Friday, August 11, 2017

Heading Home -- Dominican Republic Mission Trip 2017 Day 9

This is the last of nine daily blog posts from our Diocesan Mission trip to Santiago, Dominican Republic from July 21-29.  I'm posting one a day now that we have returned to the states.  A daily bog from others of our team can be found on our Diocesan blog:

July 29
Our plane finally arrives in Santiago!
If you are reading this, I have made it home.  As I write this, however, I’m not as sure.  I’m at the Santiago International Airport waiting for our flight, which had been delayed 2 hours waiting for the plane we are supposed to be leaving on.  Right now, we are schedule to arrive in Newark 15 minutes before our flight to Pittsburgh takes off.

The week has been good.  We have had well over 70 children attend Vacation Bible School, with the numbers increasing as the week has gone on.  We have seen 20-30 people each day for our vision clinic.  We have given glasses to young people who could not clearly see the first line on an eye chart (the huge solo letter “E”).  We have given reading glasses to a woman who didn’t know how to read but needed them to see for cooking and sewing.  We have given glasses to senior citizens with significant correction needs who have never had glasses.  We really did help some people see this week.

"The Gatekeeper"
Our good-byes were difficult.  Over the week we have worked closely, and lunched daily, with a great group of teachers and others who help out at the church, including the “gatekeeper,” who had all the keys and locked and unlocked everything for us. We also developed great relationships with Randy our translator, Lazarus who ran the hotel we stayed at, the children of the teachers and others at the church, and Father Hipólito.  I think everyone on the team would love to come back next year and see our new friends again.

Post Script
We did make it home.  We landed in Newark about 10 minutes before our flight to Pittsburgh was supposed to take off but, thanks be to God, it was delayed about 50 minutes and was now to take off at 9:10pm.  So we moved as quickly as we could through immigration, customs,  and to security.  When we looked up, the flight had been delayed until 9:15pm, and those five minutes were an answer to prayer.  Going through security, not only did the X-ray machine in our line break, but they were particularly interested in our diagnostic equipment.  Our vanguard ran to the gate -- on the other side of the terminal -- to fall down and tie their shoes in the doorway if need be.  When all but the last two people had made it, we talked to the gate agent, who said that he had to close the doors in less then five minutes.  Then the last of our company arrived and we got on our aircraft in those final minutes between 9:10 and 9:15pm.  Thanks to all those praying for safe travel and a good week!

Post Post Script
The day after we got back to the States, Adrian Beltre became the first Major League baseball player born in the Dominican Republic to reach the 3,000 hit plateau.  It is probably unrelated to our trip, but still a nice postlude to spending a week in his homeland. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Interesting Tidbits -- Dominican Republic Mission Trip 2017 Day 8

This is the eighth of nine daily blog posts from our Diocesan Mission trip to Santiago, Dominican Republic from July 21-29.  I'm posting one a day now that we have returned to the states.  A daily bog from others of our team can be found on our Diocesan blog:

July 28
In no particular order, here are a variety of things I’ve found interesting during our mission trip.

The full name of Santiago is actually Santiago de los XXX Caballeros (Santiago of the 30 Knights).  The city is so named because it was founded by 30 knights, or so I have been told.

Across the street from the church, I saw a newer payphone.  I can’t remember the last working payphone I have seen, and I haven’t run across a new one in a very long time.

Unfortunately, one of the other frequent sites on our drives were places to buy lottery tickets.  While most buildings are pastel-painted stucco or cinder-block, the sites for the main lottery are a vibrant blue vinyl that pops out from a block away.  In addition, numerous other more run-down buildings offer chances to play other lotteries 

The driving is a bit more adventurous here, with motorcycles cutting in and out of cars and trucks, and parked cars making for narrow lanes.  However, driving is much slower and more careful than in the United States, with drivers moving to almost a crawl before hitting the numerous speed bumps in the road or to maneuver around handcarts, pedestrians, or other challenges. 

Santiago seems to have very few, if any rapid transit buses.  The city does, however, have a number of specified special taxi routes.  Cars designated as special taxis display their route number on the side and pick people up and drop them off like a bus would.  One local said they were cheap, but he hated taking them because they would squeeze four people in the back and two passengers in the front seat.  Instead, he preferred “regular” taxis that picked you up and dropped you off wherever you wanted. 

