Prairie View

Friday, February 14, 2020

Fragments, Fallout, and Freedom--Part 4

My Father

A number of years before anyone outside of Harvard Law School had heard of Barack Obama, he wrote the book Dreams From My Father.  Although I could hardly be more different from the former president, and my father could hardly be more different from his, this post could bear the title of the book written by Barack about his father.  I also have dreams from my father.

Barack saw his father only once, at the age of ten, after his parents divorced when he was a toddler.    When he was 21, the senior Obama was killed in a car crash.  After this, Barack visited Africa for the first time, and was forced to come to terms with the fact that his father was a heavy drinker and behaved arrogantly.

By contrast, my father was very present in my life for 64 years. We lived near each other for all that time except for five years when I was in my twenties and taught school in Ohio.  Since he died suddenly about three years ago, not only I, but a host of others have had opportunity to evaluate his legacy.  Drinking and arrogance are not in evidence in this legacy.  Instead the record shows integrity and faithful Christian living and service to others.  In the matter of how he engaged with government and politics, I wish for a collective return to what he taught, both by his life, and by his words. Providing some context for his legacy seems appropriate. 

My father had a bigger platform than many do, perhaps bigger than any of his Beachy (Amish Mennonite) contemporaries.  I say this remembering that he was on the founding boards of a mission organization, a publication effort, and a Bible school--the three major united efforts of the Beachy congregations.  He was one of the charter members of Center Church, and served from the beginning as a minister, having been first ordained in the Old Order Amish church.  He was also a writer (associate editor and columnist for Calvary Messenger) and teacher (at Calvary Bible School), serving for many years in some of those organizations he helped establish.  He was ordained when he was 27, and he preached into his eighties.   

In the wider Mennonite world, he served with other Mennonites in founding Offender-Victim Ministries, a Kansas prison ministry. This group chose him for their "Peacemaker of the Year" award.  He worked with Interfaith Housing in Hutchinson, eventually launching a collaborative effort between them and the work of another board which he helped found:  CASP (Conservative Anabaptist Service Program). 

In the mid-1960s, when a court case was filed locally against an Amish man who refused to send his daughter to high school after the law changed to require attendance till age 16, Dad was the local person who made a trip to Topeka to read a statement to the governor on behalf of those who wished to appeal for an exemption.  He did it in company with a group of  Holdeman Mennonites from Hesston and surrounding areas.  On the way to Topeka, they looked at two statements that had been prepared in advance--one written by Dad and the other by someone else in the group.  They voted to have Dad read his own statement to represent the position of the group.

Dad was the Beachy representative to Mennonite Central Committee and served the constituency as representative to the National Service Board for Religious Objectors in Washington, D. C.

Although never a historian in any official sense, Dad was locally the unofficial consultant for anyone who wanted to learn about Mennonite and Amish people's history, being well-informed about both their European roots and the relationships between groups in the US.  Steven Nolt came here from Indiana to interview him while he was writing books on Mennonite and Amish history.  On a side note, I remember Dad bringing him to the school where I was teaching to show him the building and to introduce him to me. I didn't know who he was at the time, except that he was studying the history of this community.

Dad was drafted after WWII had ended, but before the draft had wound down.  He served in Civilian Public Service in Iowa, Colorado, and Mississippi doing jobs ranging from soil conservation to cooking to sanitation projects aimed at eradicating hookworm in the deep South.  This work happened alongside conscientious objectors of all stripes, many of them from other Mennonite groups.  Some of these people became lifelong friends.  One of them became our family physician.

After finishing his obligation to the government, Dad enrolled at Eastern Mennonite College in Virginia (now Eastern Mennonite University). This exposed him to many of the foremost Mennonite leaders of that time.  His roommate, Myron Augsburger, later became a prominent leader in  Mennonite circles.  I remember him visiting in our home and preaching in our church when I was growing up.

For his time, Dad's exposure ran wide and deep.  Combined with his commitment to the Lord and his thoughtful, reflective habits, I believe he acquired the necessary humility and confidence to speak and act effectively.

