I never gave a great deal of thought to the idiom “banding together.” However, as I sit at my desk and look at a trio of reddish swirled plastic wristbands, I become reflective.
These simple bands represent a great deal more. Of course, I turn to the Web to launch an inquiry. It turns out this is both literally and figuratively appropriate. The definitions for “banding together” include: to form a group to achieve a goal, unite, give voice, provide a welcome place, and support. Words to ponder in the shadow of evil like ISIS: group, goal, unite, voice, welcome, support. Two small crosses are etched in the plastic, as part of the bracelet design. This reminds me of our focus on Christ as the light in the world. Now the bracelets represent a world of good as I ponder them.
I started as Executive Director of Stand with Iraqi Christians (SWIC) on February 1. In that time I’ve met many wonderful people, each providing support to launch this newly minted non-profit organization in a way that can be scaled up. Our vision includes growing in relationship with persecuted Christians in Iraq. This means listening to their stories as we jointly investigate ways we can seek and serve Christ in all persons. Exciting, but also draining because of international regulations, U.S. laws, Iraqi policies, and language barriers.
But the Spirit is at work here. Each step of the way, there are little miracles. The right person shows up at just the right time. A solution surfaces when I may not have even been aware there is an issue, and comradery means when I am weary someone else steps in to take on a challenge. I often don’t even need to ask. Spontaneous generosity should be added in the lengthy definition for “banding together.”
My blessings include hearing the stories of those who support SWIC. Two separate times, two states apart, fixed income individuals donated $100 after one of Fr. Chris’ screenings of the film Where is our Place? Money is precious under those circumstances and yet they shared. The same was true when a child donated a $1 bill. It is not about the money (though of course donations are important)—it is about the act of giving. One amazing volunteer, Pat Beard from St. Thomas Whitemarsh (PA), took a couple hundred plastic wristbands and has been giving them out as a token of appreciation to anyone making any donation. In just a few short weeks she raised over $1,000! It is humbling to have so many give.
The story is not complete without mentioning that there is now a growing community of individuals who are banded together, with the plastic bands clearly visible on their wrists. Each band is a reminder to think beyond our own lives and communities, to connect with people in another part of the world who are sharing a deep faith that is not destroyed by ISIS violence. So now I sit and twirl one of the bracelets on my arm, and use it as a reminder to pray. The words that come to mind are from a song I heard recently, by Carrie Newcomer. She shares, “The shadows of this world will say, there’s no hope why try anyway? But every kindness large or slight, shifts the balance toward the light.” (“Lean in Toward the Light,” The Beautiful Not Yet, Airtime Studios, 2016)
Christ is the light. My ever-growing definition for banding together now includes the word kindness. Or as the bible says in a passage from Ephesians (Chapter 4) where I am reminded:
“…be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”