Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Slippery Slope

By Anna Woofenden

The core of this piece was written late on a Saturday night in last June, at the Wild Goose Festival (a gathering of emergent and progressive Christians), sitting under the stars at the campsite, reaching to comprehend and process the transformations that were taking place in me and around me by texting a dear friend and colleague. Turned out to be one very long text.

The warning has come in many forms over the years: watch out for the slippery slope. If we dare to question what we’ve been taught, we cannot predict what could follow, what unearthly pit is around the corner. If we dare to question, before we know it we could be... well… something and surely hell and hand-baskets are involved. Don’t raise those questions, don’t voice any doubts, you don’t know where it may lead. I had been warned.

I didn’t listen. I’ve had conversations with people whose views differ from mine. I’ve gone to worship services that have stretched me beyond my comfort zone. I’ve traveled to other cultures. I’ve read those “edgy” theological books. I’ve entered into conversations where I am challenged and uncomfortable. And in January I finally left the church organization I had called home for many years, as a “radical” pursuing ordination as a woman. Since then, I’ve dared to open up the Bible without being preemptively sure of what it might have to say to me. I’ve become friends with fellow seminarians who are seeking to serve God wholeheartedly who also happen to be lesbian, transgendered and gay. I’ve begun to question the cultural assumptions that had defined my theological reality and am finding the Bible to be alive with humanity and contradiction and the gospels to be downright manifestos of radical living. I continue to question the theology and church culture, as I understood it, while boldly stumbling along, pursuing God and spiritual community.

You open any of these doors, and before you know it, you’re led down a road where you're speaking up about the marginalized, selling your possessions to give to the poor, and surrendering your life to something greater than yourself. It's a slippery slope. If you open yourself up to revelation being alive and moving, letting it be more than a moral code or a patriarchal history lesson, then you slide. You slide and find that you're surrounded by revelation. Poems, stories, myths, the writing and lives of Gandhi and Dr. King, Maya Angelou and Rumi, and the mountains, the people, silence, and yes, even the Scriptures are speaking to you. All overflowing with the Breath of the Spirit and infused with Divine Voice. Each offers pathways connecting the human and the Divine, enlivening and disturbing, moving you to action, bathing you in peaceful Love.

It's a slippery slope, letting go of the lines that divide, seeing people different from yourself as human. Let the walls that make me an "us" and they a "them" crumble, and there is a world of humanity to love. No longer can you ignore the vulnerability, the humanity, the absolute sinner and saint in all of us. No longer can you push others aside or arbitrarily categorize them. Confronted by the humanity around us, we confront the humanity within us and expose our collective brokenness. We come face to face with the things we are capable of, for ill or good. We lose the ability to hide behind our self-righteousness or be cozy in our carefully constructed boxes of absolutism and superiority.

And then we might start caring. We might start exposing ourselves to the people in the world around us. We might start seeing needs. We might start owning and feeling the pain of the human family as our own story, a story that we are drawn into, that we now want to participate in. It’s risky, this slippery slope of seeing humans as human. It’s transformative, God being Divine.

Entertaining the idea that God is untamable, uncontainable and immersed in all we know, might just lead us to respond. To ask what Jesus taught and at least play with the possibility, maybe for the first time, that we're actually called to follow these teachings, is a daring and radical notion. Maybe Jesus had something right when he told us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. Maybe there's something to this command to take care of the widows and orphans. Maybe Jesus wasn't being metaphorical when he told us to feed, clothe and heal our human family.

Maybe, just maybe, this whole Jesus on earth thing, this spark of Divinity walking among us, is something to pay attention to. Maybe model our lives after. And maybe when we go back to the gospels we might find that most of what Jesus was interested in were the marginalized, the poor, speaking up against the oppressing forces, confronting the hard conversations, going to those that need healing, and approaching the broken parts of each of us. We could find that this radical Messiah came to speak and live out an alternative to ruling over others, to consuming, to living only for ourselves. We may begin to entertain the notion that there's something more to live for. We could start to hear the gentle breeze whispering in our ears that there's a force of Creative Love calling. Calling us to act. Moving us to live in harmony. Drawing us to follow this Radical Christ. And that, that my friend is damned uncomfortable.

Watch out for the slippery slope.

