We can influence this situation, contrary to the air around that says we are hopeless to change things. Watch…

Just for kids

Dear Friend,

“Today’s presentation is just for kids and if the the adults behave we will let them listen”, thus I began my recent presentation at my home church at Plow Creek.

“Do you know what a peacebuilders is in your school?” I ask the kids. They answered. “Sure they give up put downs, they make friends with those who are left out, they try to work things out by talking instead of hitting or fighting.”

Well, when I go to Colombia for 2- 3 months, I try to be a peacebuilder amongst the people who have been fighting for 45 years there. They are not only fighting with angry words with hands and sticks as you might with your playmates, but they are using even guns which can kill people.

Here are real bullets and a real gun. In Colombia they talk about the lead (plomo) was flying as a way to say there was a fight. They are talking about the lead here the tips in these bullets. When the trigger is pulled the gun shoots the lead out and it will tear into what ever it hits, and if it hits …

Farmers of Garzal and feeding the hungry

Dear Friends,
Imagine being told that the home you built, or were born in, or lived in all your life is no longer legally yours and that you must leave. Further imagine that all of your relatives and neighbors are being told the same thing, and that failure to leave will result in death. This is what is happening to the communities of Garzal.

These people are now being pressured by a former owner to abandon their farms. This former owner, a cocaine producer, is using paramilitaries to threaten them. Their leader, Salvador, who is a Pentecostal pastor and their school teacher, has asked us to accompany them in their struggle to get land titles and resist expulsion from land on which they grow cacao (chocolate), bananas, and yucca. These crops are their livelihood.

So, as a way of supporting them, a CPT delegation spent three days in Garzal. We followed this with a public witness action to raise awareness of the plight of these people. It was finalized with a letter that we signed…

An Army Visit

Dear Friend,

“There must have been 40 or 50 soldiers from the Colombian Army who came through here. They accused Jorge, my son, of being an informer for the guerrillas. I was so scared. They took his picture and asked him a lot of accusing questions. I was afraid to let him go fishing like he often does. They were all around the house. I was afraid that if there was a confrontation with the guerrillas, bullets might hit any one of my children.”

“They asked our first and last names and checked them, with lots of others from the community, against their list of supposed guerrilla sympathizers. We are not guerrilla sympathizers, but there is nothing we can do to convince them otherwise. They have guns, so I don’t argue with them. Someone must be singling us out. I was so scared that I called Pierre of CPT to let you all know about it. Then I was scared that they might be listening in on the call. Pierre said it is was ok and wondered why the army keeps using these fear and intimidation tac…

Land Mines, Cocaine, and the Army

Dear Friend,
Land mines are one of our biggest problems here. You know how children are. You tell them to stay on the path, but it is so hard for them to realize the danger and obey. Just for them to go to help find some firewood or go to school, it is so dangerous. One was badly injured and we took him to the hospital in San Pablo, and they said they could not treat him there. Then we had to take him to Bucaramanga, all at our expense. There doesn't seem to be any help from the government," shared one of the farmers.

Delcy, from the Vice President's Office of Human Rights, answered, "If they cannot treat a person in San Pablo, they are responsible for transporting him to where he can be treated. I will have that looked into."

Another farmer shared, "The Army treats us like dirt. They have check points on the paths to our fields, and they stop us and accuse us of being guerrillas and detain us for hours at a time. They entice our children with candy and then t…

Spreading Peace in Taxis

Hello friends!
"Would you like something to read on peace?" I asked the taxi driver as I had done probably a half a dozen times to taxi drivers in my trip to Bogota. He responded, "Sure, I am always interested in reading." I told him about Peace Pilgrim's 28 years walking and sharing about peace in the USA and gave him a Peace Pilgrim booklet.
And than I said, "You know I am sorry to say that I feel a lot of the conflict here in Colombia is caused by the million dollars a day my government gives in military aid to Colombia. Can you imagine the lobbying being done to keep the war going by the big US corporations who are supplying those arms?" He responded, "That has been my analysis too. It seems your government wants to keep the war going for the business it generates."
I am reading Confessions of an Economic Hit Manby John Perkins. It is about Perkins' life of working to convince governments of poor countries to go into debt to do large el…

Unexpected Answers to Prayer

Hello friends,

This week, as the team and I met together to hear each other, I really sensed that God was actively involved (as He always is) in our lives. I went into the sharing time a bit anxious, with notes to make sure I did not forget something, but once I got started I hardly looked at the notes and was able to just share from my heart in a sense of trust and peace.

