What a trip…

 

My head is spinning. So much to process and so little time to sit and put it all together. This has been an outstanding past two weeks. Without hesitation or qualification, I can happily say our trip to Uganda to partner with the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project was an overwhelming success. For 11 days, I traveled with my wife, Rachell, Kurt and Pete Guter, Jamie Morris, and executive director and founder of Nyaka, Twesigye Jackson Kaguri.img_6075 This was my second trip in the past two years to work with Nyaka in Uganda. The Peoples Church has supported this outstanding organization for nearly a decade, with the support beginning before I arrived in East Lansing as their pastor.

img_5735

Over the next few days I will post a rundown of each day on the trip. Until then, here is a brief list of highlights:

 

  • Visited 3 schools and interacted with over 500 students and dozens of faculty and staff.
  • Toured the Mummy Drayton Clinic
  • Explored the two libraries and support facilities established by Nyaka.
  • Assisted in the construction of a grandmother house that was paid for by generous members of The Peoples Church in honor of Dr. Curt Liechty, a friend and congregant who visited Nyaka in 2015 shortly before his unexpected passing.
  • Attended the world premier of the independent film, “Cornerstone,” a groundbreaking documentary exploring the history, founding, and continuing excellence of Nyaka.
  • Preached and spoke to each school for their devotional period
  • Keynoted the local Rotary club meeting in Kihihiimg_5969
  • Took a day to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park, where we saw all manner of wildlife.
  • Crossed the equator four times – twice by car and twice by boat
  • Ate incredible Ugandan food with even better people in all parts of the country.

There is so much more to this past trip but this gives a good start. I’ll take a look at each day and include photos and video for each day of the trip. Until then, thank you for your prayers while we were away and please know how much the children of Nyaka appreciate your continuing support. Peace be with you and thanks for reading.

On our way to Uganda…

And so the journey begins…ug-lgflag

We leave for the Pearl of Africa this morning and will return on December 3. I’ll be doing my best to blog while away with pics and updates of the trip. Until then, please pray for our safe journey to the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project.

This is my second trip to work with, visit, support, and advocate on behalf of this outstanding organization. There are few international non-profits that do as much good with the limited resources they have at their disposal. I would encourage you to give generously to this project. To my Peoples Church people, THANK YOU for all you have done for the children, teachers, grandmothers, and communities who benefit from your good work. It is an honor to have our congregation be such an active participant with Nyaka and I am so happy to see this relationship continue, grow, and flourish.

Peace be with my fellow travelers and please remember us in your prayers as we journey to the center of the African continent! uganda-04

 

We’re leaving the country

My wife, Rachell and I are leaving.

Some people just make threats. We follow through. Later, U.S.A.

 

Yep, on Wednesday morning, we are embarking on a 30+ hour journey to Kampala, Uganda…and we’re staying until December 3.

 

No, we’re not permanently abandoning our county of origin. This is a work/mission/tourist/vacation excursion as part of our ongoing partnership with the Nyaka Aids Orphans Project (more on that tomorrow!). We have been planning this for the past few months and we are extremely excited for this amazing opportunity. It promises to be an exceptional time spent working, learning, growing, and experiencing my favorite African nation.

 

But what about those who have, are in the process of, and plan to leave from one country to another in the past, present and future?

 

Forgive my overly simplistic approach to the nuanced and complicated notion of immigration from one636035188213974932-627964414_giphy-2 place to another but I am struck by the magnitude of any person who “went.”

 

Very, rarely does one simply choose to go to another country…and the reasons, process, and risks are far from universal for each immigrant, refugee, asylum seeker, or traveler.

 

Some are forced to leave by war, poverty, political instability, and fear.

 

Some are encouraged to leave by work, family, religious liberty, or broken relationships.

 

Some are escaping and some are hiding.

 

Some are longing to return home and some are leaving behind a long to be forgotten past.

 

Some want adventure.

 

Some want love.

 

Many, many want hope.

 

By virtue of my place in this great American experiment, I am the product of generations before me who “left.” While I’d like to assume I understand their reasons and experiences, the reality of my narrative is one shrouded in mystery and wonder. Why would my foremothers and fathers leave Scotland, Australia, Germany and France? Did they want to be here? Did they long to be here? If the choice was available, would they have returned home?