Anna Woofenden is a MDiv student at Earlham School of Religion and the Swedenborgian House of studies. She blogs at http://annawoofenden.wordpress.com

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Occupy My Heart

By Micah Bales

I remember when I first heard about Occupy Wall Street. I was looking at my Twitter feed and saw mention of a demonstration taking place in New York City. I did not take it very seriously. I had seen lots of demonstrations in my lifetime, most of them with little discernable effect.

That was on Saturday, September 17th. On the following Monday, I was not only still seeing tweets coming in out of New York, but they were increasing in number and frequency. They were still demonstrating! I began to click links. I read a smattering of blogs and independent media sources. I learned about the demonstrations bubbling up on Wall Street; how they had "occupied" Zucotti Park; and the way that the police were corralling the demonstrators, and in some cases brutalizing them.

As I scanned the internet that Monday, a strange feeling came over me. I felt a sense that I needed to be involved. This is important. Ever since shortly after September 11th, I had felt alienated from politics, and even more so from protest culture. After watching world leaders ignore the expressed will of the people time and time again (most brazenly in this country when George W. Bush chose to invade Iraq), I had come to the conclusion that mass public dissent was a useless gesture. I was not a protester. I was not an activist. I was too realistic, and too cynical, for that.

Yet, as I read more reports coming out of New York, and watched a flurry of Youtube videos from Wall Street, I was feeling a nudge. Was God asking me to join this movement? Was I supposed to go to New York? I still had lots of reservations about Occupy Wall Street - some cultural, some political, and others theological. But I had to test the leading. This felt too important to ignore.

So, I put out a feeler. I passed along a blog article on Facebook, and I included a comment: "I'm feeling tempted to head up to New York." Almost immediately, I received a response from one of my wife's friends: "If you do come up, you can stay at our house." With way opening so clearly, I made plans to visit Wall Street myself.

My time in New York allowed me to see first-hand the way a totally grassroots, radically democratic movement had taken shape in lower Manhattan. As I expected, I did not like everything I saw. The park was loud, organization was loose, and there was already a problem with unstable individuals using the Occupation as a platform for spouting conspiracy theories or just being disruptive. Yet, there was something powerful happening there.

When we marched on Wall Street, I saw the intense contrast between the lives of the elite financial executives and those of ordinary Americans. I felt the power of regular people coming together - students, the unemployed, unionists and young professionals - to pursue the dream of a more just and sustainable world. I returned to Washington, DC with my leading confirmed and deepened: I felt called to take part in this movement as it spread beyond New York.

I remained connected to the Occupy movement - both Occupy Wall Street, and the growing numbers across the nation who were preparing to occupy in their own cities. Soon, it became clear that there were others here in DC who were interested in getting an occupation started in our town, and I began to participate in online meetings to discuss how to move forward.

On the evening of Friday, September 30th, seven of us met up at McPherson Square, the park in downtown DC where we had decided to begin occupying the following day. Besides the two couples in the group, none of us had ever met before. We were not the "usual suspects" for this sort of thing. We were not professional organizers or seasoned activists. Just regular people with jobs, lives and families who felt drawn to participate in what seemed to us to be the most important social movement of our generation. Together, we would launch Occupy DC.

In the month and a half since then, Occupy DC has grown enormously, from a small band of inexperienced organizers to an experiment in grassroots democracy that has involved thousands of people from all walks of life.

I still do not agree with everything that happens in the Occupy movement. None of us do. When thousands of people from diverse backgrounds come together in open air meetings to express greivances and seek a better world together, things are bound to get messy. Nevertheless, I am convinced that I would be unfaithful if I allowed my desire for perfection get in the way of the good things that God is doing through this imperfect movement. Rather than maintain a safe distance, avoiding association with some elements of the movement that I find questionable, I have felt compelled to cooperate with God in being a influence for good.

To close, I would like to share a passage of Scripture that has become increasingly resonant in my heart in over the course of my involvement in the Occupy movement. It comes from the book of Luke, at the beginning of Jesus' ministry. Jesus has just returned from the desert to his home synogogue and delivers a message in their meeting for worship. He reads from the book of the prophet Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to
the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.(1)

At the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus proclaims the "year of the Lord's favor," the Jubilee mandated by God in the Hebrew law.(2) This radical re-set of the economy - forgiving debts, releasing slaves and healing infirmities - lies at the heart of Jesus' message and mission; and this Jubilee proclamation is the foundation of my understanding of why I am called to be involved in the Occupy movement.

