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What Does God Require of Us

September 11, 2005

Dear Friends:
 
Today, as we remember the history of the day – 9/11 in the United States and the beginning of the dictatorship of Pinochet in Chile
Today, as we remember the baptismal anniversary of Micah (September 11, 1994)
Today, as we experience the shock and live in the days after Katrina
Today, as we live and work in Tucumán    
 
We are called to ask a significant question - “What does God require of us?”    

The prophet Micah (6:8) offers a very clear response, “…kindness …justice …humility….”  As Christians, as people, as citizens, as members of communities - How do we understand this today, in the situations we find ourselves?  
 
For us, in “La Obra” (The Work), we are in a process of seeking to hear God’s call – for us as a family, for us as a team with Alicia, Silvia, Nancy, Mirta, and Margaret, for us a part of the community of Lastenia.  In general the work is going well, we are not in a moment of crisis – so why are we taking time and making room to discover a response – our responses – to this question?
 
Martha and I recently had the opportunity to spend 15 days at a retreat in Switzerland, with 54 people from 21 countries, to explore the connections between social change and nonviolent communication with Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, conflict mediator and peace activist.  Some of us were invited because we are working actively in social change others because of their potential to become agents for social change – each of us had communicated that social change is not something we “do” but integral to who we are – as I understand it…our underlying motivation is a spirituality that calls us to confront powers and principalities to restore harmony and balance in God’s creation.
 We …
•    came from 5 continents
•    spoke 12 languages
•    had lived 19 to 72 years
•    profess many religious beliefs  - including Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and Christian, and practice a wide array of spiritual disciplines
•    have lived a variety of experiences including exiled Chileans living in France – a Jewish U.S. graduate student visiting Jewish and Buddhist communities around the world – a French improvisational dancer – a rock band drummer and school teacher from Alaska –    a Nepalese NGO peace worker - a German computer programmer – a Danish doctor –  a British advertising agency owner
 
Well, why share all this? Because in this context we were invited to ask ourselves what contribution to the world we would like to be remembered for in 20 years.  And, to identify what concrete steps we need to do now in order to move toward having “that” remembered 20 years hence. How we can intentionally “make memories” is a fascinating question for me, and one that is connected to - What God desires or wants us to be and become.
 
I came away convinced of 3 things God desires …
 
First, God desires – or wants –  that we have memories and can re-member who we are – people with a past, a present and a future.  One of my favorite children’s books  “Wilfred Gordon Macdonald Partridge” by MemBeth Miller Fox – it is a story about the substance and process of making memories and one of the things that comes clear for me is that memories have not only a past and present expression, but also have a future expression.  In making memories we are called to think about the impact of our actions on “the 7th generation” (7 generations hence.)
 
Second, God desires us to be inspired – to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit and it’s manifestation in our imagination – to be able to envision or see that which is not yet, to see the possibilities of the not yet.  Our inspirations need to be critiqued in light of our memory – both our individual and communal memories.  In our case, as missionaries – this process of contextual critique is very important – is it “a foreign vision” or a “vision of the community”, is it sustainable, is it …?
 
And third, God desires us to be faithful – to have integrity and take the risks to reach the place of understanding and compassion where we acknowledge that we all have the same needs and to mutually seek strategies to meet them. This I believe is a dimension of the reign of God we can experience here – on this earth and in our lives.
 
Martha and I have participated in making many memories in our time in Lastenia, some of which are joyful - others painful, some are our memories – others are memories of other people which we may never know about – and others are shared memories which will become part of our common history.  
 
Well – what was the memory that I celebrated contributing to in the year 2025?  A dinner party celebrating the contribution that “La Obra” has made in creating a community of hope, renewal and reconciliation – not only in Lastenia but also for folks from around South America.  This dream includes a worshiping community, a learning community for all ages, an active presence and work in mediation, reconciliation and restorative justice, and a place of renewal for people from South America working for social change. I do not know if this is my dream, or just an idea. I don’t know what role I will have in creating this or another memory here in Lastenia. This discernment is part of our work now.
 
I ask for your prayers in the coming months:
•    As Martha and I are open to being inspired – to see what the future might bring while at the same time looking at our personal and family needs.
•    As the Pastoral Team looks at the dreams we have individually and collectively for La Obra.
 
With confidence that God is always with us,
 
Chris Stockwell-Goering

Chris & Martha Stockwell-Goering are serving as overseas associates as pastors with the Methodist Church in Argentina under a missionary assignment by the Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church.  



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