Radical availability to the call of God

Jessica Walter
jwalter@franconiaconference.org

jessica_walter.jpgSo we see that heeding God’s call can mean leaving home and all that is familiar. It can demand our accumulated wealth and security or dare us to place our blessings, even our lives, at risk. It can also mean simply living where we are but with an entirely new set of priorities. In every case, our particular vocation in God’s service arises from our response to the basic call to radical availability.–Gerritt Scott Dawson

The above quote illuminated the screen in the auditorium at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School on Thursday of Spiritual Life Week last month. I was attending mostly to support my friend, Lana Miller, who was leading the week. But as I read the quote and allowed its meaning to sink in, tears rose to my eyes.

It seemed to be the culmination of the stirrings that my recent experience as a chaperone with Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s LEAP program had ignited. While leading my group and experiencing Guatemala I learned to live in a way that valued relationship over task and inspired me to give God and the people of God the priority in my life. Finally, this re-prioritization I had been struggling to understand and manifest in my life made sense. I now understood that I was being inspired by God to learn to be “radically available” right where I am “but with an entirely new set of priorities.”

This issue of Intersections includes a series of stories with few common threads but all of them are inspiring stories of the people of Franconia Conference becoming “radically available” to wherever and whatever God calls them.

Emily Graber, Lauren Derstine, Brendon Derstine, and Larissa Landis all listened to the shoulder-tapping call to not only risk going away from home to ask tough questions about faith and find the answers, serve another community, and interact with new people but were also willing to serve and learn right where they were.

The congregations at Plains Mennonite Church, Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, and New Beginnings Community Church found ways to be radically available to God by making outreach in their communities a priority through creative summer programing.

West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship’s new pastor, Lorie Hershey, tells the story of continually saying “yes” to God’s call to dance with the Lord wherever he may lead. While Pastor Paulus of Plains Mennonite Church shares how his relationship with Christ has inspired a life of holy fear and faithful obedience.

Conference Related Ministries—Community Home Services, Penn View Christian School, and Camp Men-O-Lan—have all shared stories of staff, volunteers, and students who recognized Dawson’s assertion that, “In every case, our particular vocation in God’s service arises from our response to the basic call to radical availability.”

Community Home Services Executive Director Diane Tihansky highlights the radical service of CHS Nurse Aide, Lori Detweiler who has been working above and beyond her job to raise funds for low-income clients. Penn View Christian School’s 7th grade Science teacher, Harry Anselmo, found a fun way to not only provide a memorable lesson in science but also helped his students “deepen their appreciation for God’s creation while interacting with and engaging in discussions about the wonder of God’s unique design.” And Camp Men-O-Lan highlighted how Finland Mennonite Church’s youth were radically available to the camp this summer. They not only provided meaningful support to the camp and its campers but also grew in faith and confidence through their service.

Finally, this issue of Intersections provides the profile of this year’s Conference Assembly keynote speaker, Gilberto Flores, who never imagined that his work with the Mennonite church in Guatemala “would one day [lead him to] be called to work with churches in the United States.” I’d guess he never imagined that his radical availability would also help inspire my own radical availability to God when he volunteered to lead the LEAP Guatemala trip that I accompanied this past summer. Gilberto’s spirit and example while leading in our exploration of Guatemala–its churches, and its people inspired me to strive to see God and the world through his eyes.

These stories inspire us all to hear God’s invitation to radical availability, wherever we are.