I do not claim any sort of divine perfection for myself or for the movement as a whole. We are all poor sinners, and we fall short even as we try to do what is right. Nevertheless, I feel convicted that I must stand with those who are raising their voices against systemic injustice, debt slavery, corporate greed and a sold-out government. I do not know to what extent Jesus blesses the Occupy movement as a whole, but I do believe that he is blessing me in my participation in it. It is my sense that this is the call of the Lord on my life at this time.

What is the word of the Lord to you today? How are you called to cooperate with Jesus' ministry of loosing the bonds of the oppressed; forgiving the debts of a burdened world; and restoring fullness of health to those who are suffering? How are you being called to live out Jesus' witness of love and compassion, and his courageous call for justice?


1. Luke 4:18-19
2. See Leviticus 25

Micah BalesMicah Bales serves as Coordinator of Young Adult Engagement at ESR. He lives in Washington, DC with his wife, Faith Kelley. He is a member of Capitol Hill Friends and of Rockingham Friends Meeting, Ohio Yearly Meeting.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Peace Testimony in an African context

By Valerie Hurwitz

Silas Wanjala, an ESR Master of Arts student, spoke about his thesis work during Peace Forum on Thursday, November 17th. He is writing his MA thesis in the area of Peace and Justice Studies, focusing particularly on the gospel of peace in Kenya. Since Kenya’s independence in 1963, all three of its presidents have faced high unemployment and economic stagnation. All three have allowed corruption and nepotism, favoring their own tribes over the others in politics. A one-party system asserted central control of the government until 1992, obscuring the democratic form of government laid out in the constitution. Kenya has 42 tribes (plus a fair number of Caucasians and Asians; Indians brought by the British to build the railroads), and tribal identity often takes precedence over national identity.

Silas is from Western Kenya, as are most Kenyan Quakers. The lands around Kitale, Kakamega, and Kaimosi (which are familiar names to Friends who have donated to FUM projects there) are a rich agricultural region. As such, many tribes have moved into this area, trying to take advantage of the land for farming or raising animals. When I visited this region in June, Kenyans mentioned that the decreasing availability of land and the diversity of tribes as both an advantage (leading to a familiarity between tribes) and a source of tension (as competition for resources grows).

The end of the single-party system in 1992 saw the start of a pattern of election violence that continued in 1997 and 2002. Given the tribal nepotism of the central government and high unemployment, tribes hoped that “their” candidate would be elected, bringing economic and political opportunities. The 2007 elections were contested, with international election observers saying that the elections were below standards and challenger Raila Odinga calling for a recount. In the ensuing violence, over 1,000 people were killed and over a half a million were displaced. Western Kenya, with its already diverse populations and strained natural resources, was hard-hit by the violence.

So why focus on a Christian gospel of peace? Silas has seen first-hand the effects of election violence and moreover has seen the ways that the Bible can be used to incite violence. There needs to be a biblical and theological underpinning for peace movements to be successful in this 80% Christian nation. Kenyan Quakers, already having a reputation for integrity and building on the post-election work that the Friends Church Peace Teams and the Alternatives to Violence Project did, can have a particular impact on this issue in Kenya. Silas sees his academic work as creating a theological and biblical grounding for peace work in Kenya that can support the current work of FCPT and AVP, while also transforming preaching and pastoral care to be more non-violent.

Valerie Hurwitz is Director of Recruitment and Admissions at Earlham School of Religion. She lives in Richmond, Indiana and serves as choir director at West Richmond Friends Meeting.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Living the Kingdom of God, Now

By Valerie Hurwitz

Pat and Kathy Floerke, from the Central for Development in Central America in Nicaragua, visited ESR and spoke at Common Meal on Tuesday, November 8th, 2011. They brought with them crafts and clothing from Nicaragua to sell. I had the chance to speak with Kathy a bit at lunch, and she explained that she and her sister moved down to Nicaragua 17 years ago to work on economic development, but return to the US about two months a year to travel to churches, colleges, and peace groups. They share news of the CDCA, ask for donations, and sell crafts made by the Nicaraguans. The main point of Pat’s presentation was that we need to ask ourselves “when will God’s kingdom be here?” Pat and Kathy ask us what we are doing to bring about God’s realm here and now.