As a part of my quiet time, one of the things I read almost daily is a truth I came to one time with a counselor as I was dealing with a conflict. It is: "When I enter into conflict with a pure heart and trust and not as a power struggle to win, it leads to peace and us affirming each other." I sense God has enabled this "peace and affirming each other" to happen here with the team.

The team has very generously given hours in reading and meeting to work not only on the issue of my desire to do peacemaking presentations about CPT with the Mennonite Brethren, but also to working through the misunder…

"The Repairman's Mother In-law"

Dear Friends,

"My mother in-law Nellie read that Peace Pilgrim booklet you gave me. She was very moved by it, and she would like to read more by Peace Pilgrim. Do you have any thing else? And she would like to talk to you too," our repairman excitedly said to me. I responded, "I don't have any thing else by Peace Pilgrim, but you can give her this book Restorative Justice by Howard Zehr."

Later I got to talk to Nellie. Nellie then shared, "Oh yes, that was really inspiring. We have to build peace person by person and house by house by the way that we relate to and treat each other. What Peace Pilgrim has to say is very important. And I really like the book Restorative Justice that I am now reading. I especially like to read stuff like that." I responded, "When you get that one finished, I can loan you another book!"

The political saga continues in Barranca. A prominent Catholic priest, Padre Francisco, a close consultant to the Mayor, who is a …

"Good Friends"

Hello friends,

"Long time no see. How are you?" Manuel asked. I responded to my friend, a 73-year-old street vendor, by saying, "I have been having my challenges. My knees have been bothering me a bit." As he removed a container of lotion from his market booth, Manuel said, "This will take away your pain." "How much is it?" I asked as I took out my wallet. Manuel answered insistently, "Oh, absolutely nothing, it's a gift." When I visited Manuel another day he offered me another lotion. It does work, too.

Down the street I came upon another of my friends, Govianno, a tamarindo juice vendor. It was, as usual, close to 100 degrees so I said, "I'll have to have a cup of ice cold tamarindo. How much is it?" He shook his finger to say no, and said, "I am so glad to see you; it's on me." He then refilled my cup as we shared how our families were doing.

Another day I visited Alfonso, who sells reading glasses, and…

"Back in Colombia"

Hello friends,

In the nine hour bus trip to Barranca from Bogota, I found my mind going through tapes of defending myself before the team over the issues we were going to be facing. Then I felt guilty, anxious and full of emotional pain about this. While I was experiencing this mental anguish, I was trying to keep from watching a shoot'm up movie on the bus TV. Finally, toward the end of the trip, I thought to try to pray, which gave me relief and peace. Thanks be to God for God and prayer.

It was really nice to be greeted cheerfully by friends Michele and Charletta upon my arrival at the house in Barranca. I was also grateful for the nice, simple meal which was ready for me.

The next morning I found my fearful thoughts returning. Then Charletta, as she led team worship, said, "We want to welcome Jim during this time. Jim, can you share with us what your hopes are for your next two months with us?" Since they did not know about my wanti…

Off to Colombia

Hello friend,

On February 2 I will head to Barrancabermeja, Colombia for two months to be a part of the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) working to reduce violence in the 45 year old civil war. This is in place of my former plans to work with the Colombia Mennonite Brethren Church (MB). The change is because CPT raised security and other concerns about my plan. I hope to discuss these further with CPT leadership on January 16 in Chicago and with the team when I am in Colombia. As my pastor reminds me, "The best way to build trust is to work through conflicts."

This issue has made the last months very difficult for me as I struggled with giving up the call to work with the MB's for now. In a way this feels like this is a part of a process of the Lord doing peacemaking within CPT. I hope you can say a prayer for us as we work on these hard issues. We will need it.

CarlosContreras was inaugrrated as the new mayor of the Barranca region on January 1. He is from the Pentecls…