Celebrate: The Planet

I love the National Geographic documentary “One Strange Rock.” This series highlights incredible aspects of earth, nature, and earth’s inhabitants. Every time I watch an episode, I come away asking myself, Can that seriously be true?

One stunning episode is about how the earth has changed and almost destroyed itself multiple times. The viewer gets to see a rock wall in Bolivia with the footprints of eight or so dinosaur species. The earth there used to be flat—until molten lava underneath the ground folded it and created a wall. I imagine that fateful day: life walked along, minding its own business, when without warning the land beneath it heaved and shifted.

God formed the earth as a living, breathing creation that continues to change and withstand this harsh universe. In Scriptures, we learn about times when God has appeared present and active. Take, for example, the Exodus, when God parted waters and materialized in a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. But, we also read about God’s long silences. Consider the four long centuries between the Old and New Testaments.

As a pastor, I have often wondered about God’s involvement in our world now. Many of our circumstances tempt me to believe that God is silent, watching and letting life do whatever it’s going to do. These ideas sadden me because they focus on frail humaity and our capacity to hate and destroy.

But then, beautiful reminders such as One Strange Rock remind me that God is not done with us yet. God’s creation is so much bigger and more resilient than human life alone.

Consider the lowly plant. Plants grow in the harshest conditions and find room in the most constricted spaces. They possess the fortitude and inner strength to break through rocks, water, and human-made structures. If one plants a tree too close to a house, the roots will push the foundation. When multiple trees are planted along a body of water, they will over time change the flow and shape of that body of water.

Marvel, then, at God’s sense of humor in creation. Consider how parrot fishes’ waste creates our island beaches. It’s funny as well as surprising! I never knew that when I relax on the beach, I am reclining on fish waste! God must laugh in delight as we encounter such creations!

I also recommend the documentary Life Without People, which shows how the planet might evolve without human interference. Within a relatively short period, the earth would likely return to a type of Garden of Eden: a self-sustaining, ever-evolving, life-producing oasis.

For now, those privileged to witness the marvels of this planet should do so; our earth continues to shift and turn, and we never know when upheaval will happen again. To those who may never leave their small corner of the world, I pray you can at least watch inspiring programming such as One Strange Rock and dream big!

Mennonite Women of Virginia celebrate Annual Missions Day

Mennonite Women of Virginia (MWV) holds an ‘annual missions day’ each spring. This event serves a variety of purposes. For 66 years, women from all around Virginia Mennonite Conference (VMC) gather for fellowship, a meal and to raise funds to share with mission workers and congregations in countries that have roots in Virginia Mennonite Missions (VMM). Food was brought to Ridgeway Mennonite Church by 130 women on February 21.

Grazia de Hernandez led music.

The 2019 theme was “Women Encouraging Women…through Prayer.” For the first time, Hispanic sisters were intentionally welcomed. All parts of the meeting were presented in both English and Spanish. There are four Hispanic congregations in VMC and we want to know and honor each other as sisters in Christ.

Veronica Sanchez (right) shared her call to ministry in Spanish, with Melanie Miller translating.

Angelina Pardini (right) talked about her work in Jordan in English, with Lizzette Hernandez translating.

Lynn Suter, VMM director of international missions, concluded the program with a time of guided prayer. 

Then the fun began – raising funds for sisters around the world.

Directed by Dianna Lehman, MWV missions needs secretary, women took a number representing a VMM mission worker/family or a congregation overseas. Gifts of $25, $50, $75 were soon offered. In the end $5,730 was raised!

The blessings of sharing this annual event together as Anglo and Hispanic sisters were abundant.

It is our goal to continue joining Anglo and Hispanic women in our MWV events. God has led is to this point and will continue to lead.

(Left to right) Gloria Lehman, Joy Gabriel, Aldine Musser

In March 2019, Gloria Lehman and Aldine Musser, MWV past president, traveled to Jamaica. They shared love gifts of $125 to each of the 13 congregations in Jamaica Mennonite Church which will be used for their women’s and children’s ministries. Joy Gabriel, president of the Women’s Department of Jamaica Mennonite Church, graciously receives the gift for her church, Good Tidings Mennonite Church, Kingston.

The delivery of these gifts with hugs and smiles represents “warm money” to our sisters. These resources are used to enhance women’s ministries and provide funds to attend their annual retreat.

Later this year, MWV representatives will share gifts with sisters in Italy, Albania, and Trinidad.