The following post is from a thesis, “Search For a New Model,” written by Rev. Paul “Chip” Jahn in the late 1990′s. Over the next few days, we’ll post some excerpts that give insights into his thoughts and experiences as he began his mission of Just Peacemaking in Sri Lanka.
It was 4:00 a.m. Jaffna time, and I was awake; still not adjusted to the time difference. It was my son’s eleventh birthday, and I wasn’t going to make it home. I lay there wondering what I was doing so far from my family and my congregations in Southern Indiana. The night I had crossed the lagoon, which separated the Jaffna Peninsula from the rest of Sri Lanka, government forces had attacked the flotilla of unarmed boats killing three people. Most of the boats turned back, mine had been cut off and had had to go forward. But the boats hadn’t run since, and I didn’t know when I was going to be able to get home.
The reason I was there was as much for myself, my family and my congregations in Lamar; as for friends in the Jaffna Diocese. The Church of Jesus Christ is built on the sacrificial love of God, demonstrated most profoundly in Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus tells his disciples, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13: 34-35. Jesus himself commands us to take up the cross of sacrificial love. It is not only the sign by which we will be known, but the force with which we will change the world into God’s coming realm.
The Gospel is as believable as its preachers are credible. The United Church of Christ has said in pronouncements and resolutions that justice and peace are at the heart of God’s desire for his people. Our words have been eloquent and prophetic. But we have often struggled to turn the words into actions.
The Indiana-Kentucky Conference of the United Church of Christ had joined into ecclesiastical partnership with the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India. We had also declared ourselves a Just Peace Conference. In order for our partnership in ministry with the people of Sri Lanka to have credibility, we had to stand with them in this dangerous hour.
- Rev. Paul “Chip” Jahn