3d2412f0f90b36541df018872d6d6d5d8a51fb4a7df79d43068951f01b265444

Rachell and I have experienced an incredible amount of privilege in our lives that has translated to opportunity. We have had choices at nearly every turn of our lives apart and together. We were then and are now able to “decide” to stay or go. And that is a rare position to be in…the realm of opportunity…especially when the vast majority in our world do not live with such extravagant prospects.

 

So why is immigration discussed, debated, and imagined in such myopic, narrow terms? I don’t believe I’m speaking anecdotally on this one, though my own experiences do shape these thoughts.

 

No two immigrant stories are the same…especially not the many faceted travel logs in the Old and New Testaments. Each person, each family, experienced good, bad, and indifferent events that led, called, encouraged, and forced them to go.

 

So, let’s stop viewing immigration through such a narrow lens.

 

I’m utterly intrigued to hear Ugandan perspectives on American election politics, especially as they relate to immigration. Though I would pose the same question to my American, Scottish, German, Indian, Aram and Latino friends as well – what comes next in this discussion?

 

I hope you’ll follow our journey over the next couple of weeks as we travel across Uganda. Pray for our family who will remain behind and pray for a safe, eventful, and glorious adventure for Rachell and me!

What I said yesterday…

“Misguided Hubris, Misunderstood Guilt”

Sermon Delivered by The Rev. Andrew Pomerville at The Peoples Church of East Lansing – Isaiah 6:1-8; Luke 5:27-32 – November 13, 2016

http://thepeopleschurch.com/sermon/message/misguided-hubris-misunderstood-guilt

And who are we this morning? Are we the righteous? Or are we sinners in need of forgiveness?

For some this week has been filled with anger, fear, hurt and paranoia.

For others, this week has been filled with celebration, jubilance, hope, and confusion at the actions of one’s neighbors.

For all, it has been a week of intensity and division.

Quite literally, our country is divided down the middle. We are Split.

Granted, I have experienced fewer presidential elections than some of you, and I can finally say that I have experienced more presidential elections than some of you in this room.

And in my limited experience, I can say that I have not felt this type of concern, anxiety, and worry in the face of a presidential election.

To be fair, we have had a heightened sense of engagement and apathy towards our two major political party candidates for president this year.  And if you can make sense of that paradoxical dichotomy, I applaud you.

So on one hand, it should be no surprise to us that our streets erupted in protest.

Social media is crumbling with sore winners, and sore losers, and a general worry has come about what we will experience next for the seat of government and the many citizens who are to be affected by what is to come in the next days, weeks, and years ahead.

Yet this week has created something new for me as a pastor.

Yes, I have experienced victory and defeat in politics before this week, and yes I have seen candidates that I abhor be elected to high office, and other candidates that I’ve admired and promoted finding themselves finishing second or first.

Yet this time, this week, this period, feels markedly different, and each time I have tried to say that out loud, I have found myself chided and chastised by family, by friends, and especially by my sisters and brothers in the clergy – that I’m creating a mountain out of a molehill, that I’m fueling the fire of protest, or that I am far too lukewarm and not passionate enough to speak to people that need a word.

I spoke to friends online, my first mistake I’m sure, saying that “you as pastors…” and I’m speaking to brothers and sisters across this country, “…You have an opportunity to speak up this week and say something that matters.  To inspire, to guide, to help provide hope and inspiration.  This week means something!”

What I got back from some of my clergy colleagues was a bit of condescension.  I was patted on the head and told “Oh Andrew, every week is a week to bring the Gospel.  Every week has context.  This week is the same, for Jesus Christ is the same.  Don’t blow it out of proportion.”

(An aside) – And I de-friended that person.  (Laughter from the Congregation)

And yet, there are those on the other side who have condemned me this week.  I have been challenged by members of our own community saying “If you do not say ‘x’, ‘y’, or ‘z’, you will not see me darken the doors of this church again.  Do not squander your opportunity, stand and speak.”

