During General Conference 2016, we are going to feature delegate stories from our NC Conference delegates, so you can learn more about them and the committees they will be serving.
Here are the questions we asked:
- Tell us about how you came to know Jesus.
- Tell us about your committee.
- What do you feel is important for the NC Conference to know about your committee/role at GC?
- How does this affect the people in the pews?
Today, we have Leonard Fairley and Lisa Yebuah sharing their stories.
My grandma Gladys was and remains one of the biggest spiritual influences in my life even though she joined the church triumphant many years ago. However, it was two young college-aged women who dared come into my neighborhood and invite me to attend a summer-long VBS, where I begin to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I was paired with a woman in my neighborhood who taught me Bible stories before I ever set foot in the church. I was baptized and started this amazing journey with Jesus as my Lord and Savior. It was a significant moment of grace that someone would dare come into my neighborhood, where even the police dare not come without backup.
My committee, Church & Society A, dealt with issues of economic, ecological, and justice issues, including racial justice and environmental stewardship. Each petition was discussed from a global perspective. I am grateful for the many people I was blessed to prayerfully work alongside. It was simply amazing to watch how the Spirit worked among us.
The committee did its work with the understanding that no part of God’s creation can be separated from the redemptive work of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus is indeed Lord of the whole of creation in North Carolina, Africa, and all over the planet.
We are all stewards of God’s earth. We are called to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper. We are called to hear and live into the words of the prophet Micah 6:8 – “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
My family moved from the Tennessee Annual Conference to the South Carolina Annual Conference when I was headed into third grade. You wouldn’t know it now, but back then, I was extremely shy and compliant to a fault. Transition wasn’t easy for me; I feared the unknown like it was my full-time job. The one thing that felt consistent and safe in my life was the church, especially attending a Tuesday night prayer group. People were given opportunities to share their testimonies, interspersed with our offerings of joys and concerns. Something about that practice—of sharing stories—made God very real to my third-grade self. Hearing how Jesus was at work in other people’s lives opened me up to the possibility that Jesus was at work in me. It was in this season of life, I distinctly remember yoking myself to Christ.
I served on Church and Society B. My sub-committee dealt with petitions and resolutions concerning reproductive health, adoption, family, and a variety of other important social concerns. The work was intense; however, I thoroughly enjoyed working with my colleagues. The chair of my sub-committee was thoughtful and pastoral in his leadership and cultivated that same spirit among us. Unfortunately, our larger Legislative Committee didn’t always reflect that spirit of collegiality. But we survived!
I think it’s important for North Carolinians within our United Methodist tribe to know that our brothers and sisters throughout the global connection are deeply passionate about issues intersecting church and society. Sometimes the passion in my Legislative Committee felt admirable and holy. At other times, the passion could feel counterproductive. I had to ask myself an examination question each time I spoke: “Would I be pleased or embarrassed if someone who had a fragile relationship with the church were watching me now?” I don’t share this question to appear “holier than thou,” but to bring to light my own frailty and my own lapses of faithfulness when I want to assert my way.
Secondly, I share this question to prompt all of us to think about what questions we need to ask ourselves in order to be our best selves when we engage others who have differing views. Without God-graced self-management, we all have the tendency to step on God’s toes and on one another’s hearts. Maybe my role is simply to help remind us to “walk humbly with our God” and to walk humbly with each other.