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Vocation of Peacemaking

She was the pastor’s wife. After working a long work day and then attending the Wednesday night session at her church, a session in which I’d spoken about the BPFNA and our work of peacemaking, she was giving me a ride to the next town. Along the way, she told me about her job teaching in an inner-city school. It was clear as she spoke that she had a deep passion for her work and a deep love for the children she taught. Though she was quite modest, as she spoke about the challenges of their lives and the ways she tried to address those challenges even while teaching the children to read and write and add, I could tell that she was an amazing educator. It was clear that she put in extra hours and her own resources and regularly went well beyond the call of duty. I could imagine that she was the type of teacher her students would remember years later. And yet as we pulled into the driveway of the house where I was to spend the night, she said sadly, “And that’s why I don’t have time to do peace work.” I think I was fairly passionate in my response, telling her that there could not possibly be a better way to live a life of peace than by loving young children and teaching them to love one another. I hope that she remembers. I hope that she believed me.

Recently I asked members and friends of BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz to write brief essays on their peacemaking work. I asked students, activists, teachers, parents, pastors, lay people, and retirees who work for peace in their jobs, their communities, their families, their volunteer time, and their neighborhoods in a wide (really wide!) variety of ways. Reading their responses about working with every group from middle schoolers to warring tribes has been a deep blessing, a wonderful reminder that there are as many ways to live a life of peace as there are people, that our ways of living peace change and grow as we do, and that we can act for peace in real and important ways wherever we find ourselves.

I hope that these stories are a blessing to you as they have been to me. Remember. Believe.


Click here to download Vocation of Peacemaking Volume I, a collection of the Vocation of Peacemaking stories from September 15 - October 20!

Click here to download Vocation of Peacemaking Volume II, a collection of the Vocation of Peacemaking stories from October 27-December 1!

Click here to download Vocation of Peacemaking Volume III, a collection of the Vocation of Peacemaking stories from January 12-February 2!

September 15 I September 22 I September 29 I October 6 I October 13 I October 20 I October 27 I November 3 I November 10 I November 17 I November 24 I December 1 I January 12 I January 19 I January 26 I February 2

Gimme Shelter: My Vocation as a Peacemaker
Dion Oxford

I’ve committed the 24 years of my professional life to something I fundamentally disagree with: homeless shelters. I have built, consulted on, and advocated for the construction of these buildings that are specifically designed to provide food, shelter and clothing to folks who have slipped through the cracks of our so-called communities and ended up living on the streets.

But the fact is, these places should not exist. If we citizens, if we people of faith, actually took seriously our commitment to loving our neighbours as ourselves, we wouldn’t have the constant, steady stream of humanity flowing out of our neighbourhoods and into shelters. But the reality is we have no idea of what it actually means to truly love our neighbours, and as a result we do need shelters for folks who have no other place to go.

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Communicating “Peace”: My Vocation as a Peacemaker
Jennifer Sanborn

When my father, Rev. Peter Sanborn, was actively serving as a pastor, his lifelong vocation, he always signed off letters and cards, “Peter, minister and friend.” He died a few years ago, and I was struck by how many people wrote, “We’re so sorry about the death of your father, our minister and friend.”

Clearly his words influenced how people understood him and the nature of his ministry. Thus, when I became a pastor myself, I gave careful thought to how I wanted to sign my own communications. “God bless you”? Nah. “In Christ”? Nope. The answer came to me suddenly: “Peace, Jennifer.”

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The Bright Brilliance of Middle Schoolers
David Weasley

It was snowy on the way to the hospital. We were bringing a group of about 25 middle schoolers to Christ Hospital, on the far south side of Chicago, to hear from staff at Ceasefire, the local chapter of Cure Violence. Ceasefire is a great organization that places trained “Interrupters” in neighborhoods and emergency rooms, making sure that one incident of violence does not lead to others.

The youth we were bringing to meet with them weren’t inner-city young people. I work for a suburban Lutheran congregation, and the other non-profits we visited that day were our standard places: the local animal shelter, the local food pantry.

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Bible Stories, Kids and Peacemaking: My Vocation as a Peacemaker
by Tama Ward Balisky

Few things are more caricatured in the church than Sunday School pageants. I spend a lot of time working against pre-conceptions in explaining my work as artistic director of Sacred Canopy, a grassroots performing arts organization mandated to stage biblical narratives. Yes, we do work in a church context and yes, we do tell Bible stories but that is where the similarities with the Sunday School pageant of old ends.

Most of our storytelling is done through music, dance, physical movement and large set concepts. What’s more we rarely mention God. We dig deep into the human dimension of the stories and let “the God element” catch the audience off guard when they least expect it. We consider the whole sanctuary an extension of our stage space and the congregation an extension of the Story. The tagline to a Sacred Canopy production is “Where my story and God’s Story meet.”