Each side seems to have expectations about today’s sermon and today’s church.

I hear them saying “Speak and lead!”

I can’t help but echo the words of Isaiah that Pastor Drew offered from chapter 6 here today, to feel a bit of empathy for that would-be prophet.

He cries out upon hearing the voice of God to say something. He says “Woe is me!  For I am full of unclean lips!  And I’m surrounded by a people of unclean lips.  What am I supposed to say?”

This call should not be limited to nor relegated to clergy people alone.

We are all being called upon to speak, to cry out words of our Lord. But I admit to you, I am afraid.

I am afraid of saying the wrong thing.

I am afraid of not speaking loudly enough for those who cannot speak for themselves.

I am afraid that I might say something that will further ostracize and condemn or scare my brothers and sisters away from this congregation – away from the church of Jesus Christ – away from the gospel of our Lord.

I am afraid that I won’t say enough and I’m afraid that I’ll say too much.

And I’m especially afraid of that lukewarm apathy in between.

And I am afraid of what comes next.

My friends, we stand at one of the most important moments in the history of The Peoples Church.

For we are not just another church, another city, after just another election.

We are a church that can, and should, lead.

We are a church that, like Isaiah, has been called, but like the prophet, we have to admit that we are also full of sin and unclean lips.

In the past I have overestimated and overstated the role of this church in the history of our community. And in particular I point to the terribly discriminatory practices in East Lansing towards renting and letting people own houses – people of color and the laws that were created in this town make it impossible for them to live side by side with their neighbors.

Because I’ve been told that this church was on the forefront, cutting edge, right there-fighting that battle, speaking out for people who might otherwise not have a voice.

And I’ve been challenged on that and told to look at history a little bit closer.

No, we weren’t fighting to keep those laws in place.

And, yes there were members of this church who stood up and passionately spoke for things that mattered.

But as a congregation, we largely during that time period, let others lead us.

We waited.

And when we knew that history was on our side we went the right direction.

For that we have unclean lips.

There have been moments in my own ministry where I have waited because I am afraid of offending one side or the other.

Because I’m worried that I am going to do too much.

But just like Isaiah, the fire of the Holy Spirit has touched my lips and your lips and we are made pure so that we are able to speak with the confidence of a people who know that we may have made mistakes in the past but praise be to God that we have been forgiven.  Therefore, go speak into a world with forgiveness, with love, and with hope!

Bring people together, speak with the unity of the Holy Spirit, and we can help create that kingdom of God now and always.

So, my friends, be the church that speaks.

Be the church that acts.

Be the church that leads with confidence, grace, and compassion.

Stand up brothers and sisters and acknowledge the pain of those who wonder what tomorrow will resemble for their families and for their friends!

Stand up for those who worry they will be persecuted because of their faith, because of their gender, because of their sexuality, because of their race, because of their country of origin that they came from them and prove to them that no, our God calls us to love all people, now and forever more.

The only borders that we should be promoting are the welcoming borders of the kingdom of God which is open to all.

The only language that we should be promoting above another language is the language of Jesus Christ, rooted in love and passion and mercy for all people in all places and in all times.

And the only culture that we should be promoting is the culture of the body of Jesus Christ that has a variety of parts and a variety of people and pieces, and yet, still functions under the Lordship of Jesus; our true ruler, our true king, our true guide.

Look at our New Testament passage today. We must be reminded of Jesus’ decision to sit, to dwell, with the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the most marginalized members of his society.

And he was condemned for doing it by people who were able to look at those poor, those who were disadvantaged, those who were different, those who were deemed to be the dredges of society and the problem for all of the woes for Israel.

Jesus was condemned for being with them.

He was on the side that was right.

We put our faith, and our hope, and our trust in things all the time that let us down.

We have overstated the role of our government, of our president, of our governor, even of our city council and school board.

Friends, the true and ultimate authority that we should place before us now and always is that of Jesus Christ, a Jesus who calls us to unity.

Therefore, go out, and against all odds, seek to unify.

For those of you who are so upset over the result of the elections, I challenge you; go to your brothers and sisters, who voted for Mr. Trump, embrace them, love them, listen to their stories.

