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To help engage the public in response to the refugee crisis, which involves more than 65 million people worldwide, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) collaborated with the Salt Ministries at the Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church to co-host an information fair and film screening on May 20 in Takoma Park.

Ten humanitarian agencies participated in the community event providing attendees with information on how they can help serve refugees in Maryland and globally. The participating organizations were ADRA International, Adventist Community Services of Greater Washington, the Ethiopian Community Development Council, International Rescue Committee, KindWorks, L.A.C.E.S., Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area, National Community Church, NOVA Friends of Refugees, and Sligo Church Refugee Support Ministry. 

Attendees were also treated to baklava, a tasty Greek and Middle Eastern pastry containing nuts and honey, and falafels, all made by a Syrian refugee who currently operates a successful catering company in Maryland. 

Kate Stewart, mayor of Takoma Park, and Maryland State assemblywoman Jheanelle Wilkens spoke at the event recognizing the work of organizations and individuals who welcome refugees to the area and provide assistance around the world. 

Wilkins presented ADRA with a state citation commending the work the humanitarian agency does on behalf of refugees and internally displaced people around the globe. Wilkens also presented a citation to Sligo church member Hannah Koilpillai for her volunteer work with the refugee resettlement programs at National Community Church.

“It is very inspiring for ADRA’s work supporting refugees to be recognized in this way by the State of Maryland,” said Imad Madanat, vice president for programs at ADRA International. “This plaque represents all of ADRA’s frontline workers and volunteers who work hard, even in the midst of danger, while demonstrating compassion and following Jesus’ example to reach the most vulnerable and marginalized.”   

To date, ADRA is working in 39 countries providing aid to refugees who have been forced to cross country borders under threat of persecution, conflict, and violence. ADRA has been helping refugees receive food, shelter, and hygiene kits. Sligo Church's Salt Ministry looks for ways to engage the community by providing for a variety of lifestyle needs through educational training and awareness. Salt Ministries has sponsored several film screenings events to build an understanding on issues of distress in the community like obesity and the refugee crisis. Sligo’s Refugee Support Ministry has provided care boxes with culturally appropriate foods and cleaning supplies to scores of refugee homes in the region. 

The event ended with a screening of the documentary film, “Human Flow,” which captures the perilous journey of refugee individuals and families over the course of a year in 23 countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, France, Greece, Germany, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, and Turkey. Viewers got an eye-opening look about the refugees’ desperate search for safety, shelter, and justice, and the courage it took to cross into the unknown.  

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I had one big wish when I began high school. I wanted to be remembered. Not just a passing, “hey remember that guy.” I wanted to be legendary. Walking into my freshman year, I was desperate that I would somehow accomplish something, anything that would leave a mark on the school and would reverberate throughout the ages. I had dreams of alumni weekend’s decades later when people I never knew would sit around and discuss my accomplishments or my reputation. Of course, I wasn’t picky.  It could be a positive accomplishment or one that would make me an urban legend.

It’s not so bad to be an urban legend. Each time a legend is told, the storyteller adds his or her own signature to it. The story grows and changes and you might find yourself hearing stories about yourself that weren’t even close to true, but it gives your memory staying power.  I desperately wanted that for myself at Academy.

I cannot say I didn’t try. I have some great stories to tell from Academy, but they have not stood the test of time or risen to occupy anyone’s lasting memory. If I walked onto campus today, I would know that the staff from my time that are still employed remember me based on their experiences with me.  However, other than a picture on the wall in the admin building, my legend is in the mist of history.

Pixar delivered a film recently called Coco. Although I definitely don’t subscribe to the spiritualism or the view of the afterlife that the movie uses for it’s structure, the sentiment and the song did hit me deep in the emotional center, or what I call my “feels.” It follows a Mexican boy and his adventure to rescue the memory of his ancestors on the eve of the Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. (for all those without access to Google translate)

The boy is desperate to find a way to save the memories of many of his relatives as they may be forgotten by those still living. This is a side effect of time. We are known and loved by those we touch in life and in so many cases, after those people have also faded to history, our life and times are summed up on our gravestone for generations beyond. The song that threads it’s way through the movie is titled, “Remember Me.” Sincerely, whoever wrote it didn’t stop working on it until they knew they could get a large 38 year old father to tear up.

