One of our mission initiatives is to Abolish Poverty and End Suffering. Community of Christ members and friends in Calgary embraced this initiative with a project that was fun and practical.
Few of us can imagine what it would be like to not have a home to go to, especially in our cold Alberta winters. Unfortunately, for many people, that is their reality. Home is where ever they can find a place to lay their heads. And, since they do not have a real home, these folks must carry all of their belongings with them. December’s Generation Now! activity was designed to respond to some of these needs and to help make the Christmas season a little happier for our less-fortunate neighbours. We also wanted to raise awareness among the children. We did this by making Christmas stockings for clients of Calgary’s Drop-In Centre for the homeless. At the Drop-In Centre, they have a goal of having a stuffed Christmas stocking for every person who spends the night of December 24 with them.
For several weeks, members and friends of our congregation were invited to contribute socks, underwear, hats, mitts, scarves, toiletries, coffee cards, candy and toiletries. The response was overwhelming! We filled our limited storage space at Lions Village and I resorted to storing several bags of donations in the back of my car! Such a happy problem to have.
On December 10 we did an inventory of our treasures and made a short list of things we still needed. First thing on the list…real “Christmas Stockings” (the fancy felt kind with candy canes, etc. on them).
Then on December 17, while the adults of the congregation met for our usual 10:00 a.m. Coffee & Conversation time, the kids, accompanied by their parents, went shopping at a nearby Dollarama. They came back with Christmas Stockings, tooth brushes, deodorant, mitts, candy canes and a bunch of other great stuff. During the 11:00 service, the children created lovely Christmas cards to put in each of the socks. At noon, following our regular worship service, we got to work stuffing the stockings. What fun! Oh, and we didn’t forget the food. Thanks to Christal Reed, a pizza delivery guy “magically” appeared just as church was over.
By the time we were finished and the mess cleared up, we had 36 stuffed Christmas stockings as well as bags of extra socks, underwear, a couple of winter jackets, and lots and lots of toiletries for the Drop-In Centre staff to distribute as needed.
Thank you to everyone who helped by donating items as well as sorting and packing. Thanks to you and your generosity, I know that several people had a reason to smile on Christmas morning.
Sharing in the blessings of community is always important, but it is especially important during the Christmas season. Surrounding ourselves with tasty foods and good company as a way in which to experience Christ’s loving embrace is a beautiful opportunity to gain perspective.
This year, the congregation continued its 2016 Christmas tradition by hosting its second annual community dinner in partnership with the local Lions Village residence. As many of you know, following the sale of our beloved Ranchlands facility in 2016, the Lions took us in in the form of a warm, welcoming lease space until we are able to secure our future permanent home. Thus began our 2016 Community Dinner as a show of our appreciation. We wanted to meet our new neighbours, and what better time to do it than during the Christmas season?
This year, we hosted a whopping 80 people (nearly maxing out the capacity of the space we were gathered in!), with roughly 35 attending from our congregation and the remaining 45 were residents of Lions Village. We enjoyed wonderful food prepared by the Lions, a Christmas tone chime choir performance made up of members and residents, and a Christmas carol sing-a-long after dinner...all while sharing in the blessings of community. Stories were shared, discussions on our church were frequent, and invitations were extended to residents who might enjoy our weekly worship services. On average, we typically have anywhere from 3-5 residents in attendance at our Sunday morning services…a wonderful testament to the power of invitation.
We also had a special visit from Santa and his elves who handed out candy (and even bags of coal!) to folks in the audience. People of all ages loved this experience.
We look forward to continuing this tradition in the future.
Wishing you all peace and joy in the coming year.
Many groups have an outreach activity that involves making prayer shawls to give to others for various reasons. In the Calgary Community of Christ congregation, this activity was presented to us by Evangelist Ted Navey when he moved to Calgary. Ladies in our group were enthused about this opportunity and many shawls have been lovingly made and given over the years to folks for very different reasons: for folks moving away, for soon-to-be graduates, for folks struggling with health concerns, or even just for those experiencing challenging times. As time has gone on, some of our knitters are not able to knit or crochet anymore.
