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Meet Our Members -- Sylvia Graves

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Dale and I have been privileged to travel to many faraway places, both in and out of our country. Most trips have had meaning beyond just enjoying the scenery as a tourist. We have made trips to grow professionally, attended Quaker gatherings, visited Friends’ ministry sites, and participated on work teams. We have experienced new and varying landscapes, cultures, languages, foods, economic conditions and ways of doing things. Our hearts, minds and spirits have been enlarged to take them all in.

But we’ve never taken a journey like the one we are on now. In all our 50 years of married life, we’ve been physically able to do just about anything we wanted to do, whether it was playing on the church softball teams, running the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon, hiking in Yellowstone, renovating a house, cutting and carrying firewood or a host of other activities. Since the end of January when Dale was diagnosed with stage 4 Metastasized Lung Cancer, we’ve had to re-think how we’ll manage the road ahead. It seems like a detour at best, a road-closed sign at worst. We thank God for the chemo pill that has resulted in the cancer now lying dormant and we are humbled and grateful for the prayerful support and encouragement that has consistently come to us from near and far. But we are less sure than ever what lies around the bend.

After retiring from 34 years as a teacher and principal in the Mooresville Schools, I was invited to serve as interim General Secretary of Friends United Meeting. They just needed an administrator to get them through a gap, they said. So, I finished out a three-year term and then was asked to stay three more for a total of nearly six years. That included two trips to Ramallah, two to Jamaica, eight trips to Kenya, and three or four to Belize. Even though the work was difficult and discouraging at times, I felt that I was right in that “sweet spot” of being aligned with the will of God. What else can bring as much joy as working side by side with so many people who are following God’s call as best they know how?

Then it was time to move on and let someone else take the baton. I did a couple of short interim terms as General Secretary of Right Sharing of World Resources and then I really did retire. For me and several others I know, “retire” doesn’t mean we’ve quit working. It just means we are not on anyone’s payroll. I continue to serve on several committees and as Benevolence Treasurer for Western Yearly Meeting as well as being worship leader at West Newton Friends about once a month.

Often, I ask myself if I’m doing what I’m being called to do. I believe we who are born into a good and happy life are especially meant to be used by God to help others live a good and happy life. At times, however, I question whether being on a church committee makes anyone’s life better. Does being on the Yearly Meeting Program Committee or on the Christian Ministry and Evangelism Board bring anyone closer to God or make them know they are loved by Him? Is doing the work FOR the church as valued by God as doing the work OF the church? Actually, I believe that when we do our part in an effective organization that is based on the Gospel of Love, it makes “work FOR the church” and “work OF the church” synonymous. West Newton Friends’ effort to connect with the school children at West Newton Elementary by listening to them read or do math flash cards, by providing clothing for some needy students and doing things to encourage the teachers in small ways is a sure way to help others live a good and happy life. I’m very glad for that opportunity to keep directly connected to the lives of people.

And, so is being with and caring for the wonderful man I married nearly 51 years ago while he faces a major detour in his journey a way to do the work OF and FOR the church. Thank you, dear Friends, for sharing that work with us. We need you and the love of God shown through you.