I still have the same determination in my heart that I will be remembered and I’m still ok with it being an urban legend.  Sometimes we never know what people end up remembering about us and in almost all cases we don’t really have any control over it. Did Abraham Lincoln think his Gettysburg address would be the one speech that would stand the test of time? Did Rosa Parks feel a pulse through the air as she made contact with the seat on that fateful bus?

There are famous or infamous people all over the world who are more determined than I am to be remembered on this earth. They will do almost anything to leave a legacy, whether good or bad; but the catch is, it only exists in this very temporary world.

It’s going to sound cliché, but I’m making an attempt to have my legacy last through the lives that will last with me into eternity. I have a firm foundation, and it is Jesus Christ my Lord. Who needs to be remembered when you’ve got all of eternity to live a life in a legendary way.

So although “Remember Me” is a well-written song, you can have it! I prefer, Amazing Grace and the lyrics:

 

When we've been there ten thousand years
Bright, shining as the sun
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we first begun.


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In my former life, when I served as a conference president, the pastor of one of our churches that was predominantly Ghanaian, called me frequently at home. He would call at about 7:00 in the morning while I was preparing to leave for work. The conversation between the pastor and me usually went like this:

 

Pastor: “Hello Uncle.” I: “Hello Pastor.” “How are you, Uncle?” “I am well. Pastor.” “And how is Auntie?” “She is well.” By this time, I am saying to myself, “get to the point, Pastor. I have to go soon. But he just continued calmly and asked again, “How are you, Uncle?” He later learned the names of my three children and would inquire about each of them by name. After asking about each family member, he would say something such as, “Uncle, one shepherd cannot care for the sheep; you need to visit your children, and when you come bring a gift.” Paraphrase: “My church needs an additional pastor. Please visit us soon, and when you come, please announce that you are giving us an assistant pastor.”

 

While I was all perturbed about getting out of the house on time because I had to do this and that, the pastor took his time to build relationship in an unhurried manner. In fact, there is much that people from his part of the world could teach us Westerners about slowing down the pace of life in an effort to pay attention to some things that may be more important than those things that occupy our lives and attention daily.

 

In Psalm 46:10, the Psalmist in expressing the thoughts of God says, “Be still, and know that I am God…” No doubt, you have heard a number of sermons and devotionals on this verse of scripture. Preachers and writers have had different emphases or nuanced interpretations of this invitation. For some, “Be still” means “Don’t worry.” For some, the emphasis is on knowing that God is whom He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do. And still for some, the emphasis is on the contrast between our limitations and the immeasurable vastness of God. But one interpretation that is as valid as the others is just being still at times – away from work, chores, social media and even those whom we love. It is important for each one of us to have a period of solitude during the course of each day.

 

Chapter 15 of Kent Nerburn’s book, “Letters to my Son,” is titled, “Loneliness and Solitude.” Writing to his son, Kent says, “You should spend more time alone. I don’t mean just minutes and hours, but days and, if the opportunity presents itself, weeks. Time spent alone returns to you a hundred-fold, because it is the proving ground of the spirit…. You quickly find out if you are at peace with yourself or if the meaning of your life is found only in the superficial affairs of the day. And if it is in the superficial affairs of the day, the time you spend alone will throw you back upon yourself in a way that will make you grow in wisdom and inner strength.”

 

For the past few months, we have been teaching the essential place of community in the lives of our Sligo members, and we will keep doing so. But at the same time, we must remember that the Christian life is lived not only in communion, but also in solitude – time alone with God, time alone with ourselves and our thoughts. Jesus is our supreme example.

 

“The priority of Jesus’ solitude and silence is everywhere in the Gospels. It’s how he began his ministry. It’s how he made important decisions. It’s how he dealt with troubling emotions like grief. It’s how he dealt with the constant demands of his ministry and cared for his soul. It’s how he taught his disciples. It’s how he prepared for important ministry events. It’s how he prepared for his death on the cross.” Bill Gaultiere, Soul Shepherding, Jesus’ Solitude and Silence, February 27, 2013.

 

“To be truly happy in life, you must learn the lesson of solitude. It is not hard to learn. You must only learn to be still. You must resist the restlessness and the chatter and the clutter until you can break free into the space where time has no measure and longing ceases to exist. Be patient. Be accepting. Solitude is a place you reach, not a decision you make.” Nerburn.

 

Perhaps Blaise Pascal was right when he wrote, All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.

 

 

Don W McFarlane

 

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It is hard to believe that 12 years have passed since my life-altering journey began. Looking back at that critical juncture, l know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am here today because you saw my need and filled it with love.