The cross street closest to the hotel is “30th of March” Street.  I like this street because March 30th is my birthday.  I asked someone why it was named that, and understood that it was the day of a battle against someone or someones whose name I didn’t recognize.  Another bit of information to google later. 

Fried Eggplant
We’ve had many great foods here.  The fresh mango, avocado, papaya, pineapple, and bananas have all been delicious.  Each night at dinner, we start off with thinly-sliced, deep fried eggplant and end with sweet plantains.  We’ve had this banana-relative prepared in a way that brings out its natural sweetness as a dessert, as well as had it deep-fried with salt as a starch.  At lunch, I also had fresh-squeezed passionfruit juice for the first time, which I would highly recommend.  I, and many others on the trip, have enjoyed the local coffee, while Julia has found the dolce de leche to her liking.  Of course, we’ve also found Fanta!

During the large group opening of Bible School, the Dominican teachers lead the children in a variety of songs.  One of my favorites is about how the body is musical.  The mouth says “la, la, la”; the hands say <clap> <clap> <clap>; the feet say <stomp> <stomp> <stomp>; the head shakes back and forth; and the hips say “chi-chi-chi” as they dance to a cha-cha-cha rhythm. 

Finally, what better way to work on your Spanish than by watching the Smurfs?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Tale of Three Roofs -- Dominican Republic Mission Trip Day 7

This is the seventh of nine daily blog posts from our Diocesan Mission trip to Santiago, Dominican Republic from July 21-29.  I'm posting one a day now that we have returned to the states.  A daily bog from others of our team can be found on our Diocesan blog:

July 27
This evening, I was struck by the difference between three roofs.  Roofs here are often flat and used for storage or as an additional “outside room”, or are slightly pitched with corrugated metal to keep rain off.

Each evening we go onto the roof of our five-story hotel to say evening prayer and share about the day that has passed.  The roof has a covered party room, locked with a metal gate, and an open area where we set up a circle of chairs and talk.  The hotel itself has some interesting features from a US perspective.  The rooms have air conditioning and TV’s with an extensive cable/satellite package of Spanish and English programming.  Wifi, however, is only available in the small foyer at the bottom of the stairwell and the dining room, and common areas have no air conditioning.  There is also no hot water at night, but whether that is because the hot water is heated outside during the day by the sun or whether people have used it taking showers in the evening is not clear.  Overall, the Hotel Colonial has been a wonderful place to stay this week, and its roof has been a great place to feel the evening breeze, watch the local historical monument change colors, listen to the sounds of the street, and build our missionary community.

The second roof is the building next to our hotel.  The part of the building near the street rises up three stories, but the back of the building is only two with a flat roof.  On the flat roof are two structures that can best be described as square huts, each about the size of a room – one larger and one smaller.  A family of at least five people seems to live in these two structures, mostly inside at night, but spreading out over the roof during the day.  They even have a small children’s swimming pool that they were playing in one afternoon.  They seem to have electricity, but their situation is a far cry from the land of three-star hotels.

The third roof is directly across the street from the second one.  A not very high, but very new-looking cell tower rises up off of it.  Numerous modern electronic gadgets fill the roof.  It resembles, on a smaller scale, the roofs of the skyscrapers in US cities, at least, that’s what I thought at first.  Then I went up to take a picture of it and I couldn’t.  An older woman was sitting in the doorway to the staircase watching her sheets that she had hung on wires between the electrical equipment dry. (I assume the lines were put up as clothes lines and weren’t any of the wires connecting the cell phone tower paraphernalia.)  Taking a picture of her and her laundry without permission seemed wrong, so I waited and got a photo of only the “modern” roof.  Seeing these various parts of Dominican life side-by-side, and roof-by-roof, says a lot about the way of life on the island here.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Wednesday Adventures -- Dominican Republic Mission Trip Day 6

This is the sixth of nine daily blog posts from our Diocesan Mission trip to Santiago, Dominican Republic from July 21-29.  I'm posting one a day now that we have returned to the states.  A daily bog from others of our team can be found on our Diocesan blog:

July 26
Today is Wednesday, the halfway point of our Bible School and Eye Clinic and about two-thirds of the way through the trip generally.  Today was also a day full of various surprises.