What does this record of my dad's life have to do with government and politics?  Hardly anything, as it turns out, and almost everything.  It had almost nothing to do with government and politics in that none of the accomplishments in his life came about through political activism.  He never voted in any election, to my knowledge, although he may have done so rarely in local elections where he personally knew the candidates.  He never identified with any political party or defended any particular candidate.  He certainly never campaigned for anyone.

Yet, through communicating with government officials and at times magnifying his efforts through circulating petitions or urging others to make contacts, Dad did influence law making and law enforcement (I just remembered his work in support of making "net metering" an option for people connected to an electric grid who wanted to generate some of their own electricity.)  The key difference between what my dad did and what people do who promote or participate in political activism is that Dad's efforts were always centered on appeal and influence toward those already in power--never on wielding the power of his vote or encouraging that others do so.  In that way he adhered to the centuries-long Anabaptist tradition of staying clear of political entanglements.

The "almost everything' side of Dad's life in relation to politics and government can be traced to his passion, gifting, and platform for prophetic ministry.  He called it "being a witness."  When others attempted to summarize Christians' responsibility to government by using a set of rhyming words (pray, pay, and obey), I remember Dad saying publicly that he thought that wasn't quite complete, and that "being a witness" is also part of a Christian's responsibility toward government.  He was highly motivated to speak truth to all--perhaps to a fault, whether in everyday life, in the pulpit or in his role as a citizen.  Speaking truth to those with political or governmental power happened less frequently than speaking truth to the congregation, but both fit seamlessly into Dad's understanding of his Christian duty.  When he spoke truth to the congregation, he helped us all make sense of the world we lived in--even the political parts of that world.  His many contacts and his depth of experience in the world beyond the local congregation gave him credibility as a translator of the wider world to the Amish world.

I never heard Dad connect himself to the earliest Anabaptist leaders in this way, but speaking truth to power* as Dad practiced it was a hallmark of their approach.  "Disputations" were a thing, with Anabaptists on one side and the religious/civic leaders on the other side.  Even when city councils ruled entire city-states, and when these councils switched with alarming frequency between having first a Catholic and then a Protestant majority, each one enthusiastically lopping off the heads of people on the other side, and both of them doing that to the Anabaptists, none of these earliest Anabaptists sought political office in an effort to change things.  A central tenet of their "rebellion" against the status quo was love for all, along with a determination to suffer willingly rather than to use force to gain an advantage.

Probably because of horrendous persecution, those Anabaptists who survived this active earlier period eventually put their heads down and concentrated on unobtrusive evangelism, kindness, and diligent service to fellow Anabaptists.  They became known as "the quiet in the land."   This is the quiet Anabaptist (Amish) world Dad was born into.   Indeed, Dad used gentle, respectful words in speaking to or about those in authority, and in that way stayed true to the "quiet in the land" identity as well as the "speaking truth to power" Anabaptist identity.

As the record shows, Dad's decision not to vote or seek public office or government service did not diminish his influence or effectiveness, despite some people believing that he should have done these things.  Without developing this further, I feel confident in saying that a case could be made for asserting that voting or holding office would have compromised rather than aided his influence and effectiveness.

Almost everyone reading this has a smaller platform than my dad did--as is true of me also. In the next post, I hope to explore what it means to follow his legacy in spite of that.  A collective return to what he taught, both by his life and by his words could start anywhere.  Wherever it happens, I hope to be aboard when that train leaves the station.

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*"speaking truth to power" may not be as widely understood as I thought.  Here's a link that explains it.


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Fragments, Fallout, and Freedom--Part 3

In a heartbreaking mishap, I lost the entire text of the blog post I had written about my father.

I'll try again tomorrow.

This has happened only a few times before, and I've never figured out how it happens or how to prevent it.  The only thing I know to do is to write it entirely in a word processing document and then paste it into the blogger screen.  This is cumbersome though and I've always eventually gone back to the easier option of typing directly into the blogger screen.

