Spread the Word, Not the Disease: Ebola Facts and Fiction

Thursday, November 6

African child: "Should I be worried?"

African child: “Should I be worried?”

By Sherri Kirkpatrick of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world because of their unnecessary suffering. Such conditions are not God’s will. Open your ears to hear the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children. Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:4a

The whole world is a community. Today the community has a common enemy—Ebola. It seems that everyone is carrying the concern and worry on their hearts. This worry erodes the sense of community. Our friends in Africa tell us no one is even shaking hands now.

HealthEd Connect is proactively planning a training program in Zambia in January with the topic: “Spread the Word Not the Disease: Ebola Facts and Fiction.” Sinkhani from Malawi and Wasaidizi from the Democratic Republic of the Congo will join the Kafwa (health care volunteers) in Zambia for a four-day training program. We are also inviting partner colleagues to join us from United States Agency for International Development (USAID), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Time to Learn, Churches Health Association of Zambia (CHAZ), and the Zambian Ministry of Health. This training is not in our budget. Who knew a year ago that this need would exist today?

Thankfully, because of generous donations to the Abolish Poverty, End Suffering Mission Initiative a Tangible Love grant is helping us meet this urgent need. We appreciate your prayerful support of our efforts and the efforts of individuals and organizations around the world who work to Abolish Poverty, End Suffering. Go to www.healthedconnect.org and learn more about HealthEd Connect.

Your contributions to the Abolish Poverty, End Suffering Mission Initiative help Community of Christ help those in need.

Prayer for Peace God of Hope, help us address the crises in our world community, which make you weep. Bless the ministry and training efforts in the places where need is so great, and where we often cannot go. Protect and enlighten those who can help. Let us hold in prayer and show our appreciation for those who risk their lives for peace.

Spiritual Practice: Abolish Poverty, End Suffering Read and reflect on John 21:15–17 as a meditation. Direct your mind to places where people have no homes. Think of the wars and natural disasters that destroy the homes of refugees. Be aware of the hungry and homeless, who wander the streets or live in shelters. Let the images fill your mind. Offer a prayer for those who suffer. Imagine Christ tending those sheep. Think of ways you might end their suffering as part of your mission. Throughout the day, carry in your mind the voice of Christ saying: “Feed my lambs…tend my sheep…feed my sheep.”

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will have the courage to risk for peace

Heard No Bells, but Saw a Star

Thursday, October 2

10-2By John Bonney of Springfield, Oregon, USA

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

—Jeremiah 29:11 NRSV

Peace on Earth and goodwill is not just for Christmas. I often ponder on the third verse of the hymn, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The poet bows his head in despair and says, “There is no peace on earth…For hate is strong and mocks the song Of peace on earth…” Then Henry Longfellow continues by writing how the bells rang out, and the sound restored his hope.

I didn’t hear any bells, but something else happened to me on a predawn fall morning. I saw a star. The temperature on our patio was 22 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s cold for my part of the world. An inch-deep snowfall was beginning to melt on the valley floor. When I went out to get the newspaper, daylight was two hours away. I found the newspaper and turned to go back to the house—and there it was. That star—such a star!

But wait a minute. I had seen many stars; yet something was different about this star. It hung low and bright in the southeast sky. Immediately the thought struck me that maybe the Bethlehem star of the Christmas story looked like the star I saw.

It held me in awe, wonder, and—yes, I must say it—it held me in the bonds of hope. I did not hear any bells, but I did see a star. For me the result was the same as it must have been for Henry Longfellow on hearing the bells.

I did some research and found the “star” was not a star at all. It was the planet, Venus. But it didn’t make any difference. It was a light in the sky—a light for my life. It was clear and bright, and it told a story.

Maybe, just maybe, if we focus, we could see the hope of the star with our weak and unaided eyes. Maybe we could hear the “bells of Christmas Day” or see the star of Bethlehem, and by doing so, we could hear the bells of freedom and justice. We could see the light of hope and peace in a dark and confusing time.

