Home again, home again, jiggety-jog

As we rounded the last corner and arrived back home, I would often repeat the nursery rhyme, “Home again, home again, jiggetyjog”.  Home means different things to different people and in different situations, but I said the rhyme in recognition of a day well spent and in gratitude for the physical, mental and spiritual protection we had experienced. Home in Kathmandu was a place where we could relax and reflect on the day, and rest and recharge for day to come.  Now that we are home in Newton, we are reflecting on our time in Kathmandu and on our calling for the future.

Even before we arrived in Kathmandu we were hoping to use bicycles as our primary mode of transportation, but that didn’t happen until mid-November.  Michael and Lupe Geiss have spent the last decade or so walking from village to village in the Himalaya sharing about Jesus.  When they are in Kathmandu, they attend the Koinonia Patan Church.  We noticed that they had bicycled to church and we told them how much we missed being able to get around on bicycles.  Immediately they offered bikes which they weren’t currently using.  Bicycling provided us a much richer experience of the streets than we had had on the motorcycle; it was similar to walking, but we could go further.  On one of our first rides, we headed south out of town, and for the first time were able to look over the ridge and into the next valley.  Elena says it was one of the most difficult rides she’d ever experienced, but the smile on her face was spoke louder than her words. On other rides we went to the highest point in the city, the Swayambhu Stupa  and up Tahakhel, a hill to the southeast of the city.  It seemed like we were drawn to places where we could look out over Kathmandu and get a sense of perspective, of the size and sprawl, that was impossible to see from street level.

As we entered Advent and Christmas approached, our  experience was truly multicultural.  We had joined the Kathmandu Chorale and were preparing for their Christmas program.  We decorated the shop and asked customers (including many from the nearby British School ) what Christmas treats they would like us to bake.  We waited with interest to see how our churches, Nepali on Saturday and English on Sunday, would celebrate Christmas.

Both performances of the chorale were well attended by an appreciative audience, as was an impromptu performance at a local Christmas fair.  We baked delicious mince pies and peppernuts and made English toffee.  English church did a dramatization of the Christmas story on December 18.  But we still weren’t sure of what would happen at the Nepali church next door. On Saturday, December 24, I was given the opportunity to give the message.  Through a translator, I challenged the congregation to think about how to bring the Kingdom of God to Kathmandu.  I asked them to pray a paraphrase of the Lord’s prayer,  “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, in Kathmandu as it is in heaven.”  I’m not sure how well it translated, but I had and still have a strong sense that the Kingdom is active in Kathmandu.  We were told that their would be a Christmas day service starting at 10:00, followed by a meal and a gift exchange.  What an understatement!  We arrived at 10:00 and fellowship was happening around meal preparation. The worship service began at 11:00.  Then around 12:30, we enjoyed fellowship around the meal.  Around 2:00 the service resumed, and then we had a very lively gift exchange.  It was about 4:30 before we arrived back home.  It was truly a Christmas well-spent.

Christmas dinner being served at Tejaswi Church

Children’s recitations during Christmas program

Dale and Bethsaba arrived home on January 1, and the next few days were spent debriefing, but we still had unfinished agenda.  When we first arrived in Nepal, Elena knee was still healing from surgery.  We weren’t sure whether she would be able to walk to the Top of the World coffeeshop, so certainly trekking was impossible.  But by January her knee was feeling good so we planned a short trek.  We visited Pokhara, a local tourist destination, and from there did a three day trek to Poon Hill. It was wonderful to be in the Himalayan foothills and be able to see the 20,000 ft. peaks up close and personal.

Our second day of hiking was a Saturday, the day of worship in Nepal.  It was mid-morning when we heard the sound of a guitar and drums.  As we continued up the path we heard singing, then we saw the church.  We stood in the doorway and listened for about 10 minutes before continuing our hike.  Until 2007, Nepal was officially a Hindu Kingdom.  In 2015, they adopted a new constitution and are now a secular democracy.  According to long-term service worker Miriam Krantz, 50 years ago there was only one church in all of Kathmandu, now there are 17 within walking distance of her home.  We knew that the church was growing at a phenomenal rate in Nepal, but experiencing a local church worshipping along a major trekking route brought it to life for us.

Church on Poon Hill trek

Nearing the end of the second day of trek

We arrived home on January 13 and in some ways life has quickly returned to normal. We brought a piece of Nepal home with us, but now we are praying, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in Newton as it is in heaven”.