I'll need another night's rest before I feel up to tackling it.

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Later, obviously I didn't get the post written that I intended to write.  I'll try again--soon, I hope.

Yesterday I attended the first of a series of classes on my way to becoming a Master Naturalist.  The classes last into early April, with once-a-week events.

Taking this class reminds me of several things.  One, I don't learn new information as quickly as I once did.  Two, I still love learning about nature and being present in it.  Three, the need for human population control is still being taught. 

While I understand the perspective of those who teach the need for population control from a scientific basis, I always mentally counter it with several other things I understand.  One, Scripture always speaks of children as a blessing--not a curse or even an encumbrance.  Two, while people can cause problems with the environment, people are also the ones who can help solve problems--some of which they did not cause.  They can do so a lot faster than would be the case if the earth were left to itself.  Three, entropy (the earth "running down") would still be in operation, whether or not people were present.  Four, humans are to be good stewards of all the gifts God gives, including the earth's resources.  Five, anyone from a large family like the one I came from has a really hard time believing that any of us are a mistake and a blot on the planet. 









Monday, February 10, 2020

Fragments, Fallout, and Freedom--Part 2

One of the big advantages of blogging over posting on Facebook is that topics can be developed in more depth in a blog than in a Facebook post.  A corollary is that diving too deeply into one piece of the bigger topic can result in losing track of how the piece relates to the whole.  Keeping it all hanging together is certainly my intention, but you may need to engage in some mental gymnastics to grab and knot together the loose ends.

In a piece of writing I did last summer I was probably more aware than I've ever been that my writing needs to be both honest and kind.  The stakes were high then, but I'm aware of that reality now too.  I see one more thing though:  my writing needs to be clear.  Some of the questions my friends have asked tell me that I have not been understood.  Writing this sounds so "virtuous" and self-excusing that I cringe.  That's exactly how people often excuse bad behavior, and I want to be as honest about my own behavior and thinking as I want others to be about their own--and as I want to be in writing about others.

To be honest, kind, and clear is fraught with hazards.  The opposites, however, are even more hazardous.  Imagine the challenge of making any progress in relationships or in serving effectively if dishonesty, cruelty, and ambiguity are involved.

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One piece of the political mess that we're all involved in right now is the one involving Anabaptist understandings and traditions.This is not relevant to all to the same degree, but I'm writing about it here with the presumption that most of my readers have this background.  I believe that as a group we are currently in something of a wasteland because we have forgotten--or never learned--too much of our history to be able to see that continuing on the traditional trajectory is a viable, defensible, and ultimately God-honoring option.  We are also too ignorant of what is involved in embracing the evangelical or fundamentalist models to understand their hazards.  I don't have any illusions about being able to spell out all these things clearly.  I did teach Anabaptist History classes to high school students and learned a lot, but many gaps in  my understanding remain.

After sleep has washed the day's clutter from my mind, I hope to write about what I learned from my father on this topic.   

   

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Fragments, Fallout, and Freedom

Today I posted this message on Facebook.

I suppose this is as good a time as any to let my friends know that I plan to step away from Facebook for a while. I will check periodically for private messages, but do little browsing and engage in few interactions. I hope to devote more time to blogging. My blog address appears on my Facebook page.
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I had already written  "Please hold your applause," but I thought better of that smart-alecky tone before I posted the above status.   
If you're my Facebook friend and have been there recently, you may know something of the drama around my recent activity there.  If not, you probably suspect that there's a backstory to my decision.  You'd be right if you suspected that.  
Several weeks ago I had decided that maybe I would undertake a special Lent observance of some kind this year, a fast of some kind perhaps.  I was feeling somewhat ambivalent about that, but went to the trouble to find out when Lent begins.  "About  the middle of February" is what stayed in my mind.  That turns out to have been incorrect.  It's actually February 26.  
I've done several water-only fasts of several days' duration this year, and those worked out pretty well, so that's the kind of fast I had in mind--not the whole 40 days, but for shorter periods of time.  
Increasingly,  however, I came to dread some of the interactions that were happening on Facebook.  I couldn't keep them from happening and most of the pleasure went out of being present there.   I decided that for the sake of my own well-being I couldn't wait till Lent begins to mostly withdraw from Facebook for now.
I am happy for all the private communication that has occurred.  By that route, I've heard some precious affirmations, as well as having fielded some questions from dear friends.  Those who commented the most combatively publicly have been almost entirely silent privately, even when I initiated communication. 
The very best thing that has happened through the brouhaha on Facebook is that I have had many wonderful opportunities to think and learn and renew my commitment to follow the Lord.  The next best thing that has happened is that I now have a wealth of material begging to be written.  I know that the "next best thing" label may not represent a universal opinion, but "it's my story and I'm sticking to it."
Because I often write to process my thoughts, I was able to gain clarity in matters that I never before thought about enough to have an opinion on, much less a conviction.  I reviewed my past influences and evaluated the changes that have occurred in my thinking.  I forged ahead into some new territory regarding the role of women in the Christian community and the role of prophetic ministry--via the Sunday School lessons we've had recently from the book of Acts.  I wrestled with heavy questions about the nature of sin and the reality of disability and brokenness.  I've thought about establishing healthy boundaries while wanting to reach out redemptively at every opportunity.  I see myself now more than ever as being deeply flawed--and marvelously blessed by a loving Father.  Especially I see myself as having both a duty and a privilege to follow where God leads. 
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While I don't have a clear sense for how this will develop, I believe a series of blog posts including some of the topics in the previous paragraph is pending.  I will likely also draw from some of the things I've written in private written conversations.  I may refer to some of what others have written as questions, but since I haven't asked for permission to share their words, I will not intentionally reveal their identity.  If they are blog readers and wish to identify themselves, that's fine.
I hope the fallout is mostly past and that the fragments I've gathered up can be arranged in some cohesive fashion.  I know that I already feel a huge sense of freedom because of being able to continue writing here rather than being stuck in the clutches of Facebook.
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Recently the president of our local chapter of Kansas Author's Club asked if he could pencil me in for giving a presentation to the group on "Life Writing." I have delayed answering, for no particularly good reasons.  After this series is written, I may have acquired enough more experience with Life Writing that I can readily answer that question in the affirmative.  I already know more things that can go wrong than I did before, so I think that part is covered.




Monday, February 03, 2020

Good Sunday School Superintendents

In our church, the Sunday School superintendents are elected for one-year terms by members of the church.  In the past, some of these people have demonstrated outstanding ability and effectiveness.  Some of them have been subsequently ordained to serve as pastors.  All of them have contributed something worthwhile as they carried out their duties.

Right now our two superintendents are Nelson M. and John Y.  They are unlike each other, but I find it very easy to listen to them both and to learn from them.  Among the traits that they have in common are these:  They seek to live with integrity, treat others with kindness, and are willing to examine themselves and ask for help or input from others.

John is a first-generation immigrant to the United States.  English is his second language.  He came from a life of poverty in Central America.  He was allowed to enter this country legally by a special act of Congress on behalf of him and his brother.*  A Kansas-Democrat representative, Dan Glickman, introduced the bill that accomplished this.

On a personal note, their American father later became our bishop, and John later married the daughter of my friend, Grace.  John's adopted mother was also a dear friend of mine, and their daughter married our oldest son.

The country of John's birth was in a civil war when he and his brother were adopted into an American family.  Young men of adolescent age could apparently not come into the U.S. from that country as immigrants without an exception being made. Others in their age group had perhaps already joined the military conflict.

When it's John's turn to have the opening devotions in church, he often speaks of things he has learned through personal experience, or things he feels a need of in his own life.  Although he is outgoing and friendly, public speaking is not something he feels very well prepared for.  That doesn't keep people from listening attentively and learning from John.

As I mentioned, the other superintendent is Nelson.  Nelson's parents both grew up in solid Mennonite communities.  His maternal grandparents grew up in the same midwestern community as my mother, and they were dear friends of my parents after my father entered the picture.  His grandfather had one of his occasional phone conversations with my dad the day before Dad died.

Nelson's father grew up in a very old traditional eastern Mennonite community.  I don't know many details about the father's influence on his children, but I do know that he raised his family in settings both geographically and culturally distant from his roots.  They lived in the west, one state away from the Pacific coast, and earlier, in one of the southern border states.  The churches they were part of were fledgling ventures, in some respects at least, although I know few details.

Nelson married my niece after they met in school (FB).  Nelson was also on staff as a 7th and 8th grade teacher in the school where I taught until I retired in 2018.

Nelson is very articulate and shows evidence of having a fine, well-disciplined, well-trained mind.  All who listen to one of his devotionals might need to scramble a bit to keep up, but if they can manage it, they will probably learn something and will be drawn to God.

Nelson apparently has music pulsing through his veins.  This seems also to be true of most people in the community where Nelson's dad grew up.  I've been there and witnessed this first-hand, so it's easy for me to draw a straight line from that community's influence to Nelson, who uses his music ability very effectively in our church services and elsewhere.  For example, last summer he and his wife helped plan and then coordinate a choir tour to the UK.

At least three times in recent months, Nelson has written a song to go with his Sunday morning devotional in church.  The words are closely tied to the Scripture he's focusing on.  The words and music are projected onto a screen and the congregation sings it together as part of the devotional meditation.  It looks so professional that I had to look carefully at first to confirm what I suspected.  In tiny letters somewhere on the screen, the composer's name (Nelson ______) appears.

Yesterday Nelson promised that he would not have a song for every devotional.  I understand why this might not be possible.  I really like, however, that Nelson is using his considerable talent in our local church.  Whatever he decides to pursue in the future will surely not have been hindered by his willingness to serve in a small place, and I'm happy that we can benefit in the meantime.

I marvel as well at the improbable chain of events that brought John into our fellowship, and am deeply grateful that we all can benefit from his ministry among us.

Late last evening I saw my name on a ballot for a church office.  This was a surprise.  I don't even know what that person is expected to do, or by what process my name made it onto the ballot.  My first instinct is to resist serving in that office because I don't feel that it matches my skills and interests, and I'm already not doing a very good job of handling other responsibilities and aspirations--which do more closely align with my skills and interests.  Besides, when I served in a similar role when I was much younger, I consoled myself with the thought that if I take my turn now, I won't have to do it later.  One of my aunts had suggested this perspective to me.  It is thinking about John's service as a superintendent that provides a check for my runaway thoughts.

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*I'm giving these details by memory, and will make corrections later as needed if errors are pointed out to me.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Poetic Thoughts in a Drill-Sergeant World

Huascar Medina, 37, is the current Poet Laureate for the state of Kansas.  I heard him read some of his poetry last Saturday.  His humble, unassuming manner inspired confidence, and I loved being able to hear his poetry "in context."  The poems are liberally sprinkled with Spanish terms and expressions, so hearing explanations for the Spanish vocabulary was another valuable part of hearing the poet read his own work.

The context that is most memorable for me is Medina's immigrant experience.  He came to Kansas from Puerto Rico where he was born and where he lived during his childhood.  In between, as a youth, he lived in San Antonio, TX.  After graduating from high school there he moved to Topeka, KS where his mother ended up after his parents divorced.  Among other things, his poetry articulates his quest for finding a place of belonging in Kansas.

Huascar Medina's self-identity as an immigrant (actually he prefers the term "New American") comes with a twist since he is a U.S. citizen by virtue of having been born in Puerto Rico.  As such, he is not in danger of being deported, despite experiencing many more "alien" feelings than have some of his DACA/Dreamer friends who came to the US as young children--and now face an angst-filled future.