Prayer for Peace Bring us a quiet moment, God, so we may hear the faint bells of justice. Bring us a clear sky, that we might see a glimmer of hope in a dark world. Bring us opportunities to share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Hope Close your mind to troubling thoughts from the past by placing them in God’s generous hands and letting them go. Let God speak to your fearful heart. Think of your hope for the future—open windows in your mind through which you can see compassionate actions. Reflect on the hope of the Christ child. What is your part in the reason for that hope? Rejoice in the Hope of the world.

Peace Covenant Tonight, God, I will search for stars and ponder on the hope and peace of Christ.

How Shall They Hear?

Tuesday, September 30

"G" is for God

“G” is for God

By Susie Shelton of Independence, Missouri, USA

The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval.

—Romans 14:18 NRSV

I worked for years as a court reporter, but it seemed no matter how hard I worked, my work never satisfied me. Then I discovered real-time captioning—listening to people speak and transcribing the words instantly to the screen. I continued practicing and going to seminars. However, I still felt something was missing. My chosen career left me unfulfilled.

One day I used my real-time captioning skills to help a hearing-impaired man in court. Providing help gave me a deep satisfaction. As a child I learned: All that we are and hope to be, we can dedicate to God and use to serve others.

Years later, I prayed for guidance for my role in Christ’s mission. Then, the Architect of my life turned the light on. I recalled how I felt helping the man in court. I wanted that feeling back. I took a course in sign language to understand better those who were deaf or hard of hearing. I was afraid I wouldn’t measure up. I gave up my concerns to God. It was like jumping into the unknown, trusting God to catch me.

At a university I used my skills to help students. I was their ears. I wanted to expand this service into a ministry. I started contacting churches. Many did not need what I had to offer. I continued honing my skills and praying for opportunities to serve.

One Sunday I stopped at three churches before I came to the Stone Church Congregation in Independence, Missouri. I shared my idea of captioning for hearing-impaired people. The pastor expressed interest. I first wrote the services for me to build my biblical dictionary.

The first Sunday I provided captioning, a woman who was sitting behind me was watching my screen. When the service was over, she thanked me and gave me a hug as tears streamed down her cheeks. Many hearing-impaired people attend this congregation, and I feel joy in making the ministry accessible to them. I hope captioning ministry will expand to other congregations.

Prayer for Peace Architect of life, help us structure our lives to serve those in need.

Spiritual Practice: Develop Disciples to Serve As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to respond to people and their needs. Pray about using your skills to help another person. As you feel affirmed, thank God for the opportunity to be a responding, serving disciple while you move into the outward journey.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will give up my hesitation to serve, and trust you to guide me.

Be of One Mind and Heart

Sunday, September 28

Ron Harmon

Ron Harmon

By Ron Harmon, Council of Twelve Apostles

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…

—Philippians 2:1–5 NRSV

Recently, during leaders meetings in Independence, Missouri, a woman approached me after a question-and-answer session. She was concerned that she had not made herself understood as she shared her comments with a large group of leaders from the USA. I could sense her frustration, so I asked her to elaborate.

She shared about some challenges in her mission center and then shared her specific concern. As I listened carefully, I not only heard, but felt, the depth of her concerns. As I responded, her eyes began to well up. She nodded and affirmed that I understood her concern. I assured her I would share this with my colleagues.

Something powerful happens when we create the time and internal space to listen intently to one another. We find ourselves in the sacred space of another’s deepest concerns, hopes, and ideals. The space that separates us fades in significance as we connect at a level beneath intellect and abstract ideas. We connect as human beings. And, although we may not agree, we sense the great importance of our bond as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Perhaps this is what the author of Philippians meant when he wrote, “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

Prayer for Peace Listening God, we have faith that you hear and feel our deepest concerns. Weep with us, God, so we may have joy in the morning light. Help us know this joy comes from you.

Spiritual Practice: God’s Healing Light Today’s intercessory prayer comes from the Quaker tradition. Become still and turn your attention to God. Prayerfully identify a person in need of healing, blessing, or guidance. Close your eyes and imagine God’s presence surrounding the person. See or sense the person being held in God’s light. Continue holding the person in the light and release the person into whatever blessing God knows is needed. Words are not necessary. Trust the Spirit to see and penetrate more deeply than human awareness. Thank God and close with “Amen.”