Tina got mangu and pancakes
At breakfast, the eleven of us usually eat together seated along both sides of a row of small tables that have been pulled together.  This morning, two other people were seated with us, and they had some unfamiliar Dominican food.  When we asked about it, the proprietor of our hotel and the hotel’s restaurant, whose name is Lazarus, offered some to us, as well.  Fried cheese was tried by some, but I had mangu (mashed plantains), which were very good.  

When our minibus arrived, we found out that our translator was sick today and wouldn’t be with us.  Bible School went well, thanks to the great local teachers who teach the Bible lesson and have everything organized.  For our games, we repeated some of the children’s favorites so we didn’t need to do detailed explanations, and the craft of the day was making bracelets.  We also have a few middle school children who help us.  Since they now know what is going on, they help to keep things moving along, as well.  When Julia and I taught music this morning, we got the children singing in English, which they enjoyed.  We have been working on a song, Sing Alleluia to the Lord, in Spanish for the past few days.  Now that they know the tune, today we taught them the English words. 

After lunch, we were a little more concerned about getting the Eye Clinic running smoothly without a translator.  Father Hipólito said someone was coming, but she wasn’t here by the time we began.  All the Spanish I could muster was put to good use, and we managed to get one client her new glasses before the translator arrived.  She just graduated from high school in the Bronx, but comes to Santiago where her mother’s family lives every summer and is here for a month.  She was a great help.  Hopefully, we’ll have two translators tomorrow and things will run even more smoothly.  Our young helpers have also become very adept at explaining how to read eyecharts to our clients!

When we returned to the hotel, we walked about three blocks to a local ice cream shop, Bon.  The ice cream was delicious, and the ladies behind the counter seemed to enjoy having some foreigners drop in.  On the way, we also came across a mural on the side of a building with a quote from Fredrick Engels: “Great social change is impossible without the women’s uprising.”

One surprise this evening was that I saw my first tarantula in the wild.  And by “in the wild”, I mean, “in the hallway of our hotel.”  I did not share this with my fellow missionaries since the fewer freaked out people the better, and as much as I am trying to get my own freak-out quotient to zero, it isn’t quite there yet.  A Dominican woman in a room down the hall saw it in the corner of her door, and said, fairly calmly, “tarantula.”  I think she also said something else that may have meant not poisonous or dangerous (at least that’s what I’m hoping).  She took off her shoe and batted it onto the floor.  Then, before she could stomp it, the thing booked across the floor at a speed at which I have never seen such a critter scamper.  Of course, it was the size of a medium-sized mouse with eight legs about two inches long, so I probably shouldn’t compare its movement to the average daddy-long-legs.  I think I will be double checking my suitcase and backpack before I take them anywhere from now on.  (I didn’t have time to take a photo and I’m not googling tarantulas.  If you want to see some, dear reader, you are on your own.)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Christo Salvador's Ministries -- Dominican Republic Mission Trip 2017 Day 5

This is the fifth of nine daily blog posts from our Diocesan Mission trip to Santiago, Dominican Republic from July 21-29.  I'm posting one a day now that we have returned to the states.  A daily bog from others of our team can be found on our Diocesan blog:

July 25

Father Hipólito and the mission of Christo Salvador are doing great work in their community.
  Based on what Father Hipólito and others have said, when he arrived in Santiago, there were about four Episcopalians here.  He started the mission of Christo Salvador in a poorer neighborhood and went door to door.  Without their own building, they would meet for prayer and Bible study in whatever homes were available.  Eventually, they obtained the church building, which today has a sanctuary and sacristy downstairs and a large activity room and three smaller classrooms upstairs. 

Later, with the help of their diocese, they were able to purchase the building across the street that includes a kitchen and dining room downstairs, a fenced in, open-air back patio easily holding about 30-40 people, and three classrooms upstairs.  Every Saturday, Christo Salvador offers a meal to the children in the community in this new building.  The church also has a preschool, which is an essential ministry in providing a way to an education and a better life for the neighborhood children.  Part of the goal of our Bible school is to provide an outreach to a larger number of young people in the hopes that more families would enroll their children in the preschool.

Out of that initial mission begun a few decades ago, three additional churches have been planted in Santiago.  Our group's translator, Randy, recently moved to the city when his father, an Episcopal priest, took a call at St. Mark’s, another church that Father Hipólito founded out of his work. 

