By Melissa Wuske
Hope Amidst Threats
Xavier Gonzalez has been pastoring a church in an impoverished, remote region of Columbia for 12 years. Before he decided to plant the church, others warned him: “That’s a violent place. There are paramilitaries there, and they are going to kill you.” Gonzalez simply responded, “God gave me an order and I have to go. Even if I have to die for Jesus, I will go.”
Gonzalez lives amidst threats—his wife was even robbed by paramilitary members with guns—but his church of 130 members are making a difference. “We preach about love and forgiving others, and they don’t want to forgive,” he said. “[The paramilitaries] don’t want this to be preached . . . [but] we treat them well. We give them food, we give them soda and serve them in any way we can. . . . We are putting our hope in the lasting peace that God can give.”
One of the church members was called to meet with the paramilitaries group—usually a death sentence. When the church member arrived at the camp, he asked the woman who greeted him how he could help her. “I know that God can do things in your life,” the church member said.
The paramilitary woman was surprised by his words but told him she had cancer. The church member prayed for her and left. Three months later, she contacted him to let him know the cancer was gone.
Pastoral Calling Influenced by Childhood
While every minister’s story of sensing God’s calling in their life is different, there are some common patterns, according to Barna Research’s “The State of Pastors” survey. Most initially sensed God’s call during their teenage or early adult years (between ages 14 and 21). This is likely influenced by their overall positive experience with church during their childhood years: 85 percent attended church as children, and 72 percent were involved in a church youth group; 48 percent grew up in small churches, and 36 percent considered the church they attended as children “very healthy.”
Voting Rights for Ex-Felons
Desmond Meade is on a mission to help ex-felons have the right to vote in Florida. More than 1.6 million people in Florida aren’t allowed to vote because of felony convictions. “To go through this years after completing your sentence is frustrating. You’re not considered a full citizen,” said Meade, director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, who lost his voting rights after a firearm conviction.
Rhonda Thomas, an organizer with Faith in Florida, believes churches are vital to making sure people who have served their sentences can regain their voices in democracy. “We have to educate our congregations,” she said. “There are people [in the church] who we think have the right to vote but don’t. They’re ashamed and feel like an outcast. We work to make them feel they’re not an outcast.”
Thinking in Two Languages
A study published in Journal of Experimental Psychology found that people who are bilingual think about time differently. For example, speakers of English refer to physical distances when describing time—“Taking a short break”—but Spanish speakers refer to physical quantities and volume—“Taking a small break.” In the study, bilingual participants responded differently based on the language researchers used to pose questions.
“The fact that bilinguals go between these different ways of estimating time effortlessly and unconsciously fits in with a growing body of evidence demonstrating the ease with which language can creep into our most basic senses, including our emotions, visual perception, and now it turns out, sense of time,” said Linguists Professor Panos Athanasopoulos.
Melissa Wuske is a freelance editor and writer. She and her husband, Shawn, live and minister in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Find her work online (melissaannewuske.com).