Nicaragua is a country of 5.6 million people. Like the US, it has been hit hard by the economic recession in recent years, but the situation there is much more dire. 80% of adults are unemployed or underemployed, and families survive on an average of $2.00 a day and more than a third of children are chronically malnourished. This is a good reminder to keep things in perspective. In the US, average household wealth has fallen (largely as a result of home prices falling) and unemployment remains stubbornly high, but the reality is that the side-effects of the global economic crisis have fallen even harder on countries where people already struggle to feed and house their families. This perspective should not keep us from seeking out the policies, societal customs, and regulations that led to the this recession and changing them, but rather remind us that we still have plenty to give to others.

The CDCA is based in Ciudad Sandino, which is a 1960s refugee camp that grew into a permanent settlement. Their work focuses on sustainable agriculture, appropriate use of technology, sustainable economic development, health care, and education. Their projects grow out of listening to communities and asking what their needs are, and letting communities take initiative. Right now the CDCA is working on getting the Genesis Co-operative, a spinning plant, up and running. Their farmer’s co-op, El Porvenir, has grown to 2,000 members and the CDCA provides loans to grow organic coffee and organic sesame seeds. El Porvenir, with the help of the CDCA, gets better than fair trade prices for their crops. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch swept through Honduras and Nicaragua, leaving more than 2 million people homeless. Many of the homeless in Nicaragua were settled in a camp called Nueva Vida near Ciudad Sandino. The refugees only exacerbated the already high local unemployment rate. The CDCA established a permanent health clinic in Nueva Vida in 2001. After the Nicaragua government started to provide free health in 2006 the CDCA has focused on dentistry, pediatric care, and preventative health education.

For Nicaraguans, the question of when God’s realm will be here is an immediate one. Pat told us that the people there have so much hope, despite living through US-supported dictators and poverty. Their question about God’s realm is not an eschatological one, but rather related to the here-and-now. “When will I be able to earn a living wage for my work?” “When will health care be available?” “When will it be possible to get a fair price for my crops?” Nicaraguans want to work towards God’s kingdom in their own cities, and our prayers, donations, and willingness to pay a little extra for their food and crafts can go a long ways towards helping that happen.

Valerie Hurwitz is Director of Recruitment and Admissions at Earlham School of Religion. She lives in Richmond, Indiana and serves as choir director at West Richmond Friends Meeting.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Getting Naked(er)

By Diane Reynolds

I had the Jon Watts experience twice while he was at Earlham School of Religion, once when he was performing at the Peace forum and once when he did a program called “Clothe Yourself in Righteousness” with his friend Maggie Harrison.

Jon Watts is that rarity, a young friend, and he has created a buzz with YouTube videos. In one, a group of Quakers in a meeting at Pendle Hill get up and start dancing. In another, at Guilford College, a group of Quakers purportedly “get naked” at the end of a meeting for worship … except they don’t actually get naked (at least not in the video I saw). They get underweared.

At the Peace forum, Jon talked and performed music. He had been at Guilford College and he then went to Portugal, but didn’t like living in a city there. He would walk the streets, wondering why humans paved over nature and killed animals and created this terrible thing—the city. Then one day, as he was walking and thinking, he met someone’s eyes—and realized he was communicating hate to that person. Not good. He realized that destruction comes from the pain and brokenness we feel as a culture. How to heal ourselves?

Jon sang a song called “We Are Lovers of Our Lost Earth.”

On Tuesday evening, for “Clothe Yourself in Righteousness,” held in the Quigg worship space, Maggie took center stage, talking about early Friends who had stripped naked and run through the streets as a witness to the need of people to clothe themselves not with outward apparel but with inward righteousness.

Maggie—and Jon when he performed—connected the physical nakedness of (some) 17th century Quakers with a metaphoric stripping down of our defenses, our false selves. If the word weren’t so overused into meaninglessness, we might say the two made a plea for living authentically. Today, as in the seventeenth century, the term “nakedness” is more powerful than authenticity---blunt, unguarded, provocative, vulnerable.

I found the session Tuesday night oddly comforting. Maggie’s unvarnished presentation modeled authenticity/nakedness. I found appealing the argument that it’s OK just to be yourself. It was soothing to attend an event that didn’t really have a point except to be about being. Just being. Not even being naked, really, because that, of course is a “statement.”. You were there in Quigg, and it was OK. You didn’t have to do anything. You didn’t have to be worried about factory exploitation in Indonesia or violence in the Gaza strip. You could just sort of chill. It was therapeutic. Young people came. There were a lot of big wrinkled cottony scarves, some bare feet, many boots. If the Quigg could ever be said to have a clubby, coffee house feel, it did that evening. I kept waiting for Allen Ginsberg to stand up and start reciting “America.” Well, OK, no…

Not to change the subject, but while I like their attempts to stir the pot, it nags at me that Jon and Maggie and their friends didn’t get naked in their get naked video. It seems a tease. If you’re going to say you’re getting naked, then get naked. The integrity testimony comes into play, in terms of “possessing what you profess.” Stripping down to your underwear is … faux daring. Safe daring. (What happened to streaking?) So that bothers me. Jon talked about getting to peace through shaking things up—“coming up through the flaming sword,” as the early Quakers called it. Stripping to your modest underwear on a video is not exactly the flaming sword. Going fully naked—yes, maybe.