My husband and I live in a condo building. I have come to know a lovely lady who is really a recluse. We were chatting one day when she showed me her efforts to give back to needy folks by knitting beautiful articles (tiny hats for new babies just after they are born, toques, scarves, shawls, or small knee blankets) for folks who may not have family or assistance. There was only one problem: She had no way of distributing these gifts. I was aware of many places that these gifts would be so appreciated, and I knew I could help with this; thus, began our collaborative teamwork. She’d make the articles as she felt comfortable, and I’d help connect her beautiful handiwork with those in need.
Click images to enlarge.
Shortly thereafter, she received some devastating news that sent her into a very heartbreaking state, and I did not see her for awhile. Recently, we happened to run into each other (not really, I believe it was a God moment) in the hallway, and she told me she had some things to give away, but no way to share them herself.
Our little Sunday School children’s class had a project during the Christmas season to collect change to give to a city project called CUPS (Calgary Urban Project Society), a great resource for marginalized families and those in need. Our children's class was going to present their monies, and we'd include some of Hannelore’s talent too.
She was thrilled.
We had another project happening as well…to purchase and donate four breast pumps to be available for new mothers in the Calgary area, who otherwise would not be able to afford one, so that they might be successful in breastfeeding their newborn babies. Someone had an idea that prayer shawls could be added to this gift so that these new families would know that they were not alone on this sometimes-challenging new chapter in their lives.
Wool has been given to Hannelore so that she can make other shawls as she feels secure in her talent and gifts of sharing. We are delighted to find needed homes for her gifts to others, but more importantly, we feel good knowing that we can connect needs with willing hands, letting folks know they are not alone on their own journey while helping Hannelore spread her desire to do such rewarding endeavors in this chapter of her life.
Below is the Blessing Prayer and symbolism of this ministry that fills all of our knitters and the congregation with purposeful sharing. All are blessed because of it.
Prayer Shawl Blessing
May your grace and blessing be upon this shawl – warming, comforting, enfolding, and embracing. May this mantle be a safe haven – a sacred place of security and well-being, sustaining and embracing in good times as well as difficult ones. May those who use this shawl be cradled in hope, kept in joy, graced with peace and wrapped in love.
In Jesus’ name we pray,
Symbolism of Colours
Red: energy, strength, power, determination, love, courage
Pink: joy, femininity, friendship
Brown: stability, masculinity
Orange: happiness, success, encouragement, endurance
Gold: illumination, wisdom
Yellow: cheerfulness, energy, joy, confidence
Green: healing, harmony, safety, hope, protection, peace
Blue: stability, trust, loyalty, faith, truth, tranquility
Purple: wisdom, dignity, independence, creativity, mystery
White: goodness, purity, innocence, faith, safety, light
I believe the Holy Spirit speaks to us in very powerful and personal ways. It's at those unexpected moments in time that we have the opportunity to grow closer to God as He pulls us into His fold and allows us to write our stories.
In 2014, the Spirit enveloped my heart when I heard a story on the radio about a woman who became a living kidney donor to a total stranger. I immediately began to realize the effect of their testimony as I made a personal run down of all the reasons why I should be a donor too. The right timing makes a huge difference, and the time was now.
I couldn't find a reason why not except for one thing, an incredibly painful surgery, lengthy recovery, and of course, living the rest of your life with only one kidney, and all for the compassion of a complete stranger. Hum..........
I felt the presence of God with me as I pondered the possibilities of His plan for my life, and more importantly, those lives yet to be touched. I couldn't let this go because, it wouldn't let go of me. There was something to this plan, much more than an impulsive thought from a radio story. It was burning in my soul, and it felt like love...like, faith in action. Was it possible that God really wanted to use me as a vehicle to change other lives besides my other professions as an Elder and a nurse? I believed so.