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A Day at the Top of the World

(This post originally appeared in the December, 2016 issue of FMC Connections, a newsletter published by First Mennonite Church, Newton, KS.)

Wednesday, November 9.

We wake at 6:45 a.m.  Foochy, our Japanese Spitz house dog, waits outside our bedroom door.  She immediately becomes excited; running in circles and jumping into the air.  Elena takes Foochy for her morning walk, while I start heating water for my coffee and preparing oatmeal.  Before Elena returns, Tulsi and Ujwal arrive to begin baking. After a quick “Jaya Massih”, Glory to the Messiah, they go out to the veranda/bakery and begin mixing up yeast doughs.  Meanwhile, I go down to the coffee roastery to see what Mathbar had left behind after roasting and packaging about 20 bags of coffee yesterday.  I am in luck!  Today I will drink Ring of Fire, a blend of coffees from Panama, Bali and Nepal.  I coarsely grind 60 grams, enough for three cups of coffee.  As we sit down to breakfast, Tulsi comes into the kitchen, goes to the freezer and gets out prepared banana, pumpkin and carrot.  Carrying these containers on a bowl of fresh eggs she heads back to the veranda.

After breakfast, I go up to the roof to mop off the solar panels.  It is amazing how much dust settles on the panels, and without daily cleaning we soon would be without  power during outages. The roof is flat with a low wall around it and is used as an outdoor living area. It is also home to several dozen potted plants.   Sabu who lives in the basement apartment with her husband Bikash is sitting on a mat and giving 9 month old Kazia a sunbath.  Kazia is delighted to see Foochy, who had followed me up and has sprawled in the sun near them.

Mid-morning while I catch up on news and Elena sits near me tying small red and green bows which we will soon begin gluing to each package of coffee, Tulsi walks in carrying two small bowls of steaming hot ramen noodle soup, full of fresh vegetables and garnished with a boiled egg.  Breakfast is not a regular meal for Nepalis, so by 10:00 the bakers are hungry and even though we have had a full breakfast, they do the cultural thing and share with us.  We enjoy the soup!

I step out to check the progress of the baking, verify that the spinach is dry enough to go into the quiche and compliment Ujwal on his prepared pie crust.  Several dozen muffins are already out of the oven, the cinnamon rolls are in the pan for their final rise and the sandwich rolls are being carefully formed.  I take the muffins inside to protect them from the occasional fly and to free up space on the cabinet beside the oven.  Soon Ujwal comes inside to start baking the quiche in the countertop convection oven.  The spinach, mushrooms and cheese look beautiful in the pie pan as Ujwal gives the egg mixture a final whisk and pours it over them.

After lunch we are ready to pack up everything and head to the shop.  We stack the quiche and pumpkin pie in an aluminum pot, cover it and tie it up in a piece of Elena’s African fabric. Ujwal begins to place the muffins, cakes and cinnamon rolls directly into a large, well-used, cardboard box, but the sandwich rolls are still in the oven so he and Tulsi are cleaning up as we leave for the Top of the World Coffee Shop,  a bumpy, dusty, noisy, twenty-minute motorcycle ride away.  Elena feels like an African market woman holding the pie and quiche in one hand while holding onto me with the other.

Dale and Bethsaba Nafziger started Top of the World Coffee Shop in 2011 as a natural outgrowth of their earlier entrepreneurial experiences under United Mission to Nepal (UMN).  It follows a  Business as Mission (BAM) model which promotes sustainable business with a Kingdom of God purpose, perspective and impact. Their goal is “to bring warmth to life, by serving great coffee and food, and by treating everyone we meet in a neighborly way.”  Top of the World is both a place where God’s love for the world becomes visible and a community which is extending God’s love.

When we arrive at Top of the World, we are again greeted with Jaya Massih by Anita, Suraj, Lekhra and Bikash.  Krishna, who is not Christian,  greets us with Namaste.  Our staff is young; Ujwal, the youngest, is 21 and Bikash, the oldest, is 30.  They are also mostly young Christians, having come to faith as adults.  It is energizing to work and otherwise interact with a young staff.

I place the quiche and pie into the display case.  Elena checks the yak shawls and ponchos in the handicraft corner.  Soon we put on our hats and name tags and take up our posts behind the counter.  I make myself a latte and Anita asks the kitchen to make a masala tea for Elena.  The rest of the afternoon is blur of activity.  Elena and Anita work well together but Elena has noticed that if she sees something that needs to be done and starts to do it, Anita will step in and say, “I do”.  So Elena waits until Anita is in the middle of a different task so she is able complete the job herself.  I stay close to the computer/cash drawer, but also often serve cinnamon rolls or cake.