On the other hand, Jon and Maggie evoked a mood and created a “space” for thinking about how we live. And beyond that, I didn’t really want Jon and Maggie to get naked. I was actually relieved that they didn’t, because I didn’t know how I would react to “too much information.” And that gets back to a thought about nakedness — Tell the truth but tell it slant. Get naked, but have the light and shade beams shining through the meeting house windows so that the most private parts stays private.

So I value the message Jon and Maggie are communicating. But I wish they would tweak it a little. We may need to strip down, but how about — like Jon and Maggie -- only to our underwear? How about getting naked-er? Or at least that’s my thought—and perhaps it says more about me and Jon and Maggie holding  back from really shaking things up than anything else. Maybe, in the end, Jon and Maggie are just upholding the status quo, not really making us uncomfortable? What do you think?

Diane Reynolds is a student in Earlham School of Religion’s Master of Divinity program. She maintains a personal blog, Emerging Quaker.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hospitality African Style: Can we receive it? Can we offer it?

By Diane Reynolds

ESR professor Stephanie Crumley-Effinger spoke at the Thursday Peace Forum lunch held at ESR about the warm and caring hospitality the faculty and staff of ESR received during their summer trip to Kenya and Rwanda.

The enthusiasm of the welcome was overwhelming and much appreciated, she said, and included dancing, singing, speeches of greeting, and feasting.

For Stephanie and other Quakers in the United States, our characteristic location vis-à-vis our African brothers and sister is often that of giver. For her and others, it was strange to be in the dependent position.

The disparity in material wealth—and hence power-- was always present in interactions with East Africans, she said, if not always acknowledged. Added to that was a cultural difference: Kenyans and Rwandans attach no stigma to asking for money. For middle-class Americans, this is a cultural taboo and such requests can be unsettling. However, for East Africans, receiving a gift—or giving one—is a form of bonding.

For Stephanie, accepting hospitality freely and gratefully became an act of mutuality that started to dismantle the hierarchy of giver and receiver. If we can learn to both give and receive, and not to do one to the exclusion of the other, we have learned hospitality. Such hospitality is at the core of building relationships and making us all more human.

As I ponder giving and receiving, I think about how uneven hospitality can be in the United States, a function, I believe, of our wealth. Hospitality often seems optional: We tend to assume that people can afford their own food and lodging, and that such food and lodging is readily available. Sometimes, for bigger parties or events, hosts will send lists of hotel or inns where guests can stay. The assumption is that people will understand that the hosts can’t accommodate 25, 50 or 75 people and that the guests can easily afford to pay for a hotel. People may not attend, however, because they are embarrassed at not being able to afford lodging and this becomes part of the invisibility want can cause. On the other hand, we often feel more comfortable as hotel guests than houseguests, because the obligation of staying in a hotel ends with paying the bill.

As the downturn in the economy continues, people are turning more to each other for hospitality. I know I am personally more conscious of needing to be frugal these days and am grateful to be offered hospitality.

Hospitality enacts the Christian—and more broadly, spiritual—witness of a free and joyful offering of abundant life. It requires risk-taking in which we put ourselves into the vulnerable position of reliance on the other—and risk-taking too on the part of the host. Yet when offered, as it often is, with great generosity, it can help build what Walter Brueggermann calls the shalom community, a place in which we want to share because others have shared with us. It is a start toward building the Kingdom of God on earth.

While Stephanie was speaking of the wealth disparities between Americans and East Africans, I thought too about the disparities in our own country. These, of course, are in the news as people protest the 1% having so much of the pie we have all worked to bake. Do the top 1% feel awkward around the rest of us? Could we offer them radical hospitality, inviting them into our homes and lives and treating them with warmth and joy?

I am grateful to brothers and sisters in Kenya and Rwanda, who know want, and thus know the value of abundant hospitality, and can model for us how to offer this gift.