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will listen deeply and with compassion to another’s need.

The Fish Could Not Speak

Tuesday, September 16

Dee River during an acid flow from Mt Morgan historic mine Photo by Corinne Unger

Dee River during an acid flow from Mt Morgan historic mine
Photo by Corinne Unger

By Corinne Unger of Chapel Hill, Queensland, Australia

The earth, lovingly created as an environment for life to flourish, shudders in distress because creation’s natural and living systems are becoming exhausted from carrying the burden of human greed and conflict. Humankind must awaken from its illusion of independence and unrestrained consumption without lasting consequences.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:4b

Nearly 40 kilometers of the Dee River was dead. Heavy rain caused acid runoff from the weathered waste rock at the old gold and copper mines. Fish floated slowly downstream like fallen leaves. Their lifeless white underbellies glistened in the sun.

I met with Jack, a Queensland fruit farmer, at the riverbank. He explained the frequency of these flows. There was a sense of acceptance about this fate. After all, it had happened many times over the preceding century.

I recently had taken over managing this abandoned mine for the government. I wondered why the media were silent, why the local government representatives remained aloof. The fish could not speak; the vegetation could not protest. While this small community was doing its best to raise awareness, few others cared.

I knew it was up to me to give voice to this issue. It needed my knowledge and expertise. I would need to develop a team and a plan to support these people in their efforts to bring life back to this river. I needed hope and courage, for without them I could not complete the task.

Sometimes in life, we need to steel ourselves with faith if we are to fulfill our goals. In Christ we find a strong example—someone prepared to take on a challenge to win hearts and minds and bring about change.

Prayer for Peace Creator God, help us protect your delicate web of life. Help us relieve the Earth of human greed and conflict. Help us share peace in place of power.

Spiritual Practice: Caring for God’s Sacred Creation Choose a way to notice, give thanks, and care for God’s sacred creation. Prayerfully consider one of the following practices or create your own. Walk in nature with a spirit of gratitude. Look and listen for God in all creation. Write or pray a psalm of praise for the Earth’s beauty or offer a prayer of healing and blessing for its wounds.

Learn about and engage in an act of Earth-keeping such as recycling, simple living, or fasting from over-consumption of resources. Notice the diversity of the planet’s creatures and be gentle to plants, animals, trees, and people! Fall in love with the vast, intricate wonder of God’s creation and give thanks.

Peace Covenant Today, God, besides reducing my own harmful footprints on your creation, I will take action to reveal industrial and commercial contamination.

My Lawn…or an Ancient Seabed?

Monday, September 15

9-15By Don H. Compier of Independence, Missouri, USA

Praise the Lord, all you nations! Extol him, all you peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!

—Psalm 117 NRSV

Last summer I determined to take care of my lawn by myself. I relished the joy of tending my part of God’s earthly garden. I carefully learned the rules of good lawn maintenance and followed them to the letter. I applied fertilizer and weed control. I set my sprinklers on timers and in strategic locations to keep the grass well-watered.

But nature had the final say. Day after day it did not rain, and we suffered with temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. My best efforts suffered dishonorable defeat. One night after frantic mowing around the many bald spots, hacking mostly weeds, I had to admit the cause was lost. I turned off the faucets and stored my fancy timers, sprinklers, and hoses, leaving my lawn to forces well beyond my control.

The searing heat and drought had turned the ancient seabed just under my sod into a stone oven. No recently arrived interloper could survive, while species here long before any human settlers thrived. The ancient order of the universe reestablished itself. The continuity of tens if not hundreds of thousands of years marched on, oblivious to humans and our illusions of mastery.

This fall I applied plenty of fertilizer, and next spring and summer I will apply new seed, insect control, and all the usual statements of hope, knowing assuredly that success or failure will not be up to me. Strangely, I find this comforting. Scripture describes God as the Ancient of Days. We worship a cosmic Deity. God’s concern and care extends to all creatures, living or not, throughout a vast universe and across untold millennia. It isn’t all about us! We came into the story rather late.