Like urban churches in many communities, Father Hipólito and his church are dedicated to helping the people around them in ways that will make a difference.  The neighborhood faces problems with drug and alcohol abuse, and the church tries to find ways to minister to the children and provide what they need.  Father Hipólito clearly knows his people, and their affection for him is evident.  Working with him to make a difference in his community is the primary purpose of our mission trip, and it is a great privilege to serve God alongside of him.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Eye Clinic -- Dominican Republic Mission Drip 2017 Day 4

This is the fourth of nine daily blog posts from our Diocesan Mission trip to Santiago, Dominican Republic from July 21-29.  I'm posting one a day now that we have returned to the states.  A daily bog from others of our team can be found on our Diocesan blog:

July 24
One of the ministries our mission group is undertaking this week is an eye clinic.  The clinic was supposed to happen last year, but customs didn’t like the paperwork that accompanied the eyeglasses.  Whether the Dominican customs agent was looking for a bribe, was part of a bureaucracy playing petty power games, or was genuinely concerned that Pastor Melinda was setting up a black market in eyeglasses on the streets of Santiago is hard to know.  Whatever the issue, the eyeglasses stayed at the customs office during last year’s trip and returned to the states only when the group picked them up on their way home.

This year, the eyeglasses were sent ahead so that we could ensure their safe arrival.  When we got to the church Sunday with two cases of diagnostic equipment, we began to set up.  The first item of business was scanning the barcodes on the 500-ish pairs of glasses into the computer.  Through the Lion’s club we obtained donated eyeglasses, all of which were numbered and placed in packages that were barcoded with their prescription.  While four people were working on imputing that data, others practiced using the diagnostic scanner that “looked” into people’s pupils to determine their prescription.  We also paced off distances for reading eye charts.

This afternoon, we had over 25 appointments.  People came to the first station, where someone scanned their eyes.  The computer printed out their prescription, as well as the numbers of whatever glasses we had in our inventory that matched their prescription.  Then they read an eye chart to check their vision without glasses.  Next our “customers” brought their prescription to our “eyeglass store” where we pulled out the glasses that matched their prescription.  After trying on different options, they took the pair they liked.  Reading another eye chart with the glasses confirmed that they had the right pair.  Then, if the glasses needed any adjustment, Julie or Tina from our group would work to get the right fit. 

Some Children Peeking in on the Eye Clinic
Some folks got very excited about their glasses.  Our first customer shrieked with joy as soon as she tried on her pair of glasses and could see.  Others were clearly pleased to be able to see, and liked the way their new glasses looked.  The popular styles were colorful plastic frames that were regularly chosen over metal rims.  Three people came who ended up not needing glasses at all.  One person only needed reading glasses.  Three others had complicated prescriptions that we couldn’t provide today.  We took their names and prescriptions and will have glasses made for them in the States and shipped back down to Christo Salvador for them. 

Throughout the afternoon, one member of our group who works in an optometrist’s office, Julie, was everywhere.  She was adjusting glasses, double-checking prescriptions, getting information to take back to the States when necessary.  Her competency and leadership helped us help a couple dozen people today.  Jesus said that the “eye is the lamp of the body,” and today we brought some light to people’s eyes.   

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Christo Salvador -- Dominican Republic Mission Trip Day 3

This is the third of nine daily blog posts from our Diocesan Mission trip to Santiago, Dominican Republic from July 21-29.  I'm posting one a day now that we have returned to the states.  A daily bog from others of our team can be found on our Diocesan blog:

July 23

Today was a glorious day.  We finally visited Christo Salvador, the church where we will help with Vacation Bible School and run an eyeglass clinic this week.  The church itself is on the corner at the top of a hill in a fairly dense residential part of Santiago.  A mural on the front wall welcomes people to this church, and the large doors on the front and side of the nave remain open throughout the service allowing people to see what is going on inside and join in.  (Of course, the open doors also mean that when motorcycles rumble by outside, speakers stop for a moment until the noise dies down.)  The congregation is made up of all ages, with singing at this morning’s service led by two ladies with tambourines and a number of others. 

I was honored to be invited to celebrate and preach.  I preached in English and a 17-year old from the church who studied English in school for nine years translated. Father Hipólito also asked me to celebrate.  He found a Spanish Book of Common Prayer for me to use to practice last night, and this morning he gave me an alb and stole and I led worship in Spanish for the first time.  Perhaps the most amazing part of being able to participate in the service was how normal it all felt.  The language was different, but the words were the same.  The building was different, but the worship was the same. The individuals present were different, but the people of God were the same. 