My husband thought I was out of my mind when I told him what I was thinking. We researched the good and the bad of all the possibilities. We talked to doctors and looked online. I read everything I could find, and I simply decided to leave it up to God. Prayer and scriptures are my go-to tools in making tough decisions. By January of 2015 I made the decision to start the process of testing as an altruistic donor through Integris Baptist Medical Center's Nazih Zudih transplant program.
I also made two friends online during my research through the website I originally heard about on the radio. One was the older sister of a boy in need of a kidney. They lived in Houston and were of the Muslim faith. My other friend lived in Bronx, New York and was a transplant candidate. She had a very thick New York accent. Now if that isn't Unity in Diversity, then I don't know what is. I wanted to be a donor for these individuals but for lots of reasons, it just didn't work out. Instead, they became my extended support system, and I became theirs, and we have remained as such still today. I did figure out one thing. I wanted to start a chain of donations. I felt very strongly that this was God's plan. I just didn't know when, where, or who, yet.
By late April I had completed all the testing needed to prove that I was a suitable donor. I hated the idea of surgery, but I really looked forward to watching God's plan unfold. It was sort of like a mystery with a new clue around every corner. Who would it be? While I was still questioning my sanity God's Holy Spirit answered me one night when when my dad and the band we sing and play in were asked to sing in a nearby church that hosted a benefit for a local charity. Unbeknownst to us it was LifeShare, an organ donation program, and the speaker was the parent of a kidney recipient! I felt God's presence stronger than ever! The next step was to place my information into the organ donor data base where my DNA would electronically be matched to potential recipients. Then more blood work and direct matching could determine if we were truly compatible. This was a big deal, and one that my family was secretly hoping I would give up on and forget.
Then one day in late spring of 2015 our family was hit with tragic news. My dad became increasingly weak and was diagnosed with advanced cancer that had metastasized to his liver. At the same time, my husband's dad was diagnosed with end stage Parkinson's and severe debility which forced him to be placed in a nursing home. I couldn't understand why God asked so much of me and led me so far into the donation process only to sideline our families with such devastation. Not only could I not donate to my precious friends, but now I may never get the chance to donate at all.
What I thought was a sideline turned out to be an amazing twist in a plot only God could create. When saints are downtrodden we do what we are called upon to do, turn to the sacraments. The gift of Administration is powerful. In our darkest hour, right before the biopsy, my dad was administered to, and God responded with the craziest diagnosis ever. Yes, my dad, the first man in my life, did indeed have metastatic cancer, a very slow growing, rare, and controllable type that invaded his liver and damaged his heart, and came with a mini set of miracles that involved monthly injections, a huge open heart surgery and a prognosis of many more quality years. Not only did God deliver on his promise of faithfulness to us, but His power went even further than the doctors believed treatment would take my dad. Despite the specialist's prediction of best outcomes, my dad's tumors shrunk by almost half, his blood pressure returned to normal, and his prostate cancer PSA levels (which had nothing to do with his new cancer) dropped by half. He started planning his future once again. One that didn't involve funeral arrangements. Unfortunately, my father-in-law did pass on by early fall. It brought my husband and me closer together as we planned and I helped preside over his services.
I began to realize a revolving theme of someone's parent in need of God's care....and someone's parent in need of a kidney. By the fall I knew it was time. In November while my dad was preparing for surgery, I was matched with a compatible recipient, 1400 miles away!! Her daughter, like myself wanted to save her mom who was so ill, but was not compatible. I was. She was a woman in her 60's, like my parents, and facing a life sentence on dialysis that would likely end in death in a few short years. Her amazing daughter also granted my request to further the chain by donating to a young woman in her early 20's on dialysis. GOD was and is beyond GOOD!