Do not damn them now before they have a chance to respond.

And to those who voted for Mr. Trump who can’t seem to understand why there is such paranoia, why there are protests in the street, and why –and as I heard even this morning  – “children are behaving so childishly and if only they’d grow up and realize that democracy has winners and losers.” I challenge you to listen to those people who are protesting, hear why they are afraid.

Do not correct them.

Do not ask them to change.

Break bread with them, share a cup with them, and love them as your neighbors.

For if we can not do this as a church, then what hope do we have for the rest of the world?

I fear that we have talked too many times together about unity. Well now is a time we can actually do something about it.

Go out into this world.

Speak passionately.

Love with reckless abandon.

Shy away from the condemnation that seems to be coming from both sides.

Yes, we are upset.

Yes, we are excited.

Yes, people are happy and yes, people are mourning.

Jesus Christ was the same yesterday, and is the same today, and will be the same tomorrow.

Make sure you put a “C” for Christian before you put a “D” for democrat or “R” for republican.  

And make sure that we are confident that Jesus Christ has not abandoned us, our church, our city, our nation, or our world.

Let us Pray.

http://thepeopleschurch.com/sermon/message/misguided-hubris-misunderstood-guilt

Now what?

414e1711e95e25459cee22795c12714cTomorrow looks to be an opportunity for many of us who are honored with the privilege of a pulpit. Yes, I pray my fellow clergy people will deliver a message of hope…but I also pray they will not be so timid as to ignore the events of this past week in American history and find themselves years from now on the wrong side of said history.

What am I going to say tomorrow? I’m still not entirely sure. I’ve listened to pastors, rabbis, and priests pontificate over the past four days about their own desire to transcend the political rhetoric and not stoop down to the place of protestors and sore losers. Any other year, I might applaud such a high and lofty goal.

Not this year.

No, I believe the few who have been granted the right to speak and lead should do just that – speak and lead.

I ask for your prayers today and tomorrow as I continue to wrestle with the words form Isaiah 6 and seek to proclaim a gospel of love, hope, and prophecy, even when it would be so much easier to settle into a rhythm that rolls along with the tide, instead of paddling against the current in an effort to get where we need to be.

No matter what happens, we are all in the same boat together. Blessings to my sisters and brothers who speak out for those who have no voice, who identify injustice and work to right it, and for those who will not allow fear and hate to overcome the grace and hospitality of Jesus Christ.

A Highland Welcome

A Highland Welcome

By Robert Burns, 1787

 

When Death’s dark stream I ferry o’er 

(A time that surely shall come), 

In Heaven itself I’ll ask no more, 

Than just a Highland welcome.

I’m on my way to Mason to officiate a memorial service for Lorna Ball Dunn, the mother of one of outstanding members at The Peoples Church. Lorna was fiercely proud of her Scottish heritage and, as providence would have it, shares a common ancestry with my MacDonald side. I’m honored to help celebrate her life and faith this morning and I can’t think of a better opening.

Good Enough

I continue to marvel at my colleague and friend, Rev. David Ramage, and his ability to process with such vulnerability throughout his chemo treatments. David is an incredible minister serving as the pastor for the church I most recently served before my call to East Lansing. Pray for him, his family, and the amazing congregation he serves in Bellaire, MI. I am blessed to have learned from him, brewed with him, and served in the Mackinac Presbytery with him. Keep writing, David, and keep fighting.

lifeisavocation

I’ve never been good at small talk and when someone asks me how I’m doing, I know they probably don’t want the long answer. I’ve learned to say, “good enough.” This month’s treatment has been somewhat of an improvement. The “yuck” was basically Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Then Sunday evening someone flicked the switch and I was normal. By normal, I mean that I feel like myself but I get fatigued doing just about anything. That’s why I say that I’m good enough. There are people going through much worse chemo and treatments and I feel fortunate to be relatively good. A couple of treatments ago I felt a rush of energy and it seemed like I had taken some kind of drug. The oncologist said that when your body starts making white blood cells in order to make up for the chemo, you’ll feel euphoric. This treatment was followed…

View original post 617 more words