I am grateful, however, for the time I spent with the Duolingo language learning app.  Even though its constant beeping when completing each exercise would drive my dog (and other family members) running from the room, I was able to learn a lot through it.  Listening to the occasional Yankee game in Spanish with the MLB app didn’t hurt, either.

After church, we joined Father Hipólito, his family, and some of the parishioners for lunch.  One woman was there with her three children.  She teaches in the church’s preschool.  She came to the church when her house burned down and she lost everything.  Christo Salvador provided a place for her and her children to stay, and even though she could move onto to better paying schools, she is committed to the church and its mission.  After we finished setting up for the eyeglass clinic, she brought her parrot out to play.  The bird seemed especially comfortable with Julia, eating a cookie while perched on her shoulder.  

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Santiago Municipal Cemetery - Dominican Republic Mission Trip Day 2

This is the second of nine daily blog posts from our Diocesan Mission trip to Santiago, Dominican Republic from July 21-29.  I'm posting one a day now that we have returned to the states.  A daily bog from others of our team can be found on our Diocesan blog:

July 22
Today after our outings, a group of us walked two blocks from the hotel to the Santiago municipal cemetery.  This cemetery was very different from the ones in the United States and the ones I have seen in other parts of the world.  Whether the internments here are the norm in the Dominican Republic or not, I don’t know, but it was very interesting to see.  Out of respect for those buried there and their families, they had a policy of no photography, so I could only get a picture of the outer gate. 

The cemetery itself was probably the size of half a city block, with high white stucco walls surrounding it.  Right inside the gate on the right was a small chapel, similar to the chapels in many US cemeteries.  However, in the middle of the aisle at front of the chapel stood a solid table where a coffin could be placed.  Whereas most US coffins are now rolled in on wheeled carriers, here pallbearers would still be carrying their loved one’s casket. 

The cemetery itself was surprising in a number of ways.  First, almost everyone was buried above ground in what we might call a family mausoleum.  Most mausoleums were about “four-to-six caskets” high, “two caskets” wide, and about ten feet deep.  The majority of them were block-shaped, but a couple were built in the shape of little churches or had other architectural features such as a terra-cotta tiled roof.  One common feature was that one side had six burial sites and the other side had two burial sites above a narrow room that usually contained a table with photos, religious statues, flowers, or other mementoes of those buried there.  These rooms were large enough for three or four people to gather inside and pray or mourn.  Usually a metal gate closed these rooms, but some had rather nice doors.  Obviously coming back regularly to pay respects in this small “family chapel” is important.  A few of the family burial areas were the size of two or three normal family mausoleums and might include a large crucifix, benches, trees, or, in one case, a beautiful metal figure of the resurrected Jesus.  One small family plot was covered with grass and had gravestones marking burials.  We saw graves dating from as early as the 1870’s up through the early 2000’s.

Along the edge of the cemetery, individuals were buried in large common mausoleums that were about six graves high and might hold upwards of forty caskets.  Most of the individual niches had a gate in front of them with a space for flowers, photos, or religious items.  Slightly outside the front gate were numerous tents where vendors sold flowers.

Monday, July 31, 2017

So We Go -- Dominican Republic Mission Trip Day 1

This is the first of nine daily blog posts from our Diocesan Mission trip to Santiago, Dominican Republic from July 21-29.  I'm posting one a day now that we have returned to the states.  A daily bog from others of our team can be found on our Diocesan blog:

July 21
We got up at 3:00am today to fly to Santiago, Dominican Republic, on a mission trip.  Eleven people – six adults and five youth – are spending eight days with the church of Christo Salvador to help them with a Bible school, run an eyeglass clinic, and do whatever else seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us.  So far, we’ve met Father Hipólito and a handful of other people who have been making the necessary arrangements for us.  Tomorrow we’ll sightsee a bit, on Sunday we’ll worship and set up, and on Monday morning the programs begin.
Our Team and Fr. Hipolito 

In this quiet moment before dinner, I am thinking about what it means to be on a mission trip like this.  I think we spend valuable resources traveling to different places because Jesus tells us to.  Jesus says, “Go,” so we go.  Certainly, we have important work to do at home, and we are often more effective there.  Research also shows that many mission trips aren’t all that helpful to those “being helped”, especially when trips are designed to maximize the experience for participating Americans.  (Gratefully, Pastor Melinda has worked hard to ensure that our Diocesan trips follow best practices.)  Yet we can’t stay, because Jesus says “Go.” 

