All in this Together

A Reflection by Abigail Heimach

2012 International PeacemakersJust as the International Peacemakers arrived into Louisville, KY for their orientation, I began my work in the Peacemaking Program as part-time staff.  Before I fully understood the nature of the program, I was helping with preparations—arranging meals, arranging worship, and learning about the many people who have dedicated themselves to hosting and organizing a rich experience for the International Peacemakers, and also the communities in which they traveled. Logically, I saw the importance of the program, but it was not until sitting with the International Peacemakers, hearing stories of why each individual was called to travel and share their experiences of peacemaking in the United States that the intense need for peace hit me. One peacemaker told about a parishioner trafficking his daughter out of shear desperation. A peacemaker from Syria spoke of working with refugees from Iraq—people displaced due to the U.S.’s invasion, and two peacemakers described grave security concerns that prevented them from participating in interfaith events. Wow. Their powerful stories humbled me, and suddenly I realized on an emotional level the importance of the International Peacemaker Program—the sharing of peacemaking experiences to call communities to action. 

International Peacemakers program brings sisters and brothers in Christ from around the world to make connections with Presbyterians as they share about their ministries in their own countries in places across the church. The first International Peacemakers visited in 1984. Since 1989, over 200 International Peacemakers from 57 countries have visited 160 presbyteries, six synods, and a number of Presbyterian colleges.  These visits have informed Presbyterians, opened hearts and minds, touched lives, built relationships, and inspired new ministries.

Listen. Learn. Action. Each International Peacemaker has stories of violence and oppression in his or her home community, experiences where God called him or her to a life of peacemaking, and then a beautiful opportunity to share their work with many U.S. communities. How are these prophetic messages going to move among us? I did not get a chance to travel across the country and hear presentations and the ways International Peacemakers were moving and shaking up communities, but I did hear some of the ways the International Peacemakers were moved by interactions and gracious welcomes. One Peacemaker described,

“It is hard to believe that in such a short time, such strong connections can be made. I will never forget that some of my hosts have actually cried upon my departure – because we have connected so quickly. It is very uplifting to know that this program touches the lives of people very deeply. Someone said to me that my talk was “consciousness-raising” and I really took a lot of good energy knowing that – because this is exactly what the message of this program is, in many ways. It is about our joint effort in trying to wake each other up and remember that we are “all in this together.”

Other International Peacemakers told of a plethora of “God moments.” These occurred while visiting retirement homes, homeless shelters, conversations, sermons, witnessing immigrants searching for work, and the making of new intellectual and spiritual relationships. In the God moments, in the sharing of stories, in the many places traveled, the International Peacemakers also noted the brokenness they witnessed in the U.S.—of sickness, of civil liberty infringement, of violence, of faithlessness. And although experiences of brokenness cannot be compared, they collectively agreed that as the former International Peacemaker described, we are in fact “all in this together.”

What’s next?   If your community hosted an International Peacemaker and formed new relationships, where are you now called to work for peace? Share your moving experiences by commenting on this post! We look forward to hearing from you!

Interested in getting more involved? Applications will be available in Spring 2013 for hosting an International Peacemaker in the Fall 2013!

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