Excuse Me… 6-6

Dear Readers,

          The week before March 31, 2007, which was the date of our first CCCAN’s (Capitol City Community Action Network’s) first Town Hall Forum, I prepared with feelings of contentment and sentiments ranging from anxiety to excitement.  The members of CCCAN were giving the community a forum to express their concerns and actually be heard.
     Working with the committee has and still continues to be a whirlwind of excitement. We gathered and talked about the questions that we thought the community would want to hear about such as problems in the community that are not being addressed, services that were needed and not available, the role of the church, homelessness, healthcare, jobs, education, employment and the list went on.  This was not about us but about the community.
     Despite anything that was said, it was a beautiful event.  It was successful because of the members of CCCAN and their extraordinary dedication to the people and not the process.  It was successful because people dared to be heard and seen by the panelist who graciously served that day.
     As leaders in this community, we would like to do very meaningful work.  We have influence, respect and significance in this community and would like to see more Gen Xers and Gen Yers become involved in the process.
     We want to raise awareness and provide information about rental insurance, low cost burial insurance and saving for the future.   We want to see safe neighborhoods, food on the table, healthy families and activities for our teenagers.  This should not be a complicated process and neither should those who are in organizations be threatened by the strides that we will take to make sure we are working with the people.  CCCAN would like to coexist.

Is Praying wrong?

      I treasure the people of my community.  I treasure my involvement in community activities.  I am in awed at how much support, kind words and letters that we have received regarding the success of the event.
     Two of the primary issues that we will be focusing on is event(s) for youth and also a citywide Prayer Day.  This is not something we came up with on our own. We had several cards with the question on it.
     It is incredible to hear that people will cringe their noses at a prayer day but use the church in other ways.  When a person is down on their luck and need food, clothing or shelter one of the first places they go to is the church.  The other is when a non-profit is looking for FREE space, they go to the church and readily use the facility until they either have to leave or find a bigger, better space to work in.
     According The Pew Research Center, America remains an intensely religious nation and, if anything, the trend since the late 1980s has been toward stronger religious belief. Eight-in-ten Americans (81%) say that prayer is an important part of their daily lives, and just as many believe there will be a Judgment Day when people will be called before God to answer for their sins. Even more people (87%) agree with the statement "I never doubt the existence of God."
     I find it liberating to visit other churches.  There are many who go to church and many who don’t.  I actually attend St. Paul’s Episcopal Church downtown.  I appreciate Rev. Weller.  When I want to feel like I am at home, I go to St. Paul’s.  I grew up around every religion possible and find that I can go to any worship environment and feel comfortable.  Even if the pastor does not have a good message on that day, I return to visit because I understand that no one is perfect and everyone has off days.
      When I am not at St. Paul’s I am visiting other churches.  I sometimes get invited and other times I just go.  I would say that I am a spiritual person.  I don’t pass judgment on other religions either.  I do believe that with right intentions a church will be successful.  But God is always watching.  He has put pastors in place to lead the babies and when His rules are not being followed it is taken away.
       For those who believe in Karma, it is the same principle. 
       On Sunday after working so hard and personally saying so little.  I felt that I should visit New Hope C.O.G.I.C.  Yes, I had reservations, the Pastor is 90 years old.  My friends, Jackie Day and Christine Johnson, invited me to come to meet Dwayne Wade’s, who plays for the Miami Heat’s, mother, Jolinda Wade.
    Jolinda Wade has a testimony like you would not believe.  She was homeless and on drugs and her son never ever gave up on her.  She is a woman who has made it through the fire and I am hoping that she will be able to come to Lansing and shed some light on the homeless situation.  If you ever thought that your life was or is difficult.  You need to listen to her tell her story.
    We are all one or two paycheck away from it.  How many of you think about being homeless ever?  I have experienced it and I did not like it.  I was not on drugs or mentally unstable.  I was an abused wife.  I have slept with and spoken to “the homeless” who basically inhabited the same places I did.
     I was a “mole person” who blended in with the others who were not important to those living above us or those looking down on us.  I even used the services of Central United Methodist Church, the Lansing Food Bank, Advent House Ministries and a whole host of other places.  I was on WIC and state aid.
     Please, personally, do not tell me I don’t know about homelessness, abuse or any other activities that have been a detriment to my community.  I have used the daycare services there (that no longer exist) while I tried to find a job.  I did not have a car so I used the bus.  My son Gianni, was 2 at the time.  Everything took so long to do.  When I ride by bus stops and it is so cold that my own breath creates frozen droplets on my eyelashes, and see a woman holding bags of groceries and a child’s hand I revert back. 

Warlike Prayer

       I reverted back to my life when times were hard at the CCCAN meeting.  I felt such tenderness and compassion for some of the people.  I did not care about anything else but the people.  It was a draining experience. 
       I was so tired that I could not go to church in the morning.  I went to church at New Hope C.O.G.I.C.’s evening service, not knowing what to expect.  I received the unexpected.  I was exactly where I was supposed to be.  I was with my friends and with the pastor I was supposed to be ministered by.
      The message was from Elder Scott.  His sermon was entitled “Jesus is the Captain of My Ship”.  He spoke about a frightening experience that he had while a flight to Washington D.C. He explained that the turbulence was terrible and the plane was not able to land at Dulles.  He explained how the plane rocked back and forth as it circled the airport 5 times. He also said that the whole plane was praying by this time.  Praying only during times of need is not how it should be.  I don’t care what people say but that is how it is.  The people on the plane were terrified and they finally had to land at another airport while low on fuel. 
       I felt as though the analogy were specifically for me.  I was very moved by his sermon. For those who read scripture, he interjected Mark 4 Chapter 34-36. 
       Mark, which means ‘warlike’ was a great spiritual activist during Christ’s days.  The scripture was about a long and hard boat ride.  The waves thrashed the boat to and fro.  The waves began to fill the boat with water and seemed as though it would sink.  Through all of that Jesus slept as the others were frightened and had no faith that they would make it through the turbulent storm.
        They woke Jesus and asked him how he could sleep through all of the commotion and did he not care about their wellbeing.
      Jesus told them to relax and have confidence that he would carry them through.  He commanded the water to calm itself and the wind to be still and it was done.
      Prayer does that.  It may not do it for you but it may do it for the person who sits next to you at work.  Some complain that some are judgmental in their prayers.  This concept doesn’t apply to everyone who prays.  Prayer may calm the spirit of a mother who is able to keep it all together when times are tight.  Did you forget that the child who is the recipient of turbulent home activity may be sitting next to your child?  Do you know that his mother’s prayers are the reason why he is smiling today?  Do you know anyone who prays for the sick and infirmed?  Do you know anyone who prays for safe trips?
      So why would you not support “A Prayer Day”.

The Work Continues                
   My work with CCCAN is going to be successful.  There will be accomplishments.  I am ready to take on new challenges and opportunities. CCCAN is looking for extraordinary individuals with skills who know how to work with and in the community.  We want to work with those who are interested in courage, integrity and commitment.  We want to make a difference.  In the last letter, I wrote “Every generation has its great cause.  What is ours?”
    Can you answer yet?


Rina N. Risper