Crawling Never Felt So Much Like Running By J-T Kelly

Last Spring, when we started preparing for the community’s Action projects, we knew that we would have to crawl before we could walk, and walk before we could run. Well, according to the schedule, we’re still supposed to be in the crawling stage, but it sure feels like running! Things are happening pretty fast, and this was obvious at the Action Planning Institute (API), held at the People of Praise Community Center in South Bend from November 1 through November 3. Seventy participants from 13 branches and mission branches joined Paul Decelles (overall coordinator) and Rich Preuss (Action program coordinator) and several other members of the board of governors for three days of work to further the development of Action projects in the People of Praise. Participants included members of the four teams that traveled this summer to Shreveport, Jamaica and Grenada, representatives of teams who worked with Habitat for Humanity, as well as Action team leaders and Action division coordinators.

The excitement started Friday morning as all of us put on our nametags and began greeting one another. It was the first time that many of us had ever met! Our excitement grew as Paul explained to us in our first meeting what was expected of us during the course of the weekend.

“It was really a miracle how much we accomplished this summer” he said, “and you all were there. It was your eyes and ears, your hands and feet doing the work of the Father. I expect nothing less than to hear the word of the Lord from you this weekend.”

Paul explained that the API was an important part of the continuing discernment process about Action in the People of Praise. Not only did all the teams accomplish big things this past summer, but we also gathered lots of informationinformation about Jamaica, about Grenada, about Allendale, about our own capabilities and resources. All this information is necessary for Rich and the other coordinators, as they strive to make the best decisions on how we will move forward. One purpose of the API was simply to share, discuss, and record this information. As Paul said when it was over, “We certainly laid the groundwork for future planning.

The API was also an opportunity for all of us to open our eyes even more to what is possible when the Father calls us to a great work. Mary Frances Sparrow (South Bend) told of the missionary work begun by the Jesuits in South America in the 16th century. They started with only two men traveling through the rain forest, trying to find the Indians they had been sent to work with. One hundred fifty years later, the Jesuits and Indians together had created more than thirty towns, a system of roads that lasted more than 200 years and a robust economy. They created a Cristian society that withstood epidemics, the slanders of other Christians and even attacks by hostile Indian tribes and slave traders. After hearing these stories of the kingdom succeeding against great odds, we were left to imagine the wonderful things our Father has in store for our work.

Other highlights: Sean Conolly presented a video recapping all the work of all the teams over the summer. It was sound-tracked entirely from music written and performed by People of Praise members.

Rich led us in a discussion of fundraising as an integral part of Action. “The Father works in the real world with real needs,” he said “and one of those needs is money.” We talked about the necessity of individual, as well as corporate, fundraising. “We’re not raising money for ourselves, so we can go on exciting trips,” he said, “We’re raising money to meet the needs of the people we’re sent to serve.” Steve Becker (Servant Branch) was brimming with great ideas. “Whenever you have so many young people doing such great things,” he said, “you will find people who are willing to fund them.”

There was also time for a party and a concert by the J-T Kelly Band; we all had a wonderful Lord’s day opening and dinner together; there were basketball and volleyball games galore, and the food was great! The Holy Spirit was evident in the joy and life that pervaded the weekend.

Participants in the API came away with many different and wonderful perspectives. Steve Rice (Saskatoon) said that he was newly fired up about activities possible in his mission branch.

One high-school student remarked, “A year ago, I didn’t want anything to do with the People of Praise. Now, I want everything to do with it.”

All of us who attended the API want to thank all the brothers and sisters in South Bend for all their service. So many people provided hospitality, rides, and food. Brothers and sisters set up and took down chairs and sound systems./ Mary Clare Ferber was the administator for the institute and Mary Beckley took care of all the logistics. She was there before us in the morning and she was there at night when we left. Thank you, Mary. Thank you, everyone.

Praise God, Action is moving forward!

  • J.-T. Kelly, “Crawling Never Felt so Much Like Running” People of Praise Vine and Branches Vol. 17, no. 12 (December 2002) Used with permission.