Diane Reynolds is a student in Earlham School of Religion’s Master of Divinity program. She maintains a personal blog, Emerging Quaker.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Learning about Quakers in Bolivia

By Valerie Hurwitz

It is lovely to have visitors speak during Common Meal, worship, Peace Forum, and other venues, but sometimes it’s nice to hear from someone in our own community, as we did this week.  Emma Condori Mamani, MDiv/MMin student from Bolivia, spoke to us on Tuesday, October 11, 2011 about Quakers in Bolivia and her own spiritual journey.

Bolivia in central in the South America continent and the majority of the country is over 10,000 feet in altitude.  Additionally, 65% of the population is indigenous and has been cut off for centuries from the educational and political opportunities had by European colonists.  Emma herself is Aymara and English is her third language, after Aymara and Spanish.

Bolivia is the site of Lake Titicaca, which is a sacred site for Incan creation myths, as well as Tiwanaku, a city that was the religious and political center for an Andean pre-Incan empire.  Historical lesson aside, Emma makes the point that traditional religious beliefs and rituals are still very much present among the people.  Quaker missionaries came to Bolivia in 1919 to start a Quaker meeting, and Bolivia now has the third-largest population of Quakers in the world and five yearly meetings.  (According to FWCC, Kenya and the United States have the first and second largest populations, with Bolivia coming in third at 33,000.)

Quaker missionaries started schools for the local people and modernly this mission has continued through the Bolivian Quaker Education Fund.  Emma spoke about the Internado, a Quaker house near a high school where children whose families lived far away from the local school could stay during the week in order to attend.  Emma told us that some children live 2, 4, or even 8 hours walk from the nearest high school.  The Internado is full and cannot accept all the applications they receive, and BQEF hopes to expand.  The Bolivian Quaker Education Fund also provides scholarships, classes, and facilitates programs such as the Alternatives to Violence Project in prisons and hospitals.  Another Quaker nonprofit, the Quaker Bolivia Link provides money for development projects such as greenhouses to crow vegetables in and livestock.

We asked Emma about current history in Bolivia.  Between 1990 and 2003 there was unrest, culminating the “Dark October” of 2003, where there were civilian casualties in clashes between the police and protestors.  The issue seems to have been (if a little internet research is true) of presidents cracking down on coca leaf production, public sector corruption, and the privatizing of natural resource extraction with most of the profits going to foreign companies.  Then-President Sanchez de Lozada fled to Miami, Florida in 2003 and the US has refused to extradite him back to Bolivia to face charges.  Current president Evo Morales began his first term in 2006 and in Emma’s opinion the way Morales lives out his socialist principles relates to the Quaker values of Equality, Simplicity, Integrity, and Community.

We asked Emma how her particular yearly meeting was different than American Quakerism and she named the Holiness influence as different from most of FUM and FGC.  “It’s not about being saints”, she told us, but rather the belief in sanctification, that God can live within us and make us more holy.  Emma explained that Quakers in Bolivia are known for their honesty and integrity in government and she believes they have an important role to play in the government and public life.

As the presentation went on, I found myself thinking about visiting Kenya this summer.  Kenyan Quakers are trying to exemplify the Quaker values of Integrity and Peace as a counter to the corruption and 2007 election violence in Kenya.  It seemed at certain moments as though they were looking at US Quakers, expecting Americans to guide them on living out these values.  While at St. Paul’s University in Limuru (not a Quaker setting, but Episcopalian), for example, some of their faculty were speaking to us about Christian-Muslim dialogue and made a comment that implied that we in the US have this figured out . . . they were somewhat taken back by our sarcastic fits of laughter.  This, as with everything, is not the whole story; there are certainly many Kenyan Quakers with a particularly Kenyan vision of how these principles should play out.  This also isn’t to imply that US Quakers can’t offer anything to Kenyan and Bolivian Friends, but rather there is a mutual learning possible here that would greatly enrich both sides.

Back to Bolivia though.  Emma encouraged us to visit Bolivia and said there are mission trips that come from the US, typically in June of each year.  She also allowed me to share a few of her pictures of Bolivia.  Emma encouraged us to learn more these Quaker nonprofits working in Bolivia and to keep Bolivian Quakers in our prayers.

Valerie Hurwitz is Director of Recruitment and Admissions at Earlham School of Religion. She lives in Richmond, Indiana and serves as choir director at West Richmond Friends Meeting.