A Call to Show Up


This past week, three women were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work on Women’s rights.

One of those women is named Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and she is a member of the First United Methodist Church in Monrovia, Liberia.   She was also the first woman to be elected as head of state in modern Africa.

In 2008, Ellen addressed the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, which is the official, every fourth year gathering of Methodists that is the only body of church that can officially speak for the entire denomination.  Within the church this is a great honor.    Ellen is a much beloved family member of congregations across the globe.

Bishop Peter Weaver, who we have had the privilege of worshipping with, in our own church, was part of the US Delegation that attended her inauguration in 2006.   His comments, upon learning of her winning the Nobel Prize were telling.   He said that she is “a great example of the influence of the Prince of Peace, Jesus, on a life that has been dedicated to bringing people together, nations together, as a reflection of her own commitment to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.”

She shared the prize with two others for their nonviolent struggle for women’s rights, and their commitment to the role of women in peacemaking.”   Two of the three winners, Ellen and Leymah Gbowee, both from Liberia and both partners in the struggle for the future of their home.

Together they rallied fellow women to defy the feared warlords and push their leaders to a peaceful solution to a civil war that left over 250,000 dead.   In the process they reminded the world of the power of nonviolent resistance.  They reminded the world of the power possible in one person.

No clearer is that commitment seen than in their protests.    They protested via their presence.   They showed up, dressed in white shirts, and prayed for peace.   One woman’s presence soon became two, two became four, and the number grew until with their momentum the country saw peace.

It is with pride that we can celebrate the accomplishments of a fellow United Methodist, who has successfully practiced just what it means to be a follower of Jesus, but that is not all we can take from this story.    For the country of Liberia, where conditions are among the harshest in the world (The average life expectancy is 58 years, 40% of children are malnourished, and most survive on just over $225 per year), change is possible.

Yet, the change doesn’t have to come via bombs or bullets.   For Liberia change came via presence.    Just showing up was the first step.   Refusing to buy into the nastiness of the world, not allowing fear to take control, and refusing to give up on the dream of change was the foundation for all that came after.

Now just a few days after these women have made headlines across the world, I can think of no more appropriate reminder for the church than what can be seen in their actions.  

We might not have all the answers.   We might not feel like we are capable of fixing anything.   We might feel too small, too insignificant, too old or too weak to make a difference, but they remind us that we are wrong.   They remind us that we are powerful enough and there actions provide a roadmap for change.  

All of it begins with showing up.

It doesn’t take much to look around and realize that we all have dreams of change flittering through our heads.   Today, we must give our thanks to these three women for reminding us that the hardest part of starting  that change comes with simply showing up.   In the end, it can change everything.

(A Special thanks goes to Time Magazine, The Committee on Nobel, The United Methodist News Service, and Wikipedia)
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