By Revs. Don Dewey and Susan Gonzales Dewey, Co-Regional Ministers

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give wayand the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foamand the mountains quake with their surging...The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress." (Psalm 46)

Dear Disciple Brothers and Sisters, 

As most of you know, a few nights ago in Las Vegas, we experienced the largest mass shooting in the history of the United States. We offer our deepest prayers and condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in this senseless attack. Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy and we reaffirm, as people of faith, our commitment to a peaceful and compassionate world and to our God who is our refuge and strength.

We have been in contact with Rev. Steve Willis, pastor of FCC Las Vegas, and no one from their congregation was directly affected. However, friends and others were, as well as the whole of the Las Vegas community. We pray for our Pastors and churches as they offer care and compassion to their community. The long-term effects of this terrible tragedy are yet to be fully known, but our continued prayers are desperately needed. 

We also know, that our wider world has been rocked by recent hurricanes that have devastated Puerto Rico, as well as damage done in Texas, Louisiana and Florida, a 7.1 earthquake that hit Mexico causing massive destruction, deaths and injury and serious flooding in Southeast Asia. These and other crises challenge us as faithful people in the midst of climate changes, to offer prayers and support for our sisters and brothers who are reeling from the affects of these natural disasters.

Already our Regional Board made the unanimous decision to designate $50,000 to our General Church's disaster relief arm, Week of Compassion, to go toward hurricane relief efforts. However, our concern and support does not end there. On a personal note, our Disciples of Christ denomination has a seminary, 160 churches, and 21,000 Disciple members in Puerto Rico who are deeply affected as well. The effects of the natural disasters will be a long time in recovery and our continued prayers and support are requested.

What can you do to help bring Christ's comfort, compassion and love to those suffering in these situations? You can make a donation to Week of Compassion, which is our hands and feet on the ground in addressing these natural disasters, by going to: https://docgeneralassembly.webconnex.com/weekofcompassion.

Blessings,
Don and Susan

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

By Revs. Don Dewey and Susan Gonzales Dewey, Co-Regional Ministers

Don and I thank you for the privilege of Sabbatical time. This cycle, Don and I overlapped our time – I took the first two weeks away, then Don and I took four weeks together, and Don is still in Sabbatical as I write this Mile Marker. I will tell you, I miss my partner. It is hard to not talk about work AT ALL with the one person I usually get to process life with. But he will be back by the time you all read this, as he returns on October 1.

Don and I had the great privilege of traveling to Italy. We went to see the history of the early church and the art. I finally have an understanding of what “Post Modern” really means. We saw ruins and art from the first centuries, and churches still standing and art from the mid-centuries, and then the guides talked about art from the 1800’s as modern. Ancient, old and "Modern." So if the art of the 1800’s is Modern (and it was for them), then what we have seen from the 1900’s and 2000’s is Post-Modern.

IMG_0126.jpg

We went to see every church that was open–not all 300 churches in Rome, but we did get to see the Basilica of St. Mark in Venice and St. Peter in Rome, and they are magnificent. They were built to let the architecture inspire the AWE of God in the worshiper, and it still does. But you need a ticket or a reservation to go in. Because while most of these churches still have worshiping communities, they are also museums. For the Art? For the Architecture? For a Culture? Probably all of the above.

I have been thinking for the past few weeks about how to make sense of so many ancient and old churches I visited and the church today. It is said we are living in a Post-Modern age, and that we are living in a Post-Christian age. So what does that term mean? It means we are living in a time when no one takes Christian life for granted, because there are more people not involved in Christian life than are involved in a Christian life of faith.

As I looked at the churches in Italy that were more museums than they were active hubs of ministry and Christian formation, I wondered about the Post-Christian churches in the U.S, as well as in the PSWR. I know we do not want to be museums of another age with a small worshiping community. So how can we step fully into being active hubs of healing and ministry and Christian formation? How can we live into justice activity, meeting the needs of the community, leading in racial justice, education, economic justice?

How can we grow into an active prayer life, taking Sabbath time seriously and surrounding the needs of our world and our people in prayer? Because these are the things that keep us from being museums of the faith.

In my first week of Sabbatical, I went to Ghost Ranch in Northern New Mexico for a week of “Spiritual Journey,” and the books I was to read in preparation focused on Sabbath and spiritual practice and prayer. As much as I loved Italy, this week at Ghost Ranch was the most significant part of my time away. Because while I lead retreats and workshops on prayer and spiritual practice, I have not given this much time to receive leading on Sabbath and spiritual practices. And this is the foundation, Sabbath, time with God listening and receiving from God is the foundation for prayer practices and where the energy is to be the Spiritual hospital and the Justice leaders.

What I learned for myself is I need to practice saying ‘No” to too much, so I can say yes to time with God. I have been known to say, "If I can say yes, I will say yes," but now I have a new spiritual practice, of saying “NO." Otherwise I fill my time and space with so much, when there is no time and space to listen to God.