On Sunday while at church, the day before my surgery, I asked for administration, not just for me, but for everyone on my chain. The next morning, I checked in for surgery accompanied by my husband and a waiting room quickly filling with people awaiting their surgical destiny. I prayed a silent prayer for all of us. The night of my surgery on December 7th, I laid in my hospital bed with all kinds of tubes attached, literally feeling like I'd been slammed by a semi-truck, and beside me were both my parents (dad still recovering) and my husband. We were told that my left kidney, which had a plane ticket to Baltimore, had arrived safely and was working well (making urine) in its new body. The next day, on December 8th, my recipient's daughter gave up a kidney for her new recipient. And so, my little chain of two had begun. Two weeks before our scheduled surgeries, my husband finally came around to the acceptance of what I felt led to do (another small miracle). My dad, after his medical ordeal accepted what I wanted to do, and even more so when he learned it was another parent and another daughter who were willing to walk the same tight rope as we were. We needed this experience. We all needed God. We needed to feel Jesus Christ in action. And we all were able to give and receive of God's blessings because of it. The Enduring Principle of Grace and Generosity abounded as well as The Worth of All persons, All are Called, Unity in Diversity, and Sacredness of Creation (for the good things and the difficult). The Blessings of Community between Stillwater, OK and Baltimore, MD (Integris Baptist and John's Hopkins) were both unpredictable and wonderful surprises. Responsible choices were carefully considered during the donor process, and the Continuing Revelation of God's unyielding love for us (His creation) have brought forth unbound joy for several families all because someone believed.
What no eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9 NRSV
On December 6, 2016, Calgary Community of Christ partnered with Lions Village to put on a wonderful community Christmas dinner for the residents and members/friends of the congregation. It was a special moment for us, giving the congregation an opportunity to share with our new neighbours in close community.
You see, Lions Village took us in when we needed them most. In August 2016, our congregation sold our facility as part of its congregational renewal strategy. While this sale was planned and intentional, our community was in need of a safe, comfortable space to meet temporarily until we could finalize next steps in our new location...wherever and whatever it may be. Our congregation now meets each Sunday morning in a bright, warm space located inside the Lions Village facility in NW Calgary. These residents of this facility are our neighbours, and we wanted to show them just how grateful we were for their generosity by providing them with a community dinner.
In addition to dinner, the Cochrane Young Singers gave a beautiful Christmas concert, and all in attendance were even able to sing a few carols together. Special thanks to all those who helped to coordinate this event - you've helped nearly 100 people get into the holiday spirit!
Enjoy the recorded concert below!
With the downturn in the Alberta economy, especially in the Oil Patch where I work as an Independent Geological Consultant, my income has been severely reduced the past two years. Consequently, my “true capacity to give” is somewhat limited these days. This past week I learned a couple of important lessons about giving, and how we old baby boomers can connect with Millennials.
My daughter Alicia had purchased a new couch and asked me to haul away her old one. At the suggestion of my mother, Ethel Hayden, instead of just tossing a very useable couch, I took it home and put it on Kijiji. I sold it for $100 to a nice woman who was buying it for her daughter who was moving out and needed a couch. Although my daughter didn’t expect to receive any money for it, I felt funny keeping the money for something that really didn’t take much effort to sell. Then I thought about the recent request from our church for donations for Haiti to help recover from the hurricane. I immediately went online and transferred the $100 to the church’s Abolish Poverty and End Suffering fund with a special designation for Haiti. When I called my daughter and told her what I did with “her”/our money, she was thrilled. Yesterday, two very cool, funky, young women came to pick up the couch that Mom had paid for, and as we loaded it in their truck I told them to let their Mom know that their $100 was on its way to Haiti to help with hurricane relief. I thought they were going to cry. They were clearly touched and moved by the small decision I made and told me that their mom would be very pleased as well.
The two lessons I learned in this situation were that we can always find innovative ways to give even when our income is limited, and also that when us old boomers are trying to find ways to connect and relate to Millennials, we need to remember that their generation is very passionate about social justice and being mindful of the vulnerable in the world. When we recognise and make efforts to support the vulnerable, perhaps Millennials will see us as more than just handy furniture movers and a place to crash for a free meal.
Calgary Spark is a collection of stories told by members and friends of the church alike. Each person's story is helping to shape our community in new ways.