We have gotten to know a number of regular customers.  Samantha is a black, South African student.  She arrived at her usual time, 3:15, and ordered her usual meal: quiche, lemonade and chocolate cake.  Samantha often wears a Texas A&M sweatshirt, her father’s alma mater. Recently she has started asking me what she had for lunch the previous day, and amazingly, I’ve been able to tell her.

Later in the afternoon, Dan Jantzen, Lubin and Tillie’s son, and Dan Spare, Elena’s brother-in-law arrive at the Top of the World.  Each has spent years in Nepal with UMN and are friends of Dale and Bethsaba. They were in Nepal researching ways to protect villages from the flood threat of glacial lakes and after trekking to some lakes were optimistic that their ideas would be feasible and cost-effective.

At the end of the day, Lekhraj and Krishna are in the back mopping the floors, Suraj and Anita are gathering cushions and placemats from our outdoor tables at the front of the shop while we are counting cash and attempting to reconcile it with the computer.  Tonight we are only 185 rupees off, not bad considering how often we were asked to split the bill or lost track of whether a bill was paid at all.  When everyone has completed their work, we join together in front of the shop.  I ask Lekhraj to pray. I don’t know most of what he prays, but I have begun to recognize a few words.  Lekhraj’s prayer is full of “Thank you Lord”.  After the prayer we wish each other safe travel home and a good night’s sleep.

We do arrive home safely. We immediately prepare the starting cash for Thursday and put the rest in a lockbox. We bathe with warm water from the solar water heater on the roof, then sing several hymns; sight-reading out of The (red) Mennonite Hymnal.  Good night!

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Population Shock

It has taken us awhile to realize why, but walking in Kathmandu is a totally different experience from walking a similar distance in Newton. In Newton we would often take a walk to relax after a hectic day, or as a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon; in Kathmandu we need to find a stress-relieving activity after walking.  The difference is in part due to infrastructure. Nepal is a poor country, so roads and sidewalks are in various states of disrepair or stages of repair.  A few people own cars, many own motorcycles or bicycles, various sizes of vans, buses and trucks join them on every street and alleyway raising dust and often spewing black diesel exhaust.  In Newton, it is pleasant to greet the occasional person on the bike path or while walking residential streets.  In Kathmandu it is rare to walk more than 50 feet without having to step off the curb and dodge traffic or pause by a light pole to accommodate fellow pedestrians.

We have come to the conclusion that the major difference is population density. The city in which we live and work is Lalitpur aka Patan, the second largest city in the Kathmandu Valley and separated from Kathmandu proper by the Bagmati River.  The population of the valley is about 1.5 million and of Kathmandu 1.03 million. Lalitpur has a population of 227,000 in an area of 5.96 sq. miles, or slightly less than half the area of Newton.  To put this into perspective imagine Newton with its current population, then have everybody from Wichita move in, then everyone from Derby, North Newton and Hesston, and finally all of Hutchinson.  In total 479,000 people within the city limits of Newton cimg4311which currently houses 19,000.  The population density of Lalitpur, (and our imagined Newton), is over 38,000 people per square mile.  As another comparison this is 40% more densely populated than New York City, the most densely populated city in the U.S.  It is little wonder then that we are in constant interaction with this population.

And yet…  many residents of Lalitpur are first cimg4303generation from the village and maintain their agrarian sensibilities.  We continue to be amazed that every available square foot of land is planted, often with vegetables, occasionally with flowers.  Over the last couple of weeks poinsettias have become spectacular.   Families without access to land line their balconies and rooftops with potted geraniums, crown of thorn plants and chili peppers.

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And yet… there is a gentleness in the bustle.  In the midst of traffic there is often a wonderful grace offered. I inadvertently cut in front of a car while crossing an intersection on the motorcycle and the response of the driver (after slamming on his brakes) was a simple smile and head nod.  There is always room for one more passenger in a micro bus and people graciously rearrange themselves to accommodate.

We have much to learn.  Last Sunday at the coffee shop we were visiting with a Fellowship International missionary who has worked in Nepal for eleven years. He gave us a big compliment by saying we seemed more relaxed/comfortable than he’d ever seen in folks who had only been in Nepal for two months.  The easy answer was that we’ve had years in Africa and India, but I don’t think that is the entire cimg3636explanation.  We have experienced the warmth of the Nepali church next door, which Dale and Bethsaba helped start.  We have worked, laughed and prayed with the staff of the Top of the World Coffee Shop.  We have seen the respite that a good cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll or a piece of pumpkin pie can provide to a stranger far from home.

