Reflections on the Winter Peace Retreat
by Monica Haas, Alpha Mennonite Church
I am a 38-year-old new Christian Mennonite in the beginning of my peace journey. I canâ€™t share big sophisticated words or any biblical theology with you but I can share what my heart is singing that I believe is the essence of our being. When God puts people in my life to help motivate me on my journey, I canâ€™t help but be overjoyed and grateful.
I come from the Roman Catholic religion. After my confirmation, I didnâ€™t attend church on a regular basis or have a relationship with God. My family and community always agreed that war is necessary to protect our freedom. When I was a growing up, I thought it didnâ€™t seem right, yet I didnâ€™t hear other wise. So I dismissed the thought and went on with my life. I thought I was fine as long as I didnâ€™t have to kill anyone with my hands or actually see anyone being killed. It became normal thinking not to question it.
So you can imagine my shock at age 36 when the Lord of Peace revealed to me that I am the Beloved Daughter of God. I was led to a nurturing, healing Mennonite church. It was a huge leap for me considering I had never heard of a Mennonite before this day. I have been hungry for Jesusâ€™ teachings and studying Anabaptist ways ever since.
I attended the annual Peace Retreat at Spruce Lake to hear Father John Dear speak about active nonviolence, which was music to my ears. Father John is funny, down to earth, and humble. These are the clear messages that I heard as essential for peacemaking: The Sermon on the Mount should not be only read and studied but taken literally and actively. We should engage in intimate prayer with God, form community and become fearless. We should not be afraid to speak up in a passionate manner and tell that we are followers of Jesus and that killing is wrong. Any act of violence on any of Godâ€™s children is wrong and it is not Jesusâ€™ way.
Father John made me feel that as brothers and sisters weâ€™re all in this together. We might be from different religions or ethnic backgrounds or at a different place on the peace path, but we are in this world together. As sisters and brothers we are all needed to help with the everyday struggles against violence, even when itâ€™s not so popular. Simple pacifism is not good enough anymore. We need to unite as brothers and sisters for Godâ€™s same purpose on the peace journey.
Father John talked about making time to listen to what God wants us to do. We should try to simplify our lives so that we are not so distracted. Between our jobs and accumulating possessions weâ€™re so busy that we get off the path of peace. Gandhi used to meditate an hour in the morning and hour at night. I have been practicing giving my fears to God and asking for so that I am able to listen to what God asks of me.
One of our small group sessions raised this question: Where are you going and how far are you willing to go on your peace journey? My answer is I am willing to follow the Lord wherever he leads me. I used to have my life all planned out, but those days are over. At age 37 I was baptized at Alpha Mennonite Church and it was one of the most life changing experiences I have ever had. That was the day I said, â€œI am yours Lord; do with me as you please.â€ Now I live one day at a time, embraced by my kind father God.