A friend of mine, a librarian, Amy, was reading an article about Africa. It was about a young man who had been out of work for a year or more. The simple problem was that he needed a mode of transportation to get to any job. For that matter, people needed transportation to get anywhere for anything in his village. With no consistent public transportation throughout much of the country, it could take half a day of walking for some people just to get to a well for water.
“All I really need is a bike,” pleaded the young man. “Bikes are scarce and often stolen. So people do not share them here.”
Amy had a curious thought, she told me. “If there were lots of bikes everywhere, there’d be plenty of transportation and no one would likely feel the need to steal another’s bike.” Then she said she just started talking to others. Conversations.
She got in a conversation with some other teachers. One of them jokingly remarked, “They’d be welcome to our old bikes — they’ve been gathering dust for years since the kids grew up!” Then the other teachers chimed in with the last time they rode a bike and how many are just sitting around.
That night, Amy’s husband, an avid cycling enthusiast, told her, “Well, if you can get a few old bikes, I can fix ‘em up and get ‘em running easily enough.”
She put out word to a few of the teachers and by the end of the week she had dozens of bikes in her back yard! One thing led to another, and many calls and many weeks later, they had a small team of bike collectors, bike repair volunteers, and her own container filled with bikes ready to go.
Since that time a few years ago, Amy and Jason formed a nonprofit, Pedal Power, that provides refurbished bikes to people in need of transportation locally and overseas.
And it all started with a conversation.
Whenever I read about any humanitarian relief effort or movement of great change in our culture, it always seems to have begun with the phrase, “Some friends and I started talking . . .”
Margaret Mead, the famed anthropologist, once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
When small groups gather around honest, heartfelt conversation — it can change the world. A few people start talking about an idea and the idea grows with further conversations in other small groups and individuals begin to chime in and suddenly the idea is an action plan for change.
My Uncle Mac used to jokingly warn me when I was a kid, “Tommy, beware of the dangers of stupid people in large groups.”
It’s a humorous thought and maybe a little caustic, too. But I think the lesson is there. Large groups can lose the personal connection. It becomes more emotional than rational, more defensive than inviting, more a rally than an honest conversation. Small conversations offer more connection and vulnerability, more opportunity for getting to the honesty of our ideas and passions.
Our church is in the process of conversing together about the future of FUMC in downtown Fort Worth. It’s called Focus First and you’ll be hearing a lot about it over the next few weeks. With the downtown area poised to experience phenomenal growth in the next few years, we want to be ready to be a part of that growth and vision for God’s love in the heart of the city.
The process begins with the Focus First online survey, which will take about 15 minutes.
There is space at the end to remark more personally about what you feel passionately about in the church, your worship experience in eleven:eleven celebration, mission and outreach downtown and abroad, small group studies, and so on.
This is very important and I’d love to see a high level of participation from the folks who attend eleven:eleven celebration! We truly need to hear your voice regarding the future plans for FUMCFW.
And to that end, just as important, will be our chance to be in conversations. Focus First will have four opportunities to gather and converse about themes of worship, mission, connecting with the growth in our city, etc. More importantly, it will be a chance to engage in sharing our stories with one another and experiencing a deeper sense of connection with our wider church’s community and purpose.
The Focus First conversations meeting dates are: October 8, 11, 15, and 18 (meeting times are not finalized but it will be after church on Sundays or Wednesday evenings).
I hope you will plan to be a part of the Focus First conversation.
Then I hope to see you this Sunday as I conclude our series, The Spiritual Gifts of Chaos.
Sunday, October 1
“finding your flow (or how to be ‘happily discontented’
or . . . ‘how to be in two places at the same time’)”
Rev. Tom McDermott
with special offerings from Jayna Baker, Charme Robarts,
and cellist, Dace Sultanov (she’s back from Latvia)
as well as Brad Thompson and eleven:eleven revolution
It will be a Sunday with beautiful music, warm and welcoming community, and a few surprises.
See you then!