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Expecting the Unexpected - February 06, 2015

We are now into a new calendar year and have barely had time to take a deep breath before moving on in the seasons of faith.  I feel I have just barely completed our Advent study, Under Wraps with one of our new members, who moved to the San Fernando Valley from the California mountains and sits next to me every Sunday.   We both have children and husbands who rarely attend church, and are becoming sisters-in-faith, as well as pew-mates.  Was it really almost a month ago that we had Christmas Eve Candlelight service?

I recall that the first pastor in the Under Wraps series addressed the word "expectant", and had borne children of her own.  She described how having a baby became a community event, especially in ministry, with members of the congregation touching her tummy bump to feel the new life, or asking how “we” are doing with the pregnancy.  That reminded me of our Healthy Families, Healthy Planet Ambassador community, since we also, like shattered glass, expand our community in so many differing ways.  Some of us have built-in roles and responsibilities within our annual conferences or districts with obvious and structured opportunities to share our work in Healthy Families, Healthy Planet.  Others among us have less clear or obvious chances to make connections among our diverse commitments.  During those times when that magical moment arrives - the connection is natural, unforced and unexpected.

One personal example from work is how my students are always moved by the documentary No Woman, No Cry, which I showed again to my "Women, Leisure and Ethnicity" class this Fall, right after Thanksgiving.  Both male and female students are always startled by those basic quality of life decisions that impact a woman’s future in so many ways.  They are shocked to see first-hand that it is not only economic circumstances and personal choice that influence the course of one’s life, but so many historic, cultural and random events that can disrupt one’s plans. As the movie progresses, some are visibly shaken by conditions in other nations as well as by the realization that even in well-organized medical systems, birth is still a miracle, because things can go wrong.  Students unexpectedly reflect on their own lives, situations surrounding their births and contemplate future decisions about parenting and its impact on a larger community.

Another example demonstrates the interconnectedness of our extended responsibility for our world’s children.  After all, babies become children.  One of the women in my local church became inspired by my obligatory, but abbreviated, lay delegate report from the 2014 annual conference, and has taken on Imagine No Malaria as her life project.  She is convinced that God brought her to our small church to help her lend her creative talents and promotional expertise to this endeavor. Our church had several fund raisers, including a professional vocal duet benefit concert, since June, and have raised over $2000.00 for the conference.  She has been an unexpected blessing, not only to our church, but to many children in sub-Saharan Africa.

Advent is often identified as the season of miracles, and while those shared here may seem small, they are incredibly meaningful.  Our ability to integrate our goals with multiple aspects of ministry are really changing people’s lives; giving them purpose, focus and building community.  As we move forward in 2015, it is my wish that every liturgical season bring us the joy of unexpected miracles and to take advantage of opportunities to make seamless connections between our work with Healthy Families, Healthy Planet and other aspects of fellowship, study and outreach.  How might our work tie into United Methodist Women Sunday celebrations or local leader training initiatives?

Jesus’ conception, birth, ministry, death and resurrection- how unexpected!

Veda E. Ward