In Walter Wink’s book "Engaging the Powers from 1992," he lifts up the Romans passage in Chapter 8 verses 26-27 from the Phillips translation:

The Spirit also helps in our present limitations. For example, we do not know how to pray worthily, but God’s spirit within us is actually praying for us in those agonizing longings (groans) which cannot find words. Those who know the heart’s secrets understand the spirits intention as they pray according to Gods will for those who love God.

Winks writes that we are all carrying the heavy burden of the world’s brokenness, whether we read the news, or FACEBOOK or not, because we are all connected. So the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know how to pray, as we ought: this does not mean, as it is most often taken, that we lack the proper techniques. Our ignorance is not that we do not know the right methods, but precisely that we thing we know how to pray. We think it is something we do. It is not. How could it be, if “We do not even know how to pray, as we ought?" We learn to pray by stopping the attempt and simply listening to the prayer already being prayed in us by our God. Our task is to listen and simply bring the spirit’s utterances to language, to consciousness, to awareness.

So thank you again for the time to listen to God, and I invite you to the spiritual practice of Sabbath and listening to the prayers that God is already placing is each of us.

 

Together on the Journey,
Don and Susan
Your Regional Ministers

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

Isaiah 40:28-31 (New International Version)

28Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

29He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

30Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;

31but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

 

During the past days and weeks, our country has encountered the severe challenges brought about by the repercussions of Hurricane Harvey and violent encounters emanating from the Charlottesville-related protests.  Many private citizens and agency personnel have risked their lives on the behalf of others.  We give thanks for those who sought to rescue and save - even at the risk of losing their own lives.

Let us continue to support those in need of prayer, donations, and presence.  As we strive to provide spiritual, physical, and financial support in the face of these often reoccurring and debilitating events, some may have become fatigued and weary.  Remember: we are encouraged not to place our hope solely in our human abilities lest we forget to place our hope in the Lord who promises to renew our strength, and to increase our power to keep on walking, to keep on running!

 

We give thanks to the members of the Pacific Southwest Regional Personnel Committee and Regional Board for granting to our Co-Regional Ministers, Don and Susan, a much-needed Sabbatical leave.  Susan’s leave began on August 1 and will conclude on September 15.

Don’s leave began on August 14 and will conclude on September 30.  Many of us have viewed Facebook photo postings of their visits to Croatia and Italy.  We pray for their safe journey home.

 

Hopefully, you and your family have shared a fun-filled summer.  As another school year begins, our thoughts and prayers are with new and returning students, parents and school personnel throughout the PSWR near and far.

 

To all adult/youth leadership and other volunteers who participated in the recent Youth Leadership Retreat which was held at Loch Leven, September 1-4 - Thank you!


Excitement abounds throughout the PSWR as we rapidly approach these upcoming events!

     The 2nd Annual Don Shelton Mini Golf Memorial Classic, Sunday, September 17

     The 13th Annual Don Shelton Memorial Classic Golf Tournament, Monday, September 18

     The Regional Gathering, Saturday, October 21 at First Christian Church of Pomona


Our region is grateful for the relentless planning, preparation, dedication and hard work of leadership teams and others who afford us these outstanding opportunities.  Please be sure to register for your events of choice soon!

 

It has been a unique pleasure to serve as your Sabbatical Regional Minister.  I have always appreciated the endeavors of Don and Susan in fulfilling their assignments as Co-Regional Ministers.  However, since serving in this capacity, I have acquired an even deeper and broader understanding, scope, and insight into the multiplicity of extraordinary skills, abilities, and spiritual acuity required in their positions of responsibility.  Let us - persistently and consistently - pray for them as they strive to provide valued leadership, oversight and care for all of us in our Pacific Southwest Region.

JoAnn.jpg

To an outstanding Regional Staff and others in our Region who have so willingly, faithfully and respectfully supported my endeavors to serve efficiently in this capacity - Thank you!


Embracing an Ever-Evolving Future and Hope
for Wholeness and Unity in the Midst of Our Diversity

Rev. Dr. Jo Ann Bynum
Sabbatical Regional Minister

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

Article by Paul Turner
Missionary with Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo, Global Ministries

Unknown.jpeg

Approximately 90 people suffering from various eye diseases visit Bolenge Hospital each month. The nurses and doctors on staff do a good job diagnosing eye problems and prescribing appropriate medication. However, like most other hospitals in the interior provinces of DR Congo, there is no practicing ophthalmologist on staff to perform needed eye surgeries and follow-up care. 

This is why more than 1,000 people recently put themselves at considerable risk to journey hundreds of miles from Mbandaka to Basankusu for the chance to receive free eye surgery sponsored by Catholic Charities. The Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo (CDCC) works ecumenically on a host of healthcare outreach activities.  The exodus of people in need of urgent eye care was confirmation of CDCC’s efforts to build capacity at Bolenge Hospital to address the high number of eye disease cases. 