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My Vocation as a Peacemaker
by Kate Fields

Peacemaking is a daily ethical decision for me. It guides my interactions with folks, the way I view myself in the cosmos, and how I interact with the Divine. I often think of peacemaking as a way of life and not a thing to be attained. Creating peace starts with so many small opportunities taken each day, whether that is picking up trash on your walk to work because you care about humanity’s accountability to the earth, or critical reflection of a perceived everyday norm, or starting a community garden with folks in your neighborhood.

It seems like peacemaking can manifest in so many ways. When I first learned more about peacemaking, it was really just putting language to how I already wanted to function in the world. Still, I was slightly intimidated by what I thought it meant to be a peacemaker.

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A New Calling: My Vocation as a Peacemaker
by Adele Pfrimmer Hensley

I write my children's books to help empower children. Children who are confronted with the illness of an adult who "never gets better and always gets worse" are children in a frightening situation. My stories show them that they already know ways for helping themselves cope and for comforting the adults they love.

I write my poetry to educate and communicate that despite there being times when Parkinson's has control of my voice and facial expressions, I am still inside this somewhat unwieldy body. I try to translate the experience behind the stiffened facial muscles to let people with and without Parkinson's know that, although it is hard sometimes, this is very much a life worth living.

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My Vocation as a Peacemaker
by Laurel Dykstra

Here and there in the years since I have wielded bolt cutters, cooking pots, canoe paddles, parade stilts, pride flags, a credit card, social media, my own dancing feet, and in one notable case a cake shaped like a giant cockroach, in support of various movements for change, love, justice, and dignity. I have participated in what can only be years of meetings and trainings.

But even during the years when I lived full-time in a Catholic Worker house and was part of the collective that wrote, designed, printed and delivered weekly peace pamphlets at the Nuclear Submarine Base, I don’t know that I claimed the vocation of Peacemaker.

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Loving My Enemies: My Vocation as a Peacemaker
by Zachary Moon

I grew up in a politically liberal, pacifist church community... Peace work wasn’t an abstract ideology; it was the way my community tried to live meaningfully in a world defined by violence. But even as we spoke of the need for reconciliation, justice, and equality, we were always battling against those who were complicit or supportive of other outcomes. We were disconnected with persons who believed differently. Their ideas and beliefs were ill-informed, if not evil. We, good peace-loving, religious folks, were locked into the antagonisms of us-versus-them at the expense of living up to the challenge of loving those deemed “enemies.”...

Who were the ones I had come to see as enemies? At the top of that list were those involved in the military; those participating in the unquenchable national agenda of war-making. Arguing hadn’t brought me into relationship; it had emphasized the parts of ourselves that were dissimilar and made that the grounds for separation. If I was going to practice loving my enemy, I would need to focus on listening with compassion, instead of looking for ways to win an argument. I began to do this at bedsides in a VA hospital.

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From Street Boy to President of Peace: My Vocation as a Peacemaker
by Boaz Keibarak

My peace vocation started after the death of my biological father. Conflict erupted over my father’s wealth; the events took us a long painful way where I and my mother were discriminated against as outsiders external to the family. It was thought that the wealth of my deceased father should be inherited by his stepbrother since they belong to the same blood.

They burned our property, forcing us to migrate. I reported the matter to the elders. They intervened, but there was a lot of argument so finally I requested the elders to allow my mother to stay and let me go my own way to start a new life. I had become a threat to the family wealth, and I decided to compromise by moving out and looking for life elsewhere. I found myself in the street until rescued by a missionary with whom I lived for a long while.

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Elderspirit: Our Vocation of Peacemaking
by Linda and Bill Mashburn

LINDA: We all grow old! Or at least most of us do, unless like the prophets and Jesus, we risk our lives for peace and justice and lose them--or something else happens that cuts us short. So, should we "take no thought for the morrow" or should we plan? If we don't plan, we may become a burden to our children, or have to let Medicaid place us in an assisted living unit or a skilled nursing facility--not very attractive alternatives.

BILL: The result in the last forty years or so has been the development of retirement communities. My mother lived at Highland Farms in Black Mountain for almost 15 years, and Linda's parents moved to Carolina Village in Hendersonville in 1975, so her father was there for 14 years and her mother for 25. They lived very comfortably in those retirement communities, and our children grew up visiting there.

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Building a Culture of Peace: The Vocation of Peacemaking
by Luis G. Collazo

My journey on this path has taught me the predominant role that utopia plays on the scenario of peacemaking. During my childhood and adolescent years I saw the poverty of many and the social injustice. As an adult realized that this experience deeply influenced my conscience and commitment with peace and justice.  Since my high school years, I have taken the option toward the struggle for freedom and peacemaking.

