A record of travels around the world...
Refresher on the World Gathering of Young Friends: About 300 Friends (Quakers), ages 18-35, from all over the World, are gathered in Lancaster, England this week and half of next. Our theme is taken from John 15: "I am the vine, you are the branches. Now what fruit will you bear?" Some Friends are familiar with the same style of worship we have on Sunday mornings at Meridian Friends, it is referred to as "programmed" or pre-planned. Others are used to gathering together and waiting in silence for God to speak to them individually or through a message shared by anyone, this is referred to as "unprogrammed." Friends from Africa generally sing and respond, dance and laugh with great energy during their worship. Some Friends struggle with believing in Jesus as Christ, and others do not believe in a personal God. My brother and sister from Nepal (who know Dr. Samson) are here. Bolivian Friends were to arrive today. 30 African Friends were denied visas but we are hoping to arrange another gathering in Africa right after this gathering. Some Kenyan and South African Friends have led us in worship. Many Spanish speakers from Central america came. Several Russian speakers are in my small group. Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia, Germany and Latvia are represented, and so many others.
Originally, I thought I was going to be at this gathering, using my Spanish, to help Latin Americans understand and be understood. I have done some work with coordinating translation of materials for this event. Through that, I began meeting a variety of friends: some who seem to lack assurance of anything beyond this life and lack a reason for doing all the good things to help others. About one month ago, I sensed there might be something else I should be attending to. It seemed very important for me to come to this gathering and be open to sharing about my relationship with God, particularly, how God has communicated with me. So far, the gathering has been great! Everyone gathered here seems intent on listening to each other, and seeking God. However, we have found that our main point of division revolves around the question: Who is Jesus? Despite the continual reference to wanting unity among us, and the beauty of diversity, we don't agree on the importance of Jesus. Some want to say that, and some want to ignore it. Will you pray that we all seek together what God would have us "do with Jesus?" I believe God can speak to each one of us, and that God loves each one of my brothers and sisters. I hope we might all take time together to seek God's message to us about his son Jesus. Some have already been very bold in proclaiming our need for Jesus. Others oppose them. You might think that we are arguing and hating each other, but oddly, that isn't the case. Each person is open to sharing what they believe. Pray that each will also be open to listening and obeying God. Yesterday afternoon, a group of us (about 45 people) took time for silent prayer and open worship in Swarthmoor Meeting House. The sun shown in the windows and landed at our feet. An older women, and keeper of the Meeting House, spoke first about the beauty of all the different types of Quakers, like flowers in a garden. Silence followed. Then Chrissy Muhr (Melba Friends) rose and spoke, "Though you might not agree with me, this is my truth. Flowers can be bruised by the storms of life. They must be grafted into the vine, which is Christ Jesus, in order to live fully." Silence again. Fran rose then and spoke that the Spirit seemed, according to scripture, to be superior to Christ and that we are all to live in Spirit and in Truth. Quickly, another Friend rose and read a passage from the Bible. Silence. We ended by shaking hands: all Friends and all friends; not all agreeing but all able to speak their mind. I do not want unity here at the cost of Truth. But I don't get the feeling that even the non-Christians would settle for that. There are many seekers here and I have many stories to tell. I am very encouraged by so many who grew up worshipping differently than I and who have come to know God and Jesus. There is a sort of spiritual warfare here which is quite deceiving. It would be tempting for us to split into factions, to say that we can only learn from people like us. I hope to continue to listen well, speak from my own experience of how God is real in my life, and love others well. Does God have something to say to us all? Are we all willing to listen, to hear, to obey?
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