The two most common eye diseases diagnosed at Bolenge Hospital are Glaucoma and Cataracts. Cataracts are responsible for half of all blindness in the world.  In developing countries like DR Congo, people with cataracts routinely go blind. This is unfortunate because the treatment is simple and the costs can range between $15 and $100. Yet, the price is still out of reach for many, and there are very few trained ophthalmologists in the country to perform eye surgeries and dispense treatment.

Dr. Yourson Bosolo, Director of CDCC Health Department, wants to change this. First, he wants to attract two resident Ophthalmologists who will provide continuous care for the 90 patients per month that come to Bolenge Hospital with impaired vision.  These specialists could then be deployed via the boat ambulance to diagnose and treat people living in remote villages. They could also help alleviate the huge backlog of patients in need of Cataract surgery. Second, he wants to acquire the equipment necessary to properly diagnose eye diseases and recommend precise treatment.

Just last year National Geographic published an article stating how close we are to eradicating human blindness thanks to groundbreaking research and new treatments.   The article also contained some interesting facts about global blindness;

o   There are 285 million people worldwide who suffer from vision loss that interferes with daily activities.

o   39 million of them are totally blind.

o   Most of the visually impaired live in developing nations. The vast majority of the world’s blind live in Africa and Southwest Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc.).

o   Vision impairment is caused by eye disease, conditions like structural abnormalities and aging.

o   Some 80 percent of cases are preventable or treatable.

o   Eye disease increases as the population ages. 82 percent of the blind are over 50.

The article also points out that eye disease is predominantly a problem of the poor, with a wide gulf between developed and developing countries when it comes to care. A leading cause of blindness is Diabetes, another chronic disease that disproportionately impacts the poor. Visual impairment and blindness affects whole families and society, because families must sacrifice to care for a visually impaired family member, while the loss of economic activity and access to education can impact a society. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Bosolo says, “we need the specialists and the equipment to be effective in treating the people we know with eye disease”. Dr. Bosolo is open to medical camps with volunteer doctors as a means to address the current need, but he knows the more sustainable solution is making Bolenge Hospital a year round destination for diagnosis, treatment and surgery to address all forms of eye disease.  

It’s good to know that one day human blindness may be a thing of the past.  Let’s pray that the race to cure blindness also includes the ability to deliver them to the poorest regions of the world. 

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

One. The running theme of Disciples of Christ's General Assembly this year. Never has a single word meant more than it did at the General Assembly. It's funny how we don't think about mundane, everyday words; much less about how valuable and significant they can truly be and the impact they can have on our lives.  

Attending General Assembly was such an exciting adventure. To have the opportunity to travel with such an amazing group of people (PSWR Young Adult Leaders) to a conference who's purpose was to encourage, and practice, unity amongst our churches was a genuine pleasure and blessing.  

I'll admit, I was a little naïve towards what I thought I would actually receive that week. Although I was excited, I had almost the same expectations as that of any other conference I had ever attended. What I didn't expect was the various cultural backgrounds and mindsets I would interact with. It made me start to wonder, what exactly does it mean to be one? 

At the heart and core of the General Assembly was this idea that we can unite people, in spite of their many differences, for one sole purpose and that's to praise and worship our one true God. As I spoke with different people, I discovered very quickly just how truly different we all are. Never had I encountered so many believers who thought so differently than I did. I found myself really struggling in my heart and mind. It made me really ask myself, "Could I truly be united with others who didn't think like me? How could I expect acceptance and unity for my own personal beliefs yet neglect to even acknowledge the views and beliefs of others'?  

 I think Rev. Jose Morales said it perfectly the first night of Assembly, "Safe unity does not equal unity at all. True unity is service and sacrifice. True unity is done at foot level." 

True unity is done at foot level. But this level of unity is driven by a single force: love. A sacrificial love like Christ demonstrated. A love that serves others without any pretense. And that’s exaclty the kind of love I saw during those 5 days, a sacrificial love. I saw people serving together, serving each other, no matter their race, sex, or background. My favorite part of the whole assembly? Getting together to take part in communion while the worship team played a beautiful rendition of Israel Houghton's Alpha and Omega. And that's really what it's all about it isn't?  Jesus welcomed all to the table. He died for all. And His desire is that none would perish.  

I am a Bible study leader for high school and college aged girls and one of the youth coordinators at my church. My desire for the young people in my church is that they would learn to love and serve others with a sacrificial love. A love that knelt at the feet of others and placed their needs before even their own without a single question.

I am thankful to the region for allowing me to be a part of such a beautiful experience. It's an experience that both challenged me in my walk with Christ and rekindled a desire to love God and love people. My encouragement to other current and/or aspiring young leaders: be a part of the leadership at the regional level. Get involved and take advantage of these incredible opportunities that may come your way. Getting involved means bringing more unity to our churches. It allows us to impact those lives outside of our own congregations. But getting involved also means allowing God to grow you in ways you never even dreamed about. It’s a precious gift that I will carry with me and live out for the rest of my life. 

-Veronica Martinez
CdO Youth Coordinator

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt