This post was written by Katie Chapman.
Hello RISE community, it’s me again, Katie Chapman. Many of you might not know me yet but I am so glad to be a part of what this community is all about and share a little bit about how I’ve been living it out in my own way.
God has blessed each of us with something special, to be more accurate — many many something specials. One of mine has always been my hair. While I’ve had my battles with trying to get the comb through it in middle school or keeping it stick straight as was the trend in high school, it has always been something that I’ve been proud of. When I was younger my mom would always tell me that she loved my hair and that people (her, sometimes one of them) would always try to dye it my color, but nothing could come close to the real thing. From that day on I always wanted to donate it. The problem was just that I didn’t take care of it long enough to get it very long.
Eventually college came around and I saw this fresh start as the perfect time to try to grow it out. Who wants to pay for a haircut in college, right? I hit a couple bumps trying to get started (lice are some nasty creatures and dorms don’t help) but I cut it super short freshmen year and started from there. Lots of change happened over those next few years, changing schools, changing majors, changing relationships, but that hair just kept growing. Finally it’s senior year, what a journey. This is the year I found RISE :) I don’t know how I finally came to the conclusion but at some point I knew this year would be time to donate my hair. At first I bought a Costco sized two-in-one shampoo and said when I finished that I’d do it, but God had something bigger planned.
Now, especially since coming to JMU, I’ve been interested in getting involved with Relay for Life, but I have this tendency of talking myself out of things that I think I would really enjoy. This year I decided this would be different. Then this idea hits me! I asked a few people in my Occupational Therapy class if they would be interested in donating money if I would get a pixie cut (super short hair). I figured donating my hair is such a great thing to do and will help a few people very deeply … but why not try to do more?!? I’ve never been one to just settle on doing one thing at a time! I chose the number $2500 and decided that if I could reach that number, something that seemed logically unattainable but not completely impossible, then I would get this pixie cut and donate it all to make wigs. So this idea begins to form that pulls together this idea and my goal to be involved with Relay for Life. I started legitimately researching places to give my hair that would simultaneously raise awareness for people working to make a difference that may not get as much recognition as Locks of Love or Pantene and found Wigs for Kids and also created my own team for Relay for Life which I had never done before and had no idea what I was really doing, but I knew they had a reliable widely trusted online donation method that would in some way promote itself.
The wheels were spinning and I put every spare minute I could find into promoting this fundraiser on any social media I could get my hands on as well as talking about it to EVERYONE I knew…or didn’t really know. So, I had chosen who I was donating to, what my goal was, and methods to get there. Every moment I could I spent thinking of who I hadn’t talked to yet or other ways to get the word out. Finally, to wrap it all up, I did a clothing drive because another thing I had way too much of at this point, besides my hair, was clothes. I decided to continue this theme of promoting those less heard of and chose to use this drive as a way for people to drop off clothes they didn’t want anymore, but also for people to buy clothes for themselves, like a thrift shop where all the money would benefit Relay or Wigs for Kids. The fun part though was that all of the clothes remaining at the end all went to our own local Refugee Resettlement center, something that I haven’t been involved with here but has a close place to my heart.
All of this longer-than-it-probably-had-to-be story leads to this. By God’s grace I was able to raise $2577 for both Relay for Life and Wigs for Kids combined, at the Relay event we made 50 handmade cards for the children, I donated 18 inches of my hair, AND we gave 5 giant trash bags full of clothes to Harrisonburg Refugee Resettlement. I don’t say any of this to toot my own horn or talk about all the great things I did, but I want each of you reading this to know that you CAN make a difference, a HUGE difference, by using what you already have. Use your talents that God gave you, use your connections to make something big, and create ideas bigger than what you think you can achieve because God is even bigger than that.
This post was submitted by Abbey Carr.
These past 3 months I’ve been studying abroad with the cross-cultural program of EMU (Eastern Mennonite University) in Guatemala and Colombia with 23 other students and 2 professors. We have just returned from this incredible trip and I had arrived back in Harrisonburg at 4:30am this past Sunday when I realized I might not be able to go to RISE the next week because of graduation. Therefore I felt compelled to go to RISE on 5 hours of sleep after coming home from Colombia and being away from my community for so long. Imagine my surprise to encounter a guest speaker, none other than the wonderful Margot Starbuck that I had heard so much about. She chose to launch her new book using RISE and as I was listening to her words I was suddenly struck by a connection/realization from my time away. Reintegrating into my own culture even for a few hours has been hard. Today (Tuesday, April 23) is day 2 of being home and I still am fatigued and overwhelmed. I don’t know what to think or how to interact around some people.
What I truly came to realize in the service however was this (written on a RISE Report during service):
“It’s hard to hear the speaking this morning because I’m relating it all back to people I saw walking the streets of Guatemala and Colombia—it stirs up so many emotions right at the surface. There is an immense tension. ‘The other is an individual who the group sees as different.’
I’ve been in the presence of the most beautiful ‘others’ this semester and I can’t even begin to comprehend how these beautiful encounters have changed me. I’ve visited and worked with people and children in 2 slums in 2 different countries and lived for a week in one. I’ve seen and loved those identified as sub-human by their society and I don’t know where to hold my heart—I’m between two worlds yet I’ve found that Christ bridges these places for me, just as He has between Heaven and earth. In fact, when I think about it, just as I’ve been in cross-cultural for these past months, the spirit of Christ was in a cross-cultural moment for years! HOW RADICAL the love of God to take our excluded hearts that are ‘other’ from Heaven to pull us in close and make us family—bonded by His own blood.”
Something that one of the speakers we had this past semester has said to us was that it would be essential when we return to take our experience and apply it to our own communities—to keep our feelings and experiences with each other alive. With this thought I know that it was a real moment of acceptance for me that I am here, no longer there, but I’ve branched out. I’ve felt uprooted, but I’ve grown. And most importantly I’ve done this within a Christ-like context of unconditional love. This semester has been unforgettable and truly changed me. I still don’t know what my future will hold as I reacquaint myself with my own culture. In that unknown though is a place where God knows, and reaches through everything to help us reach out and connect with the others.
If you would like to know more about my experiences and those of the students in my group feel free to read our blog and see the pictures on EMU’s crosscultural page: http://emu.edu/now/crosscultural/
My fiance and I are new comers to Rise. I just want you all to know how amazing your church is and all the people who go there!!!
We have been to a few other churches but always found it difficult to make a real commitment, partly because we never felt like a part of the church. We have NEVER felt so welcome anywhere else. Everyone is so very kind and open with us and I cant tell you how wonderful it is.
We feel so comfortable. =) Your teachings are so interesting and we are so eager to learn now! We look forward to Sundays like I could have never imagined! It feels so good to be children of God!!! I’m so glad this is the place my daughter will learn of the Lord!
I just wanted to let you know you have accomplished what you say you are trying to achieve in your church, and then some! Such acceptance!
If Jesus died on Good Friday and was raised on Easter Sunday … what happened on Saturday?
On Friday, followers of Jesus watched their friend and teacher beaten, tortured, nailed to a cross and die an excruciating death. Their entire world was turned upside down. Everything they were clinging to and hoping for was gone.
What must it have been like to watch Jesus die not knowing what was to come? What must it have felt like to be living in that kind of fear? In that kind of darkness? We can’t know for sure. But for Jesus’s closest friends, that Saturday – full of tension and pain – was likely spent praying. Hoping. Dreaming. Waiting …
So RISE wants to know … What are you waiting for? What’s next in your story?
From Palm Sunday (3/24) until Holy Saturday (3/30), you are invited to participate in the Ellipsis Experiment — a grassroots movement of tension, waiting and hope.
There are two ways to participate:
1. On Palm Sunday, we will change our profile picture to an ellipsis (…) and ask the community to respond to this question:
What are you waiting for?
You are then invited to change your Facebook profile picture to the ellipsis and for the caption, write: “I’m waiting for … ____________.” and also include a link to this post explaining about the Ellipsis Experiment.
Our hope is that others will see your Facebook picture changed, get curious and change theirs, too.
You could be waiting for something as general as peace or reconciliation, or as specific as an end to sex trafficking in the Shenandoah Valley. Think about it. What are your deepest longings for yourself? For your community? For the world? Where do your longings intersect with the darkness you see around you? Let whatever you write be your prayer and let the world know.
2. After worship on Palm Sunday, we will change the prompt on the chalk wall (right outside the Artful Dodger in Court Square) to the ellipsis and ask the same question: What are you waiting for? Throughout the week, the community will then be invited to respond as they walk by and share in the longings of their community.
On Holy Saturday at 7:30 pm, a group from RISE will meet at the chalk wall to live into the tension, continue the conversation and pray for the longings listed.
We hope you’ll join us in participating in the Ellipsis Experiment – whether you’re in Harrisonburg or not. All are welcome and invited to participate.
… we wait together and hope together …
When the story of these times gets written, we want it to say that we did all we could, and it was more than anyone could have imagined. — Bono
This post was submitted by Natalie Lester – another one of the amazing RISE interns. Click here to check out Natalie’s blog!
Monday I got the amazing opportunity to work with HARTS (Harrisonburg and Rockingham Thermal Shelter). HARTS is a yearly program through which various faith communities in the area open up their doors to the homeless one week at a time, offering beds and meals to those who may have no where else to go. During nights as cold as those the area has been experiencing recently, I can’t imagine having to remain outside for extended amounts of time.
This year RISE is hosting HARTS at Faith Community Church from February 18th to February 25th.
I arrived at Faith Community Church with a few friends of mine that comprise a group whose meeting time is on Monday nights, but who determined this Monday night should be put to especially good use. We showed up with homemade desserts in hand(cookie and cream iced brownies), most of us not knowing what to expect. What I found was a beautiful time of connection and fellowship, enhanced by a few competitive rounds of rummy. When we arrived the doors were not officially open, (according to policy the church is only open from 6pm to 7am), so when we went inside it was simply volunteers hustling about setting up for dinner. Eventually we came together in a circle, were briefed on what we could expect that night as well as safety precautions, and then the doors were opened to those who had been waiting outside them. Smiles and greetings were simple enough but I truly wanted to connect with these individuals, and eventually I did with much more ease then expected. What I found were people just like you and me, telling stories and making jokes, but also pushing to defend themselves and their situations. I personally had no assumptions about these people, no preceding judgments about why they might be there, because I fully acknowledge the fact that I could easily fall into the same circumstances. I truly believe that no person is above homelessness or poverty, and that anyone can be struck by a series of events leading them to such conditions. Yet over and over again I heard explanations of what led up to them being there, personal efforts to escape these circumstances, and demonstrations of values contrasting those commonly believed to be held by the homeless population. It broke my heart that these people felt the need to defend themselves to me, going so far as to believe I thought myself better than them in some cases. Needless to say it was a powerful night, and I enjoyed it so much that I returned on Thursday for both the dinner and overnight shifts.
On Thursday I spoke for hours with a Vietnam veteran who told me incredible stories of how he escaped death over and over again, as well as more current accounts of friends being arrested in laundromats because they had retreated there in order to escape the cold. I had conversations with others about music and food, one man telling me he’d done a number of drugs but it was I who had lost my mind for enjoying Bob Dylan’s music. In the morning a man came into the kitchen while a fellow volunteer and I were preparing for breakfast, giving us a trash bag that contained 4 boxes of Strite’s donuts he had been given that he wanted us to put out with the usual cereal, oatmeal, and granola bars. Over and over again I heard words of thanks and expressions of gratefulness, but I’m not sure that I can accept them. It is my personal philosophy that each person that was served is my fellow man or woman and the fact that I am there in that moment doesn’t deserve acknowledgement or praise, rather in a greater plan I serve so that I might later be served in return. In fact, what greater purpose is there than to ease the suffering of your brothers and sisters?
In conclusion, I can’t know if I really helped these people by washing their dishes and participating in conversations, but I know for a fact that those were nights I fully enjoyed.
I encourage everyone to participate in HARTS any way that you can as it continues throughout this winter season!
This post was submitted by Ashley Jacquette who is currently serving as a RISE intern.
If I could use one word to describe the Intern retreat to Washington DC, I would use the word community. This weekend was a beautiful reminder that we need each other, not only in our smaller communities but also in the world. We need each other to laugh with, cry with, and to help better understand ourselves. Without community, there would be no life. And our weekend in DC was an awesome way to come together as a community of leaders all working towards the same goal, which is to better know God and how best to serve him.
So our weekend itinerary was full of awesome things. We went to the DC Central Kitchen to volunteer, we then went to Wesley Theological Seminary to hear a talk on leadership in the church. We also went to the National Cathedral and a few of us got to sit in on a Catholic service. Over and over again I was reminded of our call as followers of Christ to serve others and to love one another. In our talk at Wesley, we learned about what it means to be a church that functions as a group of people working towards “God’s Preferred Kingdom” (which in RISE language means God’s Dream). I thought about what that meant to me, and what it means for me now to be a part of such a dedicated group of people working on restoring God’s Dream. I couldn’t help but think how incredibly blessed I was to know and understand this idea of leadership based on my experience!
I believe God uses everyone for some purpose and that we all have a little leader inside of us waiting to come out. One thing I know is that without this community, I would not have nearly the passion that I have today. I know we work together, towards a common goal. And while it is so so easy to forget that goal and get caught up in the logistics of it all, we as interns are always going back to the “Why?” of things.
So why do we strive as leaders for those who have no voice, for those who are broken, and for those who seem hopeless? Because it matters. Because they matter. Our lives are a gift from God. My personal “why” is so that everyone may know and understand that simple, yet hard to believe, truth that we are infinitely loved and cared for by our Creator.
So, with all that being said, this past weekend was an amazing time of reflection on the communities that we have built at RISE. It was a beautiful way to get to know some of the interns better, to form relationships that matter, and to go back to our “why.”
Doodle courtesy of April Sedeen, founder of Doodle Du Jour!
Every year, at the end of Ash Wednesday, I think the same basic thing. ”Well that was weird.” But, I appreciate it more every year. Every year, it’s tense, awkward, and I get really sullen right before the service, primarily because I don’t want to stand up there and tell people they’re gonna die. Why? It kills the mood. And, I don’t like to deal with that news myself.
Why is the church so odd? Why do we pick one day of the year to get up in each other’s faces, smudge foreheads with dirt, and speak bluntly of our shared mortality? “You, my friend, are gonna be worm food ….” So strange.
I’ve been to countless funerals as a family member and in the pastor-ish role, and I’m always fascinated by the ways we try to soft-pedal death. The phrases “passed away” or “passed on” have always interested me. As I kid, I used to wonder about that language.
No, she didn’t “pass away.” No, he didn’t “pass on.” He’s dead. She’s dead. Boom. Let’s tell the truth here.
I appreciate the fact that on Ash Wednesday, I don’t hear, “Hey there, friend … just want to gently remind you that someday you are gonna ‘pass away.’”
I need to be reminded that I’m not a big deal (it’s hard to hear, but oh so true). I need to be told to get over myself. I need to get perspective.
(And the truth is, I need to hear that more than just one day of the year …)
And nothing helps me get perspective faster than hearing the news that at the end of the day, I am a speck. A speck in time, a speck of dust, a part of creation and its life cycle.Soon-to-be compost. You get the picture …
I hear that news and realize that the petty stuff I cling to is pretty trivial. I realize that what I think really matters … well … most of it doesn’t all that much.
I realize that for someone who detests whining, I have my own ways of whining and feeling sorry for myself way too much. I realize that I need to focus more on being and less on doing. I realize that I find my worth primarily in things that also are fleeting and temporary. I realize that I need to see a bigger picture.
I realize that I only get one wild and precious life.