 

I smile because I am amazed by your willingness to sacrifice your limited time and precious resources in order to make my day a little brighter and my step a little stronger. You have taught me some valuable lessons that have enabled me to make strides in my return to physical independence. Although I am much stronger now, I am no longer afraid to lean on you. Thank you for being patient with me. I never knew how much I needed you until I needed you. Your acts of love these many years have placed me on the path to healing. Your nurturing ways have helped me to better understand my purpose today, while creating a refreshing oasis for me to continue to grow in my relationship with my Creator and Friend. I couldn’t have done it without you.

 

As a wife, a daughter, a mother, a friend, (and a woman who prided herself in being able to complete most of her to-do lists each day), you can imagine how disappointed and betrayed I felt when my body would no longer support those lofty goals. “Mother”, you came to my rescue. I needed you then and I certainly need you now. This is you....

 

“A mother is a selfless, loving human who must sacrifice many of her wants and needs for the wants and needs of others. “ Jennifer Creer

 

I am extremely fortunate to have been “Mothered” by grandmothers, single mothers, childless mothers, and motherless children. And in each of these relationships the common thread has always been your willingness to meet a need in spite of your own. You unknowingly exemplify the directive that Christ himself left with His disciples. In Matthew 12:48 - 50, Jesus makes it clear by asking the question:

 

 “.....who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers!  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

 

Mother thank you for exchanging your will for His. Your selfless displays of love and commitment to me and to those you serve each day are a reflection of the character of God. You extend your hands and your heart with those uplifting phone calls, those timely cards and luncheon dates. Your sweet spirit reminds us to pull back the curtains, allowing the rays of sunshine to peek through. Your sense of humor propels us to laugh a little even when you are experiencing your own pain. Your delightful meals, your warm hugs, your prayers and your unconditional love are fuel for the body and the soul. Mother, we need you...

 

Today, I am stronger and able to stand with minimal assistance. You’ve taught me well and I am ready to pay it forward. I want to “mother” you as God has cared for me through you. Lean on me. Let me share a meal or two with you. I love to give warm hugs and tell funny stories. Mother, I am here for you. What can I do to help you see the rays of sunshine? I need you to need me.

 

Happy Mother’s Day my sisters! I celebrate you today and everyday for you are my friends, my mothers.

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I’m sure that many, if not most, of you are aware that I was not raised in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but rather my spiritual beginnings were deeply rooted in the Baptist tradition.  As I have shared from the pulpit many times, not only were my parents deeply entrenched in the leadership of the First Free-Will Baptist Church, the church our family attended, three of my uncles were also Baptist ministers.  Growing up in the Baptist Church was an extremely positive experience for me. It was in this environment that I was to learn that Christianity is all about Jesus. From the time I was a child to the present, it has been my goal to live my life in such a way that it puts a smile on the face of Jesus!

 

At the age of sixteen, something took place that would change the trajectory of my life forever.  I left the church of my youth, the church of my family, the only church I had known all my life and became a Seventh-day Adventist. If I am to be completely honest with you, it was the easiest decision to make but at the same time, it was one of the most gut wrenching choices I have ever had to make.  It was easy, because my decision was based on the truth I had learned regarding the Bible Sabbath, but extremely difficult because it meant walking away from a community that I had known all of my life. You see, in those days, the phenomenon of church “hopping” that is prevalent in today’s culture was pretty much nonexistent.

 

But as difficult as the decision was to leave my Baptist roots and begin the journey of “Adventism,” I made it because it was based on Truth. And when it comes to making a decision based on truth versus tradition, for Christians, truth should always trump tradition.  The challenge I find myself being faced with today is that it appears that many within my own Church, and yes, the Adventist Church… it is mine now, are making decisions where they are choosing tradition over truth. Although I have chosen not to share specific instances in this forum, let me be clear on the matter. When we as members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a church which has always prided itself on being a beacon of truth, are willing to continue to hold onto to certain beliefs, positions and practices simply because they are issues of tradition and not of truth, then are we not being somewhat hypocritical? If we are going to be people of the truth, shouldn’t it mean that we should be willing to take our stand for truth, even if the challenge comes from within our own ranks?

 

Well, it’s been forty-two years since I became a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. And if you detect a sense of pride in my words, you are absolutely right. I am proud to be a Seventh-day Adventist Christian and a pastor for nearly forty years as well. But even more than that, I am proud to be a seeker of truth. And I pray to the God of heaven, I always will!

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