This realization evokes proper humility and respect for an interconnected world. And yet our infinite, eternal Creator, in steadfast love, cares for you and for me! Results rarely turn out just as we want. Yet, as one year passes into the next, we experience the faithfulness of God, which endures forever!

Prayer for Peace Eternal Creator, your seasons come and go, but your love is steadfast. Praise the Lord!

Spiritual Practice: Psalm Writing The psalms are prayers of honesty and trust. The psalmist trusts God’s presence in times of fear and failure, joy and plenty, growth and change. Write a short psalm-prayer expressing to God the truth about your physical, emotional, and spiritual state. What are your deepest feelings, longings, and needs? What prayer of praise, intercession, or petition flows from you as you consider your life and the life of God’s world?

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will be aware of our interconnected world and the effects of my actions on all creation.

Bring forth the Kingdom of God

Sunday, July 27

7-27By Steve Hatch of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

—Matthew 13:31–32 NRSV

In the mid-1980s, my faith was in crisis. I experienced what many theologians call the “dark night of the soul.” The crisis offered no resolution, and it felt like God had abandoned me. I was alone to deal with my darkness, and I felt all my pleading was fruitless. I kept asking God why this was happening, and why God wasn’t helping. The more I prayed, the more distant from God I felt.

One week amid my darkness, I went to Sunday school, where we were studying the parables. We explored the parable of the mustard seed. The author suggested one important lesson from this parable is the need to plant our seed in faith, leave it alone, and allow God to provide the germination. We must leave the seed alone and let it “die” as a seed so it can become the tree that God intended.

Instead, we sometimes dig up the seed to make sure it’s viable and still growing. That, of course, keeps it from doing exactly that…growing as God created it to do. As I heard these words I realized I never had left my issue with God. I hadn’t planted my seed with faith that God would provide the germination. That day I committed to leave my seed planted in God’s fertile soil, which would allow my faith to grow to maturity.

Prayer for Peace Master Gardener, help us cultivate rich soil where we can plant seeds of faith. With your rain and sunlight and our tools and labor, may we be co-creators with you for a healthy spirituality. Help us sow seeds of peace.

Spiritual Practice: Trees Watch the trees outside your window for a few moments. Close your eyes and meditate on Alma’s words about seeds and trees (Alma 16:152–173). If you were to plant and grow the Word of God in your heart, what tree might symbolically represent this process? Imagine a seed as it grows into a tree of life and blessing. Ask God to show you how to begin.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will pull weeds from my life, and bring them to you as a repentant bouquet. Then I will accept your grace as flowers of forgiveness.

Return to Me

Tuesday, July 1

Painting by Vera Entwistle

Painting by Vera Entwistle

By Vera Entwistle of Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

Collectively and individually, you are loved with an everlasting love that delights in each faithful step taken. God yearns to draw you close so that wounds may be healed, emptiness filled, and hope strengthened.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:10a

Following my father’s suicide, I was bereft. I was angry with God, and I felt unable to pray. I was alone, drifting in my grief—afraid of running aground. One day my counselor asked me to sit facing an empty chair. “Imagine your dad sitting there. What do you think he would say to you?”

My dad’s image came to me so powerfully that I wept. I saw myself as a young child, distressed over some perceived hurt. My dad picked me up and comforted me. For the first time I could sense the distress my dad may feel, watching me wallowing in my grief, and I knew that for his sake I needed to pick up the pieces of my life and go on. But how?

After my counselor left, I again sat facing the empty chair. This time I visualized God sitting there. I demanded that God show me how I possibly could go on.

I felt prompted to turn to the scriptures, and I began to search for comfort. As I turned page after page, one sentence stood out: “God yearns to draw you close so wounds may be healed, emptiness filled, and hope strengthened.” In that moment, I began to heal.

Prayer for Peace Healer of wounds, help us always to keep our prayer contact with you. Help us pray, even when we are angry. Do not leave us alone in our grief. Draw us close. Give our hearts peace.

Spiritual Practice: Healing and Reconciliation Gather a small mound of stones. Meditate on the stones as symbols of differences and destructive acts that continue to separate and wound the human family. Name and anoint each “stone wound” with a drop of water or scented oil. Offer them to God in a prayer for healing and reconciliation.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will pray when I am empty, and I will pray when I am full.

Prisoner at Peace

Friday, June 13

6-13By E.J. Chappelle of Rosharon, Texas, USA

I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!

—John 16:33 NRSV

I’ll call him Casey. He broke the law and expected a penalty. However, state prosecutors asked for, and received a much longer sentence than required. He then gave everything he had left to lawyers, who let his appeals expire unheard. Casey was far too old to survive his sentence.

All the same, Casey remained positive and put his time to good use, taking up a craft and becoming good at it. He took courses to earn a college degree and was unfailingly generous with his time and resources. Casey never spoke a bitter word over his fate. He studied enough law to write his own habeas corpus petitions (a US determination of whether a person can be detained), and he finally won a high court order for a correct and fair sentence.

The trial court refused to act. So, Casey spent several more years pursuing a writ of mandamus (a duty and not a matter for the official’s discretion). Suddenly, the state of Texas scheduled him for release almost eight years after his rightful sentence would have ended.

Rather than sink into despair or rage over what he felt was harsh indifference and discrimination of the justices, Casey peacefully made the best of what was left for him. He persisted in behaving the right way to enjoy as calm and fulfilling a life as possible while still pursuing his hope for freedom.

Casey left prison with the same dignified and peaceful manner as when he entered. He now serves as a powerful example to anyone who may feel wronged or helpless. He turned his other cheek in a positive direction.

Prayer for Peace Soften our hearts, Lord, that we may forgive injustices. Help us respond in ways that allow for reconciliation and healing. May we respond by sharing Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Healing for Broken Spirits Begin with quiet prayer. Ask God to help you discern some “sore places” in the body of Christ and in God’s creation. Become aware of people who feel separated, wounded, or left out. Reflect on or write a short journal entry of healing words to at least one person who comes to mind. Ask God for words that will touch this person’s broken spirit like healing ointment. Keep this person in your heart and prayers today and act on any ideas that come to bring blessing and wholeness.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will respond peacefully to actions that hurt.

We Plant in Faith

Tuesday, April 29

4-29By John Bonney of Springfield, Oregon, USA

He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

—Matthew 17:20 NRSV

In the spring, on any given day, we go into our yard to plant. We soak vegetable seeds for several hours to improve germination and give them a head start. We plant in raised beds and ground-level beds. We trim, weed, water, and fertilize. We do this several times over two or three months. And of course, we practice faith, because that’s part of planting.

Even those who find the term “faith” has too much religious baggage, even they plant in faith. They expect the plant to respond and grow, even when it is yet unseen. Planting of anything, not just seeds and bulbs, is a matter of faith. Planting is a vision, an anticipation of the inner eye of the imagination.

There probably are as many definitions of faith as there are people to offer them. One definition that has worked well for me, and that I often refer to is, faith is acting as if… as if what? As if what I imagine, what I see in my mind’s eye, what I believe to be true, is reality, and I live as if it were so.

For me, faith is not a single act or even a group of acts. It is a lifestyle, a way of living. Faith is responding to the unseen Spirit. It is an attitude that says even though I can’t prove this, even though I can’t see it, hear it, or touch it, I believe it. Therefore I’ll live my life as if it were. Faith is living belief.

So we plant our seeds and bulbs, believing that what we imagine will be. Is my life what God envisions it? I pray I am faithful to the divine image within me.

Prayer for Peace
Divine Planter, nourish us with your living water, Jesus Christ. May our faith grow in response to his love. May his peace grow as we share it.

Spiritual Practice: Trees
Watch the trees outside your window for a few moments. Close your eyes and meditate on Alma’s words about seeds and trees. If you were to plant and grow the Word of God in your heart, what tree might symbolically represent this process? Imagine a seed as it grows into a tree of life and blessing. Ask God to show you how to begin (see Alma 16:152–173).

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will live as if…