Here and there I noted connecting points with Medina's life.  He is the age of our oldest son.  Our family knows something about the immigrant experience because Hiromi, the husband and father in our home, is an immigrant.  Huascar is part of a racial/ethnic minority.  I am part of a religious/ethnic minority.  None of this, however, was as emotionally powerful for me as were his words when he talked about his truth and his life having become politicized.  When he provided that simple bit of context, I knew exactly what he meant because I've experienced it too.

Especially now, since Medina has a role in which he represents all Kansans, he is very mindful of avoiding political content in his poetry.  In spite of that, someone accused him of "being political" in his writing.  Huascar responded to the accusation by saying something like this:  "This is my life and this is my truth.  Others have politicized my life and my truth."  That's exactly how I sometimes feel when I express what is part of  my life and my "truth."  I thanked Huascar personally for giving me "a little more courage" to go on believing and living and speaking in ways that have for a long time been part of who I am and what I believe, even though some of those things are now almost inevitably viewed by some listeners/readers through a political lens.  I am not at peace with this reality, and sometimes feel wounded by the accusations. 

Medina mused aloud that he should have engaged his critic further by asking questions, and noted wryly that he's prepared now for the next time something similar happens.  Yeah.  Me too--on thinking of the right thing to do--too late.

I can't remember exactly what Medina said that reminded me of this, but the idea resonated with me that some of what one says experimentally is too often misunderstood.  What I identify (and might share publicly even) as one piece of a puzzle that I'm still trying to find all the pieces for apparently sometimes looks to others like a pointing, scolding finger in front of a scowling face betraying an ossified brain and an ice-hard soul.  No.  It's just an idea that seems to have enough merit to spend a little more time with.  If others can help me figure things out, so much the better.  I'm more inclined to share something when I think it offers a different perspective from the usual--especially if the usual seems to me to be one-sided or deficient in some way.   I love when the experimental perspective comes from someone who has had opportunities to observe and learn and serve in ways and places that will never be accessible to me.  I value the opportunity to learn from such people, even though I seldom find everything in a single presentation beneficial.   

One of the Leadership Reno County facilitators often signs off his communications with this admonition:  "Stay curious."  I'm trying.

Huascar Medina's father served in the military as a drill sergeant and he brought his work home in raising his children.  Huascar was an introverted child who often felt slightly out of sync with those around him (he noted that he neither speaks perfect Spanish nor perfect English). At a very young age, he began to write poetry.  In that quiet world of words he felt safe.

Being curious may thrust one into a hurly-burly world of conflict and noise.  I recommend Huascar Medina's remedy.  Retreat into a quiet world where words and thoughts are comforting friends, and someday perhaps you'll have something to offer others in a drill-sergeant world. 

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Later additions:  Here is a great article that appeared in August 2019 in the journal for the Kansas Leadership Center.  It corrects a detail that I wrote above about Medina's birthplace.  He was, in fact, born in Texas--not Puerto Rico.  I do know though that he lived in Puerto Rico during his childhood, and that he had grandparents in Puerto Rico.  His father was apparently stationed in Puerto Rico while serving in the US military. 

The article also mentions that Medina works as a maintenance man at a hotel.  He has a day job, in other words.  Medina referred to this in his presentation in Hutchinson.  Past Poet Laureate awards have usually been given to people who teach or have advanced degrees in a language arts field.  Medina stands apart from these in having a "regular" rather than an impressive academic title or job.  He does, however, have a degree, and took writing classes while he was earning it. 

I should have listed "Kansas sunsets" as one more common interest I have with Medina.

Medina would like to correct impressions among some people that farmers and country folks are ignorant and unintelligent.  He used his Puerto Rican grandfather as an example of a farmer who was intelligent, well-informed, and capable.  For this, Medina has my great respect. 

Huascar's first name is pronounced wah-SCAR.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Follow Up on Post from June 18, 2019

Some time ago I wrote a post directed to observers in an unfolding saga of minors in a foreign country having suffered sexual abuse by a Christian missionary in the employ of an organization that was widely supported by people across the conservative Anabaptist spectrum.  In that post I urged people not to abandon the truly Christian aspects of our culture in a rush to judgement.