The historical conditions that propitiated violence at the beginning of my university studies are still perpetuating their multiple manifestations. As a pastor and professor, I think that the cult to “bellicism” which includes economic injustice, the arms trade, militarization, aberrant nationalism, terrorism,  accelerated rates of crime, domestic violence, child abuse and cultural phobias still preys on us. That could encourage me to resign my role as a peace activist. It's utopia that rescues me from pessimism and encourages us all to be peacemakers and prophets of hope. My readings at the university and the seminary help me to understand that the  “utopia” of peace is embodied in the Kingdom of God and “its justice”.

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Being There for Kids in Foster Care: My Vocation as a Peacemaker
by Sterling Oliver

When we talk about child abuse rarely does the term “peacemaker” enter the conversation. Often times we cannot or choose not to picture the horrid scenarios in our mind’s eye. Children are innocent. Children are ours to care for and to protect, never harm. Ever.

In my county alone there are more than 700 kids in “the system” on a daily basis. Nationally in the U.S. more than 10,000 foster kids “age out” of care annually; a child enters foster care every 2 minutes! These numbers are staggering. These numbers are unacceptable. These numbers are reality.

Based on the above text, I am guessing you are wondering where peace enters the scenario…

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My Vocation as a Peacemaker
by Joao Matwawana

In my childhood I grew up in a Bakongo Tribe mega-Village. A mega-village of more than 1,000 people was required by the Portuguese colonial power to have designated local officials included including a village chief and a peace council made up of members from several clans... My grandpa was a trusted village chief who acted as a judge and mediated of conflicts among the people (youth, couples, clans etc). When a conflict was identified or a crime was committed in the village (there was no police system), the council dealt with the issue until an acceptable solution was found.

I left the village at the age of 13 to enter the British Baptist Boarding School, but all my childhood I observed the proceedings of this village court almost every week. During my boarding school years, my British teachers told me that I showed leadership. They presumed that it was the result of their program. But deep in my heart I believed that I learned those peacemaking qualities from my grandpa, the village chief. As a young teacher, I faced the challenges of mediating conflicts between students in the rural primary schools where I worked with a local school council composed of parents from different tribes. These older people admired my wisdom as I was only in my twenties, but I knew where my wisdom came from. Later I became an advocate for these parents when they faced injustices from the local administrator. We were able to approach these conflicts in a peaceful way.

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Here I Am: My Vocation as a Peacemaker
by Eh Nay Thaw

Friends, to tell you my story, the story of the Karen people, is not what I love to do, but it’s my responsibility and every Karen person’s responsibility. Why? Not many people in the world know, or have ever heard of, who the Karen people are. Maybe you don’t either, but don’t worry, don’t feel bad, you are not alone. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a reality and that’s exactly why we are here.

This evening, I want to tell you about the Karen people through one personal experience out of a hundred thousand. Why do I feel like it’s my responsibility to share my story; my Karen people’s story? Because once we all had lives, homes, churches, and schools in Burma. However, we were forced to leave it all behind and flee for our lives because of a brutal dictatorship in Burma.

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A PET Project: My Vocation of Peacemaking
by Sid Rooy

When my wife Mae and I lived in Argentina, we felt as did nearly all Latin Americans, that the Contra War against the new Nicaraguan government was unjust and unwise. Then when we moved in 1992 to Central America and began to teach in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, we saw first-hand the suffering and tragedy that war left behind. The Contras left innumerable land mines scattered in rural mountainous area in Northern Nicaragua. Pastors and seminary students in my classes told me of children and adults in their families, churches and communities, who already had or were losing their limbs due to those land mines.

In 2001, Mae and I moved to Penney Farms, Florida. There we became members of the Penney Retirement Community. Would you believe it, just then a retired missionary from the Congo, who had with another guru designed a hand-operated three-wheeled vehicle with wheelbarrow type of wheels, was just beginning production. The wheels are wide and made of solid rubber, and can be used in soft terrain where ordinary wheelchairs do not function. The vehicles have a box on the back for transport, a hand brake, and reflectors for safety road use. These “wheel-chairs” are built for land mine and polio victims in the Third World. But other victims, such as those of wars, accidents, birth defects or other diseases also benefit.

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Chico Peace and Justice Center Viewspaper: Priorities
by Sandi John

My first awareness as I awaken in the morning is that my heart is racing. The question takes shape in my mind: What is my priority today? How shall I best spend my time for the benefit of the world? It is the question posed for this Viewspaper: “Crisis after crisis after crisis...What’s a peace and justice activist to do?”

Then I remember to breathe. “Four in...hold for seven...out for eight” with my tongue behind my teeth. . .just as I learned from Dr. Andrew Weil. Eight times. I am calm. I thank God for the opportunities of the day. I meditate, “May I be compassionate today. May I balance contemplation and action today.” My priority today is to be a peaceful breathing presence.

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