Praying for peace

Earlier this year, I received a wonderful letter from Meagan Gaddis, a 27-year-old woman from Oklahoma City. She was writing to thank the General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) for supporting Exodus House through the Peace with Justice grant program.

Artwork from Finley Berry

This drawing is a “Prayer for Peace” from Finely Berry, age 5, Milton Keynes, England. This drawing and the others accompanying this article were submitted in response to the General Board of Church & Society’s initiative, “Violence Hurts, Peace Heals.”

Exodus House, a temporary residential project for people newly released from prison, is a ministry of Oklahoma Conference of The United Methodist Church. Through the financial and emotional stability offered by Exodus House, Meagan is planning on “moving out on my own two feet.” She works part-time and is a full-time college student at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.

Peace includes offering a place of hospitality, of forgiveness and reconciliation in our community; welcoming Meagan and her family into a new way of being out of incarceration is one critical way that we are building peace in this world.

As Meagan writes, “My life is just beginning to grow and I know that it was the Exodus House that provided such a fertile foundation to nurture that growth.”

May we continue to offer seeds of hope and growth in the name of the Prince of Peace.

Prayer for Peace

This past December, I travelled with Bishop Earl Bledsoe of the North Texas Conference to El Paso. Richard Hearn, a dear member of the GBCS Board of Directors, took us to Lydia Patterson Institute, where high-school students from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border come together to learn, build bridges and worship God together.

Bonner Springs (Kan.) United Methodist Church drawing

Drawing from Bonner Springs (Kan.) United Methodist Church Sunday School class (sent by Lauren Grant, Kids Ministry director)

At a morning chapel service, I asked the students to write on a piece of paper their prayer for peace. After collecting over a hundred of these precious papers in a small plastic bag, I carried them back with me to Washington, D.C. The following are an offering from the students at Lydia Patterson of some of those prayers:

“I pray for Peace and Justice in my country and in the world.”

“I hope Peace becomes a reality for all the people who are suffering of hunger and poverty.”

“Find the cure for Ebola. Stop bullying. Love each other.”

“God’s hand is hope for the world. God’s word is peace for our community.”

“I pray for a better world. I pray that everyone opens their eyes and sees evil taking over, and to have the courage and desire to change themselves and then the world.”

“Justice for me is to have a better government. And Peace for me is that everybody can be free, and live without war and poverty, and see that everybody has God in their heart, and can be happy.”

“Pido con toda mi alma que no haya violencia; bullying, nada de eso, mejor es el amor y cariño. P.S. ¿es tan difícil?” [“I ask with all my heart (or soul) that there will be no violence and bullying. Love and affection is better. P.S. Is that difficult?”]

“Peace in the mind of those who can’t forgive themselves and others.”

Give to Peace with Justice

May 31 is Peace with Justice Sunday in The United Methodist Church, one of the denomination’s Special Sundays. Because of the Peace with Justice Sunday offering, the people of The United Methodist Church are able to make a difference together by sowing seeds of peace.

Bonner Springs (Kan.) United Methodist Church drawing

Drawing from Bonner Springs (Kan.) United Methodist Church Sunday School class (sent by Lauren Grant, Kids Ministry director)

Annual conferences keep half of the Special Sunday offering to fund local peace with justice programs. The other half comes to GBCS to help fund U.S. and global work in social action, public-policy education and advocacy. Each year, GBCS awards grants to peace with justice ministries around the world, such as Exodus House that I mentioned earlier.

The Peace with Justice Special Sunday witnesses to God’s demand for a faithful, just, disarmed and secure world. I encourage you to observe this very special Sunday. Your gifts are making a world of difference in the lives of so many persons like Megan Gaddis. Editor's note: The Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe is the chief executive of the General Board of Church & Society. The pictures accompany this article are the first submitted as prayers for peace from children in response to GBCS’s initiative “Violence Hurts, Peace Heals.”

Learn more about Peace with Justice Sunday. Traditionally, congregations observe Peace with Justice Sunday on the first Sunday after Pentecost, but it may be celebrated on an alternate date if a programming conflict exists.