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Salamat Datang (Sir-la-mutt dar-tung)

Address for Women’s World Day of Prayer 2012
(3 million worldwide, 6000 venues in UK, venue in Templepatrick)

Would we dare to be like Jesus?  Would we talk to a Romanian man at the car boot sale, as Jesus talked to a Samaritan women at the well?  Would we heal the blind?  Would we curse the money changers?  Jesus Christ calls us today to follow him, and do the Father’s work, to build God’s Kingdom while here on earth.  Justice prevails in God's Kingdom.
Thank you for allowing me to come and deliver this year’s talk.  I am not from Malaysia, but I am from another multi-religious, multi-ethnic, melting pot. I am an American, of Chinese descent.  I benefited from the prosperity  and peace of the 1950s, came of age during the civil rights and anti-war marches, broke gender barriers during the women's movement.  Now we live, and do volunteer community and church work, in North Belfast. 

Today was my mother’s birthday and she was born before the suffragettes gained the vote for women in America.  She was the eldest of six children when her father died leaving her mother a widow, and my mother needing to go to work and forget ideas of university.  My grandmother survived and later owned and ran a wee grocery store in Chula Vista, California.  My mother survived and my parents raised three very American children who all went to university.  I survived growing up in Los Angeles after the war when China closed behind the communist curtain and our war enemies were the Japanese whom I looked like.  Like the women machinists that we just heard about, I too started my career in 1968 with a degree in environmental design when architecture, the building industry, and engineering were male-dominated career fields. 

In 1 Thessalonians 2:8  so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.  Advocating for my own worker rights was also working for the rights of others.  When we became pregnant with our first child my husband said "I thought you were going to stay home!"  That became a crisis in our marriage.  Pioneering part-time work and flexible work schedules; they are now called family friendly policies.  Pioneering collaboration and teamwork and the worth of every team member.  Pioneering pollution prevention, stewardship and sustainable design, green building.  Pioneering personal computers and returning to graduate school in my late 40s were all things I did while bringing justice to the workplace.  Justice meant a feminine perspective; a Christian perspective, fairness, always watching out for others and including everyone.  After 38 years I retired from engineering management having attained a division director position overseeing the work of 1500 engineers and scientists, and I then planned to accompany my husband.  This would be the first time in our 35 year marriage when I would do what he wanted, at least that’s what my friends said.  He felt a persistent call from God to come to Ireland.  Who was I to argue with God?

What have I found in Northern Ireland?  I found a deeply divided country.  I found a country frozen into the community spirit of our childhoods where children roam in sibling groups on the footpaths, greet adults politely, and returned dropped pocketbooks carelessly lost.  I found courageous people willing to share their lives with us sometimes with stories they have never told anyone.  I love Belfast. 

What message do I bring?  Peace and reconciliation are concepts that we can achieve.  As Jesus gave us a model of quiet prayer, his teaching, and his daily personal actions, so must we pray daily for the Holy Spirit of peace, learn from Jesus' teachings, and follow the Jesus of action. 

We have an informally consecrated house on the Crumlin Road, we call The Loom where relationships are woven.  I didn't name the house but I was a weaver in an earlier life so the name resonates.  We gather for prayer a group of 6-8 people every Monday morning at 730 to pray together from 6 different and no church affiliation.  Ward and I also pray together every day.  We would pray with you if you care to visit with us.  We encourage peace by talking and listening.

I am blessed.  I believe my career and life success was because of my persistence.  Like the passage on the persistent widow, I recently heard Jonah 3:10 Msg God saw what they had done, that they had turned away from their evil lives. He did change his mind about them. What he said he would do to them he didn't do.  Wow.  What happened?  Jonah became obedient with some persuasion.  The leader repented and made his subjects do the same.  God changed his mind about his judgment on them.  Powerful story.

What does justice look like?   It is intentionally befriending someone different than yourself.  It is raising your children to challenge the bigotry you experienced.  It is persistent practice.

Would we dare to be like Jesus?  Would we talk to that Romanian man, as Jesus talked to that Samaritan women at the well?  In such a way as he would be moved, renewed, and bring his family to meet the Jesus you know?  Would we heal the blind as Jesus did?  Do we have the faith to heal disease of the body, or of the mind, or of the heart?  Would we curse the money changers as Jesus did, and learn to use our money wisely to work and grow our given talents to build the kingdom?  I hope so.  Take courage and let justice prevail, here in this place, throughout Ulster, throughout Ireland, throughout Europe and throughout the world.  May God bless you as you do so.


Copyright © 2012 Marda Stothers