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Love the Questions

November 2, 2005

Dear Friends and Family,
 
During my studies at the Summer Peacebuilding Institute organized by Eastern Mennonite University, I participated in a class called Theatre, Ritual, and Peacebuilding.  One of the rituals, created and lead by the Rev. Grace Cangialosi was called, "Love the questions."  You can imagine it by listening to the sounds of…

water tinkling over rocks in a glass bowl.
three people whispering "love the questions" over and over again.
each person in the circle reading a question out loud and then placing another stone in the glass bowl.

The questions were tough ones that the participants, representing many different nationalities, languages, and religious beliefs, personally and collectively have been struggling with.  "Why are more people than ever before suffering the chaos of war?"  "Does the advancement of humanity have to be at the expense of damaging nature?"  "Can we overcome generations of hate and violence?"   "Love the questions..." and the water drips over the rocks and into the glass bowl in the background.

A few weeks after returning to Chile, I had the privilege of adapting this ritual and experiencing it again with twenty-two teenagers and their chaperones from Chile and Massachusetts.  They were members of a youth choir exchange program.  In July 2004, ten teenagers with three adults traveled from the Pentecostal Church of Chile to join 10 teens from the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ in singing and recording a CD called Chords of Peace.  In July of this year, the same teens from Massachusetts traveled to Chile to rejoin the youth choir here. It was my responsibility to coordinate the orientation periods and facilitate the cross-cultural integration process: to create a sacred and safe space for transformative relationships between teenagers and adults from two different countries, cultures, and denominations, and with different economic backgrounds, educational opportunities, and languages that will lead to the development of faith perspectives, skills, values, curiosity, and creativity for a respectful and committed global citizenship.  What a responsibility!

Three concerts were held and a second CD was recorded called In Unison. (Look for it to come out later this year!)  Through the attendance in the concerts, the hosting of the delegations, and the sharing of the CDs during this two-year project, many sisters and brothers from both churches have been invited to enjoy the blessings of the Covenant that unites the Pentecostal Church of Chile and the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC.

Toward the end of the trip, we all crowded into the living room at the Gathering Point, the Shalom Center's house and office in Talca, Chile, for a closing time of prayer and reflection.  I realized that many of us venture out on these cross-cultural pilgrimages hoping to find answers.  We want to know, "how can I be friends with someone who doesn't speak the same language as I do?" or "What is my part in making the world a better place?"  More often, the result of these opportunities, while rich in experiences and relationships, isn't that we discover the answers but that we end up with even more questions, deeper and tougher ones.  The cross-cultural pilgrimage is to risk stepping into that holy space where we dare to ask the questions and then trust God; the same God who is incessantly and firmly bringing life to dry stones and who is always present like the water tinkling in the background.

Chad Kidd, the choir director for the Massachusetts group, sent me a copy of a sermon he preached shortly after returning from Chile.   In it he reminds us that,   "Jesus reaches out his hand, offering grace and extravagant love every single time the questions come.  Our end reward for wrestling when the winds are against us, for allowing the questions to come, and for risking enough to dare to stand on holy ground is the same as it was for Peter - we begin to recognize Christ.  And when we do, the natural reaction is to praise God for God's continuing presence during our mission.  We must be grateful that God gives us the freedom to vacillate when we need too, and God understands that courage and anxiety, as well as trust and doubt are natural occurrences during the storm, and will be part of your life as a Christian… Our faith certainly keeps us from sinking, but does not our doubt, our struggles, confusions, fears, misunderstandings, and discomforts lead us to a greater faith and a deeper reliance on God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit?  

Our God can handle the questions.  Our God is bigger than the questions.  Rejoice church, for we truly worship and serve a rich, deep, transforming, still-speaking God!"

I would like to say thank you to Global Ministries and the Massachusetts Conference for making it possible for me to attend the Summer Peacebuilding Institute once again this year.  I also thank the teens that dedicated their lives and voices to the "Singing for Peace" project, and everyone in Massachusetts and Chile who gave generously of their time and resources to make this dream come true.  
 
Shalom,
Elena

Elena Huegel is a missionary with the Pentecostal Church of Chile (IPC).  She serves as an environmental and Christian education specialist.


This song was shared with me by John Allen, one of the teens in the choir project:

Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes
To climb out of this boat I'm in
Onto the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He's holding out His hand
But the waves are calling out my name
And they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times
I've tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again. "Boy, you'll never win!"
"You'll never win!"
But the voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says, "Do not be afraid!"
The voice of truth says, "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth
Oh what I would do to have
The kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant
With just a sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors
Shaking in their armor
Wishing they'd have had the strength to stand
But the giant's calling out my name
And he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times
I've tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
Time and time again. "Boy you'll never win!"
"You'll never win!"
But the stone was just the right size
To put the giant on the ground
And the waves they don't seem so high
From on top of them lookin' down
I will soar with the wings of eagles
When  I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
Singing over me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth. 


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