Friday, September 18, 2015

Guest Post: "Stand Up, Be Heard"

Have you ever thought about what power you have to impact global change? I had never considered myself an advocate until I had an experience in a developing nation which turned me on my heels 180 degrees, facing our nation’s Capitol and our lawmakers.

Two years ago, before I was involved with World Vision’s Women of Vision Charlotte, I had the opportunity to travel to Uganda with an organization called Bead for Life. I have been volunteering with them for several years and this was a trip to see the people and programs that empower women to start their own businesses and sustain their own income on the ground in Uganda.

Elizabeth  Campbell with children she met in the village of Iganga, Uganda.
Elizabeth with children she met in the village of Iganga, Uganda
Among the many powerful experiences and interactions I had, one of the most moving was with a woman named Mary who lived in northern Uganda. After she told us her shocking and truly heartbreaking story—about being abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) when she was seven months pregnant, tortured, and forced to watch her family members murdered by soldiers—she gathered our small group together in a circle and asked us to hold hands. She then prayed for all of us. Mary prayed for the safety, long life and happiness of our families. How humbling it was to receive her prayers.

Mary and so many others on that trip saw us as powerful messengers to the First World. They were all eager to give us their desperate messages for the people of the U.S. Most of the women simply want to make sure we know they exist and that they are suffering. However, the most common message was—they are praying for us. I always thought of Africa as a mission field where we can go and lend our expertise to help and to care for them with love and compassion. I never thought about the women in Africa praying for us here in the U.S. with love and compassion.

It was over the course of this trip that I felt lifted up by these wonderful women as a powerful voice on their behalf. I realized that because I was born in the First World I have tremendous power to speak for them. From my platform, my voice is not only heard, but it is listened to. Since returning from that trip, I joined Women of Vision Charlotte and have been immediately attracted to all of the advocacy initiatives.

After meeting so many incredible mothers in Uganda and connecting with them, I realized we all have the same desires for our children. We are all connected by our heart’s desire to see our children thrive in as many ways as possible. For us in the First World, it means we want them to receive the best education (available for free), do well in their extracurricular pursuits, and enjoy the bounty of living here.

But for most mothers on the planet, it means having food, clean water, and shelter. Seeing mothers who are helpless to provide these basic needs for their children is heartbreaking. I believe as Christian women in the U.S., it is our responsibility to speak up for these women and their children. Luke 12:48 says, “…Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required…”

If we all stood up for women whose voices can’t be heard in the overpopulated crowds or from the slums where they are weak and malnourished, we could have an impact. To put it in perspective, we are the minority and yet we are in the position to speak up for the majority of women and children on the planet who live in constant suffering.

I guarantee you, they are praying that you will do this for them. They are praying for your children to be well so you have time to think about theirs. They are praying that we will remember them. They are praying that God will move you to help them.

This has been re-posted from the World Vision website. If you would like to see Elizabeth's full blog post and learn more about her efforts with World Vision, you can do so by clicking here.

Elizabeth Campbell and her husband live in Charlotte, North Carolina with their two children. She is an active member at Sardis Presbyterian plus a member of Charlotte Women of Vision and a volunteer Community Partner for the NGO, BeadforLife. She loves traveling, reading, spending time with her family and now… advocating!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Guest Post: "Pet Cemetery"

Four times this spring and summer I found myself on South Tryon, south of Tyvola. Having grown up in south Charlotte, it wasn’t an unfamiliar area but one corner kept drawing, and has always drawn my eyes. The 7000 block is home to a plot of land that houses a fairly large pet cemetery. Drawing on some vague memory from my college years when my 23-year old Bassett Hound finally crossed ‘The Rainbow Bridge’, I began to grow curious about the cemetery, as the sign for it is now overgrown by the bushes around it, and the single shed-like structure in the center appears to be abandoned. Oddly enough though, the rest of it has been kept up. The lawn is always mowed and the rest of the bushes trimmed. I began to develop an overgrown sense of Nancy Drewitis and it finally got so bad that I grabbed my magnifying glass, cranked up my Mustang (which I don’t actually own), dyed my hair Titian-red, and did what Nancy Drew always did: I opened my web browser and “Googled it”.

But it took me three months to solve the mystery. Nancy Drew would have been so embarrassed. I could find no record of the Charlotte pet cemetery on South Tryon. Any reference to a pet cemetery in Charlotte always listed a Huntersville location. I asked a general question of my friends on Facebook. While there were some “likes” (that I still don’t understand because no one seemed to know what I was talking about), I got nowhere. All I wanted to know was who owned it, if it was still being used, what was its name, if my dog was buried there, like I was pretty sure was the case, and if so, where. In fact, the ONLY internet reference to that property was a very vague note in the Charlotte City Council minutes from the late 1970’s, mentioning it as an incidental thing to consider in a re-zoning discussion (if you suffer from insomnia, read back issues of City council notes). Other than that, there was nothing.

Google Earth Street View (I was beginning to feel like a stalker) got me as far as being able to see that from April 2007 until October 2011, the bushes around the sign on the street were still being trimmed… but the close-up picture wasn’t clear enough to show me the name of the place, so I finally got irritated enough to stop there one day. I pulled into the driveway, got out, walked past the creepy red shed (broken windows and all), and examined various graves, hoping to see the name “Popcorn Eddy” jump out at me from the rows. The latest grave I found was from 2012, so I counted that amongst my clues.