We are not blind; there is also a dark side within the high population density in the valley.  Human trafficking is rampant.  There are occasional outbreaks of cholera.  Infant mortality is about 8 times as high as in the developed world.  Unemployment is high, so it is common for families to seek jobs abroad leaving a single parent or grandparents to raise children.

And yet… God is at work reconciling all of creation to God and God has entrusted us with the work of reconciliation. As Marty Troyer puts it:

The gospel is about far more than me or you. It is about far more than forgiveness of personal sins and connection to the afterlife. It’s about who—and how—God is in places like [Lalitpur] on a daily basis. It is about the goodness of divine activity experienced most potently in Jesus the Christ. God is passionate about addressing both spiritual and physical starvation, and about bridging the gap between the world as it is and the world as it can be.

God is restoring all things, and when the New Testament writers say “all,” they mean all—as in “all things, whether on earth or in heaven” (Colossians 1:20)…

The Kingdom is present, the Spirit is active, we are participants.

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Connections

Saturday, the normal day of worship in Nepal, we chose to continue attending the church right beside our home even though Nafzigers were gone.  The pastor graciously gave an English summary of the message; otherwise we observed the praise and worship expressed through greetings, songs, offerings (including a reading of the names of those who tithed) and message in Nepali.  But visiting after the service, we made an amazing connection – Phil and Pratiksha Tyson who had met at Hesston College. Phil is from Virginia and Pratiksha is Nepali having gone to Woodstock School. Her connection to Hesston College was through David Osborne who taught a semester of English at Woodstock while on sabbatical from Hesston.  He was the foreign student advisor at Hesston and Cookie worked with him in the early-2000s. They have just arrived in Nepal and are in Kathmandu to work with a children’s organization.  Pratiksha’s father, who was also at the service, knew Elena’s brother-in-law, Dan Spare.

We woke early Sunday morning to send Bikash to the Top of the World shop with the baked goods and the cash drawer monies only to remember (after he left) that we also have the TOW computer at the house. Usually the computer stays at the shop, but we had taken it home for security purposes during the week-long Dashain holiday. So Dave made a quick trip to deliver the computer. He was greeted at the door by Mark and Darlene Keller who have come here to visit their children Luke and Leah, MCC country reps.  Mark and Darlene lived in North Newton during the 1980s and Mark worked at MCC Central States.

By 10 o’clock, it seemed like everyone was doing their jobs. Coffee was being roasted, pies, cakes, and brownies were being baked and the computer was running smoothly. So we went down the road to English-language KICC (Katmandu International Christian Congregation).  Yes, we have been going to church twice each weekend.  As much as we enjoy the liveliness and warmth of the Nepali fellowship, it is also good to worship in our own language.  After church the congregation mingled in the yard outside the auditorium. We made our way outside to enjoy some chai, found a spot in the shade to drink it and made another amazing connection – the woman we visited with, Sissy, is in a small group with Elena’s cousin Merle Busenitz and his wife Ann. They are currently living in North Carolina, but were long-term SIL workers in Papua New Guinea which is where Sissy met them. Many years ago, Elena and the Busenitz family including three little girls lived in Elbing at the same time. Now the three daughters are grown and living on their own.

As we were parking the motorcycle back at the Top of the World, Anita came out to tell us a friend of Dale’s was waiting to see Dave. What a joy and surprise to see Dave’s cousin, Dan Jantzen.  Dan is a son of Lubin and Tillie Jantzen, who retired to the Newton area after being career workers in India. Dave hadn’t seen Dan in years. So over lunch, they got reacquainted.  Dan is on a fact-finding trip and will actually be joined by Elena’s brother-in-law, Dan Spare, in a couple of weeks. They are part of a group looking at possible engineering projects to help the people of Nepal.  One area they are looking at is the glacial lakes in the Mount Everest area. Due to global warming these lakes are growing. At some point with heavy rains or large calving events, there is a risk that these lakes will breach their glacial moraine dams, putting thousands downstream in danger. Dan’s trip into the Khumbu area  is to see if it is feasible to drain the built-up lake water in a more controlled way.

We discovered four connections to our home in Kansas, to cousins, to previous chapters of our lives in less than thirty hours, in Kathmandu. It seems like we have moved half-way around the world only to be reminded of how well connected our lives are.

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Tourists for a Day

dscf8977

This is the week of Dashain, the biggest holiday of the year in Nepal.  It is the equivalent of Christmas for family reunions and gift giving.  Our employees were given double salary for the month and a week of vacation.  Most have left Kathmandu and gone to their respective villages.  Needless to say, the Top of the World Coffee Shop is closed.

Yesterday, Elena and I decided to play tourist for the day and went to Patan Durbar which is the oldest temple square in Kathmandu valley.  The highly recommended Patan Museum was closed, but had a crowd in its court yard. Kites were being flown as is traditional during Dashain celebration.  Many temples were in the process of being restored from last years earthquake. All the temples had intricately carved wooden posts, beams and doors.  Many were trimmed with gold and bronze. Usable temples were active with offerings and sacrifices being offered.

The most interesting thing though was watching the people watching people.  Benches and steps are a feature of the buildings in the area and they were being used, mostly by local men and women.  Tourists both foreign and Nepali, some in groups following a local guide, walked slowly from building to building.  We were in no rush so we were able to enjoy people watching.

We didn’t take notes, so the pictures below are meant to give the flavor of  our experience not the details or historical significance of Patan Durbar.

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Men Passing Time

Women in Doorway

Pigeons

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Men on Temple Porchdscf8960

 

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Tuesday morning debate

Yesterday morning, Dale knocked on our bed room door and said, “You should go up on the roof.  The mountains are clear.  You can see all the way to Pokhara.”  We had just opened the live stream to the Trump-Clinton debate, so we grabbed the laptop and went to the roof.   During a slow spot, we went down and grabbed a cinnamon roll and a cup of coffee.  And there we sat and watched the high Himalayas.  The clouds rolled by obscuring and then revealing snow covered peaks.  It provided a welcome perspective on what both Trump and Clinton were saying.cimg3638

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Charitableliving.net Re-boot

Cookie and I started charitableliving.net about eight years ago with the dual purpose of keeping in touch with family and friends and encouraging others to step out of their comfort-zones and make life choices which increase love, grace and justice in the world. Cookie died nearly five years ago.

Two and a half years ago Elena and I married. She brings to our marriage similar values, but with her own perspective. We have experienced much joy and much growth in our short time together.

Last February an email came across Elena’s desk at Mennonite Mission Network, “Do you have a passion for mission and a passion for coffee?” So long story short, we arrived this week in Kathmandu to work at The Top of the World Coffee Shop. It seems like a good time to revive charitableliving.net with both purposes still intact. First, to keep in touch with family and friends. But, maybe more importantly, to encourage others to step out of their comfort zones and, to paraphrase Marty Troyer and the Lord’s prayer, work so that “thy kingdom come, the will be done in Kathmandu/Newton/Houston/… as it is in heaven.”

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A Tribute to Cookie: Take Us with You

Beverly Bartel Regier wrote:

Yesterday afternoon we stopped by the funeral home during visitation for our friend, Cookie, who passed away on Monday.  Cookie’s sister was just beginning to set up memorabilia from Cookie’s life.  She had stacks of photos, albums, art, etc., and she enlisted our help.  It was such fun doing that, because we’ve known Cookie for so much of her life that I was familiar with a lot of the memories in a personal way.

One book caught my attention more than the others.  It was a scrapbook our small group had made for Dave and Cookie and Abra before they left for Chad.  We had filled our pages with photos, memories, and blessings for them as they left.  And I had written a letter.

Part of that letter was a plea that they take us with them along to Chad.  I wrote that this new adventure would change them, would cause them to ask questions and search for answers, would give them new perspectives, would help them define better ways to live.  I wanted to not be left behind.  I wanted to grow alongside them, asking the questions, struggling for the answers, gaining the new perspectives and wisdom.

Now in the middle of the night before the funeral, I lie awake realizing that all along, even before I wrote that plea, they have taken us along.  It has been part of who Cookie is to be open, vulnerable, and not afraid to speak the questions or share the answers, not afraid to take risks, make mistakes, or make things right after those mistakes.

Read the entire tribute which Bev shared during the funeral lunch on Bev’s blog, Vintage Navelgazer.  Thank you Bev!

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Cookie’s Memorial: Circles™ of Hope

It has been a week since Cookie’s funeral and burial, but the flowers are still beautiful as they sit in our dining room window.  I’ve tried to resume a semblance of routine which has been hard since everything I do brings a reminder of Cookie.  As I went through Cookie’s papers earlier this week,  I saw the outline of her life story which she had shared in small-group a couple of months ago.  She also thought it could be the basis of her obituary.