When we go, in obedience to Jesus, even for a short time, we open doors for things happen.  One experienced missionary friend says, “Obedience brings anointing.”  When we set aside time in our lives to offer it to God, amazing things follow.  Divine appointments happen.  Connections are made.  Angels are met unawares.  The different parts of the Body of Christ remember that we are all one and we need each other.  

Setting aside these eight days for God, we can be confident that God is going to show up all over the place: in our relationships with the other members of the team; in our relationships with those we have come to work with at Christo Salvador; in our relationships with shopkeepers and others unexpected people God puts in our path; in the frustrations and challenges and miscommunications that will creep up from time to time; in the ministry we do because when we allow God to work through us, fruit is always born, whether we see it or not; and, in our richer, fuller awareness of the one in whom we really do live and move and have our being.

I do not know what is going to happen this week.  But God is going to show up, and I can’t wait to see how. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Think on the True, the Honorable, and the Just

This post was my From the Pulpit article that appeared in the Sharon Herald on February 3, 2017 

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

Paul’s instructions are important for us, but life can make them so hard to follow. We are surrounded all too often by the biased, the inaccurate, and the problematic. Tabloids and clickbait try to turn our heads to the trendy, the troubled, and the tawdry.  Strong television ratings rarely support the pure, and what is worthy of praise is ignored while panderers broadcast the banal.  As such unhealthy items receive our attention in spite of our best intentions, we reinforce our confinement amid the cacophony of the uncommendable. Yet, Paul calls us to something better.

The first step in following Paul is to unplug from the stream of messages around us, so that we can hear the message that God would have us hear.  Until we can hear ourselves think, we cannot hope to think on the things that Paul presents for us.  If we withdraw for a while in a time of silence with God, we can retune our spiritual antennae to that right channels.  Different Christians find that rhythm of essential silence in different ways.  Some start their days an hour early with sixty minutes of quiet time with God.  Others may have twenty minutes set aside a couple of times a day just to let go of all the spiritual, emotional, and mental clutter that has built up so that they can be attentive.  Whatever works for an individual’s personality and place in life is good, as long as we can find moments to turn away from the world’s noise.

Once we have disconnected from thinking on unhelpful things, we can focus on those traits that Paul commends to us.  The places to start looking are places those traits are most obvious – the pages of scripture, quality spiritual writings, and the godly men and women in our own lives.  Our goal in thinking on these qualities is three-fold.  First, we want to come to a deeper understanding of what it means to be true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.  As we spend the time with profound examples of people and actions that exemplify these characteristics, we move beyond superficial characteristics to the qualities that give someone such a godly character. 

Second, as we understand these traits, we want to appropriate them for ourselves.  Paul does not ask us to ponder them for our own entertainment, but so that we might become transformed ourselves.  We need a church filled with people who are praiseworthy and commendable and pure and just and honorable.  As we think on these traits, we allow ourselves to be changed from the inside out into the people that God wants us to be.

Third, once we have gained and understanding of these godly aspects of character and have begun to live into them, we will also learn to recognize them.  At this point, we are ready to go back out into the world and see what God is up to in unexpected places.

In a world full of demonization and polarization, the people of God need to be able to look beyond the incendiary issues of the moment and see all that is truly there.  In most cases, both sides have something honorable or something commendable or something worthy of praise.  One side may be narrowly focused on the just and another side exclusively worried about the pure.  Both sides may be seeking what is true, but without quite getting there. As Christians following Paul’s instructions, our call in the midst of the strife that remains rampant in our civic discourse is to discover the qualities Paul commends, regardless of where we might find them.  Then as we find them, we can share what we see.  Our country desperately needs people who can break into the mutually destructive drain-circling that passes for debate and lift up the good and the godly in our midst.  Our society requires prophets that see reflections of the divine image and likeness in people who disagree.  Our churches yearn for the vision to see where we can find opportunities for mutual encouragement and fellowship in the midst of our differences. 

So, beloved, let us think about these things.