Now that a number of months have passed, I'm ready to revisit the subject.  Some of the legal matters have been resolved in the courts, and the perpetrator in the original abuse allegations has been sentenced to a nine-year prison term.  I understand that several people who were most directly culpable (i. e. they had knowledge of prior offenses and did not take appropriate action to prevent future offenses) in the sending organization have been placed on temporary leave.

In the past few days I've learned of a similar problem that I don't believe has been resolved.  Another person has apparently abused minors in the same country while working under the same organization.  As in the previous case, a record of abuse in the US preceded the perpetrator's placement in a foreign country.

That something is very wrong, and some serious corrective action is needed has become clear in the intervening time since the first reports became known.   I wish all the details of what should happen would be clear also, but that is not the case with me.  Although I hear some voices speaking with a great deal of confidence about what should happen, I'm still in the mode of considering, weighing, questioning, and praying.  Consequently, what I have to offer here should be regarded as being somewhat tentative.  I do not offer it lightly, however, recognizing that some of what I think needs to happen will create an enormous amount of upheaval for some people involved only peripherally.  I grieve for these people.

The person who has most recently been identified as a perpetrator needs to be promptly removed from contact with potential future targets. Perhaps this has already happened without my knowledge.  His victims need to be offered help.  I don't know exactly how "help" should look, but at the very least, the harm should be acknowledged as publicly as necessary so that no one persists in defending what is indefensible, and forgiveness should be sought by the perpetrator and his enablers.

At the crux of what is most clear to me beyond the need for dealing directly with perpetrators and victims is that organizational restructuring in the sending organization is also needed.  I have no knowledge of exactly how this should look, but I think the loss of confidence has been so great that there will be little ongoing support for legitimate and necessary ministries if some fairly radical change does not occur.

I'd like to see a group of investigators being given full access to all records and being able to interview any person they wish, in order to identify who of the current board and administrative team should stay.  I presume that a number of replacements might be needed if the organization is to survive.  I'd like to see these replacements come from among workers who have served with integrity  in foreign missions in the past,  and are vouched for by native people being served in foreign countries.  Perhaps headquarters should be moved elsewhere, to emphasize that the "business" is operating under new management--and to make a clean break with any unhealthy organizational culture embedded there since the organization's inception.

Who should make up the investigative team?  I've heard GRACE suggested.  While I understand why a pre-existing organization familiar with this kind of investigation has some appeal, I also have some reservations.  I would much prefer that it not be people whose primary reflexes were honed in a legal environment.  I would like to have it be people who have loyalty to or at least an understanding of historic Anabaptist theological positions and practical applications.  I would love to have people involved who have training in psychology or counseling from a Christian perspective.  Being seasoned by years of faithful Christian living would be an important qualification for an investigator.  Having some distance from the situation would be needed as well. Although I don't expect to be asked, I can certainly think of enough such people to make up an investigative committee--just from my circle of acquaintances.

The most significant part of the organization welcoming an investigative team chosen by others is that it would demonstrate a level of openness and accountability and willingness to relinquish control that has probably not been sufficiently in evidence before now.  I'm sure that to many who have reservations about para-church organizations, this debacle could serve as exhibit A about why such "independent" structures can be problematic.  An elderly person I know and trust expressed reservations a number of decades ago about how this specific organization developed--and he was a first-hand observer from the beginning.  As is abundantly clear to all now, he was right to be cautious.  One specific problem now is that it's hard to identify where help might come from if those within the organization itself do not reach out for help--regardless what it might cost them personally, financially, and organizationally.

Along a radically different vein, maybe consideration should be given to mindfully dismantling the central organization that is currently struggling.  Perhaps responsibility for the current ministries could be assumed by individual congregations or groups of congregations.  Funding that has flowed into the organization's coffers in the past could perhaps be distributed to these congregations instead.  I'm not sure how this would work, but people smarter than I could surely figure it out.