Cookie’s first point was simple: poverty.  Not “I was born on a farm.”  Nor “I was the baby of the family.”  Not even “I played alone most of the time.”  Even though each of these is true and affected who Cookie later became, what Cookie chose to say was stark and unambiguous, “Poverty.”  Until they moved to town when Cookie was in 3rd grade, Cookie’s family lived in a house without indoor plumbing.  The source of water was a cistern in the front yard.  The toilet was an outhouse in the back.  Her Dad struggled to successfully farm land that probably shouldn’t have ever been plowed with its thin, rocky soil.  The straw that broke the camel’s back came when he bought a small herd of dairy cattle that had Bang’s disease rendering them infertile.   Refusing to go bankrupt the family moved to town and Cookie’s Dad and Mom both worked hard for more than a decade before paying off their farm debt.  When Cookie went to college, she didn’t expect nor did she receive financial support from her family.  But it was the era when the federal government had good student aid programs, so by dint of her own hard work and a good financial aid package, Cookie was first member of her family to graduate from college.

But childhood poverty has its effect even in adulthood.  When Cookie saw the financial advantages that friends continued to accrue from their families she struggled with envy.  She  chose to present herself as “different” rather than facing the feelings of inadequacy she felt.  She often felt trapped by circumstances beyond her control.  She was mulling over this one day while walking to the grocery store when she had what she would later refer to as her “aha” moment.  She went in one moment from feeling sorry for herself to experiencing deep empathy for those still in poverty and those facing racial prejudice.  “Oh my gosh,” she thought, “this must be how it feels to be poor.  This must be how it feels to be discriminated against.”  After that day, I never heard her compare herself to those who were better off than she was; her only concern was to lift up those who were worse off.

Beginning in  2004, the Newton community has held several seminars based on Ruby Paine’s book, “Bridges out of Poverty”, helping local educators, business leaders and church members to better understand how to work with and assist low-income families.  Peace Connections coordinated a class based on Phil Devol’s “Getting Ahead in a Just Getting by World” for those in poverty wanting out.  Organizations had to recommend and sponsor students.  This is where Cookie became involved, co-teaching the class with Pam, a social-worker with a local agency.  It soon became obvious that a class and the support of a sponsor was not enough; there needed to be more follow-up.  The community was ready, but the connections weren’t being made.

Scott Miller founder of Move the Mountain, author of “Until It’s Gone: Ending Poverty in our Nation, in our Lifetime”, says, “What truly helps families find a way out of poverty is to become part of a community of people with different socioeconomic backgrounds who have learned to care about one another.”   This was like music to Cookie’s ears.  In October of 2007, Cookie and Myrna, director of Peace Connections, went to Marshall, Missouri for a hands-on training for Scott Miller’s Circles™ Campaign. The key concept of Circles™ is that those in middle and upper class have not only financial advantages, but also have a circle of social assets which is often missing among those in poverty.  Participants in Circles™ are paired with local volunteers to provide those assets identified as a need by the participant. A “Getting Ahead” class which Cookie co-taught became the first cohort of Newton’s Circles of Hope.  Cookie became the local spokesperson for Peace Connection’s Circles™ iniative, speaking in local churches and organizations as well as at a state poverty convention.   She also helped coordinate the Scott Miller’s 2008 visit to Newton during which the Newton community shaped the future direction of the program.

When we left for India in July of 2009, the Newton Circles™ effort was small, but it had a strong group of volunteers.  By the time we returned in August of 2010 the program had gained momentum with group meetings often numbering over 50 people.  This fall seems to be the tipping point for the national campaign with stories about the program appearing on the CBS Evening News and CNN among others.

While we were planning Cookie’s funeral, someone asked me about the memorial; I had to admit that Cookie and I hadn’t discussed it.  But it only took me a few seconds to realize that Circles™ would be the perfect memorial.  It is, in fact, already a living memorial to Cookie’s dedication and joyful work.  Inviting others to participate by their donations assures its continued viability.  The flowers which I am still enjoying will eventually fade, but the lives changed by Circles™ will continue to be bright and beautiful.

 

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Posted in Whole-life Stewardship | 6 Comments

A full life, joyfully shared

Several years ago Celeste Kennel-Shank, visited Newton regularly as an editor of the Mennonite Weekly Review. She became a regular house-guest and friend.  Her tribute to Cookie has been published in the November 14 issue of MWR.

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Posted in Whole-life Stewardship | Comments Off on A full life, joyfully shared