As a last resort, I “Googled”, “How to tell who owns a certain property”. And then I felt stupid because there were two obvious answers that “Wikihow” gave and I should have thought of: First, write the address a letter asking who owns it and see if you get a reply. I was fairly sure that any reply I’d get in return from a pet cemetery wasn’t one I truly wanted. But the second obvious answer was the light bulb I needed. “Death and taxes and even better if they go together.” So my next search was for the most recent property tax bill for that address. After two days of manually clicking through 800+ pages of the property taxes of South Tryon, I hit the jackpot. I just didn’t know it at first. The block of 7001 South Tryon through 7135 appeared to be all the same property. This was promising, yet confusing, because the name of the business that paid the taxes had nothing to do with a pet cemetery. “Terry’s Kennels” had paid the taxes on the property each year as far back as I could see. I’m a bit slow sometimes, so it took me just a bit to realize that there was a commonality here. My last step was to do a search for Terry’s Kennels and lo and behold… what should they also own, but the Charlotte Pet Cemetery in Huntersville. Was it really as simple as the South Tryon property being basically used up and hence, a new plot of land was needed to continue to lay to rest the beloved pets of Charlotte?

If ONLY I could put such whole-hearted devotion into my search for Christ. The fanaticism with which I searched like crazy and annoyed everyone around me with my obsessive quest to find the mystery behind this pet cemetery that existed in my mind, in front of my eyes and on Google Earth (and hence, it HAD to exist, right?) is sorely lacking when it comes to seeking out a relationship with Him. And worse, HE isn’t hiding in the internet, waiting to be found in an endless search through records and text books or by asking a question of the all-knowing Facebook. He’s right there, larger than life, always right in front of our eyes, waiting for us to turn our attentions His way… even knocking at OUR door, not leaving it up to US to go seek HIM. Evangelical tracks love to use Revelation 3:20 to get new members into the body of Christ, and that may be all well and good but if I’m not mistaken… John was talking to a segment of the CHURCH itself! These were people who should already have known and sought Him but would often times toss Him aside for other pursuits – just as we very easily do today. Can I seek Him with that whole-hearted devotion I have for mysteries of the past? Will I open the door to His knocking? It won’t even require opening up a browser and yet it’s often harder to do and something I struggle with daily, often as I’m in the middle of other things. Maybe it’s just time to find the door. I rejoice that He’s waiting on the other side.

(By the way… a simple text to my mother and brother informed me that my memory is already going. Popcorn was not, in fact, laid to rest in the mysterious pet cemetery. Where I remembered that from… will remain a mystery.)

Heather Eddy is the Assistant Director of Christian Education here at Sardis. When she is not working with the Sardis children’s programs or assisting the Fellowship Committee, she spends time teaching Anatomy and Physiology to pre-Nursing college students and CPR to anyone who cares to know it, traveling around the country with her roommate and best friend Michelle, and attempting to train her cats.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Guest Post: "Let Go and Say Yes"

I don’t want to admit I’m a control freak, but I am. My husband will tell you- I’m the worst passenger to have in the car. When we drive anywhere together and he’s the one behind the wheel, I’ve got one hand on the door, one hand gripping the seat and my eyes closed. I constantly tell him he drives too fast, too close to other cars, and so on. When I’m the one driving though, I do the same things I accuse him of.  It’s okay for me though, because I’m in control. My poor hubby!

When I feel like I’m in control, I feel like I can take on anything and handle everything that comes my way. All will be just fine if I’m in control. What I forget though, is that I’m not the one who is supposed to be in control. God is. It is daily that I forget He is the one I’m supposed to listen to. I forget that if I let go and give it to Him, all will be just fine and even better. I forget that I’m supposed to say yes to God and trust Him. Sure, I tell other folks to let go and remind them God has a plan, but I don’t even follow my own advice ninety percent of the time.

There are plenty of folks in the Bible, like Mary, Noah and Moses just to mention a few, that made it seem so easy to let go and say yes to God. What would have happened if they had said no? There are so many times when I feel God encouraging me and I ignore Him. Why do I do that?  Why can’t I just simply say “yes”? It’s something I know I’ve got to work on. I know that when I do say yes, my life is so much better. It reminds me that God gave us free will. Giving God control of my life reminds me that He is the most important thing. Some days it’s easier to let go of the control than others, but I know I can do it as long as I remember, as long as I pray and say “yes” to God.

I hope if you’re a control freak like me, you’ll remember to let go & say “yes”!

For in him every one of God’s promises is a “Yes”…   2 Corinthians 1:20

Danelle is Sardis’ front desk receptionist.  She lives in Matthews with her husband, Mark, and two children, Sam 15 & Sophie 11.  She is originally from Erie, PA and has been in the Charlotte area for almost 20 years.  Danelle is an active member at Matthews UMC.  She enjoys teaching Sunday School and volunteering with youth.  She loves to spend time at the White Water Center with her family and she considers herself the biggest Chicago Bears fan.